Alleged Sexual Abuse At Whitman Elementary

Paraeducator Brett Christy Hamilton aided a seven-year-old disabled girl at Whitman elementary in using the restroom two years ago. On November 3rd, 2015, the girl’s mother accused Hamilton of sexually abusing her child, attempting to sue PPS for $7.5 million.

With the accusations made, Hamilton was arrested, but later released on a $50,000 bail which was paid by his father, a former Lincoln High School principal. Hamilton was then on paid leave for 15 months and was restricted by the Human Services Department from seeing his newborn child until the charges were cleared.

This all led to an intense six day trial, where Hamilton was found not guilty by Judge David Rees. The student could not fully articulate her responses when asked questions on the stand, despite doctors saying she would be able to. Her mother claimed to understand her daughter’s responses, but Rees needed strong evidence of the abuse before declaring Hamilton guilty. Rees later spoke with the child without her mother present, where lawyers asked her yes or no questions— the judge was concerned that the questions asked were leading questions.

The lawsuit claims that PPS was at fault for being negligent of a blanket policy that required two staff members to be in the bathroom when helping a child. “You are not required to have two staff,” said Franklin paraeducator Garrett Chong. “If you looked at a job description of a paraeducator at PPS, I don’t believe there is law requiring same gendered staff either,” said Chong.  After the lawsuit was filed, a district spokeswoman said there was no such policy.

Throughout the trial, Hamilton expressed discontent with helping children in the bathroom at all. While Hamilton was employed at Whitman, he said he had to help or faced the threat of being fired.

Since the close of the trial, Hamilton has been granted paid leave and will not be re-employed until further district investigation has concluded.



New Ski Lift on Mt. Hood

A skier tries out the new Buttercup lift. Photo by Dave Tragethon

Late this November, Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the brand-new Buttercup ski lift. As a lift for beginners, many new skiers, young and old, learn the ropes on Buttercup. Prior to the rebuilding, each chair only carried two people and the lift moved notoriously slowly. Now, the lift will carry 70% more people per hour, and the speed will increase by 30%. Additionally, the terrain around the Buttercup lift will be redone to accommodate for different levels of skiing ability and learning, adding 3.2 additional acres of beginner terrain.  Another exciting component of this lift is the loading conveyor. Changed to be more like the beginner Ballroom Carpet run, which carries skiers up the gradual slope on a wide conveyor belt, loading will be safer and easier. As skiers enter the Buttercup lift, they are carried at the speed of the arriving lift chairs by the conveyor, requiring less stopping and slowing of the lift for nervous first-time skiers. Additionally, the conveyor features an auto height adjustment, which automatically raises smaller skiers up to a foot to reach the height of the seat, furthering the efficiency of the lift.

Dave Tragethon, head of social media and public relations at Meadows, hopes the lift will “accelerate [the skiers’] abilities so they can get better, faster.” He notes that the progression from the Ballroom Carpet to the conveyor on Buttercup will help new skiers progress quickly and more comfortably. Tragethon hopes that this progression will get skiers to higher lifts in one day, instead of the usual two to three days.

Snowboarder Ethan Snyder (11) is excited about the efficiency the lift will grant. “I have a lot of friends that don’t ski and being able to take them up and get them to Vista by the end of the day [is really exciting],” he says. Vista is the second-highest lift at the resort, granting a 360º view of the mountain and forests below. “It’s something new… I’m excited to try out the new technology,” Snyder adds.

The new lift replaces the 1979 technology, increasing both efficiency and quality that will last long beyond its predecessor’s. Tragethon notes that although the new lift is more complex, requiring more maintenance and training, it is all a part of the process that will yield success and enjoyment for skiers in the long run.

For those who have spent their lives on the slopes or for those who are just beginning to think about taking a ride on the new Buttercup lift at Mt. Hood Meadows, it will be a great way to spend the weekend.


Bend-Based Kombucha Company Expands to East Coast

Bottles of Humm Kombucha are displayed at a grocery store. The company recently announced plans to expand to Roanoke, Virginia. Photo by Kathy White.

Humm Kombucha, a Bend, Oregon-based company, announced on October 31 that they will be expanding to Roanoke, Virginia. The expansion will add a 100,000 square foot brewing facility as well as 50 plus jobs to the city of Roanoke.

Humm Kombucha was founded in 2009 by two friends, Michelle Mitchell and Jamie Danek, with the hope that their company would eventually expand and reach a broad audience. The company has since gone from delivering gallon jugs door-to-door to employing 100 people in Bend. With such growth, Humm is now available in stores such as Target, Safeway, Wal-Mart, and Costco in all 50 U.S. states as well as in Guam and Sweden. Humm offers flavors including chai, pomegranate lemonade, coconut lime, apple cinnamon, original, lemon ginger, strawberry lemonade, mango passion fruit, blueberry mint, and apple berry.

