Chief Joseph and Ockley Green: Would Merging Schools Maintain Structure for students? (by Guest Blogger Madison Spray)

MariaSummer2012Over the course of six weeks this class has examined our education system. In this examination, we have considered the possible relationship between education and variables such as racial barriers and socio-economic status. One variable that is often overlooked is maintaining structure and consistency for children.  All children, regardless of race or gender, thrive on structure. In my ideal world, a child can reach their maximum potential when this structure fills in all aspects of their life particularly at home and at school.

Unfortunately, especially for children in the Portland Public School System, this isn’t necessarily the case. Currently the Portland’s School Board is playing with the idea of closing Chief Joseph and merging with Ockley Green next year. In the upcoming school year the students of both Chief Joseph and Okckley Green face multiple disruptions. There is the potential of larger classroom sizes which could decrease the amount of time each teacher spent with any one student. This could create tension and pressure for both students and teachers. If this merger were to happen, some students will have to travel further which could be an obstacle for those students who take the bus.

I have included a few article links on this topic.

Articles on the debate (pre-final decision):

Post final decision:

Questions:

  • Why is Chief Joseph really closing? (Barrier issues? Racial issues) (UPDATE: recent announcement on keeping Chief Joseph open while still merging with a dual campus)
  • Are there any benefits to this merger?
  • Are there ways to avoid the merger all together?
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7 thoughts on “Chief Joseph and Ockley Green: Would Merging Schools Maintain Structure for students? (by Guest Blogger Madison Spray)

  1. Madison
    Merging would definately disrupt structure students and families are familiar with and I understand the concern. The reason I think the Superintendant and the Board are looking to close Chief Joseph is because of money/funding issues like overcrowding. From what I understand, Chief Joseph is already facing overcrowding issues, which means class sizes are already large, and the building facilities can’t support all the people there. This is where enrollemnt balancing comes in, I guess to ensure that underenrolled schools can get students that make funding/resources more equal. “Enrollment balancing is the process of moving students from one school to another in order to address overcrowding or low enrollment so that all school have appropriate population sizes and all students can access a strong academic program.
    Every year, enrollment at all schools is looked at and plans are formed to make changes for the next school year at schools that are persistently higher or lower than appropriate sizes” http://www.pps.k12.or.us/departments/enrollment-transfer/enrollment-balancing.htm
    Unfortunately, the costs of the merger is an issue as well. From the last Board meeting in which I attended, (Feb. 4th),

    mention that the campus at Ockley Green would need renovations so it can accomodate students. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to ask to invest that money to renovate Chief Joseph so it can maintain current enrollment?

    Lisa

    • Lisa,
      It’s an interesting point you bring up about simply using the money to renovate Chief Joseph rather than supplement Ockley Green to allow for a merger. However, I think it’s the right decision to make in this situation. If it’s clear that things aren’t working, why not make a change? True, larger class sizes and crowded schools are never a good thing, but neither are empty ones. If some of the funds going to Ockley Green were used to hire more teachers rather than simply create more space for a larger population, I think the kids would be better off. The transportation issue is relevant also, but we can’t have a high school on every street corner.
      That being said, enrollment balancing is a complex issue, and you make a good case against merging the schools.

      • Bradley,
        I agree with you that in situations like this, sometimes all of the solutions present their own unique problems, and ultimately a decision needs to be made. Unfortunately, lack of funding seems to make a lot of these decisions for us. What is so frustrating about situations such as the Chief Joseph and Ockley merger is that we are backed into a corner where we don’t really have the choice but to make decisions like this. I agree with you when you say “Why not make a change?”, because sometimes a risk needs to be taken in order to make an improvement. However, I think that risky change needs to be counteracted with something in order to make up for the losses that will be felt.

        Another point that I would like to bring up is regarding funding and how the voting community sees the importance of the education issue. The other day I was thinking about the people who vote on these measures that increase or decrease school funding, and how a large part of them don’t have kids in school and may not see it as a personal and important issue. I think that we need to address the fact that part of the voting population may not feel personally tied to the education system in our state, so how can we make this more of a pressing issue for a larger audience? How can we show people that tackling problems in the education system will in turn affect other social issues?

  2. Madison,

    Thanks for the great post. You pose some interesting questions in light of the pros and cons of the merger ideas for schools. I believe that a merger is not the ideal way to assist with helping the infrastructure of schools for children. To me, I see a lot of cons rather than pros for the merger. I see a lot of bus commutes, low student retention rates (because they may not want to attend a merger school), long distance between homes and schools, outstretched support for families because they are too far away, and the cost of resources to create the merger. Honestly, the only benefit I see to having a merger created is that it can pool more money into one school rather than having two schools. That way, students can have more activities or resources for teachers. However, just because a merger seems that it can alleviate problems, it may also cause problems for having to maintain a larger school with a bigger student body.

    In terms of ways to avoid the merger all together, it seems difficult to figure how it is at all possible to eliminate this choice. From what I gather, is it an option to just do two schools to create smaller classroom sizes, teachers are able to focus more for students, and the finances for two schools will be more manageable. I also believe that when schools become merger schools, it becomes difficult to maintain and thus the system ultimately does not work. Are there merger schools in Oregon or elsewhere that have successfully worked? What is a best-case scenario for the mergers?

    Thanks!

    Janice

  3. I definitely agree with you Madison and Lisa! I think it would create problems not only for the students but the teachers as well. Overcrowded classrooms is not a solution. And I do think that there is a bigger underlying issue that is contributing to the closer of the school, and what is it? Barrier and race issues are very possible answers.

    • Madison, Lisa, and Nicole,

      You all bring up great points and we can all agree there are many questions about merging that are left unanswered to us. The barriers to access that kids face every day at school can be difficult enough, and continuing to disrupt their lives my merging to a new school in larger classrooms (where they will get even less attention) does not seems like the best answer. Some kids, as Janice mentioned, may live far away from school and have a harder time getting to it, which in turn, makes it harder to want to make the effort to go to school.

      Janice, you also brought up that a benefit of the merger could be more financial resources, but I have to say, if there are more kids I really don’t see how it is benefitting them at all. If the resources are pooled, they are also stretched across a number of new issues that have not been financially accounted for (health, programs, access, etc.)

      Thanks for all of your posts!

      Heidi

      • You all bring up valid concerns on the controversy of the closing of Chief Joseph. This issue hits close to home, as a good friend has a son attending Chief Joseph. He voiced many of the same complaints as those brought up: the instability caused by having to switch schools, the longer commute, and the difficulty of getting into one of the Charter Schools. Although he’s happy that the school isn’t being closed (for now), my friend is still extremely upset about the state of Portland Public Schools – but he can’t afford a private school, so it’s a matter of necessity.

        If some students are already faced with an unstable home life, being uprooted from their school would be disruptive to their education, but with all of the budget cuts and the lack of funding, how can this be helped? Schools, like Chief Joseph, which are full of minority and low-income students, are the first on the chopping block, too, and these kids are already at a disadvantage. To me, it seems as though the school district is perpetuating a vicious cycle instead of breaking it – but what will make the change it needs?

        -Jennifer Stark

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