Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Dramatic dip in middle school test scores stirs businesses to get involved.
Justice & Gender
An interview with Mary Schroeder
School chief proposes way to make choice work.
Doors open at UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
Happening Person: Judy Franzen
A DAY FOR REMEMBERING
A Day of Remembrance Symposium, "Forging Links to Resist Racism and Discrimination: Lessons for the Japanese American Internment Latino Immigration in the New World Order," is planned from 10 am to 5 pm Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Knight Law Center at UO. The event is free and open to the public.
The Eugene Day of Remembrance Committee, with sponsorship from the UO Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, and Asian Law Student Association, has organized the symposium designed to forge links with the Latino community to resist continuing discrimination.
"The Day of Remembrance has taken on a poignant dimension in the wake of 9/11," says law professor Keith Aoki, "as the temptation to forget about civil rights in the face of fears about national security once again presents our society with difficult choices. Let's hope we have the wisdom to learn from the errors of the past."
For more information, visit www.morsechair.uoregon.edu
NEW AMIGOS TAKES SHAPE
Amigos de los Sobrevivientes, a local nonprofit that for more than a decade has offered support services to torture survivors from Latin America, has a new name: the Amigos Multicultural Services Center. The agency will offer services to a wider population while continuing its established programs.
The Amigos board decided to remodel the organization because all immigrants — from Latin America and elsewhere — face a host of challenges once they cross the border into the U.S., from poverty to discrimination to language barriers. Immigrant life has become even more difficult since the toughening of immigration policies following the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The Amigos Multicultural Service Center will address these issues by offering counseling, case management and skill-building workshops to immigrants. Amigos also provides transitional housing for youth, a youth leadership program and diversity trainings.
The changes came with the hiring of a new program director: Viviana Martinez, who for 20 years worked with homeless people in the San Francisco Bay area. "Coming here to Eugene, it seems sad that the populations are very divided," Martinez said. "We now want to provide social support services to all marginalized and low-income populations, regardless of ethnicity."
The nonprofit is based in Springfield, where there is a large population of low-income, uneducated Caucasians who also need assistance, Martinez says. Amigos will now serve that population as well as local Latinos, connecting clients with other social services organizations. "What we are becoming is a bridge," Martinez says. "Instead of talking about diversity, we want to talk about unity, and we want to work towards that."
Amigos plans to host a fund-raising event — an international food festival, to be held at a local restaurant — during the second week of April. To contact Amigos, call 484-2450.
— Kera Abraham
Our News Brief last week on the coup in the Cal Young Neighborhood Association said it was unclear whether Charles Biggs would have to give up his two-year "appointment" to the Neighborhood Leaders Council. We hear from Majeska Seese-Green of the NLC that Biggs was automatically on the NLC as the elected leader of his neighborhood association. But if leaders can't or don't want to attend NLC meetings, another person from the group can be appointed or designated to attend. The Cal Young group is expected to meet this week to resolve who will be the representative to the NLC.
An editing error changed the meaning of a sentence near the end of our Visual Arts story last week. Here is how it should have read: "Newton, whose other profession entails using GIS-based cartographic databases, also plays with spatial ambiguity."
Regarding last week’s Happening People, Judy Franzen tells us her psychology master’s degree was actually from International College, not the UO, but she did get a degree in landscape architecture from UO.
We are hungry for voices of reason in these insane times. Pete DeFazio has been packing meeting rooms ranting about Social Security and other issues. The populist congressman is standing up for ordinary folks as the Bush administration methodically plots to dismantle social programs, low-income housing and health care, public education, labor rights, environmental restraints — anything that gets in the way of short-term corporate profits, myopic military aggression and mindless weapons proliferation. Fat cat priorities are clearly evident in the new national budget, and they find some favor in Congress, but these are not the priorities of the American people. It's tough for DeFazio to always be a minority voice in Washington. Let's give him our support and join him in his justifiable outrage at the Bush administration's corrupt agenda and lies.
