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Nancy Mccarthy of The Skanner
Published: 23 August 2006

With eight cheerleaders holding up report cards giving the Portland Public Schools district failing marks, a group of parents said this week they have a community plan of action that calls for no more changes at Jefferson High School.
During a news conference at Jefferson on Monday, several parents said they intended to present the plan to the school board. The plan is the result of "hundreds of hours" of research and meetings with school board members, district administrators, members of the Jefferson Design Team.
Jefferson recently was the focus of a yearlong district-sponsored study to determine how enrollment and test scores could be improved. As a result of that study, the school board decided to create the Academy of Science and Technology and the Academy of the Arts and Technology in the Jefferson building this fall. A single-sex academy for young men and an academy for young women, which will be housed in the Harriet Tubman School, will begin in the fall of 2007.
Following a national search, district Superintendent Vicki Phillips hired Leon Dudley, a high school superintendent in Dallas, Texas to be the school's new principal.
Steve Kayfes, vice president of the Jefferson Parent Teacher Student Association, said the district had failed Jefferson on several points:
• Rigorous curriculum: According to the association, the district's plan to redesign Jefferson into two new academies focusing on science and technology and on the arts has resulted in at least a 58 percent reduction of curriculum offerings. Students are receiving only a "fraction" of the programs that students in other high schools are offered, the PTSA says.
• "Parade of Principals": Kayfes noted that Jefferson has had eight principals in 10 years, 16 vice principals in nine years and, in 2005-2006, more than 20 teachers were laid off.
• School closures: Several schools in the district will be closed or reconfigured into kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools within the next two to three years. This will cause enrollment problems in the Jefferson cluster, according to the PTSA.
• Failure to develop "meaningful" relationships with parents and students in the Jefferson cluster: The PTSA has continually said that the school board isn't listening to parents who say they don't want more changes at Jefferson.
Ron Webb, a member of the PTSA, called on the school board to pay attention to the association's action plan.
"We want the board to immediately rescind the recent decision to reorganize Jefferson again for the fourth time in six years," Webb said.
In addition, he said, the board needs to improve course offerings, electives and extracurricular activities at Jefferson so they exceed Oregon's graduation standards and at least equal those at high-achieving, comprehensive high schools in the district.
The action plan also calls for the district to:
• Retain the school's television production program and studio;
• Empower the Jefferson Site Council as the primary school and community-based decision-making body for Jefferson; and
• Build effective communications among the schools in the Jefferson cluster and the students, parents and communities they serve.
"We all know our community's tradition is not to just complain or to be passive," Webb said. "We call, therefore, on the Portland Public Schools to immediately support our call to action."

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