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Kindergarten choice deadline tomorrow: 'I'm destroyed'

"I'm destroyed," she said. I had been hanging out on the Bridger playground yesterday just before the school's out bell, watching Everett and Truman play while Monroe slept on the bike. I'd seen her and her friend first on an "unimproved road" on the way to school; they and their daughters, each in their own wagon, had been walking while we biked past. She'd called out something friendly; I'd smiled and responded.

Now we were talking about her upcoming, impending, oh-my-god-it's-Friday decision: where to send her daughter to school. Should she go with her neighborhood option, Bridger? She had a few other great ones on her list: Creative Sciences, Buckman, maybe even Atkinson. We chatted for a few minutes, I owning up to not having a great handle yet on the school; I've only been hanging at this playground for two-and-a-half weeks, Everett's in the behavioral program, we didn't pick this.

The decision, she said, was too much. And Friday! Two days to make the decision that would seriously change the course of her and her daughter's life. Who could know how it would develop? What the future would hold?

As she was talking I realized I wasn't, after all, ready to send Truman to his neighborhood school, Grout. How crazy would that be, after all, next year? We'd be on the bikes at 7:45 to get Truman to his school; then head the other direction, past home, to get Everett to Bridger. Monroe and I would have four-and-a-half hours before it was time to pick Truman up, then slog the four-plus miles to Bridger, home again home again. Forget volunteering or staying after to read to my kids. With two on either end of southeast Portland, and me on my bike, I'd be torn between my children.

So now, I, too, am destroyed. I have until tomorrow to make the decision and I'm pretty sure I know what it will be: not my neighborhood school. It's not the way I thought this would go. Are any of you, like this mama and I, feeling destroyed right now?


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Grout is our neighborhood schools as well. They have GREAT K teachers. That being said, we thought either Woodstock or Lewis was a better fit for us.

Here in South FL, our school 'choices" ( they have School Choice, but it really isn't!) are grim & grimmer. We sent our daughter to pre-k @ the local Catholic school because we knew if we didn't get into our school of choice for kindergarten, at least she could stay there. Now that she's been there for a year we don't really like it. Even our other private options here suck. I find comfort in knowing there are moms on the other side of the country feeling the same way.

Sarah, can you try sending Truman to Bridger? I'm a big neighborhood proponent, but I think it would certainly make things simpler if they were both at the same school. He should be able to go automatically as a sibling. Or does the special ed piece change things?

Last year, we were searching for kindergarten for our daughter. We looked at upwards of 10 schools. The whole process made me a wreck. We didn't get in to many of the places we applied (one of the reasons this process is so hard, indeed, is that you have to do it twice--decide where to apply, first, then decide between whatever options you end up getting into, second). We chose a private school near our house in the end. Our daughter loves it. We go back and forth, and feel that the fact that we don't love it makes it hard to consider paying through the years. So we are looking, again, much more narrowly, this year.

For me the key in trying to keep sane about it this year is to refuse to let myself be "destroyed." I keep telling myself...it's just school. We are lucky (or unlucky?) to have options. She will be fine. THis is my strategy. I'm not trying to make people feel bad for how they feel. I just think that one can go nuts from the relatively self-imposed anxiety about these choices. School choice isn't destiny, after all, is it? And if by chance it is, at least you can change your mind...

As an elementary school teacher, I think we get way too worked up over where to send our kids to elementary school. Teachers generally are really out to help your kids, no matter what the school.

I am a great teacher. I got my Masters from Columbia University in Bilingual education and taught in some of the worst schools in New York City and then California. I can tell you that the students in my classroom learned a lot, despite the reputation of the school.

It also largely depends on what is going on at home. If they have the parental support in the home and you are committed to overseeing homework and reading with your kids, they will be successful anywhere.

Why does this have to be a competition and so stressful? Let's send our kids to school, invest time in their education at home and support the teachers and the school they go to.

I could write a book outlining my feelings on this subject, and my experiences as a parent. But instead, I'll offer one piece of advice:

An insane commute is not worth it, no way, no how. My daughter is back in in our 'hood after 6 years (K-5) of schlepping from home (outer-ish NE) to school (inner SE) to work (Lloyd District) and back again every single day. I had to drive--that commute was 4 busses in the AM and 4 in the PM. Now school, work and home are close to one another and bus-friendly for us. Our home/family life is so much better.

Sarah, you are very, very wise to consider placing your boys in the same school.

