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The Facts on Portland Public Schools' Tax Payer Funded, Anti-Gay Church-Sponsored School

Yesterday we told you about plans to open an alternative high school proposed by the anti-GLBT Mount Olivet Baptist Church (one of the primary backers of Ballot Measure 36) on the Jefferson High School Campus in the fall of 2006 with the support of public funds.

Since then, several of you have contacted us looking for more information. Others have been left confused when told by school administrators that Mt. Olivet is not affiliated with the school. Here are the facts. Judge for yourself.

• Mt. Olivet first approached Portland Public Schools in 2004 about opening the "Academy of Character and Ethics" as a charter school, with the intent of housing the school in church facilities. At that time, the charter was unanimously denied by the Portland Public School Board because the board did not believe the school was "ready." The Superintendent of Schools directed administrators to keep working with Mt. Olivet.

• Later, the church, spearheaded by Pastor Martin, formed a 501c3 organization to act as the administrative body of the school and recruited its own board of directors for the school.

• That organization applied for, and was granted, funding from E3, an alternative school funding organization supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust to encourage alternative education in public schools. On staff at that organization is Paula Kinney, a member of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church and the person who has now been selected to act as principal of the new school.

• In early March, Portland Public Schools gave final approval to the school as an alternative school, ensuring it will also receive public funds and Portland Public Schools encouraged the so-called "Academy of Character and Ethics" to co-locate at Jefferson High School.

When Basic Rights Oregon met with school administrators Thursday, we hoped our fears would be allayed and that we would be reassured by the facts. Instead, the more we learned, the more alarmed we got. Here's why:

• While the school district says the school will operate independently of the church,

Mt. Olivet Baptist Church states clearly on its own website that the school is their project:

• "During the summer of 2004, our application was approved by Oregon Small Schools Initiative to establish a small public high school. We received a grant and have begun the formal planning and development of the school, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2006."

• We learned from PPS officials that the school's board of directors has been assembled by Mt. Olivet and its leadership

• We also learned from PPS officials that Paula Kinney, the appointed principal for the so-called "Academy of Character and Ethics" is a member of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.

• Paula Kinney will report solely and directly to the school's board of directors, which is predominately Mt. Olivet members, instead of reporting to PPS or its board of directors.

• The St. John's Sentinal has reported that the school will be led by Pastor James Martin and Mt. Olivet Baptist church and application materials for the school are available at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. http://www.stjohnssentinel.com/

• And, when PPS suggested that leaders of the proposed school ought to hear our concerns, the person in charge according to them was none other that Rev. James Martin, the Pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.

This school is going to teach courses on "character and ethics". What type of ethics will be taught at a school with leadership whose values include the core value, according to Mt. Olivet's website: "Marriage is the permanent union of one man and one woman"?

We also want PPS to explain how GLBT parents or GLBT kids can feel assured that members of a known anti-GLBT organization will uphold the school's anti-discrimination policy or foster an academic environment that is safe and supportive for GLBT administrators, parents and students.

Finally, PPS acts as though this school is a done deal. We have urged them to put this school on hold until these significant concerns, and others related to the approval process itself, are addressed and the many very important questions related to this issue can be answered.

TELL PORTLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS WHAT YOU THINK!

Send your letter of concern to:
Maxine Kilcrease, Assistant Superintendant of Schools
mkilcrease@pps.k12.or.us
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By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 17, 2006 1:21 PM

Is there a possiblity of a legal (constitutional) challenge?    



By Blogger BRO, at March 17, 2006 1:46 PM

I'm not sure about the possibility of a legal challenge. We haven't yet had the opportunity to discuss this issue with our attorneys.

One thing I do know is that there are many possible ways to resolve this situation before legal action becomes necessary and our hope is that Portland Public Schools will take seriously the range of concerns in the community about this particular school. If they fail to do that, I assume everyone, including Basic Rights Oregon will look at the necessary next steps to ensure a separation of church and state and that no known anti-glbt organization can open a public school.    



By Anonymous Jeff, at March 17, 2006 1:59 PM

so what's the big deal? Will students be forced to join this school, or will it be by choice? Why do you care so much, how will it hurt you?    



By Blogger BRO, at March 17, 2006 2:06 PM

The "big deal" is a little thing called separation of church and state and the fact that public funding should never be used to support the project of an organization known to discriminate. Discrimination and homophobia hurts everyone.    



