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North Portland is red hot!

February 20th, 2005

It’s red hot over here cuz I’m pissed off. Again.

(An aside — the carnival ROCKED! The kids had a blast and the grown-ups did, too  — more on that tomorrow…)

I just read a dorky story by Stephen Beaven (he says it’s pronounced “Bevin” like Evan, not “Beaven” like “Beaver” note to SB —
change your byline, dude) and Amy Hsuan in today’s Oregonian. Headline was “Neighborhoods hot; schools not” and was all about how North/Northeast Portland families are sending their kids elsewhere to school. (The westside, for instance, or private.)

Hello? Rilly???

Why is the story dorky? Cuz they don’t get to the g.d. point: Race is an issue. Education is political. N/NE
(my part of town, where i was born, raised and schooled, thank you, yes I’m an eastside rat) has been about as “diverse” as white Portland gets, ie — there are black and white and brown and yellow and red people here. That’s why I like it here.

You hear more languages here than just English. And more and more white people are moving in to what they cleverly call “the ‘hood” and displacing the families who have lived here for decades. And the new transplants are refusing to attend the schools in the neighborhood because why? There are still black people here. (And brown; white, make that “poor white” not “classy white,” like the transplants believe themselves to be, argh; yellow and red people…) It makes the transplants uncomfortable.

Last year, three white PTA moms told me their kids couldn’t attend the neighborhood schools because (direct quote) “We’d be in the minority!” (Technically, they wouldn’t. But the mix at some of the schools in the neighborhood — don’t ever say ‘hood, okay? It pisses me off — is approximately 1/3 black, 1/3 white, 1/3 Hispanic, small percentage Native American, Pacific Islander, and Asian. So if you’re thinking “us” (whites) against “them” (anyone who’s not white) yeah, then white is the minority. What’s the problem, petunia?)

Stephen and Amy quote a North Portland mom who “did her homework” (her words) and decided to send her kid to a westside school, cuz the North Portland school in their neighborhood “didn’t have the resources to educate the students.” And Ainsworth, where her young’un is now going to school, has a Spanish immersion program. Baby, you didn’t do your homework, cuz Beach
Elementary, right up the street from you, has a Spanish Immersion program! Did they bother to mention this in the story?


Did this family bother to try Beach, to see if they liked it?


Did the story mention race issues? Economics? Snobbery? One of the moms was bragging that she would never have her kid attend King, her neighborhood school, but she got such a good deal on her house, she can afford private school tuition! Well, you rock, baby! Good for you!

Who will your kid play with, when she’s not in school? Will she know her neighbors’ names? Will you?


  1. Heather says

    First off, Hi! I found your blog through Alisha (nicest pal ever.) I have to agree with you, but I have a slightly different take on things. I think that the problem lies with the magnet school programs. By having the school choice option, the most concerned and involved parents are going to shop for good schools for their kids, which can, defacto, skim some of the cream (involved parents) off the top. I was lucky enough to have an awesome elementary program (Chief Jo) as my neighborhood school. But what if my school had been Humbolt? Would I have sent my two TAG kids, that struggled to be challenged even at Chief Joseph, to a school that had such problems with classroom management and failing scores for so many years that all the staff was fired and had to reapply for their jobs? Um, no. Is it wrong to worry that a teacher in a situation challenged by kids with language barriers and special needs, will have the time and energy to ensure that my bright kids’ needs are met as well?

    My 6th grader should have gone to Ockley Green. Instead, I drive her all the way to S.E. to Winterhaven school in the Brooklyn neighborhood. This is not at all convenient for me, (a single mom with no extra time) and rubs my environmentalist side the wrong way to be wasting fossil fuels every week day. (I do carpool, but still.) I don’t commute because I want to. I commute because Ockley has a reputation as lousy school with lousy test scores and located next to a porn shop, not because it has poor kids that go there, or because I fear diversity. Winterhaven is a K-8, with only 100 kids in the middle school. It is also a science and math magnet, with a unique approach to teaching “visual math.” It has involved parents (everyone is required to vollunteer 50hrs a year) and great test scores. It is also served by a wonderful Boys and Girls club that provides transportation to excellent, free after school care. In short, if you want involved parents to stay in the neighborhood, give us schools worthy of our children–all the children. They could start by providing some stable funding and more resources for those schools that have high populations of ESL kids.