Although, keep in mind that a child already attending a school does not mean siblings get in automatically. The siblings are given an extra bump in the lottery, as I understand it.

My girl will be entering a PPS high school (but which one?!) in 2011. I feel destroyed with the not knowing....sigh.

Truman will be fine, no matter where he goes. Kindergarten at not-exactly-the-right school does not lead to a life of crime and thievery. And just think of how much happier a mom they'll have if you're not spending so much time commuting (even by bike, it's drudgery).

As a new Portlander, this whole thing perplexes me. We moved to inner N/NE for the racial diversity, and while our school is probably not the one that most liberal white moms would choose for their kids (and I've heard otherwise seemingly lovely people refer to a neighborhood near us at the "ghetto"), it's fantastic for us. The lessons at school go way beyond test scores. I'm so glad my children are at our neighborhood school.

I wish people (not talking about you Sarah, but the other mom, the one you chatted with on the playground) would give their neighborhood schools a chance.

Just submitted my transfer application online. Fingers crossed. Between those 3 choices and the 3 charters we applied to, things should fall into place, no?

My biggest confusion was figuring out the odds of the transfer process and 'gaming' the system, as it were...

ie: If I put School X as my 1st choice, but it has fewer openings, I'm seriously endangering my chances at my 2nd choice school as well, and thus probably dooming my chances for either. So I put School Y as my 1st choice, because it has more slots, making admission to School X almost impossible.


The headline to this post just makes me sad.
This is the problem with PPS allowing transfers..it makes parents feel inadequate and slacker if they're not caught up in the hype of the transfer game. That's not right.
I sure hope that with the high school redesign, they will eliminate transfers. period. Support your neighborhood school!

Obviously some families' situations are more complex than others, but I tend to agree with the "let the chips fall where they may, and don't stress so much" camp. We applied to one magnet that looks like it'd be an ideal match for our son, but it's also a bit of a drive, and there aren't many kindergarten slots. Our neighborhood school (a magnet/neighborhood mix) seems like it'd work fine too, and we could walk there. Both schools have pros and cons, and neither has a foreign language (which we'd have to pay for in an afterschool program). But I think we'll be okay either way. Kids are pretty flexible, and a school that might seem less-than-ideal on paper might end up being great.

Sarah's situation seems more complex, and I'm glad there are transfer options open for families with particular needs. Hope your situation works out for the best!

Where to go to kindergarten is a "decision that would seriously change the course of her and her daughter's life"?
I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry.

Sigh. I school where I live. My kids play with neighbor kids and all the stay at home moms (and a few dads) keep an eye out for everyone.

Yes, its a tad suburban where I live here in Sw Portland... but not agonizing over school choice was the best choice our family made.

I think it's cool that lots of people offer encouraging comments about how most schools will work out just fine for most kids. But I can relate to parents worrying about finding the best fit for their kids. I think about it a lot, mostly because my husband and I were both very unhappy in school, and in my husband's case particularly, I think it's overshadowed him his whole life (he dropped out of high school.) For that reason, I feel like it's really crucial to find a school for my son that fits his temperament, and I feel like his first school experience will be the most important in teaching him to have positive associations with learning and helping him to acquire the skills necessary to be successful in school as he grows older.

tsubaki, i feel the same way. i appreciate that portland offers a variety of choice with different focus options and different curricula. kids (adults) are not all alike, and have different interests and do not all thrive in the same setting. but it can be hard to know, when they are in kindergarten which type of environment will be a nice fit for them for the upcoming 6-9 years. i don't think it is wrong to want to figure out what that fit would be. i also don't think it's wrong if a parent doesn't get all worked up, and feels confident in their neighborhood school.

so... as a new parent, can someone enlighten me about this 'school choice' thing? Growing up, everyone went to their local school unless they were enrolled in private school.

Standing applause for teachermama.

I'll echo that standing ovation for teachermama. I think it's great that there are magnet schools available for kids who may have certain interests, but countless times I've seen people over-fetishizing the search for the "perfect" elementary school. (Not saying you in particular, Sarah -- I realize, like a previous poster, that you have some very specific circumstances that make school "fit" even more vital.)

Sometimes, way out here in Siberia (aka the burbs), I look longingly at PPS and all its choices, and then I realize that it's just a mad lottery-driven scramble (with some not-always-positive effects). I, too, grew up in an area where the only school choice was neighborhood public or private if you had the money, and interestingly enough, it made for REALLY good public schools consistently across the board. (Granted, my state had "school tax" on top of income and property taxes, so our districts were WAY better funded than Oregon's.)

