No Building, No Plan, No Clue
Long Story Short: Portland Public Schools wants to scrap a school that works, in the name of some short-term cash, some jobs, and corporate schmoozing. The Glenhaven Surplus Declaration Advisory Committee Meeting commenced in the cafeteria of the Vocational Village High School on Tuesday, July 22 at 6:30pm. Dave Segal, from Parametrix, introduced himself as the moderator/facilitator, then introduced Jim Scherzinger, Superintendent of Portland Public Schools, and Pam Brown from Portland Public Schools.
No Building, No Plan, No Clue|
The situation is this.
Banfield, The Pet Hospital has made a proposal to the City and Portland Public Schools. They want to buy the land currently occupied by Vocational Village School , at NE 82nd and Tillamook, to develop a multi-use site, including condos and a dog park. Rationale for moving the School rests primarily on a cost benefit analysis done by engineers assessing the cost of completing a seismic update on Glenhaven, the old school that houses Vocational Village. They say it's not worth it. But it's unclear what that means or how the determination was made since there has been absolutely no real assessment of the cost of moving Vocational Village to another location suitable to its purpose and needs. Though District executives deny it, it sounds like the consensus is the School itself isn't worth it, a mindset perhaps revealed in their persistent reference to the School as a "program."
Not worth it, compared to what?
After Dave Segal made the introductions, the meeting started with Jim Sherzinger waving a copy of the seismic bond report, citing the cost of an update to the Glenhaven building as the compelling reason to move Vocational Village School. Scherzinger said everything at or under a seismic risk 200 was updated but that Glenhaven, which houses Vocational Village, is at 315, a fact seemingly presented to explain why the building is not slated for update. However, when asked later how many other buildings exceeding the 200 risk level have been updated using the seismic upgrade bond money, Scherzinger admitted there were many others at the same risk level as Glenhaven that had been.
Initially, the School was placed on the third tier for seismic bond allocation update. About two years ago, the City decided they were dissatisfied with the original report and commissioned another one. This one said the Glenhaven building was not worth the estimated $1.5 to 1.9 million upgrade. This estimate includes upgrading the unused tower, which the school would rather just see taken down, and does not take into account improvements already made, or cost-cutting alternatives, such as student work groups undertaking tasks like painting. One woman exclaimed, "For goodness sake, we're a vocational, school. Our students could probably paint this place in a weekend."
Shockingly, there has been no real assessment of the cost of moving the school. When asked the cost, Pam Brown, from Portland Public Schools says she "doesn't know" but that it would be at least $300,000. Patricia Pinker asked if it is more cost effective, dollar for dollar, to repair the current building or refit another one to fill the needs of a vocational school, with its metal shops, woodshops, kitchen needs, etc. No one representing the City or its developers could even guess, because they haven't done the analysis, and it doesn't look like they care to.
Regarding the repeated statement by Portland Public School execs that upgrading the current building is not cost-effective, several people, in varying ways, asked, "Compared to what?" Turns out there has been no cost/benefit analysis comparison done, assessing fully costs and benefits of upgrading and staying versus moving ... because ... no one has bothered to estimate the financial costs, let alone the human costs, ie: kids losing a sense of having their own place to learn in a way that motivates and inspires them. In fact, despite repeated calls by kids, one school administrator said, they were unable to get the total cost of the LAST move. Apparently no one calculated the total, ostensibly because the money came from various sources.
Surplus means extra.
Jean Gunther, 28-year teacher said schools are actually looking for new places. They're being asked to accommodate new students. It's hard to understand the surplusing when there appears to be a shortage, not a surplus. Plus, this is not a *program*. It's a SCHOOL. Jim Scherzinger responded that enrollment in Portland schools is dropping, so there must be space somewhere. However, the "relocation committee" will likely be looking at the same matrix of District land options they were offered previously, among which have been exactly zero suitable alternatives: Wilcox, Basement at Jefferson, and a few others.
Jeremy Serant, 4-year volunteer at the School and member of the Advisory Committee said the surplus policy applies to property "no longer used, needed or suited to the purpose..." He explained he has seen no determination the property is not suited to the purpose for which it's being used.
Steve Roselfeld, representing Portland teachers asserted, "The priority should be the kids." That there should be no way for this project to move forward until a facility completely suiting student needs is found, prepared and ready. THEN, we can talk about surplusing this one. Susie Hamilton added, "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it." Please consider all the costs of moving this school. Dave Segal, the moderator from Parametrix, wrote "Human Costs" on the flip tablet.
