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January, 2021 -- Vol. 115, No. 5
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Memories of THE BEE's first 100 years!
In 2006, THE BEE celebrated its centennial of serving Southeast Portland!  A special four-page retrospective of Inner Southeast Portland's century, written by Eileen Fitzsimons, and drawn from the pages of THE BEE over the previous 100 years, appeared in our September, 2006, issue.
Click here to read the special centenary retrospective!


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“Shu Ren” students and families showed up with signs at Woodstock Elementary School in early December – asking Portland Public Schools not to move their highly successful Mandarin Immersion program miles away.
“Shu Ren” students and families showed up with signs at Woodstock Elementary School in early December – asking Portland Public Schools not to move their highly successful Mandarin Immersion program miles away. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

PPS rebalance compels ‘immersion diversion’ from Woodstock School

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

When the totally-rebuilt Kellogg Middle School opens at 3330 S.E. 69th Avenue, on Powell Boulevard, in the fall of 2021 – some students, now enrolled in other middle schools in Inner Southeast, will be diverted to make up its student body. That much is clear.

The Portland Public Schools (PPS) administration calls this process “rebalancing” the student load of the schools. Providing input for this process has been a group of parents and administrators that PPS calls their “Southeast Guiding Coalition”.

You may have heard about this; it’s been in the news around town. But what you may not have heard about yet is what its effect will be on two celebrated PPS programs in Inner Southeast – programs that people have moved here to participate in. The news is not good.

As part of this rebalance, the Mandarin Dual Language Immersion (MDLI) programs at both Woodstock Elementary School and Hosford Middle School are to be moved, in their entirety, to a different school, about four miles north – quite some distance where those students and their parents live now.

Affected: More than half the student body
“With 57% of the students at Woodstock Elementary in the MDLI program, this means more than half of our students will be moved to Bridger Elementary!” exclaimed Woodstock Elementary PTA Vice President Ehren Schwiebert – a parent with a fourth-grader in the program.

Schwiebert, who is also a member of the “Southeast Guiding Coalition”, explained that schools which have more than one educational program – such as Woodstock Elementary, which not only has the dual-language Mandarin immersion program, but also a standard school track for students who live in the Woodstock school neighborhood boundary area – invited a parent from each program to join the coalition group.

Asked why he, and others, believe that the “Southeast Guiding Coalition” and the PPS “District Advisory Team” intend to move the Mandarin Immersion program away from Woodstock Elementary, Schwiebert told THE BEE, “One of the ‘Guiding Coalition’s Objectives’ stated at the outset of the balancing process was to ‘minimize co-located programs’; so Woodstock's MDLI program was already in jeopardy when the coalition began its work.

“The current proposal, if implemented, will remove all of the Mandarin immersion program students from Woodstock – as well as the students from the Mandarin Immersion program currently at Harrison Park (K-8),” Schwiebert said. “The K-5 kids from both Woodstock and Harrison Park’s MDLI programs would then be merged into a program hosted at Bridger, which would become an all-Mandarin immersion program, with NO ‘neighborhood track’.

“The reasoning behind this decision seems to be to place native-Mandarin-speaking students – who live in several clusters around the eastern edge of town – into a school closer to their part of town. It is troubling to a lot of parents at Woodstock that many of these families were not really consulted on this.”

The major concern expressed by the Woodstock Elementary PTA, Schwiebert stressed, is the very future of the school.

“Removing half the student population would drop Woodstock’s enrollment down to dramatically low numbers – meaning lower funding, less administrative support, and fewer program options for the kids who do remain at Woodstock.”

And, moving out the MDLI program would impact diversity too, Schwiebert pointed out. “Currently, only a little more than half of Woodstock’s student population is white; with the removal of the Mandarin Immersion program, that number jumps to something like 75%.”

The School District’s objective to minimize co-located programs in schools is not entirely misplaced, acknowledged Schwiebert. “Co-locating two programs under one roof can pose administrative challenges with under-enrolled programs, or an imbalance between the two programs.

“But Woodstock has NONE of the problems that the “Southeast Guiding Coalition” is tasked with solving! There’s a healthy balance between the two programs,” Schwiebert insisted.

