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Look at downsides of moving New Urban

The district has pointed out the many benefits of the proposed move of NUHS. As previous letters have explained, most of these benefits are based on misunderstandings and misinformation. Now, let’s look at the other side of the proposed move:

Our Classified Staff: It’s difficult to concisely explain the importance of these members of our team, but they are an essential part of NUHS. Several of my students have stated that certain classified staff members are the most important adults in their lives. I am only one teacher, but I’ve relied on classified staff hundreds of times this year, usually during a crisis. Our school needs a vice principal to handle discipline. Our school needs its two school counselors plus a third whose sole purpose is to handle crises. With those additions to our team, we would still need our classified staff. Without those additions, we rely on our classified staff to fill the void.

Teachers: The district would not only lose valuable classified staff but likely teachers who have been dedicated to building a program. It’s disrespectful to take away the program they built and ask them to build a new one. If our program is taken away, how can you expect them to show such dedication again? While you can’t take the dedication from these teachers, the teachers may take that dedication to other districts. The district may claim that they will try to retain the NUHS team of teachers, but with only a small percentage of our population planning to attend school at the new location, the claim doesn’t hold up. The move may mark the end of the greatest team of educators I’ve ever come across.

Financial: Our school helps retain students. Our school helps the marketability of the district. The loss of a few students represents thousands of dollars. If the move would mean the loss of a few dozen students, the proposed savings may be nonexistent. At our current location, we have the physical space to allow for more students.

Elimination of Barriers: One of the three goals of the district states that we must “Eliminate all barriers to student equity regardless of disability,...socio-economic status, and/or sexual orientation.” As students have testified before the board, both in person and in letters, they found many barriers at other schools. They were treated poorly because of sexual orientation, disabilities, and socio-economic status. They have found success at our campus because these barriers have been eliminated. They do not plan to go to Sabin because of they fear these barriers will exist on that campus.

Support of Alumni: As past students show their support for this program—writing letters and traveling to attend meetings—it becomes clear that NUHS has the support of many young people who will one day help run this country. Many of these past students were part of the move to the Oak Grove location, and they know firsthand the difference between our Oak Grove location and a program at Sabin. These alumni are strong allies and their continued support of NUHS and North Clackamas schools may be vital to the continued success of our district. They are upset that the district would even consider closing our Oak Grove campus, but the district can regain their support by preserving the NUHS they grew to love. Their support is important.

Art Room: Most of our students didn’t come to NUHS to learn a trade. They came to NUHS because it was a project-based program that valued creativity. They thrive in the art room. This room is a sanctuary for many of our students and often the place they first find success at our school. Success is the turning point for most of our students; it provides evidence that a student has talent. The confidence they gain in the art classes spreads to other subjects. It pulls students into our program. For many of our students, the art room is not only their favorite place at school, it is their favorite place in their lives. I know this because I have students in my English class write about their favorite places.

Pottery Room: The back room of the art program also serves as a sanctuary for many students. I know this because last year I covered the art classes for an entire trimester while Kat Snyder was on maternity leave. In the pottery room, students can get away from the chaos of their lives. On their own, they learn to control their anxiety. (As my daughter once pointed out, the pottery wheel is my therapist.) With this tool, many students first find success in the arts. It was a worthwhile investment, and with limited space at the new location, I assume the proposed move would mean the loss of the wheels and the kiln.

Our Community: The years of community building in Oak Grove is an investment. With the proposed move, that investment is lost.

Rocco’s Cafe: With the budget cuts, we rely on our community, and this coffee shop is just one example of the partnerships we’ve made. The owner allows the students to show and sell their art at the shop. She involves the students with the plans of many events—for example the outdoor market. Currently, one of our seniors interns at the shop. Students stop to talk with her in the morning, and she provides helpful but nonjudgemental advice to the students. Students have fled the school to avoid violent outbursts only to calmly return after talking with Lindsey. She once provided a free breakfast for all my students. She’s a caring aunt in our Oak Grove family, and students return her favors by supporting her business and blogging reviews of her treats.

Our Home: Many of our students lack something most Americans take for granted: a family and a home. Many of our students are homeless. Many have been shifted between dozens of foster homes. Often the dark rings under their eyes fade in the middle of the week, only to return the next Monday. When we approach holidays, anxiety often surfaces, and since students found out about the proposal to close this campus, the anxiety stays throughout the week. Apologies for proposing to close this building remind students of all the other adults in their lives who have let them down. They have heard too many promises of a better future only to find themselves in someone else’s basement. They’ve heard too many caregivers blame the situation on financial difficulties. They’ve heard too many promises of getting away from abusive adults only to find themselves back in the care of the abusive caretakers. They are afraid of the Sabin-Schellenberg facility because they came to NUHS to get away from the same students that attend that school. Our students have finally found stability at our Oak Grove campus. Countless have told me that this school is their home.

The proposed move means the loss of investment. If the district would have talked with the staff at NUHS before putting together this proposal, they likely would have considered other options. After all, the community favored several strategies over closing or consolidating schools or program: 1) Sell property; 2) Eliminate math book purchases; 3) Further reduce the number of school days. It’s not too late to look at these options.

Fortunately, we have a School Board; therefore, I remain optimistic.

Milwaukie resident Martin Winch is a teacher at New Urban High School in Oak Grove.



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