An Ode to Our Public School

A story of the little school that could

Kerala Taylor
8 min readSep 20, 2022


Photo by Weston Ruter via Google.

I know I’m supposed to complain about my children’s public school.

There is so much wrong with our country’s education system — scarce resources, overcrowded classrooms, deteriorating facilities. Too much standardized testing; not enough recess, P.E., music, art. Racial inequities, class inequities. Underpaid, burnt out, and disempowered teachers, unequipped to handle increasing behavioral challenges in the classroom.

I could go on (and on) about the myriad ways in which our public education system is failing our children. But that’s not what I’m going to do today.

Today, I want to tell a story about a public school in Northeast Portland, Oregon that has, against steep odds, forged a thriving community and strong sense of school pride. It’s not a rich school. It’s not a “white school.” In fact, it is designated by the city as a low-income school, and students of color, including my children, make up over 50% of the student body.

The Internet does not give our public school a resounding endorsement. Test scores are low. The school ranks 45 out of 61 Portland public elementary schools, and proficiency in math is deemed “well below average.”

If I were a prospective parent with the privilege of school choice, I might think twice about sending my child there. In fact, I did think twice about sending my child there. At the advice of my neighbor, who was a school parent, I entered every charter school lottery I could find. I attended info sessions where 200 parents were vying for 10 spots.

The truth was, I wanted to send my children to our district school, but I wanted to feel good about it, too. I myself never experienced public education. From preschool through eighth grade, I attended the independent school where my parents both taught, then went on to a private high school and college.

I benefited from a wonderful education in a nurturing community, but it came with a hefty price tag — even with the steep discounts my parents received. Plus, my friends were spread all over the city, and they nearly all came from families who could afford private education.



Kerala Taylor

Award-winning writer. Interrupting notions of what it means to be a mother, woman, worker, and wife. Subscribe: