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Non-neighborhood schools: where do you find community?

3174842715_dbe525daa0 As the school lottery results trickle in, with PPS coming up shortly, for those who do get "lucky" and get into their school of choice, it seems the decision is clear.  Right?  Or is it?  One of our readers recently emailed us to with a dilemma that we haven't quite touched on:

We recently found out that we got into a charter school in Portland, and while we are really impressed with the school and everything that it offers from the philosophy to the teachers, we are struggling with how to maintain a sense of place and community within our neighborhood should we decide to send our daughter to the school in the fall.  The sense of community in our neighborhood is really strong especially among those families that send their kids to our neighborhood school.  We got a taste of this over the past year, however, aside from the strong neighborhood community, the school lacks everything we seek in educating our daughter.  The charter school is six miles from our house and if we decide to send our child to the school, we will be like so many other parents driving our kids to a school that would be a better fit for our daughter.  We do worry that by doing so, our daughter will lose out on potential neighborhood friendships.  Have any urbanmamas or papas gone through this?  Can you have a sense of place with your neighborhood without sending your child to the neighborhood school?

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I struggle with this terribly. I feel a lot of grief about not being part of our neighborhood community by way of our n'hood school. I work from a home office, and for years I have watched parents walk/bike their kids to and from our local school, and I looked forward to that so much, both for me and for my son. But--major disconnect between his needs and what the school could provide. He goes to a school that is the right place for him. We drive him there each day--4 miles each way. And sad as I am about how hard it is to make n'hood same-age friends, and for me to meet more parent friends, I had to pick his greater needs over mine. But I'm still sad and feel the loss of that community.

The good stuff? We are now playing T-ball and will be playing soccer in our neighborhood, and starting to meet kids and families that way! Yay!

Not to sound harsh, but I really think that that's just the tradeoff/reality of choosing to opt out of your neighborhood school. We do currently attend our neighborhood school, but I don't know if it will be the best place for them in long haul. I would rather have to physically move our family to a different neighborhood where they will someday attend school, than do the cross-town commute...that's how strongly I feel about the importance of neighborhood communities/schools.

Actually, you'll probably miss out in both communities. You won't know the other school neighborhood enough to let your child have playdates over there and since you don't go to school with the kids on your block.. you won't be invited into homes there either. Can you move to the area your child will attend school? I always think that's the best.

This is a great discussion! We sent our child to an out of neighborhood school earlier this year and this is the primary issue that I struggle with. The community at his old neighborhood school was great and we were very connected to it. We could also ride bikes to school. I have yet to find this community at the new school, but I also know that we are still new and that it will take time. In an effort to create/facilitate more community at the new school, I am planning on hosting an open house later this spring and invite all of the families who live in our part of town
to come. I will also try to formalize carpooling opportunities as another way to connect to families coming from outside the neighborhood. Creating community is not only important for the kids, but for us parents as well. For the most part we are still doing activities (sports,etc.) in the neighborhood so we can stay connected that way. There is nothing like walking down the street to baseball practice! In the future we may move closer to the new school so we can qualify for school bus services, but for now we are staying put because I love our neighborhood. Good luck with your decision!

I am having that current struggle as well. Although I think the social network you may get from a neighborhood school should not be under rated, I am not sure the social positives out weight the actual education.
I think finding the "right" fit educationally is my priority and if it it happens to be my neighborhood school....than great, but if not, I cannot beat myself up over that!
Good luck...I know how hard the decision is!!!

We saw this problem coming up, so last year we moved into the neighborhood where we wanted our kids to go to school (they are 1 and 4 now). We live less than a block from both the elementary and middle schools, and about six blocks from their future high school.

Wouldn't you know it, half the neighborhood kids are going elsewhere, and half the kids in the school are from another neighborhood. It's frustrating, but I think we made the right decision.

Right now in our circle of mama/kid friends, all anyone talks about is "where are you going to kindergarten?" "what list are you on?" "where did you get it?"... it feels good to know we don't have to worry about it. Our kids will just walk around the corner every morning. :)

Personally, I think it's easier to find ways outside of school to connect with neighborhood kids than it is to supplement your child's education. That's why we chose a charter over our neighborhood school. Luckily from us, there are lots of kids from our school within striking distance, plus we have lots of neighborhood friends, so I feel like we have the best of both worlds. While I do feel like we're missing out a bit by not being at our neighborhood school, for us, finding the best educational fit was by far the top priority. Good luck with your decision!