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, approved a $150,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Roanoke with the construction of the new facility. The City of Roanoke, the Roanoke Economic Development Authority, the Roanoke Regional Partnership, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership also helped secure the project for Virginia. The brewing facility will be built on a 12-acre site in the Roanoke Center for Industry and Technology.

Co-founders Mitchell and Danek released a public statement expressing their excitement for the new location. “Roanoke is filled with genuinely good people. The residents love Roanoke, they have so much pride in where they live and many simply wouldn’t live anywhere else. Their outdoor amenities and culture are a huge part of their day to day,” they said. “The environment vibe is very similar to Bend. Aligning with a similar culture is a must to the ethos of our company. Combine that with Roanoke’s central location and the low cost of doing business there, and we’ve found the perfect second home for Humm.”

Construction for the new facility will begin in January 2018 and the building expects to be in operation by June 2019.


Gorge Restorations

Eagle Creek Fire smoke visible from an adjacent highway. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Oregon has undertaken recovery efforts after the destruction caused by the Eagle Creek Fire that started September 2. Due to east winds and high summer temperatures, the fire rapidly increased in size as it pushed westward. The Eagle Creek Fire endangered many wild animals, homes, livestock, and over 150 hikers trapped on trails and in camping grounds. As of October 13, the most recent statistic available at the time of publication, the National Wildlife Coordinating Group reported the fire to be 50% contained with over 48,000 acres worth of damage. With cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels, the expected fire growth is minimal.

It is important to remember that fire—even fire caused by humans—is a necessary part of nature and the forest’s ecosystem; without the occasional burn, it would become overgrown. The next step that faces the Columbia River Gorge is called secondary succession. “Forests have to go through this process of reestablishing a healthy ecosystem,” explained Matt Stewart, biology teacher at Franklin. Succession is a natural biological process that is necessary for rebuilding forests that have been largely removed. Fungi already lie among the ash from the fire, which are working to compose the soil that will be the foundation of the early stages of the forest’s regrowth. Slowly, sunlight will encourage new small plants to enrich the soil structure, allowing for larger trees to thrive. This process, if completed naturally, would take several hundreds of years, but it could be accelerated by the distribution of seeds by humans.

Fran McReynolds, Director of the Tillamook Forestry Center, explained how after the four Tillamook Forest Fires (1933-1951) that created 354,936 acres worth of damage, people from all over Oregon came out and hand-planted 76,000 acres worth of seeds. The extent of the four Tillamook Forest Fires were much more extreme than those of the the Eagle Creek Fire, and many community members around Tillamook believed that the forest would never be revived. However, in 1948, a state bond was passed that led to the planting of 72 million seeds and helicopter seeding that continued until the 1970s and helped restore the forest to its plush beauty.

The Tillamook State Forest restoration process speaks to the hope of full reassembly of the much adored Columbia River Gorge. McReynolds also described how the surrounding Tillamook community benefitted from the complete regrowth of the forest because of how much people value it. Similarly, it is the human interference in restoring hiking trails and wildlife habitat in the Gorge that could benefit the neighboring communities and heal the wounds caused by this tremendous damage. However, Stewart made sure to articulate that the process of fire restoration can only be supported and sped up to a certain degree. “[We] have to work in concert with nature, the natural processes, and human interference.” If you are looking to have a direct impact with the restoration efforts in the Gorge, the Columbia River Gorge Recovery Project encourages support through donations of time, supplies, or money.

People living in the Gorge hope to get back in their homes as soon as possible.


Guerrero Steps Up as Superintendent

Guadalupe Guerrero plays the piano in the new Franklin band room. The PPS board believes that Guerrero’s music education and his other experiences make him the most suitable person for the position. Photo by Nathan Wilk.

The new Superintendent of Portland Public Schools, Guadalupe Guerrero, was voted into office on August 11, becoming the official successor to Carole Smith, who resigned in August 2016 amid issues pertaining to lead in the PPS water supply.
The decision, which came mere weeks before the start of the school year, was the result of a meticulous search for an applicant with a specific skill set. “We were looking for a candidate who was student focused, and had experience in large, diverse school districts like ours,” said Board President Julia Brim-Edwards, who also believes that a successful Superintendent should be adaptable and have had diverse educational and career experiences.