A couple of weeks ago we asked AVA Oregon! publisher Bruce Anderson about rumors that he's returning to California, and he denied it. Turns out we asked the wrong question. He's staying in town, but his newspaper is going away, unless of course he finds someone to bankroll future issues. The R-G gave AVA's demise about 200 words Saturday, buried on D3, getting less attention than the Springfield mayor's plans to go on TV for five minutes each week to answer questions. Back in November, the R-G gave Anderson's arrival in town two prominent stories, a photo and a total of 2,000 words. The Oregonian weighed in with a big story, The New York Times gave Anderson's move to Eugene 1,200 words, and the February Editor & Publisher devoted four full pages to Anderson, "the Jeffrey Dahmer of journalism." Hype generates hype, and it turns to whimpers.
Speaking of the daily rag, up until now the R-G's long-term, full-text archives have only been accessible on a fee basis. But if you have a Eugene Public Library card, you can gain access to the paper's full-text archives for free, along with other newspapers and magazines. Thanks to the library and R-G for making this possible. Try it at www.ci.eugene.or.us/Library and click on the Magazines link. EW's long-term, full-text archives are also free at www.eugeneweekly.com
A little competition might be good for the heart. We hear from McKenzie-Willamette who heard from cardiologist Dr. Jay Chappell that history was made in Lane County Jan. 23. McKenzie-Willamette performed more coronary angiograms than Sacred Heart that day.
A couple of folks have asked about the cover photo in our Jan. 13 "Green 'Gene" issue. The photo by Jan Spencer was taken in the summer of 2002 from an airplane looking northeasterly up River Road, and shows the urban growth boundary, that clear line between development and agriculture that's threatened by Measure 37 and other pro-sprawl pressures. Low in the photo is the neighborhood of Carthage Avenue and Aubrey Park. In the upper right corner is a bit of the Willamette River. Spencer, who normally bicycles everywhere, says flying over Eugene gave him a whole new perspective on land use issues. "Well worth the 60 bucks," he says.
Whisperings out of Portland softly suggest that political friends of former Gov. Kitzhaber should urge him to run in the D primary in '06. That would put him against Gov. Ted and our own Pete Sorenson, already announced, and maybe many others. Seems unlikely that Kitzhaber would again give up his private life, but watching the dismantling of his Oregon Health Plan must be painful. Speculation persists that Kulongoski shouldn't or wouldn't go for a second term, but every week he announces a new member of his campaign team: the pollster, campaign manager, etc. The chess game is under way.
Job opening at the UO Law School. Dean Laird Kirkpatrick told his faculty last week that he wants to leave the dean's office a year from now and return to the law faculty. When he was persuaded to take the job, he agreed to three years. That's about as long as law school deans serve these days. Maybe the constant fund-raising is not that much fun for fine scholars and teachers.
SLANT includes short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dramatic dip in middle school test scores stirs businesses to get involved.
BY RACHAEL CARNES
Eugene middle schools and area businesses have partnered together this year with a common goal: improving student literacy.
|Lee Bertrand and Roosevelt's Literacy Liaison Chava Beinin|
Pairing private donations with public schools isn't new, but this story has a twist. We're not talking merely the ubiquitously appreciated cash donation. Rather, the Eugene Literacy Partners Program boldly invites local businesses to offer schools another precious resource: their workers' time and energy. Through this innovative initiative students benefit from time with one-on-one reading mentors, and employees enjoy the satisfaction of volunteering while on the clock.
Since spring 2004, seven of eight 4J middle schools have launched or begun coordinating a literacy mentoring program. The Literacy Partners program addresses the challenges of a broadening community, but our district is not an isolated case. The 4J District was one of seven districts selected statewide to attempt a public/private project, a "Partnership for Student Success," and so far, local reactions are exceeding expectations. Right out of the gate, the literacy partners program is clearly benefiting kids; and teachers, parents, and their partnering businesses are taking notice.
WHY FOCUS ON ADOLESCENT LITERACY?
In elementary education, the goal is to teach children to learn to read, but in middle school, children have to read to learn. Because middle school and high school academics are rightly dependent on reading ability, kids who start to slip in reading comprehension may struggle through all their other subjects. Success depends not on merely reading words on a page, but at working with the content as a whole to interpret, analyze and expand on what's already been learned.
