Who gets to choose and who does not

3:42 pm

Last week Madison High School received the news of the departure of our principal to a job in the central office. With that news came the announcement of the new appointee as principal. This announcement did not come from the mouth of our Principal as we were to wait for Human Resources personnel to make the announcement.

While we were waiting for HR to show, I posed the question addressing the issue of interviewing candidates for replacement administration given that there was quite an elaborate interview process when our current principal was hired to take the job at Madison. I was told to ask this question of our representative from Human Resources who had not shown to play her role in the flurry of administrative announcements taking place at Madison.

When HR arrived I posed the same question and was told in so many words that our superintendent, Carole Smith, felt that the new appointee was the best fit for Madison teachers, students and community. She became quite coy with all of us in the room and would not tell us the name of the new principal saying that there were others to be told first. We were told that HR would be coming for the express purpose of telling us all who would be leading us next year so there was a degree of confusion and anger in the room. I left to help with a track meet but not before saying to the room in general that I felt manipulated and gamed and would enjoy spending time with the real patrons of this district, the children.

We were also told at this same meeting that the current administrative team asked central office for additional administrative support for next year. Astounded at this announcement given our projected enrollment of 822 + students for next year, I reminded those present that when we started 11 years ago at Madison there were 1392 students, one principal and two vice principals.

Next year we will have two counselors and when I started there were five counselors.

Seeking additional administrative support beyond the one principal and one VP allocated by central office seems beyond unreasonable given the cuts we are expecting in the building for next year. Today I opened an email from saying that the principal staring that we are to receive an additional VP as well as an additional .59 FTE for teachers but that we still will lose 11.25 FTE for next year.

Madison, in the years that I have been a counselor here, has seen a very steep decline in enrollment. The demographics have gone from primarily middle class to predominantly working class and immigrant families.

We have become a minority majority school with the usual plethora of problems that comes with poverty-affected, drug-affected, gang-affected families. The resilient children that come out of this milieu make Madison a place that is full of challenge as well as enormous reward for those of us who love the children and everything else that comes along with them.

Good teaching and lots of it is making a difference in the lives of these kids. Many are succeeding and they are succeeding because of the tenaciousness and the talents of the staff who care deeply for their students and expect more with less after being asked to do more with less. Teachers will have more students and there will be fewer elective offerings next year.

Madison does not need another vice-principal. Madison needs to keep as many of our teachers as possible so that class size does not explode. We have a thriving and amazing art and music program but when those are the only electives and art is cut by 1.5 teachers, class size grows and teaching becomes only about management, safety, and containment. There is not a lot of enrichment in an art class filled with 40 students and only half of them are there for the interest or the love of art. The rest are there because they have to be somewhere and there is no shop, automotive, metals, or business.

Madison. A poor school. Not a district powerhouse like Grant or Lincoln or Cleveland. No rich parents. No doctors in the house. No attorneys. We do have a new principal and she was chosen for us. Is she the best fit? Questionable when her reputation proceeds her. The word on the street is not good and her placement does not bode well for the year ahead. Is the staff being punished for our vote of no confidence for the outgoing principal? Did the expensive consultant hired to fix the discontent at Madison address the issue of leadership? Not once? Side stepping issues of leadership and leading us to the decision we had come to in the library the year before appeared to be a lesson in redundancy. Precious time spent for precious little only getting us to where we started: small schools are not working and we need to go back to a comprehensive model that shelters our 9th graders.

The new principal is not a principal from a successful comprehensive high school but a small school administrator. Her administrative background has been in elementary schools and possibly some time as a VP in a high school. Carole Smith owes it to Madison to explain to us how this particular administrator is the best fit for Madison.

Would Lincoln High School ever experience the indignities of a Madison? Would Carole Smith drop a principal on the heads of those West Side parents and students, especially one who comes with little experience in bringing schools together, working collaboratively, sharing governance? Never! How about Grant or Cleveland or any of the other schools where there is a collective body of parents who are fortunate enough to have the luxury of time, money, and privilege to assert their basic rights as parents and patrons of the district. Madison deserves better as there is a lot of potential out here on the East side of this city.

There were at least two capable and qualified administrators that could have moved into the principal’s position with proven track records for being people who respect and care about teachers and the contributions they make to student success.

