Jefferson High School (Portland, Oregon)

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Thomas Jefferson High School
Jefferson High School - Portland, Oregon (2017).jpg
Viewed from the north in 2017
5210 N. Kerby Avenue

, ,

United States
Coordinates45°33′37″N 122°40′20″W / 45.5604°N 122.6721°W / 45.5604; -122.6721Coordinates: 45°33′37″N 122°40′20″W / 45.5604°N 122.6721°W / 45.5604; -122.6721
School districtPortland Public Schools
PrincipalMargaret Calvert[1][2]
Number of students656 (2018-19 enrollment)[4]
Color(s)Blue and gold   [3]
Athletics conferenceOSAA Portland Interscholastic League 6A-1[3]
NewspaperThe Pace
WebsiteJefferson High School

Thomas Jefferson High School (colloquially, Jefferson High School) is a public high school in Portland, Oregon, United States, founded in 1908.


Photo from circa the 1910s

Jefferson opened in September 1908,[5] and was initially named Albina High School, but was renamed Jefferson High School in early 1909.[6] The school was not ready in 1908, but was opened early due to overcrowding. It was finished on February 6, 1910.[5] The Oregonian reported in January 1922 that Jefferson was the largest high school in Portland, with 2,063 students.[7] Hopkin Jenkins was principal at Jefferson from its opening until June 1940.[5]

Due to the baby boom and passing of a $25 million building levy by the school district in 1947, a new high school was slated.

In September 1991, "at least six fires" were set at the school by an arsonist.[8]

On January 7, 2008, Mayor Potter relocated City Hall to Jefferson for a week. Potter held a City Council meeting and delivered the State of the City address there. The aim was stated to be to "give students, parents and educators a first hand lesson in how government really works - and to showcase the opportunities, successes and challenges facing every school in Portland's six public school districts."[9]

School profile[edit]

Jefferson High School graduation demonstrates an ethnic diversity which is rare for Portland, which has been referred to as "the whitest major city" in the United States.[10]

In 2009–10, Jefferson was the only school in Oregon to have a majority of African American students.[11] As of 2018, the school's ethnic demographics were 41% African American, 28% European American, 17% Hispanic, 10% Two or more races, 2% Asian, 2% Hawaiian, and 1% American Indian.[12]

In 2018, 84% of the school's seniors received a high school diploma, higher than the state average of 80%.[12]

In September 2011, all freshman students were required to participate in the Middle College for Advanced Studies. This program was explained as follows:

Freshmen and sophomores focus on their core subjects at Jefferson. They learn skills such as study habits and organization to prepare them for college coursework and move through classes in groups — or academies - with the same set of teachers.

As students are ready, they move to college prep classes at Jefferson and college courses at Portland Community College Cascade Campus, mostly in their junior and senior years. College pathways range from preparation for a four-year college to careers such as emergency medical technician, medical assistant, firefighter, and heating, ventilation and cooling technician.

College coursework is offered at no cost to Jefferson students. Students who receive special education services may participate in the Middle College as recommended by their individualized education plan teams.

Students who are learning English may participate in the Middle College by taking credit-bearing ESOL courses and other courses consistent with their English language level.

Counselors and advisers at Portland Community College and Jefferson closely support students as they progress. Self Enhancement, Inc., a youth-development nonprofit, provides core support services as tutoring and mentoring to all Jefferson students.

Students earn high school diplomas from Jefferson as well as 12 to 45 college credits from Portland Community College that are transferable to other colleges and universities.

Dance program[edit]

In the mid-1970s, in an attempt to integrate the student body, Jefferson High School introduced the magnet arts program and the dance program to attract students from other Portland high school attendance areas. The dance program was founded by Mary Vinton Folberg, sister of Will Vinton (creator of Claymation). Folberg modelled the Jefferson Dance Department after the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. While the magnet arts and dance program attracted some white students from other school attendance areas, some[who?] argue that this has not led to integrating the student body, and that only a small percentage of black students in this traditionally black school are able to enroll in the dance and arts programs.