Jean Gunther asked if there is any provision for a leaseback option from Banfield so the school can stay where it is, tower removed. She also enquired if any Parks property, like some of the underutilized playgrounds in the area are being surplused and if they might be better options for Banfield [and its condos and dog parks].
What's the rush?
Alan Archer, a parent, was the first to say out loud, "Stop the process." At least one of the members of the Advisory Committee, commissioned to report and recommend a course of action to Scherzinger, concurred. He recommended strongly stopping the process to re-evaluate the seismic analysis and do some real, informed analysis. Alan Archer also requested another seismic analysis, as some of the methodology in the current one could be flawed. For one thing, the report's cost of upgrades includes the unused tower, that could simply be removed, subtracting 90% of the upgrade cost. At least three other staff and/or parents reiterated those requests and concerns. The clear request was "Get correct information and cost estimates, THEN make a decision."
A parent and local developer stood and said he understood motivation to sell the site. "It's tempting for the City," he said, "in this time of economic downturn." Banfield is promising 300 new jobs. But, he said the City can always sell this property. Being within the Urban Growth Boundary and well-served by the transit system, it will only increase in value. There should be no hurry.
He opined that it seems the City is the force trying to move this deal along. Jim Scherzinger had already admitted that he has been directed to expedite plans to surplus out (sell out) the Vocational Village School, along with other properties slotted for surplus (though those other properties are currently unused, unlike Glenhaven).
The developer said what needs to be done now is Nothing. Not until Portland Public Schools accepts its responsibility and completely prepares a new site that meets all student needs. To do anything else is not considering all the costs.
Jeremy Serant, 4 year volunteer at the School and member of the Committee asked if the emergency bypass being invoked is due to the Banfield business opportunity. Serant said Jim Scherzinger stated the decision has been made to move the School out of Glenhaven by the end of this year. Serant, agreeing that Vocational Village is valuable in its fulfillment of a unique need and citing the difficulty of relocating it to a suitable facility, recommended the process be halted until the costs of the update are reformulated with the option to simply remove the tower and weighed against the costs of moving the school to a truly appropriate, secured, refitted location. He also stated the new facility should suit the needs of the students and be ready for move-in before the process proceeds.
Someone asked who is responsible for finding new place? Pam Brown says she is, sort of, that she is heading up a group of students, faculty and staff to start looking for a place as of September 15. Unfortunately that is after the slew of rushed meetings wherein the ultimate decision threatens to be made, rushed through in August (11, 18 and 25), which would preclude any meaningful cost/benefit analysis having any bearing whatsoever on the decision.
This isn't the first time.
|Portland Public Schools has a history of undercutting Vocational Village. Patricia Darling, longtime employee of Vocational Village, said the School has been moved to many different venues over the years, including a warehouse with no walls or ceiling. She stated that the kids deserve the identity they get by attending their own school, in a place well-suited to development of their vocations and where they enjoy learning. She says it took from 1982 to 1991 to get to a place like that, the current location on NE 82nd and Tillamook. She worries that a 1992 memo, stating that Portland Public Schools' main priority is revenue generation, is indicative of decision-makers' lack of commitment to the students, that kids are not their priority. She says the students, teachers and administrators have looked and there is no suitable site throughout the District matrix of available locations. The School is the only key stakeholder not "winning" in Banfield's proposal.|
Someone says, "This was done before." They tried to move the school, minus equipment, during a spring break. When we did move, it took a full year to get the building refitted. The welding department was inoperable all year because none of the equipment was bolted down.
Jean Gunther, veteran teacher, voiced concern that this latest move to oust Vocational Village is part of an effort to get rid of the stand-alone vocational high school. She stated that the students there have struggled for an identity. The School has saved many students. It works because it's a stand-alone facility which teaches students skills like operating a community-owned kitchen. The students interact with the community, preparing and serving Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner there. Jim Scherzinger, of course, denies there is any effort to get rid of the vocational school but would not guarantee that won't be the accidental outcome.
It's not a program. It's a School that works.