In PPS, with elementary schools, you can automatically attend your neighborhood school. Or you can apply to a charter or magnet school. Or you can apply via lottery to other neighborhood schools, which means you list your 3 choices in the order you want them and maybe you'll get a slot. The schools determine how many spots they have available and the enrollment and transfer office holds a lottery to fill those spots. The popular schools have few or no spots available. If I have any details wrong here, I'm sure someone will correct me or you can check out the PPS website.

My own personal take is that it's great to have your kids at the same school, and that neighborhood schools are good for the vast majority of students out there. But parents do take it very, very seriously, attending multiple kindergarten round-ups and feeling like their child's future rests on getting them in to the "right" school. Whatever your neighborhood school is, it's probably great. Check it out in a casual way--go to their fairs or Science nights or hang out on the playground and chat with parents. Let it become real to you before you worry about driving across town to enroll in something different.

I'm a big proponent of not commuting. Travel is stressful on mom and thus, whole family. Then your kids don't get to know neighborhood kids, and birthday parties are in new school district, and thus, more commuting. I feel the type of education a child gets in Kindergarten will not make or break him. Learning to get along with others can be done in a variety of environments. I'm saving our money and time until later, when my kids can voice stronger opinions about what they want, and when the education is more likely to shape who they are.

We gave our neighborhood school a try and it was absolutely a nightmare. The first words out of our daughter's teacher's mouth was "put your name on your paper". This was our first meeting-no greeting to my daughter or to us, the parents. I was encouraged to leave after less than five minutes and I did with tears in my eyes. As I left, I thought how can I leave her for six hours in a place I'm not comfortable with. It was downhill after that. Policies and safety, common respect, were lacking. Numerous incidents in the way situations were handled were not acceptable in my opinion. I gave it a try and due to not having any other choices other than private, we stuck it out. Because we were at our neighborhood school, we couldn't get into any other school. We took half day Fridays, I volunteered trying to be a bright light for the kids in the classroom- someone who smiled and wanted to hear about the many things they had to share. Then I would come home and feel so distraught about the place I was sending her. I researched other options, financial aid for private ect. Yet, thinking if I switch her now, we can not sustain private financially so that means more transitions to other schools... so we survived, I saw attitude shifts, her patience was low, our afternoons were hard. Her needs were not being met at school. How could they, when her teacher says,"yes, kindergarten students do a lot of coloring, but really it's a management thing- I have 28 kids, they have to do something." So yes, first grade has been wonderful. I researched for the lottery and I put our name in every charter I could find. We considered moving to Vancouver and then May came and we had two strong options. All I can say is, try to have choices. Even if you are not sure it is a good fit, try to have options. Once the lottery goes through, then really check them out. Hang out on the playground, try to chat with other parents, see if they seem like-minded and get in the classroom and see how the teacher interacts with the students... Best of luck, I honestly believe things do work out for a reason. If we wouldn't have had our kinder year experience, we might not have found our current school and community. We appreciate it so much after last year as well!

Grateful, where did your daughter go for kindergarten and where does she go now? Anyone have thoughts to share about Glencoe?

I'm picking Grout because I believe the neighbourhood option is the best liberal non-racist decision I can make. And yes I believe the choice option is basically that, extremely racist. So good luck Cafemama with your commute come next winter, I would not fancy that at all.

i moved here from out of state where there was no such thing as school choice--everyone went to their neighborhood school! Portland has so many choices, options and while the neighborhood school might not work for everyone, I think it's important for all of us to honor the choices made by parents. We tried our neighborhood school and wished it would have worked for us, but it didn't. We opted for a private school, which is close to our work, after getting shut out of the lottery & school choice process.

It's not necessarily racist, and I think it's destructive to this conversation to jump to that conclusion.

I agree that the vast majority of schools would improve if we did away with school choice and charters. However, this is the system we have, and I'm not going to make my child a political statement or a guinea pig.

We are still considering our neighborhood school, but the big red flags for us were the size of the kindergarten classes (33!) and the fact they proudly touted kids learning PowerPoint: "They're proficient in the Microsoft Office Suite by 3rd grade!"

That's a philosophical distinction for us - having our child sit in front of a computer 5+ hours a week seems designed to churn out a generation of cubicle dwellers. We'd like to envision something more for all kids, not just ours.

"...maybe even Atkinson."

Hmmph. I'm hoping I misread the intent of that.

