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Lisa Loving of The Skanner News
Published: 08 February 2011

Education Strategies Director Kali Thorne Ladd

What can the City of Portland do -- outside the classroom -- to improve education in the city's schools?

Local students, Mayor Sam Adams, and a few hundred others who convened Monday at Self Enhancement Inc. for the Portland Education Summit are generating a long list – and starting March 2 you can start adding your own feedback about your schools and your neighborhoods in general.

"We're seeing underachievement that's more prolific in some parts of the city than in others," said Mayor Adams' education strategies director, Kali Thorne Ladd, last week.

"We don't have control over the schools but we do have control over other things that shape young peoples' lives."

Ladd and others link the failing education system to the failing economy, citing statistics showing that if the achievement gap can be eliminated in Oregon over the next decade, the economy will expand by "up to 1.8 percent."

That's why the Education Summit is a new feature of the long-term Portland Plan urban development blueprint that will guide the next 25 years of regional development.

To maximize public participation, the city is holding four family-oriented fairs with games, food, childcare, raffle prizes and presentations to lure as many people as possible to the often-dry task of hammering out the region's priorities and programs.

The fairs are: Wednesday, March 2, 6:30-9 p.m. at Hosford Middle School, 2303 SE 28th Place; Sunday, March 6, 12:30-3 p.m. at the Oregon Zoo; Thursday, March 10, from 6:30-9 a.m. at De La Salle North Catholic High School, 7528 N. Fenwick Ave.; and Saturday, March 12, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Immigration and Refugee Community Organization, 10301 NE Glisan St.

A centerpiece of Adams' approach to the Portland Plan is an innovative "cradle to career" ideal that pushes youth opportunities towards the top of regional development goals.

"With the Portland Plan process we are able to take the cradle to career framework to the neighborhood level," Adams said in a statement Tuesday. "The plan will outline the policy and infrastructure to support healthy, vibrant well-educated neighborhoods."

Monday's brainstorming session took off from the issue of what the city has the power to do in addressing Portland's dismal school graduation rate – only some 53 percent of high school students make it to their commencement ceremony within four years.

City officials say the effort to find a permanent fix to the schools really depends on plenty of participants at March's planning fairs, where people will be sifting through the ideas and partnerships generated this week and, hopefully, forging concrete plans and policies that will be ratified by the City Council this summer.

Participants Monday included Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, Rep. Earl Blumenauer; Portland Schools Foundation CEO Dan Ryan, Portland Police Chief Mike Reese, area school district superintendents and principals as well as nonprofit service providers.

They were joined by representatives from New Seasons Market, the United Way, Latino Network, and Pearl neighborhood-based Turtle Island Development.

"There are too many silos between these institutions," Ladd says. "That's why we had Chief Reese on one panel – we need to work in partnership, and we're using this to inform action steps with the Portland Plan."

Find out more about the Portland Plan and how you can put in you two cents here.

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