My lament is for the waste at the top and the loss of the potential for empowering a staff that has felt neglected for years. Moving bad leaders from one building to the other or to central office has a ripple effect on students and when those students are damaged by the hand they have been dealt in life the ripples become tidal waves. I am grateful for the tremendous teachers on this staff who stay in spite of how hard it gets year after year. I am grateful for the students who show up, graduate, win scholarships and awards in spite of their circumstances.

We all deserve better and sending us a stranger and tacking on an additional administrator deserves only scorn and shame to those who make decisions without knowing the real heart and soul of what a school like Madison was, is and could be. I am not alone in saying no thanks for the extra administrator and no thanks for another schools reject.

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David Colton is a high school counselor and a former English and drama teacher.

filed under: High Schools, Labor Relations, Madison High, Small Schools

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71 Responses

  1. Comment from Steve Buel:

    David, you are right on the mark. People can talk all they want about how the district is improving and we need to all work within the collaborative framework and not make waves. But this is another example of why that attitude is the wrong one. We need to not make waves but tsunamis. The people controlling this district aren’t willing to listen to the Madisons. Nor to anyone else who isn’t in their own country club-like collaborative
    network. Keep up the good work!!

  2. Comment from Marian:


    It is so refreshing to hear someone who really cares about Madison speak so candidly about its true state. I hear you. I know you are one of many staff and community members who love the school and want it to return to its glory.

    I hope Carole Smith and the school board are listening and HEAR you.

  3. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    It seems to me that it is far more important to find out what the new principal plans for Madison and what the district plans for Madison than it is to second-guess the HR department or the superintendent.

    If the new principal does not work out, than by all means it is important to acknowledge that and deal with it promptly, but poisoning the waters before the new principal takes over helps nothing.

  4. Comment from Steve Buel:

    PPS_parent, it appears PPS didn’t follow its own policy in principal selection, though I can’t say for sure. But if the selection process wasn’t followed the best time to deal with that is before the principal comes in the door. Pretty hard to dislodge a sitting principal. When people complain about process and inequity there is a tendency to tell them to wait and see how it works out. But by that time the damage is done — i.e. the K-8′s.

  5. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Violation of due process and inequity in hiring a principal are serious charges. If you have evidence that these things occurred you should produce it. If not, I don’t see the point of speculating. Getting Madison moving in more positive directions is going to take everyone pulling together, so why fan the flames of divisiveness?

  6. Comment from Steve Buel:

    PPS_parent, Not DUE PROCESS, district policy. That kind of stuff happens all the time I imagine. It is not a serious charge just an observation. And speculation on what the process might actually be fits a medium such as a blog.

  7. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    I don’t understand how you think that claiming the district violated its own policy is not a serious charge – particularly on a matter as serious as hiring a principal. That is a very serious charge. The superintendent can not pick and choose what policies to enforce and the board can not abrogate its responsibility of assuring that policies are carried out.

  8. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    PPS_Parent – district administrators violate policy every day. I spent four years working in PPS HR department complaining about it. For example, District administrators regularly hired employees and let them begin working without completing applications and/or background checks. Some administrators even hired family members to work under them.

    I’ve had kids in PPS for 18 years and the district has always shuffled bad administrators from poor school to poor school or promotes them to central office positions. Board Administrative Directive 5.60.016-AD covers parent involvement in principal hiring and transfers.

  9. Comment from Terry:


    When I was at Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, teachers had a say in the hiring of building administrators. Committees of teachers hired other teachers.

    And teachers pretty much decided, in a democratic fashion, how the school was run. It’s called teacher empowerment.

    There’s absolutely no excuse for this PPS exercise in top-down district mismanagement. Carole smith ought to hang her head in shame.

    David Colton, why not round up your fellow teachers and attend the next school board meeting in protest of how the district has treated Madison High? Sign up for public comments. Hold up signs. Do whatever you have to do to get the attention of the board.

    You and your colleagues have every right to be angry. Let the board know, and challenge them to do something about it.

    The one responsibility the board can’t avoid is holding the superintendent responsible for her actions and her decisions. They, after all, were the ones who hired her.

  10. Comment from Susan:

    PPS_Parent, your comments are dismissive of past history. David is writing about the staff at Madison being excluded from the processes of guiding their school, which has been on-goining for years. He also wrote about his concern about adding more administrators to a school that is losing teaching and counseling staff.

    During the K8 reorg, the teaching staff of one elementary ( minus two), wrote, signed and delivered a letter to the super., board members and audience at a board meeting stating that they had serious specific concerns about the reorg. of their school and included questions they wanted answers and possible alternatives that they wanted considered. The response? None.