Atkinson is a terrific neighborhood school. Caring teachers and staff, lovely multicultural environment whether or not one is in the immersion or neighborhood program. So many languages in the halls, and so much respect for them. Mandarin and Spanish lessons four times a week for K-3 in the regular neighborhood program. Strong leadership, engaging, totally involved full-time music teacher, many well-planned, diverse after-school enrichment offerings, and an extraordinarily well-conceived and well-tended Outdoor Learning Garden that is integrated into the curriculum.

This from a mother who let herself get "destroyed" over what program could possibly be the right fit/good enough for her first little kindergarten flower and then spent 4 years as a tireless champion of our particular focus program.

A number of factors, including lack of confidence in how the school's philosophy was going to transfer to the middle school years, a growing recognition that the ratio of outstanding to just average or poor teachers was about the same as anywhere else, and an increasing need to walk to school and really let our kids know their classmates as also neighbors, led us to our lovely neighborhood school that was there all along.

I understand that maybe your neighborhood program seems like it just couldn't possibly be as good as ... some other place, I remember those feelings. I also understand that every neighborhood program is not as lovely as ours, or many others. But you may be pleasantly surprised. Really having school as part of your little neighborhood milieu, routine, environs, is a sweet and special thing. We so quickly and often allow ourselves to get torn up about our choices as mamas. Go easy.

AngelaG: I'm not sure if you're being supportive or sarcastic. tone doesn't always come through very well in these comment sections. (as is obvious from Stacy's assumption that I, or the mama I spoke to, is putting down Atkinson by saying "maybe even" Atkinson -- I'm sorry, neither of us were judging its inherent, it was a third or fourth choice for this particular parent. Not an inferior choice.)

but school choice isn't racist, but classist. if the schools "left behind" by school choice end up with a much higher proportion of minorities -- they do -- it's not because the people who left are racist, but because they're either (a) classist or (b), like fujiyama mama, not willing to put their child's elementary education on the line for their belief in the inequities of our system. the parents who have the time, energy and knowledge to make these choices are, the vast majority anyway, far better educated and, thus, generally higher income than those who simply stick with the choice their residence address dictates.

I'm a huge proponent of neighborhood schools. upon long reflection, however, I'm not a proponent of sending your child to school where you have, after exposure and trial and error, decided that the individuals who would be his or her teachers and administrators are wrong for your kid. like grateful, part of the reason I have a bad taste in my mouth is that there is only one kindergarten teacher I truly like at Grout -- and he's retiring. I don't want to stick my kid in a classroom in a teacher whom I don't love, especially if it means spending much extra time and effort to get him there each day.

and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that having to pick a school in which to be involved -- pitting third grader against kindergartener -- was unfair to both of them. which PTA would I join? I'd have to choose one, being limited in my ability to get out in the evening.

I think, no matter how much importance you place on the actual education a child will receive in elementary school, it still *does* make a big difference in the way one's life will go. I'm still friends with members of my first grade class, I cherish those relationships, and without them I may not be *less* of a person but I would surely be different. I think this is a very big decision. when I say this I am not referring to earning potential or chances at an Ivy League post-secondary school or whether or not your child's book will end up on the New York Times' bestseller list. I'm simply referring to a first step along a path that is different from another path, with different people and different extracurricular activities and a different commute. I knew exactly how she felt; I've felt that way too; it's not because I worry about my kids getting into Harvard or being senator one day.

it's tough to be in a position, sometimes, with so much choice; in order to make even the most basic, simple decision (to accept your neighborhood school) you are at the same time rejecting a number of wonderfully interesting choices. I'd love to explore Creative Sciences, for instance, or perhaps an immersion program or a charter school -- it's not for me to choose those things and sometimes I worry about my inadequacies as a parent, that I've never visited any of these schools or advocated for my child to (perhaps) get his special needs met at a place that's truly special, instead of The One The School District Picked For Me Without Ever Having Met Me Or My Child.

it's tough, and my heart goes out to everyone who agonizes over these decisions, and my thanks go to everyone who's adding their supportive thoughts and insights and answers for questions.

Thanks for clarifying, Sarah. Something I would like to add, in the very possible case that it didn't come through in my comments above, is that needs change, parent energy changes, perception changes, and what fit in kindergarten may not look so good as 6th grade looms ahead, or another child is starting school, or whatever your unique set of circumstances. I totally get what a big deal school choices are--I've been there. But I think it helps alleviate the stress level to remember that one or two years from now, what you want for your child and your family may look completely different. And heck, with all the PPS reconfiguration of the last couple of years and HS restructuring, it may look different no matter what!