I think it's a trade-off. I love that my children have friends from every quadrant in Portland as the result of attending a charter and get to spend time with those friends in neighborhoods outside their own.

The concern that it's harder to have ties in the community are valid, but I also think there are other outlets to keep that connection open and growing.

We are entering this situation ourselves next year. We have spent 2 years at our neighborhood school and love all the things mentioned here - walking to school, friends in our neighborhood, the being a part of our local community, etc. For us, the drawbacks far outweigh the benefits. We tried very hard to make it work. In the end, we realized that we'd have to leave.

We now have a lot of friends in our neighborhood and will meet new friends next year. It's unfortunate that PPS has created this environment for families, but this is how it is. If you're lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with strong schools, that's great. Otherwise, you have a tough choice to make.

I would love to hear from people who have chosen NOT to go to their neighborhood schools and instead drive across town to another--what is it that you feel makes a neighborhood school NOT a good school/choice, especially if you already feel comfortable living in your neighborhood?

Is it the school philosophy, the administration, staff, other students, lack of and/or too much diversity, etc. ? (Hopefully, people are not just relying on test scores.) I am really curious about this.

We are parents of a soon-to-be kindergartner, and we did not get into either of the charter schools we were hoping for. We also live in a neighborhood in which few of the local kids seem to go neighborhood schools. Of the many local families we know with children, no more than one or two send their kids to any of the nearby schools. So it's looking like we may end up taking the plunge in a school where we know very few people and aren't necessarily thrilled with the educational philosophy, etc. What has been hard for me through this process is hearing people talk about "choice," therefore. I do feel for people making a hard decision about whether to send their children to a faraway charter or a nearby neighborhood school, but the idea of "choosing" a charter seems so weird when so many folks in the lottery never get that choice! The info sessions struck me in the same way: these schools pitching their philosophies as if parents attending were somehow in control of whether their kids ended up there or not. Anyway, I realize this doesn't really answer the OP's question, but it was what the question brought to mind given where we are on it. I love our neighborhood, and I can't imagine moving, but I do now feel like I better understand the pull of other neighborhoods where the schools are so great that most wouldn't even consider another option.

We live in our neighborhood b/c it's what we can afford, but the schools here are scoring so low and are socially very rough. We go to a charter school (thankfully k-8) about 4mi away, and have been developing a great community there. Most of the kids in our neighborhood go to various other schools too. Ironically, they are the more balanced, healthy kids that I prefer my kids befriend anyway. The ones from our neighborhood school are often yelling cusswords, lying, flipping each other off, and don't seem to be supervised. My point is, I think you can create and participate in community everywhere. It's only four miles!

Well, I'll throw a few things out there that have made me think my neighborhood school isn't an option....one 15 minute recess for kindergartners going to school all day and a principal who is ineffective in handling this as evidenced by his response being "I'm just doing what I'm told." A school that is very excited because they just got their first "smart boards" for the school, two of them, as compared to other schools where they exist in every classroom. The fact that I can't walk to the school, when in fact I have two others closer to me to which I could walk. And, finally, being told it was a full-day kindergarten because children need "seat time to meet benchmarks" and therefore half-day wasn't an option. On top of all of this, the test scores suck. Guess that seat-time thing isn't working out so well for them.

I live in my neighborhood because I can afford to live here and be a SAHM. I can walk to all my daily needs. I'm surrounded by wonderful parks. It's a lovely neighborhood to be in. And I expect more from my neighborhood school than it is offering me. We all should. I don't like the admission that it is in the middle of two rival gangs, but I know there's drug dealing outside my front door, so I can accept that reality. It scares the dickens out of me that the suspension rate is three times the district average because it makes me wonder what exactly is going on in the building. But when the leadership of the school can't present a vision of a better place to me, I'll pass because I can.

We chose our daughter's school (a magnet program across town) because we fell in love and knew it was a perfect fit for our kid. But I also was firmly against sending her to the neighborhood options for one reason only; the middle school has been closed and divided between the elementary and high school (primary going K-7 and high school going 8-12). I can live with the K-7, but I think putting 12 year olds in with 18 year olds is a recipe for disaster at an already iffy school. The program our daughter is in runs pre-K through 12, but is housed in three separate schools, Pre-K-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

We chose not to go to our neighborhood school because the kids were rough with my child when we visited and I wasn't impressed with the academics and extracurricular activities. We did look at test scores but our decision was based more on the fit of the school for our child.