Through their screening process, the board found Guerrero, former Deputy Superintendent of San Diego, to be an ideal candidate. Unlike Smith, who had held the same position for several years prior to her selection in 2008, Guerrero has worked in numerous fields, educational and otherwise, including as an administrator, a professional musician, and a waiter, according to a press release from PPS. He majored in music at UCLA, before ultimately pursuing a degree in education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The variety of experience Guerrero acquired throughout his life were major points of interest for Edwards and other board members.


“We have to proceed in student-centered and equity-focused ways.”
–Guadalupe Guerrero

In Boston, the Superintendent assigned Guerrero the task, as principal, of improving a struggling elementary school. In Portland, he hopes to carry on the same sentiment in his work. “It’d be tough being a student today,” he said. “We have to proceed in student-centered and equity-focused ways.” Attributing his love of music to an educational experience, according to the press release, Guerrero also believes that “school should be a place for students to discover their gifts, their talents, [and] their passions.”

Although Guerrero has no prior experience with education in PPS, Edwards believes his past experiences will make up for it. Only hours after his appointment as Superintendent, Guerrero visited the new Franklin building. If all goes as expected, he will serve through the remodeling of Grant, Madison, and Lincoln as well.

The maximum term for a Superintendent is ten years. During her eight years in office, Carole Smith saw Marshall’s closing, the replacement of OAKS tests, and a large number of other changes. If history repeats itself, then Guerrero, too, will oversee similar shifts in Portland education.

Already, Guerrero has seen the reopening of Franklin High School, the moving of Grant High School to Marshall, and other schools prepare for future remodels.


PSAT Opened to Juniors This Autumn

These pamphlets are passed out to sophomores (and juniors that opt to take the PSAT) to help them prepare for the test. Photo by Griffin Schumock

Each year Portland Public Schools pays for every sophomore to take the PSAT, but juniors also have the option to take it again with a cost of $20. “I decided to collect some data and emailed all of the junior students and parents from my three AP English Language courses to gauge interest in the PSAT,” English teacher Elisa Wong explained. “If I planned on asking for spots for juniors, I wanted to make sure that there was actual interest in the PSAT. The response was overwhelming.” This year Vice Principal Dennis Joule barricaded the English classrooms for sophomores and the health classrooms in the Gym building for the handful of juniors taking the test this year. “The challenge is getting all the other students engaged in something meaningful,” Joule said. The new campus has made this process a whole lot easier as the juniors had a quiet location to take the test, while the freshmen went to the College and Career Day, and the seniors completed resumes and other graduation requirements.

Sophomore classes take the PSAT to practice for the SAT. The experience and knowledge in knowing what future tests will be like is invaluable. However, when a student in their junior year of high school takes the PSAT, and scores highly enough, they are eligible for the National Merit Scholarship. Those who score in the top 1% of their state will qualify as semifinalists. About 15,000 of those students then move on to become National Merit finalists and earn $2,500 in scholarship money. The PSAT itself does not count towards college admissions, but the background knowledge that the test taker obtains may be helpful for their future SAT and ACT tests which are used in the college admissions process.
Nicholas Mundorff (11) recently took the PSAT in hopes of qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship. Outside of school, he took SAT prep courses to augment his chances for the scholarship money. “It was easier this year because I was more prepared for what was coming,” Mundorff said, addressing the effectiveness of sophomore year’s practice combined with practice outside of school. After the test many juniors just like Mundorff spent the rest of the day off around town, celebrating the completion of the test, but also anxious to hear how they did. For those that took the PSAT this fall, scores will be available in December.

With the move to new Franklin, the PSAT may have been a daunting task for the staff members, but the new campus facilitated a smooth day of testing. Future PSAT tests, and time spent explaining what it’s really about, are on the radar for students and staff. Joule describes the PSAT as “an opportunity,” something for one to take advantage of and not let slip by.


Relief Effort Begins in Wake of Recent Natural Disasters

Cleanup of Houston, Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Harvey is just one of many natural disasters to occur this year. Photo by Randy Chapman

Around the world for the past few months of 2017, natural disasters have dominated not only the news, but also the lives of thousands who find themselves affected. The total fatalities of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are over 200, and the cost to the US territories and states that suffered damage are astronomical, stretching into the hundreds of billions of dollars as reported by CNN. These numbers are reminiscent of one of the last enormous disasters to affect the southern United States, Hurricane Katrina. Many students, staff, and Franklin parents are sympathetic to the victims of these tragedies, and furthermore many are seeking information and education about what exactly has happened and how or if they can help.