@curious, my daughter attended Glencoe for her grade 2-5 years; we used the lottery to transfer out of our n'hood (she attended a v. small, private school for K-1).

Glencoe is lauded as a wonderful elementary school, and I'm sure it is. It just wasn't a good fit for us. I found it to be very cliquish (parents and students) and my daughter was certainly at a social disadvantage entering there in 2nd grade (the n'hood surrounding is very stable and there don't see to be very many "newbies"--seems like most kids started there in K and didn't leave). There's not very much socio-economic or ethnic diversity there. I'm single and I work full-time outside the home, and we live in a working class neighborhood and we just didn't fit in and at no point in the four years my child attended there did I feel like we were welcome. In fact, the fit was so poor that I opted to not puruse transferring my daughter into the middle school that Glencoe feeds into (Mt. Tabor). My daughter was happy to leave that group and start over elsewhere.

If I had to do it again, I would have put my daughter in our neighborhood school. The only reason she is not there now is that it is a K-8, and I really, really wanted her in a middle school. So she transferred into a MS that's a couple of miles from our house. It's diverse in every way, and we're both happy with the fit there.

If the pressure of the deadline is what is weighing particularly heavily on you, I do think it's important to keep in mind that because your neighborhood school is ALWAYS an option to you, be it June or September or March, you have quite awhile to make this decision. Fill out the choice form if you want extra options and take it from there. You have until late April or May until you even know if you got your choice school, and then you can make a final decision.

Like everyone else we've been racing around visiting private schools and our neighborhood option and focus programs, other neighborhood schools and charter schools. It's a little crazy. It does feel high stakes because in many cases kindergarten is by far your best chance of getting into some of the schools--if you're looking for a K-8, in particular, it seems like a short window for capturing a long term commitment. But I agree it's important to relax and realize that no school is perfect, and so much of your happiness in a school depends year-to-year on the actual classroom your children end up in, something we have very little control over as we consider these decisions. There are going to be years, in most cases no matter where we end up, that we may just have to make the best of it. And there will be other years we are thrilled. The rumor madness is also a little insane at this time of year, so I guess the one thing I do like about the process is that it gives you a chance to see things for yourself and not rely on what you've heard about a particular school or teacher.

Also, about the racist and classist comments? Totally appropriate to acknowledge that this is a part of the issue with transfers and to discuss the impact of those decisions, but very unfair to assume you know everyone's motivations for transfer. I know some people who have transferred out of their neighborhood schools because they felt they were too homogeneous in terms of race or economic class and wanted something more diverse or more comfortable for their family. There are people in our neighborhood who choose a nearby Title One school instead of our two fairly middle-class neighborhood schools because they like the atmosphere better and feel the school has a clearer vision, and because they admire the way that school has integrated its special education students and made them a part of the community. Everyone is just trying to do their best for their kids--sometimes that decision has racist or classist implications we should be award of and struggle with, but not always.

Sorry, was not meaning to be sarcastic. I do strongly agree feel that it is a racist/classist system. What also frustrates me is the pressure and assumption that you need to use the choice program to get into the 'best' K-5 to set your child up in life. I want to a crappy, underbudgeted elementary school as a child, now I earn over $100K. I had parents that pushed me and always showed a strong interest in education.

Anyone who thinks racism isn't a part of all of this needs to 1) go visit Lincoln High and then 2) go visit Jefferson High.

Maybe on each individual level, we don't feel like we are making decisions about race. And most of us probably aren't. But to say this is class and not race is absurd.

It was so long ago that black people weren't even allowed to live in the state of Oregon.

And it was only a few decades ago when black people were only allowed to live in ONE neighborhood in all of Portland--what was then called Albina. It's not a coincidence that many homes in these communities were razed for highways, interstates, and coliseums. These were communities without a voice.

Things don't change that much in just a couple of decades. The parents now may very well have been children then.

Let's not pretend away Portland's racist legacy. I have met so many otherwise well-intentioned Portland liberals who truly, honestly believe there is no racism here. Yet these same people will refer to certain neighborhoods in N/NE Portland as the "ghetto."

There are many liberal, white Portland families who will happily move to N/NE Portland, around Alberta Arts, for the hip neighborhood, but completely freak out about the possibility of their kids going to neighborhood schools. They use their knowledge and resources to get their kids away from the neighborhoods. Then you're left with mostly black and/or Latino schools without strong parent advocates.