Mike Gil has a daughter who had been in Ferris alternative school, which did not work for her. "Schools within schools become 'programs'," he said. "The kids have no real place or identity and enrollment dissipates." He said the alternative school options are woefully inadequate, and alternative students are misunderstood. They're not bad kids or problem kids. They just need a different mode of learning. His daughter transferred to Vocational Village this year and just graduated, another Vocational Village success story. He has been involved in establishing a new alternative school: Gresham-Barlow. It cost $4.8million, without the land.
Kathy Char, Vocational Village Principal from 1993 to 1998. Has supervised alternative programs at Marshall, Cleveland and Franklin. Said attendance in those programs dropped off, and students often moved from school to school, causing logistical problems with staffing. In 1998, 66% of Vocational Village students have not been in another alternative program, which is an indication of the School's success. That should be a factor in the cost/benefit analysis.
Chad, Vocational Village pupil stated that paying even as much as $1.5 million to upgrade the Glenhaven building is a deal. "I never wanted to go to school before," he said. "I hate school. Here, I end up coming an hour early. The teachers know us here. I could go to any other school in this city and just sit in the class if I wanted to, tell them I'm a new student. The teachers wouldn't know the difference. Here they know me. They know you by your name. We need that, for someone to be there, teaching us, being our friends, keeping us from getting into trouble (which sucks sometimes...). In this school, you don't have to worry about fights and racial conflicts. You're taken at face value, and people take time to get to know you for who you are. It's not all about the dollar signs. This school is working."
Paul Weeks, a metal shot teacher submitted a letter to the Superintendent and summarized his key points: 1) The School District has a history of disregarding the School's best interests. For example, the School lost its custodians because of fiscal emergency. 2) The resolution "surplusing" the School must not go through unless the stated conditions are binding. He later added that moving cost estimates must allot paid time for teachers to get everything set up. For a metal shop, you can't set everything up on prep day. You have to make sure the equipment is working properly, lathes level, etc.
After the meeting, Paul Weeks approached and politely asked who I was with, and I mentioned Portland Indymedia. Mr. Weeks is a man I recognized, though I don't know him personally. He's working class. He could be my dad, or the overworked, underpaid US Gov't/civics teacher who so valiantly tried to explain the concept of opportunity cost to disinterested high school students. He's generally unassuming but willing to speak out and take a stand. He takes satisfaction in his work and that of his students, describing their creations for the Art-Agog project which produced 11 pieces of steel art, 10 for Alberta Street, one that they kept there at Vocational Village School, a whimsical piece he showed me with a gentle, dignified pleasure. I still can't help thinking this is exactly the set of values this country has increasingly chosen not to reward, and that's why we're seeing less and less of the people we thought we were: thoughtful, industrious, imbued with pride in a job-well done, minus the greed and arrogance.
What kind of civics lesson is this?
Molly McSwiggins said the Facilities Management people who advised on surplusing didn't have any idea what the School is or does. They didn't even know it's a full-time School, not just a program. She stated that: The whole process has seemed forced and hurried, steamrolling common sense and the best interest of the kids; the real estate trust is moving forward; the mayor is interested in the project. The process seems disingenuous. If we're going to be sacrificial lambs, just tell us. "Are we?" she asked.
Jim Scherzinger proceeded to talk for about five minutes, not answering the question and documenting various parts of the process in a way that lent no coherence nor relevance to the discussion: The seismic bonding program had problems. The finance officer/bond manager tried to fix the process, brought in a new consultant... and on and on.
Jean Berg, Vocational Village intake coordinator said the school was saved by the measure just passed this year. Now, in the middle of summer vacation, we're talking about moving the school? How do you ensure the move will happen in a timely fashion to a facility that meets student needs? Jim Scherzinger responded, "I read that to be part of this recommendation that the Board would adopt as a resolution." Which means what in the real world, Jim?
Diane, a teacher at Vocational Village asked, "How do we go back to our students and tell them we were lied to ... and that their well-being wasn't taken into consideration? How do we raise citizens when we're getting slapped in the face? ... that whoever was backing them, just wasn't good enough?"
When asked point blank, "Are we wasting our time here? Has the train already left the station?" Scherzinger smiled and, without answering, asked for the next question. The final question came from Kathy Char, past principal of Vocational Village, directed to Jim Scherzinger: "Are you committed to following the proposed list of conditions for surplusing Glenhaven and moving Vocational Village?" Jim Scherzinger: "I am taking your input into consideration in making my decision about what to present as a resolution to the Board."
