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PPS schools give back this holiday season

HAYHURST, HILLSDALE — As Winter Break approaches, Portland Public Schools are wrapping up holiday-related service projects that will make the season brighter for families in their own school communities and beyond. PPS Pulse checked in with principals, staff and parents to get the details on just some of the efforts underway throughout the district:

Hayhurst School

Twelve days off school for winter break is a long stretch, especially for families with nothing extra to spend on holiday meals and activities. So at Hayhurst, the school’s “Giving Snowman” effort sends needy families home with new clothes, shoes and toys, plus gift cards to cover one fun family outing, such as a trip to the movies or a museum; one meal at a sit-down restaurant; and groceries to get them through.

About 24 percent of the school’s 420 students were eligible for free or reduced price lunch in Jan. 2012, a figure that’s stayed roughly the same, said principal Deanne Froehlich. Rather than look outside for groups seeking donations, Froehlich has steered the school’s holiday giving to 20 Hayhurst families who are under financial strain.

“My philosophy is ‘family first,” said Froehlich.

Students take part in each stage of the process, from picking the gift tag off the construction-paper snowman in the front office, to buying the present with their own money. Milo Robeson, a second-grader in the Odyssey program, spent part of his savings on an art kit and easel for a 10-year-old girl, said his mother, Kelliann Amico Robeson.

“He was pretty proud of himself. It was a big deal for him to spend that kind of cash,” she said. “It’s not like we’re made of money, but he is not a child who is wanting. We’re just trying to teach him the fact that there are people out there who are less fortunate.”

Rieke Elementary

Principal Andrea Porter has the same philosophy as Froehlich when it comes to holiday giving. For the third year, the Student Council/Service Club Holiday Gift Drive will provide clothing and gifts for 10 Rieke families — not only for the children who attend Rieke, but also for their siblings, from newborns to teens.

Between spring and fall 2011, Rieke’s enrollment grew by 60 students, and the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced price lunch doubled, to about 18 percent, Porter said. The influx included students whose families had suffered a job loss or house foreclosure in other states and had returned to Portland to live with family. Other families, who had never needed help, lost income and became eligible for the discounted or free meals.

“There has likely always been need right within the school community, but it hasn’t been at the volume and rate that it is now. It’s a collection of families now, and it’s definitely reflected in how the free and reduced percentage has changed,” Porter said. “So we need to support our own families before we look to outside groups.”

—PPS Pulse Volume 8, Issue 4

West Sylvan teacher is Civics Educator of the Year

SOUTHWEST — Karen Rouse, a teacher at West Sylvan Middle School, was named Civics Educator of the Year by the Classroom Law Project, honoring her work and that of West Sylvan in promoting civics education.

The Classroom Law Project is a Portland-based nonprofit that brings civics and law-related education programs into Oregon schools to teach the values and skills essential to participating in a democracy.

CLP selected Rouse for her professional leadership as an excellent social studies and civics teacher. Rouse also has worked with the group to offer professional development for new teachers.

In honoring Rouse, the group also recognized the “incredible work” by other West Sylvan teachers to support civics education, said Marilyn Cover of the Classroom Law Project.

“West Sylvan is the example I give when asked about the school that is doing civics education right,” Cover said. “From Project Citizen to mock trial, and from We the People to Youth Summit hearings, West Sylvan is truly the leader. When we see those Lincoln High School students excel in We the People or mock trial, we know where they got their start.”

Rouse and her West Sylvan seventh-graders were all smiles after their mock trial at the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse last year.

CLP honored Rouse Dec. 7 at its Oregon Civics Conference for teachers at the capitol in Salem. She also will be recognized April 24 at the CLP’s annual Legal Citizen dinner, at the Governor Hotel in Portland, where former Gov. Ted Kulongoski will be honored as Legal Citizen of the Year.

— PPS Pulse Volume 7, Issue 3

Essay contest winner

HILLSDALE — Congratulations to Michael Streinz, Wilson freshman, for being a winner in the grade 9-10 division in the first year of the essay contest sponsored as part of the Careers in Energy week hosted by the Oregon and SW Washington Energy Consortium. Students were asked to write an essay about how energy workers make a world of difference.” Streinz's teacher at Wilson is Gary Gramson.

— Wilson Spotlight Issue 362