Below are comments from PPS School Board Member Paul Anthony which he shared with a number of Benson supporters (and allowed us to share with you). Benson has been operating under an artificial enrollment cap for nearly a decade or more. Many people have been working tirelessly over that time help the district see their error and increase or remove this cap. Last year, PPS finally committed to increasing Benson’s freshman enrollment to 365 students, but as you’ll read below, that commitment is beginning to waver.
Thank you for all your ongoing support for Benson Tech and Portland Public Schools’ students. Please see the attached memo from the District.
As you can see, staff is asking the Board to go back on their previous commitment to increase Benson Tech’s next incoming class to 365; instead, they want it scaled back to 300. I believe the reasons they cite are spurious:
1) We already know that the increased students can be accommodated by moving the District’s PISA program to three other comprehensive high schools (where the students in the PISA program would be much better served); Alliance will not have to be relocated in the coming year;
2) DBRAC (the District-wide Boundary Review Advisory Committee) is not going to be considering Benson Tech or, indeed, any high schools in the coming year;
3) and any move to reduce Benson Tech’s enrollment for construction is totally premature – not only has the bond not yet passed, but the Office of School Modernization still has no idea how many (or how few) students can be accommodated on-site during construction. And given the District’s timeline, construction on Benson Tech would not start until these students’ Senior year – plenty of time to scale back, if need be, or make alternative arrangements before then.
I am afraid that we are again looking at an attempt to punish Benson Tech for being “too successful.” This last year Benson Tech graduated:
89% of its students on time (14% points above the District average, tying Grant and trailing only Wilson (90%) and Lincoln (94%);
86% of its African-American students on time (18% points above the District average);
94% of its Latino students on time (29% points above the District average);
100% of its Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students on time (27% points above the District average);
90% of its White students on time (10% points above the District Average).
The only grad rate by which Benson Tech trailed the District average was for Asian students, 84% on time graduation compared to 85% for the District average.
Benson Tech opens doors for students who would not otherwise succeed in school or in the workplace. It provides opportunities that are unique in the District and in the state. It plays a vital role in our regional economy. I believe Benson Tech needs to be expanded, not limited without a coherent goal and plan.
This will be discussed at the Board Metric Workgroup to be held tomorrow, Tuesday, January 31st, beginning at 4:30 pm. If you can attend and offer public comment, that would be wonderful. If you could write the Board and let them know your opinion before then, that’s great. If you would like to email me even one sentence in support of Benson Tech that I could read out loud tomorrow, it would mean a great deal to me and to the kids.
Thank you for your support.