By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 17, 2006 2:46 PM

I am concerned that we are focusing on a single potential negative aspect that the school/church has not yet had opportunity to address. There is a possibility that this school has a great deal of good to offer Portland's youth and having the church take an active interest in public education may be an opportunity that could open doors to dialogue about that anti-discrimination and GLBT rights that have only been yet been communicated from across political battlelines. Perhaps we could cooperate with them to ensure that the school meets the anti-discrimination standards both according to the law and according to the spirit of noble character.
I think the church/school would be immediately suspicious of us and our so- called "gay agenda," but perhaps if we give them a chance to prove themselves, they will do the same. If this approach doesn't work... then certainly we may do what we must to protect GLBT youth from unjust discrimination.    



By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 17, 2006 3:18 PM

In response to the above comment...

We have two main issues that are alarming.

One, is the fact that this church was the single LARGEST contributing church to the Yes on 36 campaign. Their pastor was one of the most public faces representing the church during the Measure 36 campaign... on the wrong side off the issue. How will the GLBT students be treated at this school? They have a proven track record of being anti-gay. How will they deal with anti-gay discrimination within their own school?

Two. This would be a PUBLICLY FUNDED school. That means that every resident of Portland will be paying for a somewhat 'faith-based' school. The United States was founded on the basis of the separation of church and state.

Do you still not see a problem? I see a major problem with 'giving them a chance'. Then what do we do? Have them shut down? Portland needs to stop this ridiculous concept now.

Read these statements from the pastor of the church and decide for yourself.    



By Anonymous Leo S., at March 17, 2006 5:48 PM

In response to the Anonymous comment:

I am concerned that we are focusing on a single potential negative aspect that the school/church has not yet had opportunity to address.

There's a much deeper concern here. Mt. Olivet, through a shell corporation directed by its church members, is set to receive public funds in order to teach their particular interpretations of "character" and "ethics".

Why would they stop with condemning homosexuals to these students with the taxpayer money they're slated to receive? Why would they not also condemn unmarried relationships of any sexuality? Why would they not also condemn a woman's right to control her body? Why would they not also deny access to information about sexually transmitted disease and contraception? Why would they stop even one iota short of promoting to these public high school students the radical religious right's political agenda? This agenda is already steeped in code words such as "character" and "ethics", which right wing advocates interpret to have very specific, narrow meanings crafted to their particular religious beliefs?

The real issue here is public funding of religious education, at the high school level, through a bit of corporate shell-game trickery. I hope BRO is in contact with David Fidanque (ACLU-OR) about this. If the foot comes in the door on this one ... ?    



By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 18, 2006 9:13 AM

Thank you, BRO, for putting the spotlight on this. FYI, Maxine Kilcrease is leaving PPS any day now (new job elsewhere) so your emails maybe should go to the Superintendent or another administrator who will be here to read them. superintendent@pps.k12.or.us

There is a written PPS policy for how alternative programs are supposed to be reviewed and approved by the school board, and with ACE this did not happen. What's more, the Jefferson redesign process did not include ANY information about this program coming into Jeff. If it is all so above-board as they claim, why didn't they reveal to the design team and the public that they were planning to put ACE at Jeff?    



By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 18, 2006 10:52 PM

Come on now! This is the type of issue we get involved in that sets us back in our March forward.

Those kids in that area NEED this type of charter school. PERIOD!

GLBT teens will not be affected because I can't imagine why any of them would choose to attend.

Go on to something else for our sake! This mini crusade is a loser.    



By Blogger kencorbin, at March 19, 2006 11:15 AM

Stop, take a deep breath and think about this...

The proposed ACE sounds like something North Portland badly needs. We are talking about the NE Portland black community, presumably beset by gang related violence, teen pregnancy, hight dropout rates and all the rest. Mt Olivet is at least trying to do something about it. And all BRO can do is stand on the sidelines and throw stones at them.

Yes there are some legitimate concerns, and someone should certainly take them up with the ACE board of directors. If you can get past the fact that they backed the winning side in the fight over measure 36, my guess is that you will find them very reasonable. That they oppose gay marriage does not necessarily mean they are anti-gay. Presumably they have to abide by district anti-discrimantion policies, which isn't nearly as impossible as you might think. Despite what they, and some of you, probably think, high school kids really aren't ready for serious sexual relationships, of either same or opposite gender variety.

Better idea, why don't we send a couple couples to one of Mt Olivet services to get some idea what they are really like before jumping to the conclusion that they are all ignorant homophobes.