Yet there is a disheartening downward national trend in the basic skills that will open doors to college and work. Policies at the state and national level have typically introduced reading interventions at the younger grade levels, under the hopeful belief that, as Robert Rothman questions: "If students can read by age 9, they will be fine." But reading on time is no guarantee of reading to learn, as Rothman continues, (in the Harvard Graduate School of Education Journal September '04), "[T]his emphasis on beginning readers may not be enough."
Local testing echoes the same chilly reality heard across the country: In 4J, based on the Oregon State Assessment tests for last year, approximately 90 percent of elementary students meet state reading standards, but by the eighth grade that number drops to 74 percent.
The gulf between students and the K-12 achievement standards put in place by the 1991 Oregon Education Act seems to widen. Put another way, 4J faces a crisis wherein a quarter of its middle school population tries to succeed without a fully developed arsenal of tools. If I can't successfully read for comprehension, how can I learn?
PARTNERSHIP FOR STUDENT SUCCESS
The Literacy Partners Program seeks to mitigate some of the frustration and anxiety over middle school reading. In this novel approach, businesses meet their community involvement needs head-on. As area businesses partner-up in the program, they deepen their ties to neighborhoods and schools, as well as their understanding of the larger issues facing education.
The students in the program seem to appreciate the one-to-one mentoring ratio in their reading classes or after-school program each week. Adam Christensen, a student at Roosevelt Middle School, has been with the literacy program there since September, and says he's motivated to work hard with mentor Kyle Banks of Wells Fargo, because, Adam says, "I just like reading."
And equally notable, pre- and post-mentoring tests demonstrate that community tutoring is improving reading skills among the participants. But there is something more at stake: What will be the long-term impact if businesses invest in directly influencing the quality of education in their community? As Literacy Partners Program Outreach Co-director Larry Smith asserts, "Mentoring is a powerful learning strategy, because your performance level goes up so you don't disappoint the mentor. This allows children to see and experience that someone in the community really cares about them."
Smith's partner, Don Jackson adds, "If the unions, the employees, the small business owners said 'We would like to make success in the schools part of our program agreement,' then we could really make some social change."
In 2004, Eugene 4J was selected by the Portland-based E3 organization (Employers for Education Excellence) as a district that could benefit from some oomph from the business sector. With the infrastructure in place to support developing relationships among businesses and schools, School Superintendent George Russell and UO President Dave Frohnmayer received their marching orders to gather a board to identify problem areas in our community's education.
Though the Literacy Partners Program has come together at a breakneck pace, it didn't have to start entirely from scratch. The non-profit E3 assisted the Partnership for Student Success board with a template for success: E3 could provide models for effective partnership programs, and this nudged the planning process from the drawing board to the classroom more quickly. Created by the Oregon Business Council in 1996, E3 works with employers to boost academic achievement in K-12 students by seeking to "lead employers, schools and communities to better prepare all students for higher education and employment."
So Frohnmayer and Russell, as well as Gary Pierpoint of Umpqua Bank, Dave Hauser, director of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, and Larry Smith, former director of the UO's Career Center, started a campaign to identify trouble spots in our schools. After working on a grassroots level with other school and civic leaders to single out a focus, it was agreed that teen literacy was a pressing concern for our district. The group hoped that improving reading comprehension among middle school students would ripple into those children's further learning.
THE PILOT PROGRAM
As a means to narrow the achievement gap presented itself, how would this pilot mentoring program develop?
First, the steering committee had the good sense to bring Don Jackson, retired celebrity 4J principal, on board. Volunteering their time, Jackson and Smith pounded pavement around the business community, offering directors and CEOs the chance to consider making a donation of their staffing time and a modest financial commitment to their local schools. Just one hour a week, every week, would make a big difference in the lives of teen readers, they said.
|Kyle Banks and Adam Christensen|
Then, committed businesses find enthusiastic employees to provide volunteer hours at the school. These businesses, or consortiums of businesses, make donations to "their school" of $1,000 for the school year or $650 for a semester in support of the start-up costs for the mentoring program. This donation backs up business's social conviction with a financial donation. And it's not gravy: The money goes to cover materials, like new books for students, and promotional events, such as the parties planned to honor graduating program students this year. The business's donation also provides a small stipend for the essential teacher-coordinator liaison at the school.