These schools' demographics do NOT reflect their neighborhoods. And if all those white parents had fewer transfer options, you can be sure their volunteering and resources would make the neighborhood schools much better. But when a kid leaves, the money follows them. So then many schools are left with so much less funding.

Yes, of course black parents can be doing the same things for their kids. But they don't necessarily have the resources to know how to play the transfer game. When schools were desegregated, many black parents were told by schools, "Don't worry--things will be fine--we'll take care of everything--we don't need your help or volunteering."

I know people are very well-intentioned, but Lincoln and Jefferson High Schools (and many of the schools that feed into them) are a direct results of segregation and racism in Portland. Please don't pretend this away.

Racism will end only when white people start acknowledging white privilege.

That doesn't mean don't use the transfer system (and, Sarah, given your older son's special needs, your younger son's transfer is one that really does make sense). But please be aware of how race and class are part of all of this.

Oops, in my furious typing, I said "It was so long ago that black people weren't even allowed to live in the state of Oregon."

When of course I meant it WASN'T so long okay.

n talking about school choice and race, I think it's important to recognize that many of those 'left behind' at the poorer performing schools, aka those who are generally ethnic minorities from lower income households, aren't necessarily too psyched to be at schools that have poor performance outcomes, crappy buildings, little to no enrichment programs, behavior problems, unhappy teachers, crowded classrooms, and/or any of those other things that makes other families run away.

True school choice takes place when everyone can take advantage of it. Right now it's only available to families that know how to work the system, have access to transportation, and have the time to do the necessary research.

daisy, you really struck a nerve here. We moved to the Alberta neighborhood precisely because we liked the "hip" feel of the neighborhood. But that was before we had kids, and now that our daughter is getting closer to going to elementary school I am really wondering about what to do about the neighborhood school vs. transfer vs. charter school choice. I know we would research the quality of the neighborhood school more when choosing where to live in the city if we were to move now, but we're not moving so I want to ask a question. Does anyone out there have experience with Vernon Elementary? I never hear anything about it one way or the other, and that is where our kids will go if we stick with the neighborhood school, which I would like to do for convenience and community reasons. I agree that the transfer system can and does perpetuate classism and racism and I don't want to contribute to that, but I am concerned about the quality/fit of the school we send our kids to.

JD, I'd suggest talking to some neighborhood families whose kids go to Vernon -- and taking with a grain of salt the families who transferred out without their kids ever going to Vernon. By which I mean, talk to people who have first hand experience with it.

Also, UrbanMamas has some great resources on schools! Here's the page for Vernon: http://www.urbanmamas.com/schools/vernon_elementary_school/

You'll see the second post down has tons of comments, so I bet there was a heated discussion. But do note that there are lots of folks there saying they love it.

It's so nice to hear you are considering your neighborhood school! I do really love that most of the kids around us, in our neighborhood, are my kids' classmates.

JD~ I am a current Vernon parent. I invite you to start getting familiar with the school and come to your own conclusion about Vernon. Come to a PTA meeting, hang on the playground after school,browse through the school's garden, visit the Multi-Cultural night in April, carnival in May, join the princial/parents for the monthly coffee, etc. Start investing yourself in the school now, before it's time to sign your child up for class.
Is it a perfect school? no. Are there things that I would like to see changed? absolutely. But you will find these types of issues to be true at any school. However, there are many great things happening everyday, and the incredible sense of community is becoming one of my favorite things about this school.
Two years ago we chose to send our boys to the pre-k program. Some of the neighors on my street couldn't believe that we would do so--they had transferred out to neighboring school/private schools. But I personally value neighborhood schools and it wasn't an option to schlep my kids across town to a 'better' school. period. And you know what? My kids are extremely happy there. They have made great friends. There is lots of diversity. Vernon will also be certified as an IB school next year. In the past 2 years, I have definitely seen the trend of more and more neighborhood families choosing Vernon, and family-by-family, it's making it a better place because we're all taking ownership. It's our neighborhood, after all.
On behalf of many Vernon families in the neighborhood, we welcome you.