In other words, No.
Next meetings:- Monday, August 11- Noon: Jim Scherzinger will make recommendation to the Board, to be passed as resolution
Public comment opp ["limited time"] - call or sign up to speak before noon
- Monday, August 18 - 6pm: Finance/Operations Committee
Public comment opp ["limited time"]
- Monday, August 25 - 6:30pm:
Public comment opp ["limited time"]
School Board meetings are broadcast live on CH 28.
Notes and Attachments
Glenhaven Surplus Declaration Advisory Committee Meeting #1
Meeting with School Superintendent Jim Scherzinger,
Regarding Vocational Village School
July 22, 2003 6:30pm - 8:00pm
SUITS PRESENT:Dave Segal, from Parametrix. Moderator.
Pam Brown, Portland Public Schools
Jim Sherzinger, Superintendent of Portland Public Schools
VOCATIONAL VILLAGE SCHOOL:is an alternative school where kids can learn skills they're interested in and by which they can support themselves. It's a modest 1913 school, nothing fancy, but the kids love it ... and the teachers and school personnel have fought long and hard for it.
SITUATION:Banfield, The Pet Hospital has made a proposal to the City and Portland Public Schools. They want to buy the land currently occupied by Glenhaven's Vocational Village School, at NE 82nd and Tillamook, to develop a multi-use site, including condos.
HISTORY:Vocational Village has been moved around a lot, mostly against their will, often in sucker-punch type moves, like informing them during spring or summer break that they will have to move. They've been housed within a warehouse without walls or ceilings. They've been served with eviction notices. They've resisted and worked and thrived, invested themselves in inventing themselves as a community, modestly, strongly, honestly.
SUSTAINABILITY:from previously posted article: The school pretty much pays for itself and then some, being the only high school here in Portland that actually makes the district money as an alternative school, or any school. Federal funding for Vocational Village is $800,000 a year for being alternative. Over $460,000 (which varies based on how many students are at the school but averages out to about that figure) each year in total students, and about $100,000 to $200,000 in total grants for alternative education here in Oregon. This school which costs $1.4 million each year to run shows that this it is a sustainable school, already running and effective in providing youth a means of true quality education while basically paying for itself.
VOCATIONAL VILLAGE SURPLUS DECLARATION POLICY AND PROCESS:The purpose of the superintendent's process is to identify conditions or community concerns regarding declaration of the property as surplus, and potential reuse of the property, if it is declared surplus.
VOCATIONAL VILLAGE SURPLUS DECLARATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE:Charged to make a recommendation to the superintendent on the disposition of the site. In turn, the superintendent will make recommendations to the Board who will make the decision whether or not to declare the property surplus.
WHY GLENHAVEN SUITS THE NEEDS OF VOCATIONAL VILLAGE:* It has walls and ceilings.
* It is a stand-alone school.
* It is very accessible via public transit.
* It is already set up and functioning well as a vocational school, which has a unique need for specialized tools and spaces.
* It is established and has an identity. Kids feel comfortable here and believe they belong and can work to achieve their dreams.
* Community partners are in this neighborhood. Would require extra work and money to move.
Vocational Village Surplus Declaration Advisory Committee Final Report to Superintendent Jim Scherzinger - July 18, 2003 Recommendations & Considerations:
* It is recognized that the current facility meets the needs of the students and the school's programs currently housed here; and at this time an alternate location has not been identified;
* The process for identifying an alternative site will continue until an alternate location fully suitable for sustaining the school's mission and organizational structure ["and the students' needs" (added at the meeting)] is identified so that Vocational Village is relocated completely and functionally;
* If the Glenhaven property is declared surplus, the District needs to relocate Vocational Village before a new owner takes possession of the property;
* Re-use of the Glenhaven School site should retain as much greenery as possible; and address neighborhood impacts such as traffic, parking and noise and
* Madison South Neighborhood Association supports the proposal brought forth by Banfield The Pet Hospital, including appropriate land use approvals, or any other proposal which promote neighborhood goals and interests and address neighborhood concerns. This support is premised on the relocation of Vocational Village as described above.