So far, the program has identified and paired up the following middle school/business partners: Kelly Middle School with Umpqua Bank, Jefferson with the city of Eugene, Kennedy with Washington Mutual, Roosevelt with Wells Fargo, Cal Young with Pacific Source, Spencer Butte with Selco Credit Union, and Monroe with Lunar Logic. At press time, the only middle school still seeking an initial partner was Madison.
After matching partners, and carefully prioritizing and coordinating the needs of the school with the availability of mentors, the volunteer mentors are trained, schedules are coordinated, and a group of students is selected for the program. In keeping with the program's stated goals, selected students are identified as needing "some extra learning time, encouragement, and assistance to improve their reading and comprehension skills." These are eager learners, for whom, as Kelly Middle Schoo Principal Tim Rochholzl puts it, "their content area reading is not where it needs to be." And although parents may initially worry that the mentoring program could bring an unwelcome stigma to their child, they're quickly disarmed by improved attitudes towards learning not only in reading, "but in their other classes as well," Rochholz says.
It's hoped that after working with the mentors, students' confidence levels will rise along with their test scores. And with reading skills that focus on content and understanding, students are better able to coordinate learning in other subject areas. This seems to be the case for Eugene Yang, who came to the Roosevelt Middle School program speaking little English. His mentor, Virginia Fletcher, says taking a small part in his learning process, watching him adapt and succeed in a new educational system and culture, has been a joy. As for her volunteer time, Fletcher chimes, "Every time I leave, I leave with a smile." Eugene says that he loves band practice, and he is gleeful telling his mentor that he had just made the honor roll in clarinet, another of his new pursuits. With their mentors as guides, students find new abilities in themselves.
The backbone of the mentoring program is the one-to-one ratio that the schools can't afford. "We have 38 students in a classroom," says Chava Beinin, literacy liaison for Roosevelt and language arts teacher. As students and mentors in their weekly after-school session quietly work, reading books in celebration of African American History month, Beinin continues: "The mentors develop a rapport with the students, and that makes this focused learning possible."
Alicia Hernandez has been in the literacy program at Roosevelt since September. When asked about her favorite aspect of it, she points to her mentor, Lianne Scott. "I like her," she says. "She's nice."
The Literacy Partners Program is in its infancy, but is not only improving test scores, it's demonstrably enriching the lives of kids. And the students' commitment to their mentor helps to retain kids in the program. They're excited to see their mentors and to demonstrate their progress in reading and their other subjects. Lee Bertrand, also at Roosevelt, says his favorite subject in school is art, because in art, "your hands get sticky and you get to be very creative." He says that he likes the people who help out in the mentoring class and that the snacks are good, but that mostly, working with his mentor has made him want to read books about art, and he's been doing just that.
LINKING SKILLS TO SUCCESS
Because the Literacy Partners program focuses on the social and professional aspects of reading, mentors are encouraged to model how reading comprehension assists them in their daily work lives. These dialogues between mentor and student ground "reading" not only in the academic process of a middle school novel, but in the ways we all use literacy skills to understand and be understood.
Pierpoint, senior vice president at Umpqua Bank and a mentor to a student at Kelly Middle School, is ebullient as he describes volunteering: "In our classes we read aloud, to each other. We read through the book, gaining confidence. If the student gets to a word he doesn't know, we say it. We talk about its meaning, but we're looking for the content of the story." The mentors do not replace the expertise of the reading teacher, he says. They're there, instead, to engage the student with "real life" contact with reading, and a context of why. Why read? Why write? Some children may begin to lose interest in the artifice of school, and their academics may slip as they begin to question where their studies will lead them once they reach maturity. To middle school students who may be distracted, for whom reading may be swallowed up by teen angst and ennui, or for whom academic demand has simply outpaced skill level, mentors bring the outside, in. Mentors link reading to real life, skills to success.
