PPS Votes on Starbase, 10/17/11
Teri Shofner - Communities for Alternatives to Starbase Education (CASE)
This year we saw two new faces on the board, Matt Morton and Greg Belisle. We certainly missed the presence of Dilfruz Williams, who brought the spirit of the Gandhian principles of truth, transparency and trust to this decision making body.
As a new parent to this system I am appalled. I thought Portland, of all cities, would be beyond this sort of childish tactics to sneak recruiting into our schools unnoticed. I have since been rudely awakened. The level to which PPS had stooped in order to avoid public outcry on this issue has just amazed me. Last year they hid the agenda item, bringing it up much earlier in the year than previous years and then voting it in for a two year contract. Which still makes me wonder why they had to vote last night, but I guess they are required to confirm that they still want the second year.
Several of us receive every agenda notice from the board. Yet on the recent agendas received not once is Starbase mentioned. Apparently the board has changed its process. According to Greg Belisle, "..we changed that format. We now have two work sessions per month held in the upstairs conference room but we wanted them televised so more of the public could see the discussion. We have created a public comment section at the beginning of both work sessions and public comment before business items are voted on. The materials had been available at the meeting. This last week, the Board requested our materials be posted on the website before our work sessions and Board meetings to increase public awareness of what was to be discussed. Materials are still available at the work sessions and meetings. The October 10th Board book that has been posted since last Friday on the District website includes all the items Board members were provided in advance of the meeting, including the Starbase contract as part of the business agenda (page 47 on my Adobe Reader.) " So in the future it's up to the public to attend every work session and read every page of the "work session" agendas in order to know what's coming up. Also, note that they posted the information on Friday for a Monday meeting. This doesn't give much time for a concerned public to prepare 3 minute comments.
Two of us arrived at 4:30pm for this 5pm meeting. It took 15 minutes just to find the hidden space upstairs behind the closed, darkened, cafeteria where this meeting was to be held. The timers were broken so we relied on the secretary to hold a card up. Myself and Jessica Applegate-Brown had just timed ourselves before coming in and were both well under three minutes. Somehow three minutes of PPS time doesn't translate from the real world and neither of us were able to finish our testimony.
Regardless of all the mystery and hand waving to distract the public, we had a terrific turn out last night. Nancy Rawling and Gene Wilcox gave the first testimonies. Nancy, representing our group, delivered the petition of 141 names collected via the petition site and also provided hard copies of our letter endorsed by 25 local organizations. She also read the impressive list of endorsers to the letter. Thank you Nancy, beautifully done! Gene then presented evidence that Starbase is at heart a recruitment tool. He pointed to the assessments done with the children before and after the program, where their attitudes about the military and military careers are included in the evaluation. These questions are the equivalent of a BIG GLARING NEON sign that screams, "This is recruitment!!!"
Then we all (including my restless 7 year old) had the joy of sitting through a couple hours of redistricting talks and how budgeting will work (or not) in the coming year. Then I, Terri Shofner, and Jessica Applegate-Brown spoke. I reminded the board that military bases are typically toxic and not held to the same EPA standards at the rest of us. Also, that this program supports the "poverty draft" in our country by focusing on low income and minority students. Nothing in the curriculum couldn't be done just as well in a neutral location. Both Jessica and Terri reminded them that the weapons stored at the armory are a direct contradiction to the zero tolerance rule in the schools. If it's not something that would be allowed on the school grounds, should we really be sending the kids to see it. Furthermore, Jessica cited UN statements on child recruitment and showed how this was counter to the US's own rules that we gladly support for other countries on this issue. Following this was testimony from Tom Hastings indicating that the use of violence to solve issues is outmoded, and that this program recruits for a dying method of conflict resolution. He challenged the board to consider the results of helping kids make this dire career choice at such a young age simply based on the whiz bang tech the soldiers will show them at the base.
In the crowd we found many supporters including representatives from War Resistor's League and another PPS parent, Carrie Adams. Other supporters may have attempted to come, and some I know intended to, but the doors were mysteriously locked. Even after we reported they were locked, they were found to be locked yet again. Again, hmmm. Maybe we need to introduce the idea of democracy to this board.
Despite all our great effort, our endorsers, our signatures, the vote came down to 6 for and only 1 against the Starbase renewal. Ruth Adkins continued to show great moral fortitude, holding to higher principles to protect our children regardless of the financial pressure. Martin Gonzalez, who had historically voted against this issue, lost that moral ground and succumbed to the pressures of the dollar. Bobbie Regan continues to claim herself against recruiting and yet continues to support this program claiming that after having toured the facility she saw nothing of recruiting (apparently she didn't notice the big gun in the front or the building). Of course, I suppose in some people's minds recruiting is only when the recruiter is sitting at the table with a paper asking a ten year old to sign away his/her life. Pam Knowles went along with this thinking. Trudy Sargent's son just joined the Navy, so she's all guns and flags now, and more than happy to help all our children toward that glorious career choice. Both the new comers, Greg and Matt, seemed sincerely torn on the issue. I hope that many of you will take time to engage in civil discourse with them and help them see that beyond the flag waving and patriotism, the core purpose, for which DoD willingly pays for this program, is about recruiting ten year olds.
After 5 years of work on this issue the board still does not provide an adequate program for the kids that opt-out. In one class, 20% opted out - that's big enough to say it's time to stop this insane program.
Let's keep talking and keep working. I will be presenting this case to a national body of academics with hopes that they may give us even more research to support our stand.
In Solidarity, Terri Shofner, Buckman parent.
Portland Public Schools Participating 2011/2012 School Year
posted Sep 24, 2011 11:13 AM by Terri Shofner [ updated Sep 24, 2011 11:38 AM ]
Articles on the Web:
- Wacky Mommy vs. Starbase - PPS Equity
- Inside Starbase Portland - The Portland Mercury
- Military class for kids stirs protest- The Oregonian