Creative Science School

critical thinkers, courageous problem-solvers, compassionate community builders

PTA Meeting Minutes 1/21/14

PTA Meeting Minutesbrittney

Meeting called to order at 6:35pm. A round of introductions!  

Budget circulated. No changes.

Minutes from previous meeting approved unanimously.



-       See end of minutes for CSS milestones 1985-present document.

-       CSS was a focus option program (not a charter), and we had to choose whether we wanted to remain a focus option within PPS or become a charter. The parent group at the time chose to pursue the focus option route.

-       CSS was housed in Bridger at the time and shared space with that school. The request to become a school began in 2003. That request and process were led by teachers and parents (we did not have an administrator at the time).

-       The request to become a school was granted in 2009.

-       When we moved into Clark we were housed with Head Start as well as a Columbia Regional hearing program since we had just under 300 students.

-       In 2008 when we moved into Clark, we had one class at every grade level. We then added an additional K and 1st grade class and had our first 8th grade class the same year.

-       The two years leading up to our move into Clark were quite contentious within the community as well as within the district. The district was going to close CSS on several occasions when we were a focus option program and not a school.

-       The parent group held the district to their promise that we would have our own building and not be closed. Parents had to speak before the superintendent and school board to get them to change their minds.

-       One of the motivations to move to a new building was the increased interest and lottery numbers for CSS. Another was funding (at the time we qualified for Title 1 funding at 40% free and reduced lunch).

-       In planning for the move, we had to commit to growing and developed a growth plan (complete with diagrams) for the building. We also decided to commit to remaining a K-8.

-       Once we got school status, our administrator (Jay Spassov) became a principal.

-       Getting our Title 1 status and funding was pushed through in 4 months (vs. 9 months) with help from parents, teachers, and the district.

-       We then got Filip as our current principal.

-       Since 2008 we’ve hired 10 new teachers, 2 new administrators, and gained 125 new students (5 new classrooms). We’re at about 420 students and were supposed to grow to 500 students (well on our way!).

-       We wanted to remain a lottery and not neighborhood catchment school, hoping that we would be a model for PPS to try to create something different that could be held up as the standard of what a school could be.

-       This was a school that was created by and pushed forward by parents and really wouldn’t be here without parent involvement and support.

-       We had a say in which principal we hired.



-       The district has presented us with two possible scenarios for next year, neither of which is very attractive. Closing CSS is not one of them.

-       Space is one of our current challenges. Our expectation based on our growth plan was that Head Start would move out of the building next year. This is not going to be the case.

-       PPS does not currently have a place to move Head Start. They need to maintain a HS program in SE, since there are many families who access their services.

-       Option 1: reduce our K enrollment.  Option 2: Head Start would lose one classroom entirely.

-       Filip came up with Option 3 – move two offices/classrooms into one (Lynn and school psychologist) to free up one more classroom for next year for our own growth while still maintaining 2 HS classrooms. This will buy us some time until the following year.

-       The long-term solution is more uncertain. The district’s proposal is to possibly move CSS to Kellogg (but this is a very expensive option that would need at least 18 months to implement facility-wise).

-       There are also questions about boundaries and overcrowding and other issues that are district-wide. The district wants to have all of these discussions at once. Filip’s concern is that we are facing some real and immediate issues that cannot wait for this larger discussion.

-       Our current building is large enough to accommodate our growth plan (our growth plan was accepted by the district as part of our school initiation process) if Head Start moves out of the building completely. One classroom moved out this year, but there are still two classrooms remaining that have nowhere to go.

-       Head Start was also told that Clark would be their permanent home (contrary to what we had been told).

-       We may need to have a strong parent voice next year to hold the district to their promises.

-       We at least want to know what the process is and who is in charge. Filip did not ask at his meeting who is making these decisions (but he will). What we can do now is write to the district (after contract negotiations) to ask for more information. Individuals to write to include Carole Smith (superintendant), Judy Brennan, and Carl Logan.

-       Our strength is our passion. We will be a force (in numbers) they can’t ignore.

-       We need to start advocating now for next year.

-       Jeff Pazdalski (parent Site Council rep) has drafted an initial letter to the district to acquire information about the process, who’s in charge, etc. This will be sent after the contract negotiations resolve.

-       We could invite Judy Brennan and Carl Logan from the district to a PTA meeting to let them know about our concerns, passion, etc. and ask them to commit to a timeline, plan, etc. Judy was in on the meetings for our school initiation.

-       Even though we have families from all over the city, we still have attachment to this place and building. Filip tried to impress this upon the district.

-       Head Start is an important program and we don’t want to make this an anti-HS conversation.

-       Going to the school board meetings and getting advocates to talk to the school board and superintendent is the way to have our voices heard.

-       We also do not want to become a neighborhood catchment school. There is real potential for this from the district. There has been a lot of attention paid to equity and focus option numbers by the district in recent years (as well as the enrollment and transfer process). It would be an avenue for the district to impose their theory of equity.