    Almost every board member candidate, and the new super., has stated the need for staff and community input and buy-in in order to make any school successful.

  11. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Like I said, violating policy is a serious matter. The fact that it happens frequently makes the matter all the more serious.

    A quick read of PPS policy for hiring principals says that the superintendent picks the principal after some vaguely defined consultation with the community. Nowhere do the policies specify what weight the superintendent has to give to the recommendations from the school community – on the contrary the policy is clear that the superintendent makes the call. Vague policies engender controversy because there is always something some people feel is working against them.

    If the policies need to be changed it would be helpful to suggest specific changes.

  12. Comment from mary:

    After reading the 37 page “Portland Public Schools Licensed Building Administrator and Executive Level Hiring Manual” It seems quite clear the intent of district policy is to include the school community in the decision process.

    The board policy clearly states procedures “have been established to involve stakeholders..” Page 5 also states that the superintendent and an HR administrator “will confer with representatives of the school community, including teachers,parents, community members and students. Collaboration between district administrators and the school community will result in advice on important selection criteria..” The school community “includes staff, parents, community members and students.” So from the very beginning of determining selection criteria, the community should be involved.

    One of the Human Resources responsibilities outlined on page 18 is to “Schedule district level and school-based focus group meetings.” A responsibility of the Area Director is to “Ensure clear communications with each school community in conjunction with human resources.”

    The District Screening and Interview Committe is responsible for “Assisting in giving training to the school-based commitee” and “Assisting the school-based committee with creating candidate interview questions” among other tasks clearly related to a community based process.

    The hiring manual includes an entire section on Community Involvement that outlines the purpose of the community meeting. HR is to “facilitate the community meeting and present the procedures for the hiring process, including recruitment strategies and district selection criteria” and “Gather input on the characteristics of the new principal.”

    The manual also includes guidelines for creating the school based committee and training members. There is even a helpful outline for the community meeting agenda and a community meeting handout (pages 21-23).

    A handy hiring process flowchart includes “community meeting scheduled” and more specifically includes boxes for HR information gathering to include “community preferred characteristics” and “community identified needs and characteristics” in the HR report.

    This entire process was bypassed for the Madison community. The superintendent clearly owes Portland an explanation as to why this process was ignored.

  13. Comment from Rita:

    I can testify other schools being given an opportunity to weigh in on the choice of principal. When my son’s K-8 school was changing principals, we had an HR person attend the PTA community meeting to explain the process, and establish a wish list of characteristics that the community wanted in the new principal. Applications for an interview committee were solicited from interested parents. Those chosen (by PTA? don’t remember) were required to attend a full day training. The committee interviewed candidates and forwarded their recommendation to HR. The ultimate decision was clearly the Superintendent’s, but HR took pains to assure us all that our views would be seriously considered.

    In light of last year’s rebellion against the principal at Madison, one would think that the district would be even more solicitous of the school community’s views.

    One would think….

  14. Comment from Peter Campbell:

    This is clearly Carole Smith’s biggest fumble so far. I hope she takes actions to rectify this.

  15. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    I agree, but as a K-8 teacher, and seeing the fiasco there, are we really surprised? Carole Smith talked a good talk, and I was optimistic about her plans as a new superintendent, but with this I have to say, it’s more of the same. A group of administrators meeting in a back room to decide policy which the teachers have to carry out, and students have to suffer through.

  16. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    I can understand school employees wanting to have a voice in picking their principal and in other matters related to running their school. I also understand that parents want to have a say on these matters)I am one of them, in fact).

    But it seems to me that there would be problems even if, for example, the policies for selecting principals and involving parents had been followed perfectly in the Madison case. The policies are vague on how individuals are chosen to represent parents, students, teachers, and other members of the school community and they don’t address how to proceed if there are differences of opinion concerning candidates. That’s not trivial because there are strong differences of opinion about how schools should be run, as the discussion of charter school showed. And as I said before, the policies don’t define what weight the superintendent should give to their input.

    So I from a public-relations standpoint a district might have
    more happy campers if there is a lot of activity around involving parents and the community, but I’m not sure how much all of that does or should affect district decision-making.

  17. Comment from Ken:

    Even if you claim the policies are vague, to ignore any input from the community – parents, teachers, even students – is to throw out any notion of democratic decision-making. There are bound to be differences of opinion; removing parents/teachers/students to simplify the process is an excuse that we cannot accept. A sense of localized power goes out the window when community members do not have a say in their leadership. The Madison community is rightfully upset about the events in light of Portland’s recent history of highly questionable decision-making (and the mixed bag on Smith).