More than that, the Woodstock campus is not overcrowded, nor is it underutilized; there’s a shared school community between the two programs: “Kids from both programs do all kinds of schoolwide activities together – eating lunch, recreating, and participating in after-school activities – all, together.

“It’s all one school community; the only difference is that some kids are learning Chinese for part of the day, while other kids are following a more traditional school track.”

Parental worry expressed at online open house
After an online “open house” on November 19, Schwiebert said he was encouraged to see some 800 viewers tuning in. “But it was hard to tell how many [attendees] were interested in Mandarin Immersion specifically, since the school rebalancing is hitting a lot of different programs. What I came away with was that there is a large number of very upset people at these schools, who do not want this current proposal to be implemented.”

Wrapping up his comments, Schwiebert told us that a group of concerned Woodstock parents have drafted a letter; it had gathered about 130 signatures as of the date of our interview. Here's a link to it – http://bit.ly/WoodstockParentLetter

Shu Ren families feel ignored
For years, a nonprofit organization called “Shu Ren of Portland” has raised money to fund cross-cultural learning opportunities for MDLI program students and families at Woodstock Elementary School, Hosford Middle School, and Cleveland High School.

Speaking to THE BEE on behalf of the Shu Ren Directors, and relaying their concerns as a group, was Co-Chair Maggie Berg.

About the online Open House, Berg revealed, “The meeting materials and other information were not translated into Chinese until the ‘11th hour’ – and their ‘Chinese Speakers Focus Group’ was held just two days before the mid-November open house.

“For many Chinese-speaking families, this was the first time they had seen this scenario, and learned about the PPS Enrollment and Program Balancing District-Wide Open House and Focus Group meetings,” Berg said.

According to information put out by the “Southeast Guiding Coalition”, more than 800 telephone surveys of parents had been completed – with the implication that parents generally had agreed with their plan. But the telephone survey was not offered in Chinese!

Some Shu Ren members were contacted, but Shu Ren Directors said they don’t know how many. “According to PPS phone survey statistics, 21 Chinese-speaking families currently in the MDLI program completed the survey (6.3% of the program’s families), and 36 Asian families participated in the survey (11.6% of all Asian families in PPS),” remarked Berg. “What is most outrageous is that Chinese-speaking families have told us that they received their phone surveys in English – and those families who don’t speak English were unable to complete the phone survey!

“One MDLI program parent told us that her interviewer called from a Spokane number,” Berg remarked. “So the parent only answered the phone because she has relatives in Spokane. How many PPS families missed out on this survey, because they were expecting a phone call from PPS, not from an unknown number?”

Not rebalancing, but disruption
Asked how the idea of moving the students from Woodstock and Hosford Schools has been received by Shu Ren members, Berg said the consensus was, “We don’t see this as ‘rebalancing’ the program, but instead, as a disruption of a real PPS ‘success story’.

“Our MDLI program is a national model; so, rather than celebrating and replicating it, it appears as if PPS is uprooting and transplanting it, simply in the hope that it will still succeed in a new home,” Berg said.

Numerous Shu Ren families, not just in the Woodstock School catchment but from all over the District, have told their organization that they will pull their children out of the MDLI program if it leaves Woodstock, Hosford, and Cleveland.

“There’s a very real risk that the [remaining] MDLI program will consist of mostly native Chinese speakers, rather than the half native Chinese speakers and half English speaking Mandarin language learners – the ratio that serves the goal of PPS’s Dual Language Instruction programs,” Berg added.

That even ratio is what actually makes the program “immersive” – each native speaker learns from the native speakers of the other language through daily conversation.

“We at Shu Ren certainly do NOT feel ‘heard and understood’ in this process, so far,” Berg said. “For example, native Chinese speaker Min Cai, a Woodstock MDLI program parent on the ‘Southeast Guiding Coalition’, has voiced our community’s concerns – particularly those of Chinese-speaking families – time and time again at every single one of the coalition’s workshops. But, she believes that her voice, speaking for those she represents, has been disregarded and dismissed.

“We have informed PPS that we believe that the proposed changes perpetuate segregation and systemic racism; we have yet to hear a response to our concerns. Meanwhile, we continue to see the suppression of BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] voices in the PPB’s Enrollment and Program Balancing process.”