Notes from: Glenhaven Surplus Declaration Advisory Committee Meeting #16:30-8:30 pm July 8, 2003
Committee members present:
Robin Grimwade, Portland Parks and Rec; Kerry Hampton, Portland Public Schools (alternate for Pam Brown); Ruth Hander, Madison South NA; Steve Janik, Portland Schools Real Estate Trust (RET); Lester Garnett, Madison HS Parent, A.J. Morrison, Vocational Village Principal; Jeremy Sarant, community volunteer.
Sumner Sharpe, Parametrix; Shawn Cunningham, PPS
Key themes (in summary):
· Put children first. The facility is still very much "used, needed and suited for" the students and programs currently housed there which do not have an alternate place to 80· · More comprehensive data and study is needed to demonstrate that the school is not worthy of repair.
· Any action to declare surplus of move the school must be qualified by an assurance that a facility as good as or better than Glenhaven is in place and ready to go. · The surplus declaration is a decision that has already been made by the superintendent, Board.
Discussion of surplus declaration policy and process:
· Explanation of meetings: the purpose is to address concerns regarding reuse of the property. Committee set up to advise, listen to comments and make recommendation to superintendent.
· Previous building studies were done to assess the feasibility of retaining the structure, which was not recommended; not a feasible return on investment. · The superintendent wants this advisory committee to study the situation and provide him a recommendation, including concerns and potential conditions associated with disposition.
· 60 day notice to government agencies filed on June 18.
Student concerns · District seems more worried about money than students. This is a good opportunity to turn students around. The message is "there are people who care, you can make it if you try". Cost per student in terms of dropouts is worth more than savings. · Some programs and schools want to expand. Has someone made the conclusion that there will be bigger schools created? Don't want this school to be sold down the river. Seems like assumptions were made so long ago. This school isn't like others that can be moved.
· The District needs to guarantee these students adequate programs. · Why not spend the money needed to make the site more useful?
· The recent Gates foundation grant (smaller learning communities) models this type of program. Can funds be used from that?
· Community partners are in this neighborhood. Would require extra work and money to move.
Surplus process concerns · In the policy, the first sentence reads that the property will be disposed of if no longer "used, needed or suited for" the students or programs. The policy presupposes that someone has made the decision.
· Don't think the site can be declared surplus unless the school has a home. This meeting is premature.
· Using the phrase "not declared surplus 'yet"' implies a foregone conclusion. Feels like decision has been made, and that the steps are just being done.
Alternate locations · Finding a suitable alternate site could be complicated (due to zoning) and can cost almost as much to build as repair the current site, plus city processes could take years. Length of time to move is a big issue. It took three years last time. Gresham-Barlow district spent two years research a similar school's needs and location. · Some time ago, a task force started looking at place to move the school. They found that the district hadn't found a suitable alternate location. If there is no place except the Jefferson basement, let's look at premises underlying the surplus disposition process.
· BESC has excellent shops. It might be worth considering using those for Voc Village programs.
· Where is money that has been allocated from a bond measure in the '80's to address seismic issues?
Due diligence · Since not of the other properties in the surplus process are currently housing a school, it makes issue far more complex.
· Consultants who made the initial recommendation re feasibility of maintaining structure didn't come to site, presented no data and were not forthcoming with information to students and staff. Want data, facts and figures on structural conditions before declaring surplus.
· Comments on resulting handout are misleading. Some ADA improvement has been done; bathroom and chimney have been done. Wants a review of the estimates (said two options have been totaled and are misleading).
If board declares the property surplus, what kind of conditions would you have'? · Don't want a big parking lot. Want greenery. · Do not want an increase in noise (dog park) · Would like to see an ecological development using modern resources. · No Thomason auto or row houses... would lose green area that's difficult to regain. · Would like to explore a public/private arrangement, part of a school/part business.
· Can district craft tax relief with city to have Banfield pay for new school? · Do not want to see density housing like 56th and Glisan. Have enough density.
Banfield presentation provides green space, similar footprint. · Parking issues would be a big concern; Banfield idea mitigates somewhat. · Would like to see the students have opportunity to gain experience and fond memories: work-study, fundraisers (selling bricks).
· Concerns about dog park issue: noise, water quality and environmental issues. · Vocational Village has to be the #1 priority over other PPS schools and programs asking for space. That is the condition to work from. · Need transportation downtown for PSU program.
· Remember the emotional upset that this causes students. Have heard from some of the strongest voices, not all that strong. Should be sensitive to how they interpret this process and news. Need to remember who we're corking for.
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