That said, I feel a huge sense of loss of community and neighborhood by making this choice as many of these other readers have mentioned. Honestly I didn't even think of this as a consequence but we've only had one playdate all year and we don't ever see any of the neighborhood kids. Its really sad for my child and we're now thinking about moving. Its a decision that I completely regret.

I also feel like the neighborhood you live in can dictate how much community you'll have whether you attend your neighborhood school or not. SE and NE have some very tight knit neighborhoods just based on how close the houses are. We lived in SE where you couldn't avoid your neighbors and kids were always playing outside. We're now in a neighborhood where we never see kids out and perhaps parents are more overprotective.

Just curious, what are the test scores for if we aren't supposed to weigh them when choosing a school or neighborhood? They certainly shouldn't be the only factor but it can be a huge factor if the school is getting a failing grade in writing or reading. I feel like if a school isn't faring well in test scores, it is an indicator that the school isn't doing well in educating the kids. Am I wrong to think this?

If test scores aren't the answer, than what is a better way to monitor a school's progress, teacher's progress, etc.?

We attend a charter school that is 4 miles from our house. A few years ago, a parent organized a gathering for families residing in the N/NE. There are several families who attend our school within a mile from where we live. I am not sure if that is unique, but I do think that there are ways to find geographic community within the non-neighborhood school community.

I also know that our child has developed strong relationships with children who don't live in our quadrant, and we don't mind going out of our way to let them nourish their friendship outside of school.

We feel pretty lucky with our choice because the school is still accessible by bike and transit for us. We are able to bike to school most days. We know of three other families in our quadrant who attend our school who are also regular bike commuting families. We know of a handful of other families in our quadrant who take public transit. There is also a parent who organizes carpools from the different quadrants.

I am sure our school is not alone in that it has a very tight-knit parent and student community. We have made friends at our school who happen to live near us. But, we have also made many friends with families who live near us but who do not attend our school. I do not feel that our children lack a sense of neighborhood or community because we have chosen a school 4 miles away verus 1 mile away.

We chose our charter school over our neighborhood school due to educational approach, class sizes (smaller), and accessibility of administration. And, like others commented above, we know several kids in the neighborhood who don't attend the neighborhood school.

Angry Neighborhood Mama, I had to look at the signature to see if that comment came from me. We were certainly at the same neighborhood school roundup. I was fighting back tears at that roundup because it felt so helpless. I was overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude that MY family has choices even if we live in THIS "up-and-coming" neighborhood. I was overwhelmed with emotion and empathy for those families who don't have choices and will accept that school the way it is. I've lived here for a long time, I've volunteered in many schools, I've given my neighborhood school a chance. Until we get accepted into a school that we can feel comfortable with, we are doing private school. No, we can't afford it. But somehow we are making it work. I won't give up hope and I won't move away just because of this. I love my neighborhood otherwise. I would love to see a drastic overhaul of my neighborhood school. Let's make Jefferson the new Environmental High School and take over the cluster with quality education, recess (yes, I said it - kids NEED physical activity and fresh air) and the respect that they deserve. Let's have decent class sizes, science and arts, healthy meals, gardens that the kids are allowed to use and every family involved in some way. It will take a revolution of angry parents and their votes to make Portland's public education match our city's standards.

Nic

It also takes families sending their kids to these schools and getting involved to make a difference. They will never improve if the more affluent (compared to others in the community)folks chooose to just walk away.

There is a name for college-educated parents who move into hip, close-in N and NE neighborhoods and CHOOSE to send their students to schools outside of the neighborhood. It's called white flight. Portland has an interesting relationship with gentrification and education. There are no easy answers, but getting real about the uncomfortable topics like race and class and neighborhoods and schools is crucial--and exceedingly difficult for well-meaning and mannered white folks in nopo.

When my daughter started Kindergarten 12 years ago there were at least 10 public schools within 4 miles of us. The one 'assigned' to us wasn't even the closest. If one of them had been close enough to walk to, I would have at least started there. Once I got in the car, the difference of driving 2 miles or 4 miles didn't matter.