jd: My daughter is currently in the Pre-K class at Vernon, and I have to say that we are very happy with our decision to stay with our neighborhood school. Yes, Vernon does suffer from a long history of neglect, but there is a very active PTA working hard to beautify, enrich, and support the school. There is a dedicated principal, who makes herself available to parents and is obviously committed to the best interests of the children, and other teachers who put time in outside of the classroom to improve or add enrichment opportunities. My daughter absolutely loves her teacher, to the point that she wanted to invite her to Christmas dinner! In addition, she's making friends with kids from diverse backgrounds which was part of what my husband and I didn't like about some of the other more popular schools. My husband and I both attended very diverse public schools and we want the same for our children. That said, it is also great from a logistics standpoint to have your kid attending the same school as the neighborhood kids. Carpooling is wonderful, play dates are easy, and when my daughter sees her buddies at Season's we know she feels her community all around.
Come to a PTA meeting and see what we're working on! First Tuesday of every month. Also, you'll see fliers posted soon for a service day we are planning for April. We'll be improving the garden and painting lots of outside areas. And, there's the Carnival scheduled for May.....lots of great things happening at Vernon, for sure.

thanks for the advice and the link. what time is the pta meeting on tuesday?

I'm a big advocate for neighborhood schools. our school is Vernon, and this is our third year there. From the first day, I felt very welcome and saw some positive things were happening. Each year, it has gotten progressively stronger, and this year we have a fantastic support system with the parents and staff, things are really growing and changing.

I feel such a sense of community at Vernon. We are fortunate to walk to school with our neighbors. If I'm running late to pick up my girls, I have a list of 10 or more parents that I can call upon to help me out. Most days, there's a big group of kids playing on the playground after school, which is nice for both the kids AND parents. I'm on the board of our PTA, and this year we have a strong group that is making things happen. Each month at our meeting we provide dinner and childcare, and one meeting per quarter is potluck, which has helped facilitate the community feel even more.

Our community ties keep growing, and we are currently partnered up with NIKE, Growing Gardens, Community Cycling Center, the NE Tool Library, Vernon Neighborhood Association and Hands on Portland, just to name a few. We have a school cleanup and *beautification* day coming up on April 24th, and I'm so amazed and grateful for the generous donations we've received to help. Our SUN programs continue to strengthen the community bond with before and after school programs, including FREE fitness classes in the evening for adults with FREE childcare provided.

I'd encourage EVERYONE to give their neighborhood school a chance. Don't base your decision on what other parents have to say. Don't be so quick to dismiss it; it may end up being the best fit for your child. And more than anything, if you HAVEN'T given your neighborhood school an honest try, don't badmouth it. It's not fair to the school OR the potential parent.

Please feel free to email me with any specific questions or concerns, I'd be happy to share more about my experience at Vernon: heya[dot]megan[at]gmail[dot]com.

Not everyone in Portland lives in the PPS district. There are many of us well within Portland itself who are in the in David Douglas District. David Douglas doesn't have magnets, focus options, and the transfer policy. Out here you attend your neighborhood school and that is that.

We also have the Parkrose district and I believe Reynolds district serves the outer east part of Portland as well.

Perhaps those of you against the transfer policy would do well to compare/contrast the PPS policy with your neighboring districts to see the pros and cons.

JD, the next meeting is actually on Wednesday, April 7th. It's a potluck dinner, starting at 5:45, meeting starting around 6. Please join us, we'd love to have you!

is the April 7th meeting at the school?
sorry to hijack the thread!

yes, it's at the school, in the multi-purpose room. if you park along 20th ave, there's a door on the garden side that you can enter through. hopefully we'll see you there! and please feel free to email me with any other questions: heya[dot]megan[at]gmail[dot]com

Some good discussions going on here. I got really crazy about this stuff, too, 2 years ago. I desperately wanted us to be at our neighborhood school (Abernethy), which is a gem at the heart of the neighborhood. I wanted to walk my son to school, to stroll with friends along the way, to chat with other parents on the playground, coffee cups in heand, before heading off to work in the morning, to know that if I was traveling for work that another parent/friend/neighbor could simply walk mt son home and keep him at their house until I got home late.

But--my child has special educational needs, which the school would not be able to appropriately accommodate, regardless of what is technically required by the district/state. We love the private school that we're in now, but we schlep 4 miles across town by car, pay thousands of dollars per year, and playdates are pretty hard to come by. But that's what it took for us to get his needs met, and now 2 years down the road, I am finally accepting that.

It is really weird to be a huge n'hood school advocate--and to have a child who does not go to the n'hood school.

I think whether or not you place your child in a foreign language immersion program (and which language) for kindergarten is one of the biggest educational decisions you make for your child. Childhood is the best time to learn foreign languages. It only gets much harder. The global economy is rapidly changing. Foreign languages are becoming much more important. So, while there are lots of aspects to finding the right school fit for your child, not to put them in an immersion program puts her/him educationally behind right from the start, IMHO.