  18. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Believe me, I know vague policy when I see it.

    I don’t argue for ignoring input from the community in decision-making about schools. In fact, I think that an open and inclusive process is both healthy and desirable. My point is that the process is more complex than it appears.

    There are hard questions around this. Who forms the Madison “community”, who gets appointed to be spokespersons for that community, how we determine whether they truly represent opinions of the community, and what weight should their opinions have in district decision-making?

    Finally, I believe the notion that school communities will always work for the greater good is false by history. It took federal troops to integrate schools in the South and it took federal legislation to open the schools to children with special needs. What I’m saying is that decision-making by public officials and those answerable to them is in fact the foundation of our democracy.

    What evidence is there that the upset in the Madison community is widespread?

  19. Comment from Steve Buel:

    It seems like it would make a lot of sense to consult teachers about the new principal particularlly when there has been so much unrest within the school. I have been on staffs where PPS has said they would consult the staff and then pushed the principal down their throats. Doesn’t build a lot of good will or help with morale. I think the point was that whether in making such an obvious mistake this characterized in some manner Carole Smith’s approach or not. Or was it just more of the way PPS has done things over the past few years. Actually it is an interesting question. Wish I knew the answer.

  20. Comment from mary:

    After having served on two LSACs during the K-8 reconfiguration, how to form a cmmittee is not that vague. Usually an anouncement that a committee is being formed goes out and interested parties can volunteer. Yes, differences of opinion occur. However, despite differing opinions, the process allows for people to voice their concerns and ideas. It is up to parents, students and citizens to take the initiative and get involved.

    In the case of appointing a principal, the superintendent has the final say. The committee process would give the superintendent more information on which to make the final appointment. The superintendent cannot possibly know the details of every school’s issues.

    Do we really need evidence that there is widespread upset in the Madison community? The process was done poorly whether or not the upset is widespread.

    I have been reflecting recently on this situation. One of the reasons often cited by my neighbors for transferring out of Madison is that the parents there are “not involved,” “not engaged,” and even “don’t care about education.” Choosing a principal is a great opportunity for more engagement in the school. Many factors contribute to a lack of parent involvement. The district needs to do a better job of giving us opportunities to get involved. They really blew this one.

  21. Comment from Steve Buel:

    At one point Don McElroy, the asst. superintendent had a pretty good idea of what was going on at each school. So did the area directors. Now the supt.’s main asst. is a political guy. Big difference. It can be done and is, in fact, critically important.

  22. Comment from anon:

    As a former Jefferson cluster parent I urge Madison folks to fight like hell for a voice in principal selection process!

  23. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    anon – It might be helpful to Madison folks to hear about your experience at Jefferson. Are you willing to share?

  24. Comment from mary:

    I think PPPSparent has an interesting point that members of a school community do not always work for the greater good or for that matter represent the entire community. There may be cases when a committee purports to represent a whole school and in fact does not. This is one reason why there needs to be a balance between grass-roots and top-down. Its fine for the superintendent to have the final say in hiring. The elected board also weighs in. Its a system with some checks and balances.

    There may be a perfectly sound reason for the way the Madison process played out. Maybe a “plum” candidate came along with another job offer and the whole process needed to be expedited. Who knows. What is frustrating is that wealthier schools seem to have more say, more opportunities to give input, and the district tends to take a paternalistic attitude toward Madison, Marshall, Jefferson and Roosevelt. For example, when K-8s were initially proposed the Cleveland cluster was to go K-8. The cluster was allowed to come up with their own plan that changed boundaries to ensure larger enrollments in elementaries and keep their middle school open. Gee, it must be nice to create options.

  25. Comment from MadisonClassOf11Senator:

    I am a Sophmore that attends Madison High School.
    Let me break it down this way:
    None of this would ever happen at a place like Lincoln or Grant. Smith never would have been able to get away with something like that.
    The percentage of Madison students that are on free-and-reduced lunch is 64%. At Lincoln it is merely 8%. At Grant it is 22%.
    (for another comparison between Madison and Lincoln see Forgivable Mistakes or Ejection-worthy actions? in Madison’s April newspaper (The Constitution) here http://theconstitution.files.w.....age101.jpg)
    Now I go to school at Madison.
    Never in my life have I met teachers so dedicated to helping students learn and succeed. Out of the 6 different schools I have attended, Madison takes top place for that category.
    Now how our teachers weren’t included in the decision to choose a new principal I have absolutely no idea (especially after the vote of no confidence in the last).
    Something needs to be done.
    And it needs to be done soon.