-       Filip’s take on equity: we live in a profoundly unjust world where race and ethnicity often determine students’ educational outcomes. We’re part of a country that has hundreds of years of institutional racism. Having a discussion about the equity work that needs to be done is important and something that should be celebrated here in Portland. Families that don’t have transportation, don’t speak English as their native language, etc. are less likely to find their way to a focus option school. How can we as a focus option school make different communities in Portland feel welcome and included in this process and our community? Learning in a diverse environment is beneficial to our kids.

-       Harrison Park (CSS neighborhood) is one of the most diverse areas in the state. That diversity is not reflected at CSS. The only staff member of color is one of our custodians. Is the community as broad and inclusive as it could be?

-       The enrollment process is decided by the board and managed by the district. Is it possible to weight for diversity as well as for siblings? Filip would advocate for a certain number of slots in the lottery going to HS. Even though several HS families got into CSS this year, Filip was told that there was no weighting done by the district. Filip did visit HS classrooms to promote our school prior to the enrollment/transfer lottery window for this year, which could account for the increased numbers.

-       Filip also feels there should be a social justice commitment on the part of CSS in terms of making a partnership with Head Start.

-       We continue to have racial and social inequities in schools. What if programs like ours are designed to help break apart segregated schools?

-       We don’t have a say in the enrollment process, but we do have a say in which communities we do outreach to.

-       There are Head Start families that bring their children to this building every day. Many of them probably intuit or know that this would be a great place for their kids, even if they can’t articulate what constructivism is.

-       Who at the district decides how to change the lottery process? This would be changed by making a presentation to the school board. This is where we could use district commitment to equity to our advantage. Any change we might make to make our program more accessible would likely be welcome by the district.

-       How do we continue to shape the school the way we want it to be? How do we define our community vision?

-       It would be great to find some way to keep something like Head Start here. There should be less of “us and them”. We are good match for HS kids. Could we also have a rep from HS come to a PTA meeting to hear what they have to say?

-       We need a long-term plan for diversity at our school and not just two HS classrooms that are not really part of our school.

-       What is our ideal situation? As a group, do we have a long-term plan and vision? Can we come up with this and bring a proposal to the district?

-       We at least want an answer from the district now about where we are going to be, what the timeline is, and who is in charge.

-       What do we do next? Filip thinks we should have a conversation with Judy Brennan and the board. The next step is to figure out what is the process and what is the timeline. Filip will invite them to the next meeting (or an upcoming meeting) to address these questions.


PTA and Community

-       The term PTA can be intimidating. We want to make the meetings and the community discussions open to everyone.

-       How do we access the entire community? We are using all the tools at our disposal and still not reaching everyone.

-       Good subject lines could help more emails be opened.

-       There is a concern about a level of complacency in the parent community about the school being a well-oiled machine that doesn’t need additional involvement.

-       We need to do more face-to-face conversation and personal invitations and encouragement to come to meetings, gatherings, etc.

-       Guilting people is not effective or fair. Many families are doing everything they can already. More “help how you can” would be welcome.

-       There are lots of big conversations with no results. The way to get more people involved is to figure out each person’s passion and ask them to do specific tasks that fit their interests and time.

-       How do we reach folks who aren’t currently feeling personally connected?

-       Building personal relationships and connections is key.


Montavillage Spring Fair

-       CSS has been putting on this community fair for the last 5 years.

-       Chris is not willing to head up the planning committee this year.

-       It costs CSS about $500 to put on the event. Do we want to spend this money to put on this event?

-       Is this the way we want to reach out to the community?

-       Do we have the volunteer power to continue putting this event on? Or could these volunteer hours be better spent elsewhere at the school?

-       We have lots of events at the school. Is this one we let drop?

-       We are having trouble getting someone to head the FUNraiser, so should we really be putting in the effort and money toward this event?

-       We may drop it this year and revisit next year.

-       The framework is there but we don’t currently have the energy to put behind it.

-       It’s an opportunity for new families who have just gotten in to CSS to come meet current families.

-       If anyone is interested in heading it up for this year, let Chris know. It is still an option.


District and Teacher Contract Negotiations

-       Filip does not have much of an update

-       The negotiations stalled last week

-       What happens at the school board meeting tonight will determine what is going to happen next

-       The two sides are not finding a lot of common ground

-       There was a possibility that the district would impose their contract tonight

-       From Rosie:


Talking Points

-       The Portland teachers’ proposal supports the schools and students who are most in need.

-       The teachers’ proposal restores lost school days to Focus and Priority schools. This would add instructional time for students in those schools, which will help close the achievement gap. The district has not committed to doing this.

-       Teachers are asking the district to hire 175 additional teachers. This will reduce class size and allow teachers to provide more individualized attention to students. It will also help reduce case load for special education teachers and allow neighborhood schools to add valuable programs that they’ve lost like art, music, p.e., career/technical education so all students – regardless of where you live – can have access to the education they deserve. All of this can be accomplished within the district’s current budget.