Hurricane Harvey has ravaged parts of the American South. The damage from Hurricane Irma continues to take its toll on US territories, such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and the citizens within them. Meanwhile, the federal government struggles to provide support and relief effectively, evenly, and consistently to all affected areas.
In the face of such adversity throughout the world and the country, it’s crucial to find out what the Franklin community knows, what it can do, and most importantly what is being done right now. Parents, staff, and students have the opportunity to help as long as they are informed on the issues. Megan Whisnand, Franklin’s AP Environmental Science teacher, had this to say on how she has kept students up to date on natural disaster events: “One of the things that I would do daily is put up the global satellite images of wind patterns…so that spurs discussion.” Furthermore, she said she and her students have been having conversations focused on solutions instead of the grim realities: “There’s this balance of the reality of what’s happening… how can we take what we know and what we’re finding and creatively problem solve?”

One active problem solver in the Franklin community who has been focusing on relief and aid efforts is Randy Chapman, a Franklin parent who spent five weeks in Houston, Texas doing reconstruction work with Comcast following the disaster of Hurricane Harvey. “I was working with a group called Comcast Cares. It is [made up of] Comcast employees that join together to do volunteer work in the community,” he said. “The bulk of the work being done is for people that did not have flood insurance…the main part of what we did was to help gut the houses.”  Chapman stated that most of the immediate cleanup in Houston is done, and suggests that focus should start to shift towards other causes.

One such cause, also an example of creative student problem solving, is the Aid for Puerto Rico donation fund that sprung up from the coalition of government classes here at Franklin and their teacher, Portia Hall. The students have collected donation funds (in support of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Irma) beginning on October 9, with a goal of $1000. The relief support to this area by the government has been a topic of controversy, specifically because of President Trump’s warnings of withdrawal of support. As a result, citizen support groups like the student fund are incredibly important at this time. “Ms. Hall presented the project to us,” said Jillian Britton (12). “She said she wanted to do this as an assignment for us. Last year, people did the mock election because that was the year of the election… outside of election years she wants us to do some kind of relief project.” Britton further explained the reasoning behind the fund. “This class is about ‘adulting’, and part of that is caring about the world. This is a good way to do that.”

Hall also commented on the project, saying, “I want there to be a real world project… with the crisis in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the lack of awareness is why I decided on that cause. But everything else was done by students.” Britton explained the student work: “Some of the classes did research on the history of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, while our class mostly collected money.” Britton was frank about her goal the community: “Bring money and help out!”


Cleveland Senior Spearheads Proposal to Add Anti-Assault Policy

Alexis Roulette (11), a member of the SAFER club, is committed to making Franklin a place where all students can feel safe. Photo by Adriane Burk.

This April, the school board was given a proposal, headed by Cleveland High School senior Annabelle Schwartz, to strengthen the Portland Public Schools (PPS) student anti-harassment policy by including specific procedures on how to deal with sexual assault from students. It offers clearer guidelines to principals on how to investigate all claims, promptly, and to determine whether an alleged assailant needs to be punished and how. It also directs students with questions to a coordinator of sexual-assault prevention and response— a new position being created for next school year.

If the proposal is passed, this will be the first time PPS policy specifically declares sexual assault and sexual abuse as prohibited behavior. Until now, PPS’s written policy has been limited to forbidding sexual harassment among students, but it leaves out other behaviors that are outlawed under Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law that PPS follows as a recipient of federal funds.

Aside from school-supported extracurricular activities, student discipline rules typically apply only to behavior in school. It can be argued that under Title IX, however, assaults that happens off campus and disrupt the school environment can also be reason for discipline. The new policy works to spell that out.

The proposal was set in motion a year and a half ago. Schwartz testified before the PPS School Board and delivered an urgent message. Students who had been sexually victimized by other students weren’t getting any help from administration, who seemed to dismiss the claims.

“When survivors go to administrators with allegations of sexual assault they’re basically getting nothing but an, ‘I’m sorry,'” Schwartz says. “The policy didn’t mention sexual assault. It uses the word sexual harassment, but that doesn’t necessarily include sexual assault. Thus, there is not guidelines for how to deal with reports of student-on-student assault.”

Schwartz has since dedicated herself to ensuring that everyone has adequate access to support regarding assault. Not only has she headed this proposal, but she is also the chair of Students Active For Ending Rape, or SAFER (Franklin also has a SAFER club which any student can join), and she has an open door policy to anyone who needs support.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure this policy is used and administration works hard for survivors,” Schwartz explains. “Principals and their staff need to follow this, but students need to know it’s there, and advocate for each other.”
The policy will be voted on sometime this month.