  26. Comment from Terry:

    Well said, Madison sophomore.

    I was so happy to see you keeping this thread alive that it inspired me to write this on my blog.

  27. Comment from MadisonClassOf11Senator:

    And one other thing I would like to add: my speculation on the reason for so little involvement with Madison’s student’s parents. I believe (taking into account my family and other “poor school’s” -aka Marshall/Roosevelt/Madison/Jefferson [see below]- student’s familys that I have met) that the reason so many parents aren’t active in our schools are because they are so busy working, trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their families head. If I might remind you all, while it is improving (debatable), our economy is still in a recession which is leaving lower-middle class families scrambling for every dollar, time, and amount of energy they can save.

    Poor schools [see availability of comprehensive secondary schools correlated with race and poverty]:

  28. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    I was disappointed to see that the Madison newspaper printed “principle” instead of “principal” in referring to administrators in charge of the school.

    We shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that parents aren’t involved in their child’s education because parents are not in the school a lot. Parents can be involved in the education of their children in ways that aren’t visible, but that are still very important. For example, parents can make sure kids get to school on time, that they get their homework done, and that they are good citizens of their classrooms and their school – they can do all of these things without coming to the school.

  29. Comment from MadisonClassOf11Senator:

    I hate to break this to you PPS Parent but there are very large amount of Madison Students that take the bus to school.
    From personal experience I can tell you that with the economy in such a low period and high school students being in high school (nearing adulthood), parents dont need to make sure their kids get to school on time, get their homework done, and be part of school life.
    YOU may have plenty of time to do what you say, but many of the predominant lylower-middle class parents of Madison don’t.
    And as for the newspaper. My fellow pupils and friends work their butts off to put that paper together and put it online, so cut them a break if they miss a few word spellings.
    They don’t get money from the administration. They have to raise their own many like many other programs at Madison. So keep your complaints to yourself.

  30. Comment from Stephanie:

    I am loving the student perspective. Do other students read the blog? MORE!!

  31. Comment from Nancy R.:

    I was reading the Constitution online awhile back — here is the link:


    I was very impressed — good job, y’all. I wrote a little for the paper and worked on yearbook while I was at Madison and it was tough! And nothing like the product now — not even close in quality.

    I am thinking back to the words of the yearbook editor, my frosh year at Madison. Here is the exact quote: “This book has been a labor of love and time for all involved. If you don’t like it, get on staff and do better. Cheers!”

    So PPS Parent, maybe you should send a generous donation to help fund the newspaper, yearbook or library at Madison. I know they would appreciate it.

  32. Comment from mary:

    Thanks for posting, Madison student. The paper is impressive. Also thank you for the reminder that high school students are nearing adulthood and are very competent!

  33. Comment from PPS_Parent:

    Having sent my own children to school on buses for the past 25 years I assure you that it is not news to me that children get to school on buses.

    I wish I could make generous donations to all the worthy causes that exist within PPS, but unfortunately I can’t.

    A school newspaper may be read by members of the community in addition to students and school employees. People are more likely to support it if they see high quality writing and editing. I write professionally so I know something about this.

  34. Comment from pdxmomto2:

    I’m sorry PPS_Parent, but calling out the typo in this forum reeks of a ploy to minimize and suppress student voices. Professional writer or not, this is not a forum for critique of the Madison student paper. I was under the impression that this is a forum for thought and expression – not nitpicking! Instead of tearing something down why don’t you use your “Professional Writing” skills and volunteer to help copy-edit the paper?

  35. Comment from PPSexpatriate:

    I’m just wondering how long Steve is going to allow PPS Parent to minimize students, deny white privilege, discount teachers, parents and concerned community members on a site that is supposed to be about creating equity, not about being an apologist for inequity. The thread that I see through all the posts is to deny marginalized groups their voice.

    I understand that we have to hear that “out in the world” but here, too?

    Should every conversation about experiences be reduced to “am not” “are so!”, “No YOU are!”?

    Stick a fork in, end this derailment and let’s get this train back on the tracks.

