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  • 30 Aug 2014

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Portland superintendent backs down on changes to Chief Joseph school

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith on Monday night backed away from recommendations she issued just 10 days ago on changing schools that feed into Jefferson High.

After hearing testimony from dozens of North and Northeast Portland parents and students hoping to keep their schools open, Smith agreed that none of their schools would be closed in the Jefferson cluster enrollment balancing process.

It was a major victory for that community, similar to the way Jefferson High School was spared from closure a few years ago.

Chief Joseph parents had formed a "Bucket Brigade," with a blog, community outreach and surveys, and data they'd crunched to try to objectively and credibly show that they were a school that should be kept open.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Kelly Bawden, a Chief Joseph parent and Bucket Brigade leader, said Tuesday morning. “The closure of Chief Joseph has been taken completely off the table. We’re not sure what’s beyond that.”

On Feb. 1, Smith recommended that Chief Joseph merge with the underenrolled Ockley Green K-8, about a mile south, across North Rosa Parks Way, to alleviate crowding at Chief Joseph. Students in lower grades would attend one campus and the older students would attend the other, as a dual campus.

Smith also proposed that the Chief Joseph building would ultimately close and all students would attend school at the Ockley campus, which would undergo a renaming in collaboration with the Native American community.

Monday night, parents and students came out in force from schools across the Jefferson cluster.

They spoke about successes at their school, despite the challenges, and raised the issue of equity: that the Jefferson cluster has high levels of poverty and the heaviest concentration of black students in the city.

Other changes to the resolution discussed Monday night: a vow to examine school boundaries and the districtwide transfer policy, and to look at the possibility of adding a middle school to the Jefferson cluster, the only cluster in the district without one.

The board is scheduled to vote on the plan Feb. 25.

Past stories on this issue:

>portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/127609-smiths-plan-for-jefferson-cluster-seeks-change-without-significant-disruption

>portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/127472-cluster-plan-ties-parents-in-knots%20