Charter schools are intentionally designed to function independently from the school district. This is a good thing, I've been involved in helping with two charter schools in our area, and I can tell you that the last thing I would put up with is some outside organization trying to pressure our school board to shut them down.    



By Anonymous Polymath, at March 19, 2006 10:32 PM

this is not just a GLBT issue, this is a religious freedom issue. you can be pretty sure that the administration of a school that's basically run by a church will be at least sympathetic to a teacher who mentions in class any of the following:

1. evolution never happened.
2. gay people are going to hell.
3. jewish people are going to hell.
4. muslims are going to hell.
5. dissenting from our president is unpatriotic.
6. we are a christian nation.

and quite a few others.

and you can bet your ass that if a wiccan group tried to open a similar school in a similar manner, then that very church would be up in arms about it.

portland taxpayers (which i'm not one of) should not have to pay for religious indoctrination. get jewish groups and science teachers involved too...they also have a big stake.    



By Blogger Norm!, at March 19, 2006 10:49 PM

Instead of only contacting an assistant superintendant, shouldn't we also contact our elected representatives?

The PPS Board of Education is composed of seven members:

Douglas Morgan
Zone #1 (approx. lower SW & inner SE Portland)*
503-452-2904, douglas.morgan@pps.k12.or.us

David Wynde
Zone #2 (approx. inner SE & inner N Portland)*
503-916-6153,
david.wynde@pps.k12.or.us

Bobbie Regan
Zone #3 (approx. upper SW and NW Portland)*
503-292-0659, bobbie.regan@pps.k12.or.us

Dan Ryan
Zone #4 (approx. N and upper NE Portland)*
503-916-6653, dryan@pps.k12.or.us

Sonja Henning
Zone #5 (mostly NE Portland)*
503-916-6654, shenning@pps.k12.or.us

Trudy Sargent
Zone #6 (parts of SE and NE Portland)*
503-916-6655, tsargent@pps.k12.or.us

Dilafruz Williams
Zone #7 (rest of SE Portland)*
503-775-2158, dilafruz.williams@pps.k12.or.us

*See the confusing PPS School Board map: http://159.191.14.140/.docs/pg/1042    



By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 20, 2006 9:33 AM

To the person above that stated that this school will not affect GLBT youth -- you are sadly mistaken. Think about the closeted kid. Their parents send them to this school... then what? Put yourself in his/her shoes.

It's a bad situation all the way around.    



By Anonymous Kenneth Corbin, at March 22, 2006 7:07 AM

Has anyone gone to the church, or the new school board with you concerns? It is a charter school that is supposed to be organized independently from the school board. The school board has, quite properly, told you to take your concerns up with the ACE board. As far as I can tell, no one has done this. And until you do, PPS has every right to tell you where to get off! It sounds to me like you are all assuming that this is an organized group of closed minded homophobes who are not worth talking to, which in my book makes you just as closed minded as you claim they are.

Every conservative church I have been to, and I've been to a lot, opposes gay marriage, largely out of fear of the unknown. But they claim to be welcoming of everyone, gays included. I have never felt unwelcome despite being an out very adamant gay rights and gay marriage supported. I have no reason to disbelieve gays would be welcome, but haven't found anyone willing to give them a try. This could be an excellent opportunity to see how they do.

Politically, this issue is a big time looser. There isn't any way to put a good face on a bunch of out of town white middle class activists trying to block a group of black inner city parents from trying to do something to improve a failing school. The best you can hope for is that the PPS board will ignore you. If you actually succeed in making a big issue of this, the resulting PR will be an absolute disaster. If you can recruit some real parents with children going to Jefferson school, you might have a shot, otherwise the smartest thing to do is drop this like the hot potato it is.    



By Anonymous Larry, at March 23, 2006 10:44 AM

An interesting spectrum of thoughts on the matter. As a local taxpayer, I am deeply concerned whenever public dollars are 'given" toa church organization to educate youth. It the mission is laudable, and the program is needed, why aren't all students given the opportunity? Are we saying that only black inner city kids need character and ethics? There must be an agenda, or the church would not be so focused on creating "their" school..    



By Anonymous T. Geiger, at March 24, 2006 11:23 AM

In response to Kenneth Corbin's comment above, my comments are in bold.