So Dave, are you thinking maybe Chinese immersion for the best future for our kids?!!?

The spouse and I considered it but from what I'm finding out is that unless there is a fluent Chinese speaker at home the child really struggles. We are looking more into Spanish immersion since my spouse speaks fairly well and also for the many other benefits of a second language.

I wish a second language was a standard in PPS.

Leigh, I am an advocate for more students learning Mandarin for strategic economic, national security, and world peace concerns (It's one of the purposes of my own blog). Oregon, and the US, will need Mandarin language skills in our next generations if we are going to get along with a rising China. But I hesitate to push Mandarin on any individual students. There are lots of other fine foreign language choices. But also, as I indicated above, I think you need a good reason not to put your kindergartener in some immersion program. Otherwise, they're falling behind right from the start. These are, I agree with the general premise of this post, hard, difficult, and very important decisions.

Dave, I agree generally that language immersion is great. But, neither of my children is a native speaker of English. We thought a lot about whether or not to pursue a third language for my kids, and decided not to, even though they've lost fluency in their birth languages (well, as fluent as they ever were), because we don't want them falling further behind in English language skills.

So here's just another example of how all of our kids are special snowflakes. :)

A "good reason not to put your kindergartener in some immersion program" is that our neighborhood school doesn't have one! And if we did lottery in to one we don't have transportation. And we like our school.

That is what this whole topic is about. School "choice" isn't always about choice. And frankly, I see friends avoid our neighborhood school because so many of the students don't speak English as their native language, and then drive to an immersion program so their child can learn another language.

From a parent who went through the insanity last year: most likely, no matter what, it'll be okay.
I went through the insane lottery process and despite my running around, going on tours and taking notes - I still ended up with nothing after the lottery. I CRIED at the thought that I was somehow failing my kids because I couldn't afford to move to a neighborhood with a better school and therefore doom my kids to a crappy education and probably therefore a crappy life. Now I laugh pretty hard when I think about this.
We went to our neighborhood school. Despite all the fear and hype in the neighborhood about it, it is not only fine, its great. The teachers are what matters most, and sometimes you can find the best teachers in the schools that get the least attention for being good. It also helped that for some reason a lot of neighborhood parents stood their ground and didn't transfer out last year. The diverse community in our neighborhood school is so valuable, so connected and so beautiful that I can only smile and be thankful that I didn't get what I wanted but rather what we needed. I think that my kids are getting a much more valuable education than I could have imagined, in things measured and things unmeasurable. Good luck!

I always cringe when I hear the words "school choice" because with the lottery system you don't actually have choices. Just hopes.

And I get really frustrated when people accuse those who opt out of their n'hood school of being racist OR classist.

The rigid, institutional-style education doesn't work for a lot of kids. And when the measurement of a school's success is based only on test scores, so much of what is true educational success is missed.

We put in for two charter schools close to our house (we don't want a commute, either), based on best fit for our daughter. We didn't get in to either. We went to our n'hood school, a little resigned, but encouraged that it's an "Exceptional" school.

Our n'hood school has been great in many ways, but my kid isn't really thriving there. Academically, she's doing great. But all the rules and all the ways you can get in trouble and punished stress her out. And she has other needs, not "special needs" that are federally funded, but needs for quiet and space and creative freedom. These things aren't really possible in an institutional environment.

Because our n'hood school isn't the best fit, we again put in for the charter school we liked the best. My hopes are low since I know there are so few spaces. But if we did get in, you know what would be the hardest part of our n'hood school to give up? The racial and economic diversity.

I get the concerns about racism. I grew up in NE and went to Lincoln so I'm keenly aware of the differences. I lived them. I want my kid to have an integrated educational experience so when she does leave the womb of Portland she'll at least have an inkling that not everyone is like her.

Instead of being so defensive, and clinging to test scores as proof of their success, I wish n'hood schools would take a look at the different styles of education that the charter schools are offering and consider that there are different ways of creating thinking, thriving, successful student.

Heads up to the author of this article. I just heard a rumor that they might be moving Bridger's self-contained classroom next year. The rationale for the movement is to in fact create more consistency and ensure every cluster has a continuum of self-contained classrooms for the future. Regardless, a wide scale change like this needs to be shared publicly and not done in the shadows. I hope they have a plan to publicly unveil these changes with enough time for citizen comment. It would be the respectful choice to do so.
I only heard this as a rumor but wanted to share.

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