Although the mentors are trained to use clear, professional boundaries, there's no reason the pairs can't make connections in their tutorials. Pierpoint and his student shared an admiration of baseball, and around the holidays, Pierpoint says, he and the other mentors guided the students through writing greeting cards and holiday note cards. In this seemingly simple exercise, Pierpoint said, he and his student found themselves talking about why being able to speak clearly and read for understanding are essential tools for any endeavor.
Although Pierpoint has embraced volunteering from the get-go, the expressed desire to participate could come from an employee as much as from a CEO. Jackson and Smith say they can assist potential participants in approaching their employers about the potential benefits of this civic-minded effort. They foresee developing the Literacy Partners Program to encompass more grade levels, as more businesses commit to make a difference in the lives of the children in their communities.
Communication is the goal, whether preparing kids to fill out a job application or send an e-mail. With more confidence, students might feel better tackling eighth grade math and science. And just maybe, the Literacy Partners will inspire students to open up to the possibilities of literary expression, when vocabulary and tenses coalesce and the reader takes agency over the power of words.
For more information, Don Jackson and Larry Smith can be contacted at their office at the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, 484-1314.
Justice & Gender
An interview with Mary Schroeder
BY KERA ABRAHAM
|Judge Mary Schroeder|
Judge Mary Schroeder is the chief justice of the nation's largest judicial circuit, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which encompasses nine western U.S. states and two island territories. Schroeder will visit the UO on Feb. 16 at the Knight Law Center, 1515 Agate St, Room 175. At 5 pm, Schroeder will sit on a discussion panel with local female judges, and at 6:30 pm, she will deliver a speech entitled, "Whatever Happened to Diversity?" The free public event is sponsored by the UO School of Law and the Women's Law Forum. EW spoke with Judge Schroeder by phone from Tuscon, Ariz.
Have the courts played a significant role in enforcing the civil rights of women and minority populations?
Absolutely. I don't know where women and minorities would be without them. We've made tremendous progress through the courts.
Are the civil rights laws expansive enough to protect the rights of the "new minorities," such as Arab Americans, Muslims, and gays and lesbians?
I don't think we know yet, as far as the latter. I don't see any fundamental changes to civil rights laws to broaden them in the near future. I think lawyers will work well with what we have.
In 1987's Hirabayashi v. The United States, you ruled that the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was unconstitutional. Why did it take 40 years before that case was ruled upon?
The Supreme Court turned down Hirabayashi during the war. A researcher, Peter Irons, uncovered materials 40 years later that showed that there was no basis for any of the fears of the Japanese [Americans] that led to the internment. Historical research made that possible.
Is there a pattern of delay in civil rights cases?
The Japanese internment is, in that sense, unique. But there was also too much time that passed between Plessy v. Ferguson [the 1892 case that racially segregated schools] and Brown v. The Board of Education [the 1954 case that overturned Plessy].
Why do you oppose the proposal to divide the 9th Circuit into three jurisdictions?
Basically because none of the proposals to divide the circuit improve the administration. We are in a period now of an extreme budget squeeze, and having to build courthouses and cope with staffing in three jurisdictions
doesn't make much sense. My mind is not closed to a restructuring of the circuit if it was shown that there was some problem with the existing circuit that could be solved by that. But there is a feeling that the people attempting to divide the circuit simply don't like the decisions coming out of it. The solution, if you don't like the decisions, is to fill the vacancies that exist with people who they think will do a good job.
Is the proposed split an attempt to make the 9th Circuit, viewed by Washing-ton as the nation's most liberal judicial branch, more conservative?
This issue comes up every so often, and it's always in response to particular decisions. In the '60s there was a reaction to fishing rights decisions that favored Native Americans. In the '80s, there was a reaction to the spotted owl decision. Then-[California] Gov. Pete Wilson coined the term "environmental gerrymandering" to describe the efforts to split the 9th Circuit. It did raise some questions about the Court of Appeals and the way it functions.
