Landmark high school reforms passes, closing Marshall, changing Jefferson
In a 4-3 decision last night, the Portland Public School board voted to close the three academies at the Marshall High School campus, a group of Gates Foundation-funded experimental small schools, at the end of the 2010-11 school year. The school had been in decline before the switch to academies, and in recent years, "falling enrollment and rising operating costs" -- along with parents who were generally desperate to get their children in stronger "community schools," as the PPS buzzword goes -- led to the near-inevitable decision. The students in those clusters will go to Cleveland, Franklin and Madison; the teachers will be distributed; the building will be closed.
Another decision, to change Jefferson into a "powerful focus school that offers students the opportunity to earn college credits even as they complete high school," is equally expected but far less understood (and voted for with a strong 6-1 margin). Northeast neighborhood parents, left with two options, Grant and a long-declining Jefferson, often chose Grant; the privileged students went to Lincoln; Jefferson was in dire need of a return to its relatively strong identity in the 80s and 90s as a performing arts school.
Benson was already "saved," and Grant, despite early fears by parents and community members, was never really in danger (I submit that the idea was grandstanding by Carole Smith meant to soften the blow of her eventual decision; but that's entirely an unfounded conspiracy theory :). In light of our initial discussion when the first plan was released, what do you think? Is this the best option to fix an awkward-if-not-totally-broken school system? Could equity result if everything goes according to plan? How will your family be affected?