This school year will likely be the last for Trillium Charter School.
With a unanimous vote, the Portland Public Schools board voted Tuesday night to revoke its sponsorship of Trillium.
Testimony and pleas from parents and advocates worried about the closure’s effect on LGBTQ students did not change the board’s decision, which they attributed to poor academic results for students and questionable financial records.
“The essential question is: Is this school going to be able to keep the doors open even for the rest of this academic year?” asked board chair Rita Moore.
In its review of Trillium, the board asked for financial records. Members of the board’s charter subcommittee said they received some records from the school, but noted those documents didn’t account for the declining number of enrolled students.
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According to the district, the 2018-2019 budget it received for its review was based on the enrollment of 350 students. Today, Trilium has 201 students.
The board also noted Trillium’s lack of improvement academically. The school was recently prescribed an “improvement plan” to help students succeed in the classroom. However, representatives from the district said the school hasn’t met the goals of that plan.
According to PPS, this is the first time a charter school has had to adopt an “improvement plan” — and the first time the district has revoked a school’s charter.
But testimony and reactions from Trillium parents and students showed the school’s closing would be an emotional one.
Dani Rosen, an advocate for safe learning spaces for LGBTQ youth, said she was asked to come to the meeting after a call from a distraught Trillium parent. During her testimony, Rosen called Trillium a “last resort learning environment” for students.
A statement from Trillium parents called the board’s decision a “false choice."
Other people attending the meeting mentioned Trillium’s acceptance of students with disabilities.
“Trillium has taken in kids with (learning plans for disabilities) and completely given them exactly what they need, when other schools in your system are completely failing their students who need those accommodations,” said one student.
Moore responded to Trillium students who said the school is their only choice by saying the board had no choice in its decision.
“We have a responsibility,” Moore said. “We have very little flexibility in this. This is all being driven by state statute and the requirements of charter schools.”
At one point during the meeting, Ruth Flores, president of the Trillium PTA, offered her own consulting services to help the school work out its financial problems.
“This place is working, you do not have to shut us down,” Flores said.
After the meeting, Trillium parents said they will try to appeal the board’s decision.
Joseph Bryan has a second grader at Trillium.
“It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience for her,” Bryan said. “For a lot of people, this represents a pretty devastating choice.”