Asking for no changes now
As far as Shu Ren families are concerned, the best outcome of this “rebalancing” process would be no change. “Not without truly engaging with the communities that will be affected – particularly the Chinese-speaking community; PPS has not done the proper outreach it says it has,” Berg asserted.

The group also protested making changes during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. “Our families, like all school-age children, have ‘been through the wringer’ this year – adjusting to distance learning; not being able to be with their peers; being apart from their friends,” Berg declared. “For the grownups, the rebalancing project has only increased our stress and anxiety levels.

“After enduring so much change this year, when we finally emerge from the pandemic, the last thing our kids need is the prospect of moving to a different school – in a very different neighborhood and away from friends.”

Portland Public Schools responds
THE BEE
asked Michael Bacon, Director of Dual Language for PPS, to comment about all these concerns expressed about the proposed Southeast Portland “rebalancing” plan – particularly from the MDLI program families.

However, it was PPS’s Public Information Officer, Karen Werstein, who actually responded to our inquiry.

“The ‘Southeast Guiding Coalition’ has been working on scenarios and taking significant feedback and input for months.

“The decision for Phase 1 of this process, which only focuses on the enrollment structure for the opening of Kellogg Middle School, will take place by January, so that Kellogg Middle School can open by fall of 2021,” Werstein said.

“While some of these kinds of questions and concerns [about MDLI programs] have come up in Phase 1, the ‘Southeast Guiding Coalition’ won’t actually begin that work until February – and a decision won’t be made until [later in] the spring; so, the topic of moving any immersion programs is not being decided right now.

“There have been many opportunities for people to participate in Phase 1 of the process from weekly southeast guiding coalition meetings, the virtual open house, culturally specific and language-specific focus groups, surveys and feedback forms,” Werstein insisted. “There will also be many opportunities for folks to participate and share feedback and thoughts in the next phase of the process, which begins in February.”

If you want to explore this issue further yourself, the webpage devoted to the PPB’s Enrollment and Program Balancing process can be found online – http://www.ppsenrollmentbalancing.com



A young driver, momentarily indecisive about which lane to turn into at the five-way intersection of S.E. Powell Boulevard at 50th Avenue, split the difference – and the front of the car as well.
A young driver, momentarily indecisive about which lane to turn into at the five-way intersection of S.E. Powell Boulevard at 50th Avenue, split the difference – and the front of the car as well. (Photo by Rita A. Leonard)

Woops--Too many choices at intersection results in a split decision

By RITA A. LEONARD
For THE BEE

The convergence of S.E. 50th Avenue, Powell Boulevard, and Foster Road is one of Portland’s complex five-way intersections. All the travel lanes and traffic lights can be confusing.

On Saturday afternoon, November 14, just after 2 p.m., the driver of a black Subaru Impreza sedan making a turn may have been momentarily distracted by the need to make at least one more choice of direction than expected – and split the difference. The car ran head-on into a metal pole on a narrow wedge of concrete curbing between two possible lanes of travel, right in front of a Taco Bell restaurant.

East Precinct and Woodstock Fire Station 25 First Responders soon arrived to direct traffic and to evaluate the teenage driver. She was the sole occupant of the vehicle, which was now crunched into the pole.

The driver was comforted by bystanders and checked out by paramedics, and apparently didn’t suffer any injury in the mishap. Traffic at the busy intersection was congested for a period of time until the damaged car could be towed away and all lanes cleared.

According to Portland Police spokesperson Sgt. Kevin Allen, who spoke to THE BEE afterward, no citations were issued.



Oregon Music Hall of Fame names 2020 scholarships

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

Friends and associates of the nonprofit Oregon Music Hall of Fame (OMHoF) weren’t treated this year to the concerts, awards, and auctions of the annual Awards celebration, in the Brooklyn neighborhood at the Aladdin Theater each October – due, of course, to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

However, while there was no show in in the Aladdin this year, the group still did award four scholarships – with each of the four recipients receiving a $2,500 award.

OMHoF’s Co-Founder & Director of College Scholarships, Janeen Rundle – a member of the Southeast Portland Rotary Club, which itself is a supporter of this scholarship program – shared with THE BEE what she’d learned about this year’s four scholarship winners from around the state:

Isabella Morill
Piano/French Horn/Composition
Warrenton High School in Warrenton

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to be recognized by this scholarship,” Isabella Morrill told Rundle.