-       In contrast, the district is only committing to hire the bare minimum amount of teachers that recent legislation requires. They’re refusing to do more for kids even though they have the money. Additionally, the district’s plan would make it harder for special education educators and school psychologists to do their job. These educators are the ones working with and providing support for our most vulnerable students and families.


Here are some websites to get additional information:

1. Recent press release from PAT

2. Very active group of parents and community members. If anyone is looking to take action, this would be the group to contact. I believe Ericka is receiving some of their emails.

3. Families might also check out the Portland Association of Teachers Facebook page.

4. Action Families can take- attend the School Board budge hearing on Jan. 27th @6pm. More info.


-       Filip encouraged everyone to seek out information from both sides.

-       If the district imposes the contract, the teacher’s union has the option of stating their intention to strike, which would happen after 10 working days have passed. The teachers would take a strike vote. Even if that passes, they may not necessarily actually strike.

-       If the teachers actually do walk out, what would happen at CSS? The district has contingency plans. Some of it depends on how many teachers would show up to work. There would still be school for kids, though there might be a couple of days when school would be closed for the school to prepare.

-       If students stop showing up to school, the district stops getting money. This can be a motivation for the district to come to a settlement.

-       Be aware: if your student misses more than 10 consecutive days of school, they could be dropped from their enrollment at CSS.

-       Filip noted that we would not be in this situation if schools were adequately funded. PAT is not the enemy, and neither is the district.




CSS Milestones – a brief history


1985 - Piaget Program (Jules Goodwin and Deb Dortch) begins offering Pre-K and K classes.


12/16/1994 - Proposal to Continue and Expand the Piaget Kindergarten into an Alternative Elementary Program is written and presented to district. Proposal is approved. District chooses Bridger as location for program based on history of low enrollment and need to fill the building.


1996 - K-5 Elementary Focus Program at Bridger begins.


2000 - Motivated by parent and teacher interest, CSS begins discussion of growth. There is interest in two classrooms of each grade and growing to a K-8. CSS Growth Committee is formed and begins discussions with principal and district administrators.


2002 - CSS has 156 students, Bridger has 124 students, and nearby Youngson has 177 students. Youngson is closed and students moved to Bridger beginning 2002-2003.


12/2/2002 - Educational Options Policy 6.10.022-P is presented. CSS begins writing proposal to become a school in accordance with this policy.


1/22/2003 - Letter to Superintendent Scherzinger, Educational Options Committee, and School Board outlining our request for school status.


2003 - Granted permission to add a second Kindergarten with the caveat that if space became an issue, the second classroom would be cut the next year. With the possibility of two K classrooms having to be merged into one 1st grade, we decide the risk of harm to students and families is too high.


3/14/2003 - Formal proposal to move from Focus Option Program to School is written and presented to district. The only response to this request was the building principal reporting that Superintendent Scherzinger said the report sounded more like a request to grow than a request to be a school and that we would find what we were looking for at the Eastside Task Force.


2003 Summer - CSS participates in the Eastside Task Force where it is recommended that CSS and Family Co-Operative school merge. Ultimately this “merger” results in the end of Family Co-Op as those students are given an option to stay in the Sunnyside building with automatic entry to Sunnyside Environmental School, and most make that choice.


1/12/2004 - Resolution 2865 calls for CSS to apply for school status no later than mid-November and that the superintendent is to work with either the Space Allocation Committee or cluster planning process to identify a permanent location prior to the January 2005 school celebration.


2004 - CSS is informed by the area director that there is no building available for CSS and that even if we are given school status, we would not be able to add classrooms and, as a school with fewer than 200 students, we would likely be closed.


10/19/2004 - CSS asks the Board to defer the resolution until such time as a building is identified.


2006 - Superintendent Phillips announces CSS will move to Kellogg (we learn about this in the newspaper). This decision is reversed within a month when we are put in limbo as it is reported we will be moved to a to-be-determined building and Winterhaven moved to the Clark building. That decision is also later reversed.


2006 Summer – CSS participates in Community Conversation with Clark, Bridger and Binnsmead.


2007 - CSS is informed it will be moving to Clark building.


2008-2009 - First year in the Clark building.  First CSS administrator is hired, Vice Principal Jay Spassov. A second Kindergarten and 1st grade class are added. The first CSS 8th grade class is promoted.


2009 summer – School initiation application is started by a committee of three parents, Jules Goodwin, and Jay Spassov.


November 2009 – School status approved.


2010-2011 – Title 1 funding is granted as a result of an intense and shortened application process that was organized by a committee of parents and teachers.


2011-2012 – Principal Hristic is hired.



Notes –

-Since our move to the Clark building in 2008, CSS has welcomed 10 new teachers and 2 new administrators as well as 125 new students.

-The current sixth grade has been the “growing” grade of CSS.

-The school initiation process required a community survey and many hours of planning the growth details with a district liaison. This process helped shape a vision and the current state of CSS.

-Because of our size at the time of the move to the Clark building, we were co-housed with Head Start.

-During the school initiation process, it was understood and communicated that CSS would fulfill our district-required growth in our new building to approximately 500 students.