As a young lawyer in the late 1960s, you had a hard time finding a job because of your gender. Do you believe that women have finally achieved parity with men in the nation's legal system?
We've made tremendous progress. But in all parts of the system, there is an under-representation of women and minorities in the higher ranks of law firms and the judiciary, in state legislatures and in Congress … The National Association of Women Judges identified patterns in the treatment of females in the courtroom, such as calling them "little girl" or "honey." There are certain areas where we know what demeaning conduct can mean in the courtroom or in the law, and we try to eradicate it.
Does mandatory sentencing deny judges the discretion to factor compassion into their decision-
There are certain issues which give some leeway for a factoring-in of compassion — for example, "cruel and unusual punishment." One can say that a life sentence for stealing videotapes is cruel and unusual. One of our panels did that; another court took a different view. There are some cases where you do take into account the possible injustices and misfortunes of a strict application of the law. There are other times when you are very limited. Most of the time, it doesn't matter how harsh it is; the statute of limitations is the statute of limitations.
You're now four and a half years into your seven-year term as chief justice. What's next?
I'm not eligible to take senior status until next year, so I will wait until then to take a deep breath and see will happen next. I think I will do something in the area of human rights. I was appointed by Jimmy Carter, after all, and this is a chance to come full circle.
School chief proposes way to make choice work.
BY ALAN PITTMAN
Eugene School Superintendent George Russell reported this week that the district's school choice system had allowed white and wealthy flight to "elitist" alternative schools, leaving too many neighborhood schools "browner and poorer" and struggling with the most challenging students.
"There is a growing segregation of students by race and class, which is in most cases correlative with the growing achievement gap," Russell wrote in his Feb. 9 school choice reform recommendations to the school board. "Alternative schools have gained the reputation of being 'elitist' schools," he wrote.
To address the problem, Russell proposes a broad spectrum of changes including: strengthening neighborhood schools, reviewing each alternative school, lottery preferences and transportation for low-income students, relocating or merging schools, better information, making alternative schools more welcoming to diversity and reforming city housing policy.
With these relatively modest changes desegregation won't happen quickly. But "over time," Russell wrote, integration will increase to "propel us in the direction of strong, well-integrated and high-achieving schools throughout the city."
For some neighborhood schools, choice appears to make little difference. But choice has had a major impact on at least five heavily poor and minority schools, according to district data. With choice, Adams Elementary is 63 percent poor and 28 percent minority. Without choice allowing wealthier white children to leave, the school would be only 38 percent poor and 17 percent minority, according to district data. Harris, River Road, Howard and Chavez have similar problems of white and higher-income flight. River Road, for example, is 75 percent poor and 47 percent minority. Without choice it would be 58 percent poor and 32 percent minority. Transfers to alternative schools account for more than two thirds of the choice impact to these schools, with transfers to wealthier neighborhood schools accounting for the remainder.
Russell points to 4J data and research showing that better integrating of schools can help poor kids while not hurting wealthy kids. "All students do better."
"There is an element of 'elitism' that has developed over the years within our alternative school program," Russell wrote. "Some parents do go to alternative schools to be with parents and kids of similar backgrounds and interests more so than specific program or distinctive strategy…. Some parents also perceive alternative schools as publicly funded 'private' schools, as evidenced by the alternative school parents who referred to their co-located neighborhood as the 'public' school."
If nothing is done, the problem could grow worse. Russell wrote, "As neighborhood schools lose students to alternative schools, they lose staffing which means they lose program, which means they lose more students — contributing to a 'spiral of decline.'"
Here's a run-down of the key elements of Russell's recommendations:
Strengthen Neighborhood Schools. Spend $100,000 per school to create "academies" at the four schools with the most poor students and spend $35,000 per school to improve programs at the next two poorest schools. Add a half-time counselor at some of these schools. It's unclear whether these changes will be funded on an ongoing basis.
Review Each Alternative School. The reviews would determine if the schools offer a truly distinctive curriculum, contribute to district goals, enhance student achievement and provide equitable access for all students. It's unclear whether or not a school that failed its review would be closed or forced to restructure.