Like one who posted above, the two dozen kids in our neighborhood made different choices among those 10+ schools.

I made the choice for my daughter because of the educational philosophy (hands-on, project and inquiry based) at the magnet school that didn't exist at the neighborhood school. It didn't even occur to me to look at test scores; I was never worried about my daughter's capacity to learn, it was about her being engaged vs. sitting a desk for rote learning.

We put a LOT of effort in to creating community among the families at the magnet school. It's a much more focused efforts than it would be - would need to be - at a neighborhood school.

Hello everyone,

I really appreciate the perspectives everyone has offered, and this conversation is definitely giving me a lot of food for thought.

I too am struggling with this topic even though my daughter is not yet one year old, and I have a while before we make any decision on her schooling.

I really sympathize with what anon and y are saying. I am a woman of color, and I moved into the NE neighborhood a few years back because it was more diverse than other parts of Portland. Now that I am a mom, I am glad that my daughter will be growing up in a neighborhood that will anchor her sense of identity.

That said, the school in this neighborhood isn't very good, at least according to standardized statistics I have read. I have not yet visited it personally so I cannot say whether or not it will be a good fit for my daughter because other things I value are not quantified: philosophy of individual teachers, the vibe of the school, how the children relate to each other, etc.

However,I am interested in sending her to one of the language immersion programs that are not located in my school district. This is because we would like her to be able to know the language of her grandparents. Yet, I believe that it is our duty as parents and as community members to invest in our local schools. I firmly believe that to improve the quality of education of my local school, I need to stay in my district and so should other parents. If we don't, the gap between the well-performing schools and the under-performing schools will only increase, and the kids at these under-performing schools will be left behind.

I applaud what Nic has done--volunteer at her child's school and given it a chance, though I'm sorry it didn't work out for them. If more parents did that, I'd like to think that parents like Nic would not feel so frustrated and that the school would improve.

I know that sometimes there is a tension between what one thinks is best for one's child and what is best for one's larger community, and the two are not always aligned. I'm thinking of the debate on immunization and the conflict between what is best for one's child vs what is best for public health.

For myself, I'm trying to negotiate between what I would like for her, personally--to be able to write and speak Mandarin fluently (which I am unable to do), and more broadly, what I believe is important if we want to address the inequities of race and class in Portland. I'd like to think this conflict is not going to be permanent one. I'd like to think that if as a parent, I work hard on addressing these inequities, what is ultimately best for my daughter is that she gets to live in an equitable society, and we won't have to choose between personal benefit and a collective one.

For what it is worth, I went to an elementary school that was not considered a "good one," and I'd like to think I turned out alright. I would be interested in hearing about the educational background for some of the parents here, and to hear how their experiences inform their decisions about their children's schools.

OK, I'm rambling now, but I'm thankful for this conversation as it is getting me to realize somethings that I hadn't before.

gentrification and privilege.

like Madge used to say, "you're soaking in it"

As i've said before an i'll say again if caring for children ends at your own front door, and does not extend to THOSE kids who aren't who you'd prefer to be around, are you really about community? Or are you about creating a rarerified exclusive community of people who look like you, have as much money as you and think like you? How is that progressive? How does that prepare your children for the real world. . oh hell, even riding tri-met by themselves. What message are you sending your kids about whether "other" neighborhood kids as precious as they are?

I rolled my eyes when folks started jumping all over the westside and Lake Oswego as not being "diverse" as N/NE. I really can't access a mindset that brags about living in a diverse neighborhood, yet is obssessed about educating their own children away from that "diversity". I mean how many threads have we had about white flight or middle class flight from schools in N/NE on urbanmamas? how do i get out, should I use another address to get out, how much should I check out neighborhood school before I get out, what if I "lose" the lottery, how do I make friends now that I've gotten out. . . .

Some of these posts have been so regressive in terms of stereotypes and such, that it makes me despair that many uMs will never see all children as being as precious and deserving of a good education as their own. It really makes me unbearably sad sometimes and absolutely enraged others.

The best thing that could happen for race and class relations (cause no one wants to go to the poor white schools in outer SE either) and future of Portland is to end school choice now. Intergration was unpopular when it started in the 50's. People had a bunch of reasons why it wouldn't work. People left school districts rather than integrate. Now we need to end this self-segregation for all our sakes.

