Position Statement: Jefferson Cluster Enrollment Balancing

The text below is ALNA's position on the Superintendent's recommendation to the PPS School Board regarding Chief Joseph and Ockley Green schools. Maybe see some of your neighbors at the public hearing at Jefferson High School Cafeteria today from 10am-noon, or on Monday evening at the School Board meeting!

Dear Superintendent Smith and Members of the Board:

Arbor Lodge contains campuses for two thriving school communities: Chief Joseph and Ockley Green. As representatives of the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood, we are compelled to comment on Superintendent Smith’s recommendations for the Jefferson Cluster. We have held meetings with our board, our neighbors, and most recently, hosted an open forum with over 40 Ockley Green and Chief Joseph parents and community members to discuss the future of our neighborhood schools. After months of engaging our community, we are deeply concerned at direction the school board is poised to take in Arbor Lodge.

North and northeast Portland have a sordid history with the Portland Public School system shuffling and restructuring schools all too often. In addition to a quality education, schools should provide a stable community for students. Gutting Ockley Green’s magnet and special education programs as well as eventual closure of Chief Joseph do just the opposite. Among the most affected by these changes are those that rely on school busing and students with special needs – in short, disadvantaged students who rely on school to develop their resilience.
Further, the demographics of our neighborhood are changing, and the number of families with school age children and children on the way are growing. Recent census data show that while there has been a drop in K-8 students in Arbor Lodge, there has been a 28.8% increase in adults ages 25 – 34, which strongly suggests a coming increase in school-age children. We urge in the strongest possible terms that the School Board not close the campus of either Ockley Green or Chief Joseph schools. We need a viable, livable and equitable solution for the future that takes into account coming changes in student population. The school board has already indicated that in three years, they will be reevaluating their transfer policy and enrollment across the district, meaning that these students and communities could be very soon disrupted again.
In the recently released background report for the upcoming Portland Plan, schools are identified as “central to community vitality, neighborhood identity and the well-being of all Portlanders.” (p. 8) The Plan also recognizes public schools as “multifunctional neighborhood anchors to serve local residents of all generations.”(p. 40) When families invest in a school, they also invest in local businesses, homes, parks and playgrounds. Families build ties as they volunteer in the neighborhood and as their children walk, bike and carpool together to school. Neighbors of all generations utilize SUN School programming at these campuses. These ties create a community destined to be more safe and resilient in the face of all kinds of challenges. We care deeply about the communities that are formed around these schools, as shown through our support of the new “Harper’s Playground,” a fully accessible playground adjacent to Chief Joseph, strengthening the school as a hub in our neighborhood. Superintendent Smith’s recommendation for the Jefferson Cluster threatens to cut our neighborhood anchors and scatter families to the wind, jeopardizing our neighborhood ecosystem.
These schools are the heart of our neighborhood. Shutting the doors to either continues a sad history plaguing our community for decades. We demand that Portland Public Schools put a stop to hasty closures until they can develop viable, equitable long-term solutions. Now is the time to change history and prove to the citizens of north and northeast Portland that instead of expecting to continually feel the brunt of budget cuts, we will see that burden shared equitably district-wide.

Katy Asher, Chair
on behalf of the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association Board of Directors:
Ginger Edwards, Gavin Hamilton, Steph Lanning, AlexSandra, Katie Chastain,
Brian Edelschick, Bob Meehan, Sharon Parker and Nate Young


  1. Thank you for writing this letter, Katy Asher.
    As a newlywed in the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood, I sincerely hope that my future children will get to attend Chief Joseph School in a few years.

    I regret that I did not find out about the meeting until just now!

    Jen Procter
    N Denver 97217

  2. FANTASTIC LETTER!!! Thanks to all who helped to write it!

    Cody Goldberg
    N Villard Ave.
    Harper's Playground

  3. Anonymous2/13/2013

    A very well written letter. Thank you. I think it speaks for everyone in this neighborhood and it shows our strong bond. I was starting to lose trust in the superintendent, but this letter gave me a little hope.