Interview with Peyton Chapman | October 24, 2015

Lincoln High School is one of Portland’s largest and most highly regarded public schools. At almost 200 percent capacity, it is Principal Peyton Chapman’s job to insure every day seventeen hundred kids come in and out of school and have a room where they can have class-a strangely difficult job.

“The teachers’ contract says they can not teach more than 180 students, but ideally they are teaching no more than 134 students,” says Chapman.

The Lincoln Foundation raised three hundred twenty thousand dollars this year; all for hiring new teachers. But there is a dilemma: where do we put them?

“We are out of classrooms. There is no place to put them. Lincoln is a high demand school, it has a great reputation, and people don’t want to transfer out. So we have to teach them.”

There is a district wide boundary committee which is currently working on a re-boundary proposal of the school districts. This would certainly lower the amount of kids coming each year, but Chapman says this would not be solving the real issue.

“People are up in arms about where their kids are going to go to school. I’m really hoping the district committee won’t bring up Lincoln in the upcoming hearing.”

Instead, her solution would be a whole new Lincoln.

“We need a new school. It is built for nine hundred, it was a stretch when we had thirteen fifty. There is nothing worth saving.”

So Chapman is crossing her fingers for the 2016 bond that will fund the building of a new campus.

“I will be extremely disappointed if after eight years of work, it doesn’t get passed.”

This bond in full is worth about five hundred million dollars.

“It’s not all going to pass, but it is going to pass. I don’t know what we would do [if it does not pass].”

The bond would create a new school on the current campus, on the side of the track opposite of the current building.

“This is the only building of its kind in  the state on eleven acres, in the heart of the biggest city in the state, next to PSU which is slated to grow to the size of University of Washington by 2025. We are not moving anywhere.”

The outcome of this bond is in Chapman’s hands. She had been telling the story of Lincoln for the past eight years, has gone to every meeting, is the  head of the University of Oregon enrollment board, joined the PSU consortium and is representing Oregon as high school principal for the state.

“It is time to reinvest in rebuilding our schools,” Chapman says.

Drugs and alcohol:

Even though Lincoln is held in very high regard, people often think of Lincoln as a place where drugs and alcohol is highly prevalent.

For example, some nicknames for Lincoln are ‘drinkin Lincoln’ or ‘cocaine Cardinals.’

“We have really low rates compared to other schools in the district, but we want zero of those issues. We have about five to ten percent of students who are dealing with these issues regularly. And they are usually the ones to bring it on to school campus. But as kids are positively engaged in activities (sports, robotics, etc.) they will make better choices,” Chapman says.

My time with Peyton

Since I interviewed Chapman I have spent some time with her outside of my journalism. On the 15th of October, I shadowed Chapman on a city wide event called ‘Principal for a Day’. This was where politicians from all around the city shadowed principals at public high schools to get to know the school system a little better. Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick shadowed Chapman and I was lucky enough to come along. I sat in on a couple meetings (one about design of the new school and another about bringing public gender neutral bathrooms to Lincoln). I also had the opportunity to join Chapman at a Moda Center convention of politicians and principals from all around the city.

Want to know more about Steve Novick?

About Peyton

Family: Peyton is 49, married to Aubrey Russell, and has three children named Halle (age 22), Alden Saier (age 12), and Everett (age 10). They also have two German Shepherds named Phoebe and Sweet Pea.

Where does she live?: Peyton and her family live on a small farm in the city. The farm is “a ton of work, literally 3-4 hours a day, but it is one of the most beautiful places anyone could ever live.”  Peyton went to Kenyon College in Ohio, Washington College of Law at The American University in DC, and later got her Masters in teaching/administrative licensure at Lewis and Clark College.
Where did she grow up?: Peyton grew up in Ohio, Florida and Massachusetts.

Hobbies: Peyton’s hobbies are reading, travel, hiking, walking, swimming, spending time with friends and family and politics. She also “loves studying humans, human interactions, and thinking about ways that I can help connect people to opportunities and celebrate their successes. It’s part of my job but it also feels like something I just enjoy doing all the time.”

2 thoughts on “Interview with Peyton Chapman | October 24, 2015

  1. This was a great interview and gives a hint to the amount of work our principals do in this world. It’s not an easy job and I’m glad Peyton is doing it for your school!


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