“My father was my biggest source of inspiration – teaching me music theory, always playing music with me, and constantly being insanely encouraging, from the start of my musical journey to today.

“From the very beginning, I have been surrounded with incredible conductors, family members, and other musicians, each one of them pushing me to write the best music I can, practice my instruments, and never lose my passion for music,” Morrill reflected about her instructors.

This fall, Morrill plans to focus on a Music Composition degree, attending Western Oregon University, which she considers to have the “best contemporary composition program in the Northwest”.


Taylor Youn
Cello

Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego

Although she originally wanted to play the flute at a very early age, attending a Young String Ensemble concert at age five inspired her to play the cello, Taylor Youn remarked about her background.

“My best musical moment so far has been playing in the DMZ between South and North Korea – having been lucky enough to have been able to be invited, alongside other high school students, to be a part of the Lindenbaum Music Festival, and to play in a concert that promoted peace across the world.”

Youn said she’ll be attending the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, studying cello performance. “I chose to pursue music, after a lot of thinking about my career path. I realized that playing music makes me the happiest out of everything.”

The scholarship will help her attend this, her “dream school”.  “Such a blessing,” Youn said of the award.


With the help of her OMHoF scholarship, Isabella Morrill plans to study music composition.
With the help of her OMHoF scholarship, Isabella Morrill plans to study music composition.
Taylor Youn will study cello performance, with the help of her OMHoF scholarship.
Taylor Youn will study cello performance, with the help of her OMHoF scholarship.
Violinist Avery Hsieh will use her OMHoF scholarship to pursue her musical studies.
Violinist Avery Hsieh will use her OMHoF scholarship to pursue her musical studies.

Avery Hsieh
Violin
Corvallis High School in Corvallis

Her family and instructors have helped her grow musically by “always pushing me to find something deeper and emotional in music, instead of letting me get too bogged down with the technical details,” commented Avery Hsieh, after receiving her scholarship.

“Many performers, both professional and students, have helped me see the extent of how music can be shaped for emotional effect, through their expressions of themselves. I always feel that I have something more to delve into, and to unlock for myself,” she mused.

In addition to being a musician, Hsieh also teaches and coaches other students through auditions – and supports them from the audience, in their concerts. “These combined moments have always been some of the most magical musical memories I’ve had.”

She plans to attend Vanderbilt University, continuing to take her musical skill in violin to a higher level, and also studying Spanish and Computer Science.


Nicholas Weathers
Clarinet
McNary High School in Keizer

It was a jazz saxophonist, who was a substitute teacher in his fifth grade music class, who helped OMHoF Scholar Nicholas Weathers fall in love with music and reed instruments.

“My favorite musical moments, so far, has been traveling and auditioning at conservatories, and meeting and learning from amazing musicians and people from these institutions,” said Weathers.

Asked what has helped him progress in music, Weathers responded, “My teachers have inspired me to pursue music, and have consistently pushed me to do my best; so, without their help, I simply would not be where I am today.”

His scholarship will help him defray the tuition while attending the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, studying with Jerome Simas, Weathers disclosed.

For more information about the OMHoF – an organization formed in 2003, both to promote and to preserve the musical arts Oregon, go online – http://www.omhof.org



Nicholas Weathers will continue his musical education, thanks to his OMHoF scholarship.
Nicholas Weathers will continue his musical education, thanks to his OMHoF scholarship.
Braving the brisk breeze, high above Oaks Bottom, while decorating the SMILE Christmas Tree, were arborist Damon Schrosk and volunteer co-organizer Matt Hainley.
Braving the brisk breeze, high above Oaks Bottom, while decorating the SMILE Christmas Tree, were arborist Damon Schrosk and volunteer co-organizer Matt Hainley. (Photo by David F. Ashton)
Matt Hainley held a flashlight while young Cora Lax led the group of spectators singing carols at the SMILE Christmas Tree lighting on Oaks Bottom Bluff, on the evening of Thanksgiving Day.
Matt Hainley held a flashlight while young Cora Lax led the group of spectators singing carols at the SMILE Christmas Tree lighting on Oaks Bottom Bluff, on the evening of Thanksgiving Day. (David F. Ashton)

SMILE Christmas Tree on Oaks Bottom Bluff again lights the Holidays

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

The more than three-decades-long tradition of the Hainley and Heiberg families recruiting friends and neighbors to help deck out a towering fir tree, on Oaks Bottom Bluff, with the help of residents’ contributions did continue this year. The “Go Fund Me” campaign to pay for incidental costs and equipment raised enough money for it to continue.