The Jefferson dance program teaches different levels of a broad range of dance styles, including ballet, tap, African, modern, hip hop and jazz. Twice each school year the students' achievements are publicly showcased in recitals in the school's auditorium: one in the winter and one in the spring. Considered[by whom?] a foundation of many types of dance, ballet is an essential part of many dance students' educations. However, the Jefferson dance program and school-based company, the Jefferson Dancers, lacked advanced ballet training for about a decade. In the 2009 winter recital, the Jefferson Dancers performed the school's first piece en pointe in about ten years.

The Jefferson Dancers[edit]

World-famous choreographer Donald McKayle (seated, center) posed with members of the Jefferson Dancers, in 1992, after a week-long rehearsal in which he taught the company two of his signature dances: "Games" and "Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder"

In the late 1970s, Folberg founded the student dance company The Jefferson Dancers. Since its founding, the company has grown and changed, exposing its members to a diverse range of dance styles, including ballet, modern, African, tap, jazz and hip hop. The company's dance instructors are highly qualified and have led successful dance careers. Some instructors have continued to perform during their involvement with the Jefferson Dancers. Promising company members are awarded scholarships at each spring recital, and company auditions are held for two days each spring.

The company performs twice annually at Jefferson High School's winter and spring dance recitals, as well as throughout Portland, Oregon, and the world. The company toured in Germany in April 2009, Italy in March 2011, and China in 2013.[13]


The Jeff High Democrat

Men's basketball[edit]

The men's basketball team has been one of the most successful programs in Oregon. Jefferson has produced 40 plus D1 basketball recruits in program history. Some previous democrat recruits have chosen to play at Washington, Texas, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Oregon, USC, Kansas, Michigan, and other schools. Six former players have been ranked in the top 100 in the country and Terrence Jones was named a McDonald's All American in 2010. Jefferson has won state titles in 1951, 1972, 2000, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2017. Pat Strickland has been head coach since 2008.

State championships[edit]

  • Boys' basketball: 1951, 1972, 2000, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2017[14]
  • Girls' basketball: 2008, 2010[15]
  • Football: 1957, 1958
  • Boys' swimming: 1951
  • Girls' swimming: 1952, 1953
  • Baseball: 1946, 1947, 1959
  • Girls' tennis: 1951, 1953, 1954
  • Boys' track & field: 1944, 1945, 1960, 1963
  • Girls' track & field: 1984

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Oregon School Directory 2018-19" (PDF). Oregon Department of Education. p. 69. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  2. ^ Hammond, Betsy (May 25, 2011). "New principal for Portland's Jefferson High is the school's assistant principal". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2012-02-11.
  3. ^ a b c "Jefferson High School, Portland". Oregon School Activities Association. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c Polich, Edward L. (1950). A history of Portland's secondary school system with emphasis on the superintendents and the curriculum (PDF) (M.A.). University of Portland. pp. 68, 126. OCLC 232551057.
  6. ^ "Change in Names of High Schools; West Side is Lincoln, East Side is Washington and Albina to Be Jefferson". The Morning Oregonian. February 9, 1909. p. 10.
  7. ^ "Portland Leads Whole United States in Percentage of High School Enrollment in Proportion to Population and System's Growth is Large". The Morning Oregonian. January 2, 1922. Sec. 6, p. 18, col. 6.
  8. ^ "Previous Portland-area school fires". The Oregonian. November 10, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  9. ^ Mayor Potter moving office to Jefferson High School for week of January 14–18; will hold City Council meeting and deliver State of the City on campus (01/07/08)
  10. ^ Hannah-Jones, Nikole (April 30, 2011). "In Portland's heart, 2010 Census shows diversity dwindling". OregonLive. Retrieved November 29, 2017.
  11. ^ Melton, Kimberly (January 21, 2010). "What will be the fate of my high school?". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2010-02-09.
  12. ^ a b "Jefferson High School Profile (2021) | Portland, OR". Public School Review. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  13. ^ "Jefferson dance troupe benefits from school's transformation". The Portland Tribune. April 20, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Turnquist, Kristi (April 21, 2013). "Portland Native Talks About His Role in 'Rectify'". OregonLive. Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  17. ^ "Doc Baker on 'Little House' dies at 77". USA Today. Associated Press. July 11, 2005. Retrieved 2015-04-12.
  18. ^ Mapes, Jeff; and Dulkin, Diane (September 13, 1990). "Nancy Ryles dies of brain cancer". The Oregonian, p. 1.

External links[edit]