I too would like to ask, haven't we already had this discussion? It never turns out well. I won't placate you, when you're telling me we can't all play together cuz my kids and their friends are too "rough" and you are too cool for us.

http://wackymommy.org/blog/archive/2008/01/24/urbanmamas_i_apologize_sorta_for_calling_you_names/

Keep in mind that there may be benefits to going to school outside of the neighborhood. Social interactions in school can be very dicey. If your child ends up being an outsider at school for whatever reason, at least this won't follow her during her neighborhood interactions. (I say this as the girl who was the outsider in my neighborhood school growing up - it didn't hurt my self esteem much because my parents found lots of social opportunities for me outside the neighborhood.)

Plus, regardless of where your child ends up on trhe social spectrum, having the opportunity to get along with two completely different sets of kids will give her the chance to experiment more and learn more about herself and others.

I speak

Our children will be attending school where we go to church which is about 4 miles away because our neighborhood school doesn't meet my son's needs. I'd so much rather them go to our local school for the community reasons above, but we've yet to see that it even exists within our neighborhood.

We live on a small street with just a few homes, in a hilly area so there are rarely kids out riding bikes or running around. Even when we take walks around the other streets, we just don't see this.

It makes me sad that our kids aren't running over to friends' homes or stopping by, but I hope that we'll have that sense of community with our school since we also go to church there. I know we'll work hard for it because it's important to us and worth the effort.

When I originally saw this post, I just knew that the conversation would turn to this. Which is fine by me, because once again it shines the light on PPS school inequity issues. ALL SCHOOLS should be awesome for ALL of our children to attend. period.

Agreed, anonmom. We moms have to struggle with these issues because of failures of the PPS system, and let's let the judgment lie with those failures, not with moms who want the best for their kids.

Recess has come up a couple times, and we've struggled with this at our school. We've been told the district only allows for one recess break, even for full-day kindergartners. It's been a frustrating lesson in semantics: Does that mean a classroom "break" that happens to be outside is going against district policy, and can the principal encourage such breaks? I'd love to hear what happens at other PPS schools...maybe in another UM thread? :)

It does not only take parent involvement to improve poorly performing schools. If we all went to our neighborhood schools, it would not make it all better.

PPS needs to lead improvement in the schools. I am disappointed in PPS and its lack of ability to adopt district-wide changes to make sure that our children are learning and growing at school.

Families are trying their neighborhood schools, getting involved with other parents and the administration, finding that they don't work for them, and transferring to another neighborhood school, a magnet/charter/alternative, or to a private school. If we do not have the choice, our schools may be different. There is inequity in the schools, but will we make it better if we all just go to our neighborhood schools? PPS, the superintendent and the board, do they have any role in this, or is all our fault for exercising the School Choice that PPS is giving to us?

Damn School Choice. Sometimes I hate it.

Amen to the reasonable last two comments. It isn't necessary to villainize one another - the system has let us all down.

We spent two years in our neighborhood school. I have volunteered countless hours in the classroom and on projects supporting our neediest students (homeless and transitional). We have had meetings upon meetings upon meetings. We've contacted the district. We have poor leadership and that accounts for most of the problems at our particular school. Our school operates on a paradigm that isn't good for any child - public shaming as a way to discipline, no time to move around, a canned curriculum, etc. I go could on and on.

I wish we could make change at our n'hood school by staying. We have stayed and it has been a futile effort. There are families who have been here for 6 years working hard to affect change - nothing has changed. Until the district listens to parents and checks out our leadership issues nothing will change.

I think it entirely depends upon which school you are talking about. Wackymama, your children go to the school I would LOVE for my children to attend. But they don't, so we're out of luck. Not all N/NE schools are created equal.

anotheranonmom, maybe you would change your mind, once you were there ;) Seriously, it's not perfect (too many tests, not enough art), but we're happy with it.

We also have had a great community of long-time parents, neighbors and volunteers that has persistently stuck with things, in spite of the administrators saying No can do. We just keep saying Yes, this is what we need. But I know that isn't always going to work, at every school.

Keep yelling for more recess -- the kids need it.

I have lots of friends that wish there child could go to their neighborhood school but they can't because they have a disability. My daughter with a disability goes to a neighborhood school but not HER neighborhood school because the principal at the the time had a reputation for closing doors to kids with disabilities. PPS school policy says that all children are allowed to go to their neighborhood school and this is not true for all.

