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I am writing in to you as a proud parent of a Sojourner child. The district proposal to combine Sojourner with Concord is very distressing. Sojourner is an award winning school. In 2008, it received the Intel School of Distinction/Star Innovator Award. This award included $25,000 in grants as well as over $100,000 in technology upgrades. There are many unique aspects to our school. There is music (children learn to play violin, recorder and can participate in the marimba band), daily physical exercise, Spanish, and electives. Twice a year (from kindergarten on), our children research a topic of their choice and make a presentation to their classmates. Further, a culture of acceptance and support is cultivated. Children are matched with older buddies who help teach them the rules.
Our students do not receive any additional money from the district for their programs. Instead, our teachers wear "multiple hats" (our principal is our PE teacher) and our parents put in a lot of volunteer hours (approximately 54 hours last year for each child). Plus, we have the burden to raise much needed staff funding through activities such as our annual auction (we raised $30,000 last year- not bad for a school of 182 students). Most parents at our school are not rich. We have the same percentage of free and reduced lunches as the district average.
Sojourner is a magnet school. This means that children from all over the district are eligible to apply and admission is by lottery. Before applying, parents have to go to an informational meeting and fill out an application. This way, parents understand the level of commitment needed. This is important as Sojourner is not a good fit for everyone.
At this point, all we have been told is that we are to blend with Concord, a neighborhood school. It is unclear what this means as I have heard from district officials both that the programs are to blend, as well as that we are simply sharing space with Concord. Indeed, one of the North Clackamas School District’s own reports states that the two schools will have separate tax ID’s so that the Concord kids will not lose their title 1 funding (the percentage of qualified kids goes below the minimum if the two schools truly blend). The document also states that these funds may not be used for Sojourner kids. No details have been shared about whether Sojourner will remain a magnet school and open to ALL families in the district, whether parents from Concord will be forced into the Sojourner model, or where the money and space requirements to deliver Sojourner programs to several hundred additional children will come from. It isn’t even clear if this many children will fit in the building. Based on the district’s own numbers, the school will be at 109% capacity. Sojourner should be grown but it must be slow growth so that we can retain the wonderful programs we have.
posted 2 years, 3 months ago
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