  36. Comment from BornToBeAParent:

    Dear PPS_Parent, you stated you were disappointed about the typo in the Madison School Newspaper….well I am disappointed in YOU as a PARENT making such a petty comment particularly when it is so totally IRRELEVANT to this discussion! I am a parent of one of the students, who works longer and harder than you could possibly ever imagine to produce Madison’s amazing newspaper. I found your comment on the typo to be an unnecesary low blow and at the very minimum, inappropriate to this forum. I see based on your comments that you are a seasoned parent of over 25 years, which makes me even more suprised by your initial and then subsequent comments, where you continued your digs on the typo (such as “People are more likely to support it if they see high quality writing and editing”) Madison’s Newspaper has won awards from Columbia University and is one of the finest school publications I have ever seen. I don’t think one typo flushes that all down the drain and to suggest that is insulting to their hard working student staff. I write as well and my father was a professional writer who even taught writing for the US government. Even he made a typo or two, but that does not negate the quality of his writing especially seeing that his articles and book were published worldwide. Sorry to those of you for digressing from the initial subject, but I just had defend these amazing kids, who put in the hours of a part time job, JUST to publish THE CONSTITUTION, Madison’s Newspaper.

  37. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    One thing I’ve learned from years of online life: critique of grammar and spelling is lame.

    PPSexpatriate, you hit the nail on the head… he represents a majority point of view that is in ample supply all around us. No need to let him suck the air out of the room here.

  38. Comment from MadisonClassOf11Senator:

    Any questions that those of you on here would like to ask to get input from a Madison Senator specifically, I would be willing to answer. I cannot speak for everyone but I can speak for a few.
    And thank you to those on here who supported what I had to say.
    I think we need to get back on topic now.
    PPS_Parent, if you feel the need to critique the newspaper any further feel free to post your own article on here (I’m pretty sure you can do that?) or even send a message to The Constitution staff.
    We need to get this back on track to the original intent of the post.

  39. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    MadisonClassOf11Senator – I too appreciate hearing the perspective of students. I think it’s critical that we hear from students regarding the redesign of PPS high schools.

    Unless I misunderstood, Sarah Singer said at the last board meeting that the redesign team had met with focus groups but hadn’t completed analysis of an online survey of 2000 high school students. Frankly, the redesign team seemed poorly prepared for the last board meeting. While I don’t believe that an online survey is the best strategy for determining the needs of all students, it’s better than relying on 6 small focus groups comprised mostly of adults.

    So MadisonClassOf11Senator please see the post on the high school redesign and provide feedback on the post. Please also encourage your fellow students to make their voices heard at meetings, through newspapers and online. This is about students not adults. Students know best what students want and need.

  40. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Student newspapers are like all newspapers. Errors are made. I published a newspaper for Lane Middle School years ago. We took it seriously. One time however, we reported that a counselor was transferring to another building. He wasn’t. Once when I ran for the school board The Oregonian reported I was a member of PFT who had endorsed me. I wasn’t. The retraction on the editorial page was the largest I have ever seen. But I still take The Oregonian. Just don’t believe everything I read.

    The newspaper at Madison is a great example of how students can persevere over the mistakes of adults.

  41. Comment from MadisonClassOf11Senator:

    Just wanted to let you all know, I investigated the “principle” instead of “principal” allegation and found it to be totally false.
    In the eight times the word principal is used in that article, NOT ONE TIME does it read principle. I don’t know where PPS_Parent’s allegations are coming from but there is clearly no error in spelling.
    SEE IT FOR YOURSELF HERE. So please, keep petty allegations to yourself. Thank you :)

  42. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    The Constitution looks great. You guys should be proud.

    I was features editor on my HS paper, so I know what it takes to publish a newspaper while also being a full-time student. Just because you make it look easy, doesn’t mean it is!

  43. Comment from Kim:

    Just want to be clear on parent involvement at Madison. We have it! With no help from administration, a strong group of parents have created a Madison PTO. We meet the first Tues. of every month at 6pm in the library. We have has as many as 35 attendees at our meetings. Our top 3 goals this year:
    Facilitate communication between home and school, staff appreciation and volunteers for the library and college and carreer center.
    We created a web-site for parents, students and teachers at http://www.mhsinformation.com Parents signed up to bring goodies each month for staff and we had volunteers in our library and CCC. We also have many parents who volunteer at sporting events, college events, music and theater. We have a active Alumni Association that hosts an annual aution. (May 2, 2009 for tickets call Sally at 503-701-4003)Just thought I’d throw that in. Our parents are trying very hard to bring information to all families. Our PTO was never asked what we thought about a new principal. We provide a wonderful forum for administration to communicate with us, yet they offer little. Our current Principal attended only one meeting this year. The replacements she sent had very little information to offer us. I have found the teaching staff, students and parents to be Madison’s best asset. These are the people whose opinions and ideas should be considered. We want to be heard and respected for our work. Is anyone listening?

