It only takes one person to unite two vastly different school districts

It only takes one person to unite two vastly different school districts

Brady Johnson, Sports Editor

The LO bubble is dangerous. It keeps its residents safe and shielded from many of the harsh realities this world has to offer however, the security it offers can work in unfavorable ways as well.

If one is not careful, it distorts his/her perception of how the rest of the nation lives.

Unfortunately, Lake Oswego is one of the most economically disproportionate cities in the entire country in comparison to other towns and counties in Oregon.

It’s the definition of a utopia, and the only way to begin breaking out of it is by immersing yourself in a completely different culture.

So on my “senior skip day,” I decided to do something I had talked about for a while. I brought fellow senior Davey Li along with me and we cruised around in my Volvo on Apr. 20 visiting seven of the nine Portland Interscholastic League high schools.

Our stops included Benson Polytechnic, Cleveland, Franklin, Grant, Jefferson, Madison and Roosevelt.

Due to time constraints and prior visits to Lincoln HS and Wilson HS, we did not make a stop in SW Portland.

After all, those two schools correspond with LHS and LOHS. Wealthier neighborhoods feed into them and both consistently rank near the top academically amongst 6A classification high schools.

I could meticulously write an elementary report on what exactly it is in terms of physical amenities and the personas of students that make the PIL schools different from the LOSD.

But that’s been done plenty.

Enough times we’ve been told how imperative it is to help those living in poverty and to realize how lucky we have it being a part of this school district.

To sincerely understand this idea, to truthfully be able to buy into these now cliché statements tossed around by individuals who, in a stupor of riches feel that merely saying this stuff makes an impact, you have to venture out.

I’m no politician or social worker. I don’t have a detailed plan of how to help the PIL schools, by far the oldest in the state, rise up and become institutions people want to attend, not a place where students are forced to go.

I do live in an upper-middle class town though. And I got more out of my five hours of exploring these schools and talking with administrators and faculty members than anything I’ve ever seen, read or heard about how profound the struggle it is for inner-city schools to function on par with everyone else.

Measure 5 certainly hasn’t helped this cause and neither does the division of taxpaying dollars across a double-digit amount of schools.

The PIL can’t help that it’s underfunded, required to compete at the 6A level as a part of last year’s OSAA redistricting plan.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not working with what it has.

Amidst a sea of diversity and institutional challenges were people that cared about one another and wanted what’s best for their school.

Here, we talk about the “Pacer family.” Right now, there’s no “Quaker family” or “Rough Rider family.” But these schools believe in this idea of unity and their school spirit is on the rise.

At Madison, I came across a campus security guard telling two senior basketball players to “quit messing around and go to class because they have the potential to play at a small college.” Only catch though is that they have to graduate first.

Those two students were far from the only people I saw showing up late or lighting up and ditching school altogether.

But as one Roosevelt faculty member explained, many students living in poverty also have extenuating circumstances to deal with. For some, school is secondary.

There’s no campus security at either LOSD high school patrolling the commons and keeping a close watch on students.

Every PIL school has 2-3 guards who are consistently patrolling campus and on call.

Davey and I were in the main hallway of Jefferson for about a minute before a guard stopped us and saw right through our cover.

“What’re you doing?” he asked.

We told him that we were looking for the main office building.

His response: “Yeah, what school you from?”

Do we really stand out that much when mixed in with another school district?

I talked with the guy thereafter though for a few minutes and asked him about his work.

He told me that he has the name of every student enrolled at a high school in Oregon on his phone.

His job is long, arduous and repeated.

At least he cares though.

At least someone is looking out for these students and has their back.

Even as schools such as Roosevelt are under construction or are preparing to be redone, everyone their keeps on chugging forward with a full head of steam.

I had a fantastic conversation with the principal of Roosevelt Filip Hristic and one of his attendance workers.

We found a lot of common ground between our two high schools while attendance was taken on recycled paper as there is a shortage of such supplies at Roosevelt and students showed up tardy, barking back and forth at one another.

“We’re just trying to save paper,” said John, the front desk worker in far too upbeat a mood.

We talked about different programs offered at LHS and the dynamics between student-faculty relationships.

“You have to make an effort to get to know these students in order to start asking them for stuff,” said Hristic.

I guess you could say that attendance is pretty lax at LHS.

Most staff members I talked to seemed to agree that the biggest difference between their school and the LOSD is the amount of programs offered.

What I found to be far more compelling though is something that a staff member at Roosevelt who lives in Lake Oswego and had a son who graduated from LOHS in 1996 told me.

“You guys seem to be more focused on winning than anything else.”


While we sometimes try to win at all costs, so many other schools are satisfied with having some form of success and seeing their student athletes do well.

Christian Swain, Roosevelt’s football coach and career counselor was asking me questions about our athletic department and newly hired football coach Elvis Akpla.

I gave him my take, told him that I of course thought our football team will be solid this fall and talked about the steady increase in games RHS has won each year with him at the helm.

“Yeah, and our graduation rates now are also among the best,” said Swain. “We have mandatory study hall for the first hour of practice. This year, 92% of my players graduated while the state average is 53%.”

Something tells me that this proportion is as good as or better than LHS’s.

This experience, all told, baffled me. I had no idea how precarious a situation this is until I visited these schools.

The discussions with people I had truly dramatized how conceited and self-righteous a school district we can appear in light of all the athletic controversies the LOSD has been in the news for recently.

When the fiasco with the football program or PDT hazing allegations were brought up in conversation, I was almost looked at with apparent shame.

Again, I have no agenda present in bullet point form to reform the PIL. I don’t have all the answers.

What I can say about this though, in relation to the LOSD is that maybe by taking a good hard look at what so many other high schools and their districts are dealing with, we can put a halt to fighting with and suing each other.

Maybe it’d help some people learn to trust our own administrators and board members.

They too have our best interests and deserve a little respect.

It shouldn’t be us who are in the local news for something juvenile and easily avoided.

I’d rather the spotlight shine down on these schools that could actually use some long-overdue media attention.

Dr. Karen Hoppes, my AP US History instructor who has worked at LHS now for over 20 years and is grossly overqualified to teach here always talks about how bright a group we are and how many resources present there are here.

She always reinforces that her work would make more of an impact at a struggling school such as one of the seven I visited.

But she has stayed here because she believes that in working with and teaching us about the country, we can maybe resolve similar issues.

In her words, we’re so intelligent and financially equipped a community that all it would take is for one person to hit it big and use their tools to change the world.

All it takes is for one person to plant the seed of change and foster its growth.

We’ve got the capability to do it.

She’s still waiting to see who that person is going to be.