This is always a two-part event – the first of which is “decorating day” – this year on Saturday, November 21.

The “ground crew” was expertly supervised by Bruce Heiberg. “This year, we counted all of the bulbs, and found that we have 850 LED lights on the SMILE Christmas tree; each was screwed in and checked by hand, then the strings of lights were hoisted into place, with the help of about 20 people,” Heiberg told THE BEE.

This year, “Pape Rents” again donated the use of the high-lift – tall enough to reach the top of the tree – expertly run by volunteers Don Bolton and Randy McAdams.

“We couldn’t do it without the help of our arborist friends at Treecology, Inc., who actually climb up inside the tree to the very top, tying off the strands and securing the star,” acknowledged Matt Hainley.

The organizers said they’re again thankful for Emily and Isaac Edwards, the property owners of the lot on which the tree stands; and, to Dr. Dan Beeson, D.C., who is again donating the electricity to illuminate the brilliant LED bulbs.

Tree lit on evening of Thanksgiving Day
The second part of the tree-lighting process came on the evening of Thanksgiving Day. Due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers temporarily closed off S.E. 13th Avenue near the tree on the Bybee Curve in Westmoreland, to allow social-distancing neighbors into the street for the official tree-lighting ceremony.

After singing a couple of Christmas carols, the group counted down – and the now-iconic Southeast Portland Christmas Tree, visible from the west side of the Willamette River and from Interstate Five, brightly beamed its greetings for all to enjoy.



Will the controversial Eastmoreland Historic District nomination issue finally be decided in 2021? It all depends upon the pace of the state rulemaking process, officials say.
Will the controversial Eastmoreland Historic District nomination issue finally be decided in 2021? It all depends upon the pace of the state rulemaking process, officials say. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Eastmoreland Historic District nomination issue drags on, as year ends

By DAVID F. ASHTON
For THE BEE

Neighbors who held out little hope that the controversial Eastmoreland Historic District nomination would be approved or denied in the year 2020 were not surprised to find the process dragging on as Christmas approached.

It’s just possible that some sort of final answer may come in 2021, THE BEE has learned.

To recap the story for those who came in late: On May 26, 2016, the staff of the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), a division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, attended a public meeting arranged by the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association to answer questions about the process of potentially naming part of the neighborhood an Historic District.

The subsequent application stalled in July of 2017, when the National Parks Service’s National Register staff returned the nomination for “procedural errors”. There followed some court-mediated wrangling over a handful of residents transferring ownership of their properties to thousands of new “trusts”, which were each individually voted by all the trusts against the proposed Historic District. That continued to bog the process down in 2018.

After the fractured properties and their thousands of votes were disallowed in court, the State Historic Preservation Office shipped the nomination for the proposed Eastmoreland Historic District to the National Park Service for a final decision in May of 2019; but the agency rejected it again, citing “continuing uncertainties” related to counting owners’ votes, pro and con, within the proposed district boundaries.

The advent of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic further slowed the process of the state’s rulemaking in 2020.

In late November, THE BEE asked Chris Havel, Associate Director of Communications for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, for an update.

“The Eastmoreland nomination has not received any additional staff review since being returned the last time from the National Park Service, and no additional work on the nomination is currently scheduled,” Havel responded.

“But at the request of the proponent [the Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association], the SHPO intends to resubmit the nomination document to the National Park Service after the state rules, related to the way the federal program is managed in Oregon, are amended.”

Those amendments could be adopted as soon as this February, or perhaps in April, he said. “If they are adopted, we’ll know more about roughly when the nomination would be re-submitted to the National Park Service,” Havel advised.

THE BEE will continue to follow this story.






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