Lottery Preferences. Give slots to poorer kids in alternative schools without them having to win the school lottery. Russell noted, "it is not likely that huge numbers of low SES students will apply to alternative schools immediately."
Transportation. Provide transportation for kids from low-income schools to use school choice. Russell said the state may cover 70 percent of the transportation cost. But he recognized that a parent survey indicated that transportation alone would likely result in little integration.
Providing transportation based on school status rather than individual student poverty could backfire if the few better off students then use the transportation to flee the lower income school, leaving it even poorer.
Move/Merge Schools. Co-locating alternative schools with neighborhood schools makes inequities easy to see. Russell wrote co-locations too often, "create friction between staffs, parents and kids." Russell recommended ending such "no longer fruitful and viable" co-locations, perhaps through mergers of schools.
The district should also consider moving some alternative and charter schools out of south Eugene, Russell wrote. "Having many of our alternative schools clustered in the south region precludes low SES [socio-economic status] families from other regions from accessing these alternative schools, and thereby reinforces their homogeneous demographic."
Information. Create a new coordinator position to inform low-income parents of their school choice options. Eliminate the "alternative" label.
Special Education. Russell called for the district to address the "major disparity" of the placement of most special education (SPED) students at neighborhood schools. "It is unacceptable that alternative schools don't accept SPED kids or counsel them out without a very good reason that directly pertains to the welfare of the child."
Mobility/Caps. Russell found that choice had largely concentrated high-mobility kids in neighborhood schools. Such kids who are frequently switching schools are the hardest to teach. "High mobility rates have a huge impact on academic achievement," Russell wrote. Russell proposed providing better transportation to allow some kids to stay with their school to the end of the
But Russell dismissed calls to do away with the class size caps for alternative schools. The caps have exempted alternatives from much of the class size bulges and high mobility that plague some neighborhood schools, exclude many new students and, Russell wrote, "allow alternative schools to have a distinct advantage over neighborhood schools in planning, class size, and general school management."
Fund Raising. Require all private contributions for staff positions to go through the district foundation and increase the share of the foundation money redistributed to poorer schools from 5 to 10 percent. Russell said higher levels of "coerced redistribution doesn't work." He wrote, "while this won't raise much additional money, it has significant symbolic ramifications."
It's unclear just how much of an impact the plan will have in integrating Eugene schools and subsequently reducing the achievement gap. The recommendations appear to leave alternative schools with much of their comparative advantages over neighborhood schools including class caps, far less mobility, far fewer special education kids, and wealthier parents who volunteer and donate money. Alternative schools may get some more money, but may still find it very difficult to compete. A few low-income kids may take long bus rides to wealthier schools, but many busy parents may remain intimidated and ignorant of 4J's often bewildering choice system. Much will depend on how and whether Russell's often tentative recommendations are implemented and funded.
There appears to be a general consensus that lower income students need better funding, transportation and choice information. But beyond that, some alternative school parents have strongly opposed changes that would directly impact their schools.
Nancy Willard, a neighborhood school mom and leading proponent of school choice changes, said she was "very pleased" with Russell's recommendations. She particularly liked "his recognition of the 'elitism' of alternative schools."
But that "elitism" language angers Joe Thornton, an alternative school dad who said Russell has "a very troubling bias against alternative schools."
"It's really quite a problem for the superintendent to be casting aspersions on 30 percent of the parents in the district," Thornton said. "I think there are going to be a lot of parents letting the board know what they think."
The 4J School Board plans a public hearing for 7 pm Feb. 23.
Doors open at UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
BY SYLVIE PEDERSON
Bring your family and take a walk through time. The Museum of Natural and Cultural History (MNCH) celebrates its reopening Feb. 11-13 with a brand new exhibit, "Oregon — Where Past is Present." Located on the eastern edge of the UO campus, the museum opens its doors to the general public after closing for over a year for a major upgrade. All events this weekend are free.
Founded by renowned UO archaeologist Luther Cressman in 1936, the museum is the repository for all anthropological artifacts and specimens found on Oregon state lands.