"white flight", did it occur to those who are passing judgment that there are various reasons why people opt not to choose their neighborhood schools. Perhaps they are interested in a focus the neighborhood school doesn't provide such as language immersion or arts/science magnet. I agree with the latest comments, PPS has let a lot of people down, why are we throwing stones at fellow moms?? Perhaps your child didn't get into the charter you applied to, or you can't afford the private schools.....I would like to think that those aren't the reasons for the judgment and bitterness but why else would you attack so many caring people.

this thread started as support for those who go to school outside the neighborhood and ideas for creating community in other ways. I would think those who are bitter can discuss their issues on a different thread and allow those who are truly looking for support on this issue to discuss it openly without being beat into the ground because they made a decision which they felt is best for their family.

My post was meant to look for support on creating community. PPS is forcing parents to send their kids across town instead of making schools accessible or ensuring there are teachers in all schools with the skills to meet their needs. I am just trying to bring awareness that there are kids in your neighborhood that don't have the same choices as you might have and hoping that with this awareness you can create community for all kids who are still being segregated.

Jodi, I'm not bitter or throwing stones, I'm just bummed out with more of the same old, same old. And I'm pretty fed up with the stereotypes about my neighborhood, and the kids in my neighborhood. Our children.

(By the way, it is my own children's school that Stephanie refers to when she says that students with IEPs were not made to feel welcome. Unfortunately for the students her assumptions were 100 percent correct.)

I hope that things change for the better, and soon. And it's not going to happen by our communities becoming more separate and divided.

Go read this:
http://ppsequity.org/2009/04/19/racial-code-words-for-dummies/

Um, jodi I can speak to that. Parents upthread said some pretty offensive things about the neighborhood and the kids and of course no one batted an eye or gently called them out.

There's a history around primarily (but not exclusively) white middle class parent fleeing inner city schools. I didn't make that up. It's not new. Everyone of those parents have a good reason why their children deserve better. I absolutely believe that there should be special focus magnets and then it's that or your assigned neighborhood school. Period.

And I continue to be stunned at how little folks care about kids that aren't theirs around here. The same kind of othering that allows parents to leave poorer kids, children of color and children with disabilities "behind", dehumanizes all of us.

Honestly, I think it's interesting how people get judged harshly on uMs for using cars for anything but driving their kids across town to another school.

No, jodi it's not about this black single mama being "jealous" about someone getting into Acme super-duper magnet or upper crust elementary school. My kid wouldn't be welcome there anyway. It's about my frustration that many of you don't seem to give a damn about the inequity.

ProtestMama, you sound pretty pissed. I don't blame you - I am, too.

I am a woman of color and we're leaving our N. Portland n'hood school. So are some other mamas of color. I have worked hard for the most needy in our school and I'll continue to do that after we leave. This is our community. (And btw, I care A LOT about the inequity in this district - but my caring about it and trying to affect change has done nothing to change it).

Sadly, this is a terribly complicated situation. Ideally, I'd rather see no magnets, focus options or charters. If folks had to attend their n'hood schools perhaps they'd be better? But then you'd have the issue of further n'hood segregation and folks using false addresses to get into better n'hood schools.

It seems like the system is simply flawed and I'm not sure what can be done about it. I think pointing the finger at other mamas is not in any way helpful. Instead of criticizing each other here, we should be marching down to the PPS Board meetings and making our voices heard.

There are some opportunities to have our voices heard at the high school redesign forums coming up. This link will get you there http://www.pps.k12.or.us/depts/communications/hs_system/ and here are the next two.
Wednesday, April 29, 6:30-9pm
Franklin High School, 5405 SE Woodward St.
Saturday, May 2, 9:30am-12pm
Madison High School, 2735 NE 82nd Ave.

Yes, marching! Let me know when the marching happens. I have testified at the last two school board meetings and I think co-chair Williams will miss me if I don't show up to talk about something on the 27th.

I understand people being fed up, I understand the inequity and I do care. I certainly wasn't implying you guys didn't either, but rather the discussion grew very ugly and down a road it didn't need to go, as well as off the topic that was initially submitted.
You are absolutely right about the other judgments that were passed, about "the neighborhood kids being rough" etc.....my comment was applying to everyone. I am perplexed by the wonderful nature of this website turning so ugly at times when it's intention is to create community, discussion, a resource for everyone. While some people would say exactly how they feel regardless, I think many would restrain and be more respectful face to face and sometimes this format leads to anonymous venting which can be very hurtful.