"Has anyone gone to the church, or the new school board with you concerns? It is a charter school that is supposed to be organized independently from the school board. The school board has, quite properly, told you to take your concerns up with the ACE board. As far as I can tell, no one has done this. And until you do, PPS has every right to tell you where to get off! It sounds to me like you are all assuming that this is an organized group of closed minded homophobes who are not worth talking to, which in my book makes you just as closed minded as you claim they are."

There are no assumptions here about the church - especially the pastor. Their pastor was one of the most visible pastors for the YES on Measure 36 campaign. The church was also THE SINGLE LARGEST church contributor to the Yes on 36 campaign.

As far as PPS - they've screwed up. There were never any public meetings in regards to this new school. Even those in charge of the Jefferson project heard about this in the newspapers. It was all closed doors meetings.

In addition the entire board of the church is made of of all church members including the very anti-GLBT pastor. Should this not be a concern?


"Every conservative church I have been to, and I've been to a lot, opposes gay marriage, largely out of fear of the unknown. But they claim to be welcoming of everyone, gays included. I have never felt unwelcome despite being an out very adamant gay rights and gay marriage supported. I have no reason to disbelieve gays would be welcome, but haven't found anyone willing to give them a try. This could be an excellent opportunity to see how they do."

How about when Mt. Olivet denied a long time church member the right to a funeral because she was a lesbian?

"Politically, this issue is a big time looser. There isn't any way to put a good face on a bunch of out of town white middle class activists trying to block a group of black inner city parents from trying to do something to improve a failing school. The best you can hope for is that the PPS board will ignore you. If you actually succeed in making a big issue of this, the resulting PR will be an absolute disaster. If you can recruit some real parents with children going to Jefferson school, you might have a shot, otherwise the smartest thing to do is drop this like the hot potato it is."

Absolutely false. BRO is not the only group of concerned citizens. Their is a broad spectrum of people including just as many people from the black community deeply concerned about this new school. It sounds as if you are entirely misinformed on this issue and I suggest you do your research before commenting.

BRO's newsletter yesterday laid it all out. They have met with PPS officials, the funding group for alternative schools as well as the new principal of ACE to voice their concerns.
   



By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 25, 2006 5:04 PM

Please don't speak for the black community. Do you have statistics that a majority of the black community is against ACE. Do you have statistics that the majority of black churches especially Mt. Olivet discriminate against gay and lesbians. You know the bible speaks against homosexuality and if they are Christians and believe in that bible,they are going be against homosexuality. Guess what if you go into any black church in the America you will find gay and lesbians singing in the choir etc. Now granted they might be in the closet but they are there. The church knows they are there. AS long as they don't admit their sexual preference, they are ok. Double standard, huh?

Men who practice homoseuality are anti- women. Women who practice lesbianism are anti-men. How do you like those statements? Are those true statements? Double standards, huh? If you start schools that were backed by gay and lesbian organizations what would people think. They would have the same dialogue as you are having about Mt. Olivet church. Why should they give in to what they believe. You don't give in to what you believe. Separatism is alive and well! All groups pointing fingers at each other!

This is not about the constitution or legalities this is about equity. We wouldn't be having all this dialogue if there was equity. I am part of the black community and no one has asked me what I thought about ACE, Mt. Olivet,etc. I do have strong opinions about all those issues, as well as others in my community. We are never asked to give our input, but it is always said that the majority of the community is for or against whatever the controversy is. Just because you hear from a few does not mean they represent us all! I am a pretty tolerant person. When I find I am not tolerant about something. I deal with it by educatiion or placing myself around that very thing I am intolerant against. We all need to bring our differences to the table and have dialogue, instead of pointing fingers!.    



By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 21, 2006 12:59 PM

The problem is now, if I want to open a "charter school" with public funds called "Satan's Worshippers of Demonic Goodness" or "Spaghetti Monster Unity School" then I also should be able to--with public funds. Public funds need to be used to create education that has publically-decided-on curiculum. If there is money for this "charter" school then why is there not enough money to keep the schools open that are already in existence. This is a back door approach to shutting down public schools and turning them into private interest schools. Any monies available for public education needs to go into the public schools. Of course if public schools are paying attention they will notice their funding continues to dwindle in the face of their needs increasing. In a capatalistic society it is naive to think that your public school shouldn't be concerned with profits if it wants to continue surviving. How can we make public schools profitable and educational at the same time?? I love the school example of the sustainable garden where students learn about growing food sustainably and the school made a hefty profit on the sale of their organic produce. Now that is my kind of public school...I mean as long as we are a capatalistic society.    



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