    I love living in North Portland. I work here, also. I love the diversity. I wish that there was more diversity at Winterhaven, frankly. But like any parent, I want the best for my kids (as demonstrated by tangible proof, such as activities, test scores, parent involvement, etc.) I don’t think that makes me racist or elitest.

    On a brighter note, (ahem, stepping down off my soapbox!) I really like your blog and hope we get to meet some time. Alisha speaks very highly of you (to say the least! :)

    February 22nd, 2005 | #

  2. Wacky Mommy says

    Heather, I completely get where you’re coming from. I want that porn shop out of there so bad. (And I’m psyched about the changes that lie ahead for O.G. I really am sending good, good, positive thoughts their way…) However, in the here and now — the shop and its patrons are dangerous for all the kids in the neighborhood, not just O.G. kids. The neighborhood patrol has already observed prostitution out in front of the store, an overdose of a patron, and the owner reportedly got his booty kicked by an irate ex-employee. Nice! (You would think that a Wacky Mommy such as moi would be participating in the neighborhood patrol, but no, i’m not. A naturally exuberant person such as myself does not help the cause. But i am on their side and completely supportive of what they’re doing.)

    Sorry I had to vent in that blog — but I had to vent. I continue to have to vent. I think The O does a horrible job of covering Portland Public Schools. They do all right as far as publishing numbers, basic info, but their features leave a lot to be desired. For instance, today’s story (2/22/05) about auctions, and how much the monied schools raise. I was like — “what’s your point?” (as i always am thinking when i read their stories) followed by “well, nyah nyah nyah, I’m glad Alameda can raise $90,000 in one night, you overachievers.” I am very proud of the much smaller amount our North Portland school raised. It was the best we could do, and what more can you ask for, y’know?

    I still don’t understand the Portland Schools Foundation rule — the richer schools only have to kick them money if the $$$ raised is going to fund additional school staff? So if they wanted to spend the $90,000 on a new playground, or computers, they wouldn’t have to give the Foundation a cut? that to me is not a fair shake.

    please let me know what you think about any/all of this, any of you who are reading. Sorry to go on and on — this is my first year as a PPS parent and it has been a shocker.

    One more thing — when I look at the numbers, overall, of people leaving the neighborhood schools for elsewhere, I’m like, “Stay here!” But when i hear about the individual cases, i always agree with their decisions (yours, for instance, Miss H.) and say “Oh, of course that was the best decision for you guys!” it’s all so personal, y’know? I really do come unglued over the westside/eastside thing, though. As long as the kids are staying on the eastside — anywhere on the eastside — i’m cool with that.


    eastside girl

    February 22nd, 2005 | #

  3. Hester says

    For a newcomer to Portland, the school situation in the N/NE
    areas of town has been a real source of wonder and dismay; as so much of Portland seems to me in so many ways, a source of wonder and dismay. I have to say, though, that our child will not be attending our “neighborhood school,” and I don’t need to “try it out” to know that. The location of the building is not safe, the feeling in the building is not safe, and if you can’t even get that what can be built upon? It sucks, and I wish to god a friendly, safe, warm neighborhood school existed for us, but it does not. And until this city can find a solution, shouldn’t any family do what is best for their lives in the meantime? I don’t know if it can be considered a reason for judgement at this point.

    February 22nd, 2005 | #

  4. Wacky Mommy says

    If you’ve got a school that’s surrounded by run-down apartment buildings or motels, with transitory people in and out, fighting, cops being called a lot, apparent drug activity and/or prostitution — of course it becomes a problem for the school, and the kids and parents who are worried about safety.

    I’m not too keen about shopping at our neighborhood grocery store (“The Portal to Hell” as my neighbors dubbed it) today cuz there were gunshots fired outside the building yesterday. I figure chances are slim of more gunfire today. But I don’t shop everyday, and I do take the kids to school five days a week! So safety first and all that.

    If the inside of the school doesn’t have a good “feel,” of course that’s a problem. I’m not looking for the city alone to find a solution. i want us to all find a solution together — the city, the parents, the feds, the administration, people who are child-free, grandparents, the business community. And part of the solution, in my opinion, is to not bail out on a neighborhood school without checking it out. Or even trying it out, if you feel okay with that.

    You checked your neighborhood school out, it sounds like, so there you go. And i’m going to throw my opinions and judgments around — it’s my blog, and this subject has been driving me… wacky.

    February 23rd, 2005 | #

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