First Advisor

Carl Abbott

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Urban Studies (M.U.S.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies


Schools -- Centralization -- Oregon -- Multnomah County, Community and school -- Oregon -- Multnomah County, Neighborhoods -- Oregon -- Multnomah County



Physical Description

1 online resource (4, vii, 218 p.)


"Hidden Hills" is a secure, isolated enclave of 550 homes, with a long history of political and economic power wielded, in some cases, by families who have lived there for generations. This neighborhood serves as the bedroom for many of Portland's wealthy and well-known and has housed many of Oregon's-leading figures. It is faced with SB 917, a 1991 mandate to merge its only formal social institution, its 104-year-old school district, with one of two contiguous districts. Merger will not mean the immediate closure of the school, but will mean the loss of local administrative and political control and changes in the delivery of education and the arrangement of staff and students. The school will be run by another district in another community. This eighteen-month field study was undertaken in order to answer the questions: (a) How do neighborhood residents define this situation, and (b) What strategies will they devise to cope with the situation. I entered the community as a marginal participant and full observer. "Marginal" because, although I was the official recorder for both the school board's Consolidation Task Force (CTF) and High School Option Committee, I attended numerous other school and community meetings as a full spectator. I also conducted both formal and informal interviews and conversed casually with residents at every opportunity. Sources of secondary data were the 1990 Decennial Census: Multnomah County Elections Office: Oregon Department of Education; Oregon Historical Society Library; City of Portland Urban Services; Hidden Hills School District; and Multnomah County's Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission. The mandate to merge posed a threat to the neighborhood. The school is valued both for its educative and non-educative functions. It is a symbol of the neighborhood's integrity, part of which is its long history and body of tradition. It stands as testimony to the neighborhood's distinctiveness, which partially inheres in the institutionalization and the privatization of its school. It is the school that residents feel distinguishes this affluent neighborhood from other such neighborhoods. Its social cohesiveness and small-town atmosphere is perceived by residents as unique. There is a symbiosis between the school and the neighborhood that makes any threat to the school a threat to the neighborhood's identity. The rational response was mounted by the CTF, whose progress was halted at the point where neighborhood input was necessary but not forthcoming, due to what members perceived as denial. But residents were articulating a form of anticipatory grieving in the recurring reference to loss loss of identity, loss of local control, loss of the neighborhood school, and loss of academic excellence and small class-size. There was organized apathy among residents while they assimilated the fact that things this time were different. Initial impulses to make the old, formerly effective, forays "down to Salem" weren't working to gain exemption from the grip of the new law. It was time to form new lines of action based on a new definition of the situation. The CTF redefined the situation and did its work by identifying five options to consolidation. Residents were then brought together at neighborhood coffees where their subjective realities were negotiated within the constraints of the objective reality of the consolidation mandate. During these negotiations an intersubjective reality was realized where all residents, while having their own subjective meanings of the threat to the school and the neighborhood, were still able to articulate the objective fact that this was a threat to a core structure of meaning. Core values, beliefs, identity, and assumptions were brought into relief as residents re-defined the situation and discussed strategies to cope as a neighborhood, rather than as individuals. The CTF was given much-needed direction from neighbors.


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