I think to create community when you go to school outside the neighborhood you have to work harder at it. You also need to question whether the community you're seeking is for you as a parent or for the child, there are different approaches for each of those.

School is a hot-button issue. I appreciate so many commenting about not vilifying other parents for making the right choice for their child(ren). At the end of the day, you make the best choice and what is right for your family.

There are so many wonderful neighborhoods in Portland, and sadly the many of the neighborhood schools are not up to snuff! I'm personally pissed that the curriculum and educational philosophy that's offered at many of the neighborhood schools with the biggest achievement gap relies on rote memory and didactic approaches to teaching. We should be pissed at PPS and not at other parents for doing what is best for their family. Where is the leadership, where is Carole Smith demanding that all schools offer plenty of recess and specials that seem to be helping more kids thrive? As for the high school redesign, let's hope they don't turn every high school into a focus-option which would exacerbate the issue we currently have!

I posted an opportunity above to speak about what vision parents might have for all high schools and an opportunity to speak. As this thread is concerned with creating community please ask why there are students in your community that do not have the same choices as you to use the school choice system. These are children in wheelchairs, children with challenging behaviors, children that are blind, deaf, children with autism, foster children, and anyone who needs modifications to the learning environment. Sometimes to create community we need to worry about the other people in it. Most of us can chew gum and walk at the same time so you can do what is right for your kid and someone else's kid at the same time. I really don't care whether you won/lost the school chance award or not. Creating community means doing what is right for everyone it it. Ask your principals why there are no kids with wheelchairs in your school and what you can do about it, ask why there is another second grade class that eats lunch at a different time and does not associate with your kids and how this can change, ask a parent you don't know who does not look like your friends about their story, don't whisper about the parent that shows up at the PTA that you have never seen before and assume they don't contribute because chances are they do alot more than you know, don't allow "good mommy" cliques to form in your schools and honor every parent even those that parent different than you. I could go on. Creating community is not just where you shop and what committees you are on but it is whether or not you reach out to people that are in the community and listen to their story. Ask your neighbor who did not use school chance if they even know what a charter school is or the lottery system. Chances are it is because they have to work or do not have the luxury of a vehicle to even attempt to opt out. Creating community means getting out of your comfort zone.

It reminds me of the philandering husband/wife who does not understand why he/she cannot still have an open positive relationship with the original husband/wife.

what Stephanie said: Awesome! Thank you and thank you.

anotheranonmom: If everyone did what you are doing. . . that would be super cool. I have said on ohter threads, that I volunteered at my new outer SE neighborhood elementary school BECAUSE I want to create community and we aren't in the district. I love running into "my kids" around the neighborhood.

We have opted out of PPS entirely. My daughter needs a ethnic/economically diverse school, with teachers of color and a college preparatory education. If we could find it at PPS we would have stayed. If I could've found a high school like Ockley we would have stayed.

But my daughter has experienced direct in-your-face racism at schools that were predominately white, so she has little desire to attend the coveted school choice high schools. Did I tell y'all the one about when the principal of a coveted magnet blamed lower test scores on the fact that their minority and free/reduced lunch students had tripled? In the newsletter? And refused to take it back or "clarify" his position?

So this broke-ass mama has to juggle shut-off notices to pay for school.

So let me issue this challenge, I challenge every mama on the thread who has opted out to do one of the things that Stephanie listed to help out.

If this single mama working full-time outside the home and doing part-time school and full-time teeanger wrangling (ooh, I just realized. . . maybe that's why I'm tired annd crabby) can pitch in... I know you mamas with your expansive skills and talents can do amazing things. Welcome!

I am a Dad.

Even though my neighborhood school(Beach) is not perfect. I could not not imagine being anywhere else.

The question posed is hard for everybody involved, including the families who stay at the school left behind. As a parent I left wondering I am missing something? Do I not love my kids enough to pay for private school or drive across town? Should I be unhappy too?

In the end I look at my kindergartner and see how much she loves school. How much she loves walking home from school with her friends. How much she loves playing on the playground after school. How much she loves riding her bike to school. How she amazes me with the amount of Spanish she has already learned. I know that our family has made the right decision for us.

It saddens me to see students leave with involved and not involved parents especially when these parents want to create community. In my experience community happens through our everyday lives and encounters. My life is full and I rarely have the energy to create the community outside of my daily routines.

The neighborhood school creates this easily by forcing us as a community to be together on the way to school, in the parking lot, at the PTA meeting or at the school events. By taking those opportunities away community can still happen but most likely it will be through Facebook or some other means that does not involve interpersonal relations.

Here is hoping that I see many of you and your offspring on the playgrounds of Beach for many years to come.

Great post Bryn.
I have more creating community ideas:
Become a foster parent and if that is not possibly then do respite care for a family that has a child with a disability. If you are interested in learning more you can ask me here or contact Multnomah County Developmental Disabilities for more information
Share your extra stuff from the garden or eggs with a family in your neighborhood you don't know and might not look like you.
If you see a pregnant lady in the neighborhood ask when she is due and if she needs anything. After she has the baby then drop off a homecooked meal.
When new people move in give them a welcome basket and ask them to let you know if they need anything.
Have a block party.
Notice when you are judging someone by the way they look (I am guilty of this and have to check myself) and imagine what another view could be.
Go to your neighborhood school even if your child does not go there and learn about it by the people in it vs. what Portland Monthly says about it.
Read this http://www.case.edu/president/aaction/UnpackingTheKnapsack.pdf

We truly gave our neighborhood school a fair shake...a year plus of attending. Sadly, it did not work out. Our neighborhood school has about a 50% transfer rate, meaning most of our neighboring families choose elsewhere to attend(many of whom don't even bother checking out the school). The teachers and administrators of this school end up dealing with a multitude of student-family, non-academic issues. These issues overshadowed the academic needs of my child. In the end, we found that this school did not represent the values of our family. Where was the Arts, Music, parent involvement/community?? Finally, our child was completely overwhelmed with the chaos of the classroom...chaotic, unstructured and poorly managed. This manifested in school refusal, boredom and stress. Of the academics that were taught, they were extremely basic. We now drive across town and in terms of my child's needs, we could not be more pleased, however we have other issues...no more riding/walking, playdate quagmire but end the end, it's entirely worth it.

This lecture may be of interest to parents with school-aged kids. Connecting Schools to Family and the Community—A Discussion with Karen Mapp, on May 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., MAHP 104 (lunch will be provided). The first 50 registrants for this event will receive a free copy of one of Dr. Mapp’s books, Beyond the Bake Sale. Dr. Mapp is a lecturer with Harvard School of Graduate Education.

Below is the link to the flier:
http://www.pcc.edu/about/locations/cascade/documents/Karen-Mapp-PCC-Flyer.pdf

Just needed to tell about my great disappointment: we didn't get any of our 3 choices in the lottery. I don't understand how my child is being forced to go to her "neighborhood" school which is actually further away from our home than at least 2 other schools...so much for making the choice between school community and our neighborhood. Kids across the street are assigned to a school they can walk to...granted it has virtually no one of our ethnic group but still, walking distance! Since we're on the north side of the street we'll be driving the 20 blocks to our assigned school.

That is frustrating and makes no sense.

We did get two choices but are trying to figure out what to do now. Posted under schools section looking for info about Creative Science School.

This is such an age old argument---and gotta say, if you chose to rent or buy where there's an iffy neighborhood school---that's on you. When my husband and I bought our house we didn't yet have our daughter, nor were we even sure we would have kids---but it was still a consideration.

Additionally, test scores are not the only consideration: I got my daughter into Da Vinci through a hardship petition largely for social reasons (and she's also artistic, so I do think it's better for her). Her neighborhood middle school, Tabor, is academically just as strong and roughly the same socio economic mix. I didn't want her there because she had endured massive bullying throughout elementary school and Tabor was known for having even more severe issues with this.

Additionally, guess what? I don't drive at all, so she takes the bus. As for "community" it's kinda the same at every school, from what I see--there are "popular", cliquey moms (I certainly saw this extensively at Atkinson) and there are moms who are friendly to everyone.

Particularly if it's a charter/focus option/magnet school---there are plenty of parents and kids who live a few miles away. If anything, it creates a NEW bond with those parents. If you want to be part of things---join stuff. It really IS that simple.

So stupid


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