  44. Comment from Madison Alum:

    Aside from the nitpicking PPS Parent, all of the posts have had excellent points. As a Madison Alum and parent of a current Madison student, I can say this: Madison is a great school with incredible teachers who care deeply about the success of their students. I’ve also been impressed with the tight knit student community. Seems to me that bringing in a new “team leader” without consulting the “team” doesn’t promote a lot of good will. And for a school that already receives a lot of bad press by word of mouth (which is unfounded in my book) this is just another nail in the coffin. This looks like a bad stumble on Carole Smith’s part. Come on PPS, give Madison the respect it deserves. Let’s revisit this decision and make sure it is the RIGHT one for the STUDENTS and TEACHERS. As for all you Senators out there…stay strong and confident, you guys are doing an awesome job!!!!

  45. Comment from Tom Conry:

    I’m so glad that this blog exists. Thank you to everyone who contributes and to those who maintain it.

    My perspective is, although generally supportive of almost all of the comments above, a little different and I am hoping that the community won’t mind if I complicate the narrative a little.

    It would be inaccurate and a mistake, in my opinion, to create a story of the brave students, parents, teachers and other staff on one side and the administration on the other. All of us probably realize this already in our hearts I suppose, but it helps me to think about it on a practical level.

    First, and most important, I am so proud of the students at Madison. They do amazing things every day. I wish you could have been with me today for AP History where we are preparing for the big test (two weeks to go!), or for Government where we are analyzing what is likely to be a very disappointing Supreme Court decision coming down the pike in June about student privacy rights, Safford Unified School District v. Redding, or for American Studies where we are discussing (among other things) 1965 political cartoons comparing Stokely Carmichael’s leadership of SNCC to the Ku Klux Klan.

    These students are doing very high level work, and have grown so much this year. Every day, honestly, they do something that makes me proud of my profession.

    But I have to say that my experience with the administration at Madison has also been overwhelmingly (although not 100%) positive. When we divided up into small schools, our administrator (Roger Deville) pretty much always operated on a democratic ethic. We were pretty close to a syndicalist collective . . . the people that did the work made the decisions. Now there were some people who were not as comfortable with that as others, but it is an organizational structure that I think works well. I was personally supported by Roger and by the principal Pat Thompson, and got sent to lots of specialized training that made me a better teacher (and some that was just, well, not very useful). The administration was generous and helpful, and did what I thought an administration should do; that is, I always thought they were there to work for me. I never got the ethos that I was there working for them.

    To be fair, I realize that this may have been an unusual experience, and that the mileage of others might have varied. In particular, I think that our community (H community) was generally content with our relationship with our administrator. But, again, we worked at it, and we held one another to account, and, speaking for myself, I for a long time could not understand (coming from a university background) why, when the faculty seemed to have a number of complaints, teachers seemed very reticent to rise up and say to their administrators: Enough. We are not going forward until this is resolved.

    But that’s me, and again, I think that I was in a privileged situation, so I am not in a position to understand the reality of some other teacher.

    The point is this (and sorry for rambling on . . . ): I don’t think it serves anyone’s interests, especially not those of us in the progressive community, to dumb the narrative down so that everyone on one side is completely innocent and their actions always wise, and everyone on the other side is always guilty and their actions are always either incompetent or badly intended. As I remember, Marx himself wrote a famous essay (18th Brumaire) about this on the occasion of the Paris Commune!

    At any rate, solidarity, thanks again to everyone who makes this blog live and sing, and I hope we all see Madison grow stronger for the struggle ahead.

    Tom Conry

  46. Comment from mneloa:

    Well, thank goodness the voice of the Dissenter
    was quashed! This IS Portland after all.
    PPS_Parent was just not thinking right!
    Hopefully, Never To Be Heard From Ever Again!
    If people can’t THINK RIGHT! they should just be

  47. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Thanks, Tom, I really appreciate your perspective (and kind words about the blog).

    Mneloa, we can talk about comment moderation on another post. I’m more interested in hearing from all parts of the Madison community here.