"We at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History are the official caretakers for Oregon's state-owned anthropological collections," said museum director Mel Aikens. "Our goal has been to tell a story that avoids stereotypes and portrays accurately those aspects of Native American culture and history that we can best illustrate from the museum's extensive collections."
UO President Dave Frohnmayer will lead the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday at noon, along with Aikens. Dwight Souers of the Cheyenne River Lakota will deliver the blessing of the exhibit space. Special tours are scheduled throughout the weekend. Saturday will feature children hands-on activities and take-away projects until 3 pm in "Science at the Core." Refreshments provided.
"Oregon — Where Past is Present," cost $1 million, raised entirely from private funds. The exhibit retraces 425 million years of Oregon's geologic past with a new digital center. Some 15,000 years of human presence in four northwest geographic regions are portrayed through environmental displays of the Great Basin, the Columbia Plateau, the Pacific Coast and Western Valleys.
Sound effects providing noises from the natural environment (bird songs, water), numerous artifacts, photographs, graphics, texts, stories from Native American oral history and interactive exhibits complement the recreated environments.
Many people contributed to the creation of the realistic environments representing these regions. Local artist Don Prechtel painted backdrop murals illustrating life in the Great Basin's marshes of 5,500 years ago and the Native fishing industry on the Columbia River at the time of Lewis and Clark's expedition. UO graduate student Don Day, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde, together with other tribal members built a replica of a 500-year-old Native American coastal cedar-plank house, using traditional techniques with wood tools and mallets. The Paiute wikiup (a pole-framed hut with mat covering) was created with traditional materials gathered in southeastern Oregon by Minerva Soucie of the Burns Paiute community.
Presentation Design Group (PDG) of Eugene designed and built the new gallery spaces, working closely with representatives of tribal organizations throughout the state. Balzhiser and Hubbard oversaw the renovations. Bill Shaw was the design architect.
A changing exhibit gallery will showcase the museum's collections, archives and materials from Oregon's native tribes and international traveling shows. The first of such changing exhibits, "Lewis, Clark & Company: Explorers, Ambassadors, and Naturalists," opens in March. A hands-on lab explaining the science behind archaeology, a geology gallery and a multimedia presentation room (the latter funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services) are to be completed soon.
The multimedia room will showcase photographer and audio archivist Don Hunter's Oregon sights and sounds archive project. Hunter, who became the first director of the UO audio/visual department, has been documenting Oregon sights and sounds since the 1930s. His video presentation, The Sandal and the Cave, will be screened on
Friday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at noon and 2:30 pm, with an introduction by
Robert Voelker-Morris, Hunter Project coordinator.
The museum pursues research through its division, the Oregon State Museum of Anthropology (OSMA), which is comprised of two subdivisions. Archaeological research has rescued thousands of endangered archaeological sites since 1935 and accounts for most new archaeological data in the state. Collections functions as the state's repository for Oregon's geological, biological and cultural specimens.
Museum hours for opening weekend: Friday 11 am to 7 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. Regular hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. The museum is located at 1680 E. 15th Ave.
Philadelphia native Judy Franzen headed west in 1969 after earning a fine arts degree from Antioch College in Ohio. "I did my hippie-bus thing and came out here," she recounts. "I spent many years trying to learn what to do with my art." Franzen returned to school in her early 40s for a masters in developmental psychology from the UO and an art therapy certification. She worked with local agencies, including the Center for Family Development — "fabulous training for working with children" — and set up a private practice in art therapy. Eleven years ago, she and her "comfort dog" George answered a call to volunteer for Courageous Kids, a new PeaceHealth program designed for children ages 6-18 who have recently suffered the loss of an important person, often a parent. "We do lots of art therapy," she says. "It helps the kids understand and express their feelings, and to memorialize their loved one." CK groups meet weekly during the school year, plus a four-day annual camp in August. After nine years as a volunteer, Franzen was hired as part-time staff two years ago. Courageous Kids relies on volunteers and donations. Call 461-7577 for details -Paul Neevel