Letter to the editor
To Superintendent Carole Smith and the School Board:
I was shocked to learn that the Harriet Tubman Young Women’s Leadership Academy is on the block for closure. In light of parent testimonies in the Portland Observer and elsewhere, closing Tubman appears to be merely a symbolic gesture, not a great saving, not worth the loss. I urge you to reconsider.
The culminating story in my recently published book, “First Families of Vancouver’s African American Community,” tells of a young single mother of three with no income, no education, and no hope who volunteered in her daughter’s kindergarten class at Portland’s Eliot School in the 1960s and was given a chance by the school’s principal Bob Harold to work as a teacher’s aide.
Nine years into that job, Idamae Bain Greenidge earned her degree and certification at Portland State University and became an elementary teacher for Portland Public Schools, retiring in 2001 after 34 years with the district.
It has been a satisfaction to Mrs. Greenidge to watch the Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women taking root over the last five years on the grounds of the former Eliot School, where she got her start. There was nothing like that for her when she needed it.
After being shut out of ninth grade as “a bad influence” for being pregnant, then passed into the 10th grade unprepared, then shut out again, she possessed no sense of her gifts until Bob Harold happened to notice them. She was lucky, and so were her future students.
The Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy, likewise, is planting seeds with young women that will benefit the entire community and it should continue to grow and mature.
A Tubman parent said “we don’t have the history, the community support or a champion in the district like other schools.” Here is a single strand of deep-rooted history, one life story, when woven into the achievements of countless other women during the same period, should serve as illustration why Tubman should be encouraged, not closed.
Tubman is an opportunity for Portland Public Schools, not an obstacle. Why uproot this effort when it is just beginning to flourish? What side of history are we on?
Jane Elder Wulff