12-08-2016  12:02 pm      •     

Leann Montgomery, 13; Esther Romero, volunteer math teacher; Renee Anderson, volunteer math teacher; Miracle Barber, 12; Carmen Sanchez, 12; Jada Commodore, 12 The girls are working on math problems during their club time, with the help and guidance of their volunteer math teachers.
Julie Keefe photo

The Portland Girls Lead Club, mostly former students at the Harriet Tubman Young Women's Leadership Academy shut down by Portland Public Schools last year, are trying to continue the science, technology, engineering and math studies that the school once offered.

On Saturday, Jan. 19 they are expecting Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown to attend their Community Day of Service, when they're inviting math and science tutors in to work with the Tubman "mathletes" in preparation for the MathCounts state competition Feb. 9.

The club is still looking for mentors to sign up and come to their Day of Service, from 2-5 p.m. at the former Harriet Tubman school site in the Jefferson High School cluster at 2231 North Flint Avenue; more are needed, sign up here.

The event is being called "Each One, Teach One." 

"Year after year reports show U.S. students are lagging behind their counterparts in other countries in math and science," Jyothi Gaddam writes in her volunteer appeal for the service day. A former Tubman mom, she is a founder of the group, along with former Portland schools administrator Carolyn Leonard.

"Girls are lagging behind boys in math and science, with women occupying just 24 percent of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs," she says. 

"The percentages are lower for women of color."

Bad feelings over the Portland School Board's fast-tracked closure of the school still linger, even as district officials this week announced plans to further "restructure" the Jefferson schools cluster by possibly shutting down either Vernon Elementary or Woodlawn Elementary.

Woodlawn parents met Thursday night at the school to strategize on what to do.

"Last night nearly 200 parents and community members came out and talked about the inequity in PPS present and historic decisions and the promise of Woodlawn," said parent organizer Rachael Banks on Friday morning. 

Parents at Vernon and Woodlawn are up in arms in part because when the school board voted to close Tubman, it voted to quickly close another school in the Jefferson cluster, Humboldt Elementary.

The Northeast neighborhood institution held a farewell celebration June 8, then sent its children to Boise Eliot.

Sen. Chip Shields, State Rep. Lew Frederick and Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz pleaded with school board members to reconsider closing Humboldt and especially Tubman. They documented pledges from Intel, local business firms and bigwigs who would help in fundraising, public relations and marketing to help the school attract more students.



Here, the girls pose in the video production room on the set of their future news program. From left, Medha Pulla, 17; Miracle Barber, 12; Jada Commodore, 12;  Carmen Sanchez, 12; LeeAnnMontgomery, 13; Shradha Pulla, 17; and at the video camera with her back to the camera is the amazing Jyothi Gaddam—who, along with former schools administrator Carolyn Leonard, is a Girls Lead founder.
Julie Keefe photo

All three cited the impact of the Tubman school's closure on the local economy – because it was an all-girls school focusing on math and science, the three officials said the girls' STEM school was crucial in maintaining the kind of local workforce that will draw companies to the area.

Gaddam worked tirelessly with dozens of other parents, students and community members to try persuading the school board to keep open the only STEM school serving girls in the state.

When that effort failed, she says, the girls did not want to disband; they decided instead to form a club. Gaddam's two teenaged daughters, Medha and Shradha, are also still involved.

Now they've set their sights on the MathCounts competition Feb. 9; while Portland students have not entered, last year Beaverton middle school student Ashwin Sah won second place nationwide. A total of four Oregon students made it to the nationals last year, all from Beaverton.

At Girls Lead Club in Portland, two volunteer teachers, beloved Grant High School math teacher Renee Anderson and Esther Romero from Beach Elementary, are working with girls from five Portland middle schools on preparing for the competition, which Gaddam says Portland Public Schools students usually do not enter.

So Gaddam and the Girls Lead Club is asking the community to come out on National Day of Service.

"We need one-on-one coaching and support for our mathletes," she says.

The girls club has listed the help it needs:

1.  Coaches: College, high school students, math teachers, parents or people passionate about math (preferably female), to volunteer to help teams on three consecutive Saturdays (Jan. 19, 26, and Feb. 2), from 2-5 p.m. to motivate, encourage and prepare mathletes for the contest.

2. Sponsors to help recognize and provide positive rewards for students and volunteers who participate in Each One Teach One.  For every problem the mathletes work out, sponsors pledge $1. Money raised will go towards a trip to D.C. in March to participate in the women's history month celebrations.

Sign up to help by clicking here.

Also, connect with the Girls Lead Club on Twitter (@girlsleadpdx ) and on Facebook, search for Girls Lead.

 

 

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