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Letters: New Urban students launch effort to prevent school's move

by: PHOTO COURTESY: MARTIN WINCH - Sabrina Lillie helps decorate the walls of her New Urban High School campus in Oak Grove using her feet.The proposal to close New Urban High School came as a shock to most students when it was announced in an emergency assembly on the Friday following the Feb. 28 announcement at the North Clackamas School Board meeting, but it didn’t come as anything more than par for the course to me.

Our district has already gone through a massive budget restructuring in the past few years; cutting funding to nearly all of the district’s schools and alternative programs, and funneling what is left into Clackamas, Rex Putnam and Milwaukie high schools. I knew it was only a matter of time before the wonderful environment we have here at New Urban H.S. got cut as well.

I saw many of the students breaking down into tears when the teachers were finished informing us of the proposal. Many of the students here at New Urban are the ones that many schools classify as “problem teens;” the ones that get swept under the rug by the administration of their home high school; the ones that will socially, emotionally and academically stagnate in any environment besides the kind provided to students here.

While I feel that I would do just fine at a mega-school, I do not think that the people presenting this proposal adequately understand how severely it would affect many of the students who attend this program. I don’t really expect this letter to change anything, as a pragmatic approach generally trumps what is best for individuals, but I do want to at least talk about the other side of the story, the one that is not being publicized.

I am extremely displeased with this decision, and I hope more people will stand up for us at New Urban.

Cassius Cote

Ninth grader at New Urban

Editor’s note: Cash Cote understands that the district is not proposing a closure of New Urban, rather a relocation of New Urban’s programs to the Sabin-Schellenberg Career and Technical Center. However, he fears that the proposed move is the first step in an “impending” closure of New Urban in the next few years.

Place of safety and comfort

New Urban High School is a place that has become more than a school. It is more than a place of education.

New Urban has become a home, a place of safety and comfort. A place where students feel they can be themselves and more. New Urban staff and students are family.

New Urban has helped me with not just a great education, but they have made me a better person. If I had not been given the option to go to NUHS, I would not have been able to handle high school the way I do. I would have had to drop out or get my GED, instead. New Urban has changed my life immensely.

It would be a bad decision to relocate New Urban because we have a very strong connection with the Oak Grove community; we have great business partnerships in the area, and the NUHS building is a safe building in a great neighborhood.

Relocating the New Urban program would be a bad decision because the staff and students have very strong connections. The staff of this school are unlike any other. They put us in real-life situations and give us the skills we will need in the outside world. They actually teach us, they sit with students until they understand what they’re doing in class.

In addition to that, we are aware that only certain students may attend the Sabin-Schellenberg program. That does not include a place for physical education, or a cafeteria or kitchen. Things we need.

New Urban is something that a lot of students need. Other schools can’t teach us the way this school does. Some students can’t go back to their previous school because of bullying or harassment. New Urban is the only option for some of these students.

Kayla Warring

Tenth grader at New Urban

Wonderful learning environment

When I first came to New Urban, my thoughts were mixed about it, but it turned out to be the best school experience I have ever had.

I started the year not knowing anybody, but that didn’t stop me. The students were very kind and accepting of who I was as a student and a person. I made friends fast, and as the year went by, I realized that school is like a big family.

I first came from Clackamas High School, where I wasn’t doing very good in school; I had Ds and Fs. When I came here, the teachers explained the work in a new way where I understood it. Now I’m getting Cs-As.

It would be terrible to lose such a wonderful learning environment for students.

Blake Isaksen

Tenth grader at New Urban

What NUHS means to me

New Urban high school is a second home to me, it’s my home away from home.

As a person and a student here I have made a change in my life from being scared to being a happy person in life because NUHS has made that change for me. Also NUHS is a place for people to make different life changes in their own way. What New Urban did for me, is that I’m starting to make better choices for myself and so are other people.

I think it is a big mistake for you to move us because I have made lots of memories here, and other people have, too.

Naomi Merrimon

Tenth grader at New Urban

Students may not move

I am a teacher at New Urban High School in Oak Grove, and I am writing about my concerns regarding the proposed move to the Sabin-Schellenberg campus.

From a survey of 66 students on Feb. 7, it’s clear that most of our students do not plan to attend a new program at Sabin-Schellenberg. We have to take in account that the program has not been designed (and that’s part of the problem), but only five (7.5 percent) of the 66 students reported that they would go to the new program, and only seven students (11 pecent) reported that they are undecided.

The district has attempted to soothe their concerns with a vague commitment to maintaining the teachers at NUHS. Not only is this commitment vague, it is based on an assumption that the teachers will elect to make the move. All teachers need more information, and many may not elect to make the move. Furthermore, I don’t feel much hope in the new location when most of our students have no plans to make the move.

Ten days ago, I felt extremely committed to the current program, even after past cuts have made running the program extremely challenging. I felt my commitment would continue until I retire. The fact that I’m only paid $12,000 a year, and have been offered much more as a school teacher in my hometown didn’t bother me at all. I couldn’t imagine leaving the students at NUHS. They need commitment from adults. Many other teachers have told me of similar commitments to this program. But this week has left me feeling discouraged to say the least.

I am part of the most committed school community I’ve ever come across. I know that if I retain and teach my students, they will have the opportunity to meet all the other dedicated staff at NUHS. They will have the skills needed to find hope and opportunities in their lives.

Over 30 percent of our students qualify for special education. Over 10 percent are homeless. Over 20 percent have been diagnosed with psychological barriers. These students need our help. They need a home and a family. They need New Urban High School.

Martin Winch

Milwaukie

Why I chose New Urban

While I was at another high school, I couldn’t be myself. I sometimes had to do things I didn’t even want to do. There were way too many kids there. I couldn’t even ask for a pencil because by the time the teacher was done helping another kid the bell rang. I was never able to get help. In fact, you don’t get very much of anything. I ended that year with F’s and D’s. Whatever I did wasn’t enough. I lost confidence in myself and wanted to give up.

Then I heard about New Urban. I decided to start over. I remember the first day I walked into the school. I looked at all the classes and I saw a big difference: kids were talking to the teachers, and they were actually getting help. I noticed how much smaller the classes were. You ask for help, and the New Urban teachers are on your side, making sure that what you’re doing is correct. You can’t really get away with anything. If you do something, it doesn’t just get back to your teacher. It gets back to every teacher, practically before you get to your next class. This sounds like a bad thing, but it keeps you from messing up because there’s always someone watching out for you and keeping you on track. I’m glad I chose New Urban to be the school I want to graduate from. Before I came to this school, I was almost a straight F student. Now, I get A’s and B’s. My parents actually tell me they’re proud of me every day. That’s the best feeling you could ever have.

New Urban is a really good school. I would tell anyone to come to this school who isn’t getting the help they need at their own high school. Their life will change.

MaKayla Reamer

Tenth grader at New Urban

We welcome submissions from readers on local issues for our Editorial and Opinion page. Please send your thoughts by Friday at noon to Raymond Rendleman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Try to keep Letter to the Editor submissions under 400 words, but longer submissions will be considered for Community Soapboxes. Submissions may be edited for length, grammar, libel and appropriate taste. Letters must be accompanied by a full name, a telephone number and street address for verification purposes. Readers are also invited to call 503-546-0742 with story ideas and comments.




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