  48. Comment from Terry:

    So, Tom Conry. Where did you stand on the vote of no confidence in Pat Thompson?

    My impression was that the staff vote was nearly unanimous. Or that perhaps a consensus was reached.

    Am I wrong?

  49. Comment from mary:

    Thanks Tim Conry. The complex relationships between many teachers, the building administration and district level staff should not be reduced to a good guys/bad guys situation. I am concerned that simlifying the narrative in this way does not serve Madison.

    According to policy the appointment of this particular principal was a lateral move. Therefore, a committee process was not required. Of course it does feel “top down” and disrespectful that a more open process was not chosen. However, I don’t know the particulars of the situation and I don’t want to make assumptions (though it is SO tempting to assume this would never happen at Lincoln, Cleveland or Grant).

    Carol Smith has always struck me as a thoughtful, detail oriented, diplomatic person who cares about the students. Its a real stretch for me to imagine she would make an impulsive, vindictive decision to “punish” Madison.

    The Madison cluster is seeing increased community support for their schools. The PTAs have been communicating with each other and parent involvement is on the rise at Madison. My hope is that the new principal really wanted to be a part of this dynamic community that is really pulling together to advocate for themselves.

  50. Comment from David:

    Mary, you seem to know a bit about policy so my question to you is this: When Peyton Chapman , current principal at Lincoln, proceeded on her quest to for that position, I recall that there were multiple interviews, meetings with parents and students before she ultimately was given the job. Peyton is a perfect fit for that community. Would that not also be a lateral move given that she was the principal of a small school at Madison?

  51. Comment from Tom Conry:

    Terry, I was very much opposed to the no confidence vote last year. Here is why.

    (1) In my opinion, it was highly undemocratic in that there was very little time to discuss any of this. The decision to take this vote was not made in any kind of open forum; it was simply announced to the teachers at the end of the year. I am a union rep, and I knew nothing about this. Then, the only chance for people to discuss it was during lunchtime. That seemed to me to be completely inadequate for a decision of that kind of magnitude.

    (2) Because of the lack of opportunity to work through the issues that were frustrating the community, most of which were not Pat Thompson’s immediate responsibility except in a Harry Truman the-buck-stops-here sort of way, and because this was done on literally the last hours of the last days of school, the wildly disparate issues of why people were disappointed, fearful, and frustrated came to be unjustifiably (in my opinion) focused on one person. That wasn’t right and it didn’t reflect well on Madison.

    (3) There were some teachers who had already requested and accepted transfers to other schools driving the process. I thought that was bad form.

    (4) In general, I don’t think that appeals to hierarchical solutions work well in the long run. This was an appeal to “Daddy.” It is inconsistent, in my opinion, to say “Daddy, come fix this!” and then cry about not being adequately consulted about a new principal.

    To be clear, I DO believe that the entire Madison community should be in on the selection of our leaders. I simply think that there are those in our community who want to have it both ways . . . who want to have the administration “fix it” when participatory democracy does not go their way. And that is a shame, I think.

    Note: I’m trying to talk about the principles here, not the people. What is done is done, and we are where we are. Like everyone else I am hoping for a strong future. I don’t claim the way I experienced things is THE TRUTH.

    Hope this helps rather than hurts.

  52. Comment from mary:

    David, thanks for the info. Yes, the Lincoln process was a lateral move and a great example of how, despite policy, a wealthy school was entitled to have its voice heard. Money=power and when people donate large sums and raise several hundred thousand in fund raising, they are treated differently by the district. Anybody else have any info on principal selection process for other high schools?

  53. Comment from David Colton:

    Franklin High School is in process in what sounds like a democratic process for choosing a new principal. They have had a VP as an interim. Yet another example of Madison getting dumped on from above if indeed there is a selection process at Franklin and no such process for Madison.

    I also question anyone who can answer just how many administrators have been laid off because of the budget shortfall? Who knows the answer to this question?

  54. Comment from Anne T.:

    PPS Parent questions whether the principal selection at Madison was inequitable. My guess is that you have not experienced the full spectrum of PPS schools. There is a deeply embedded class system that manifests itself in everything from the treatment of parents, teachers and students, to the resources available. A simple glance at the class offerings at the “poor” high schools: Jefferson, Roosevelt, Marshall and Madison next to the course offerings at the “rich” schools; Lincoln, Grant, Wilson, or even comparing class options at “rich” middle schools v. “poor” high schools will show a blatantly apartheid system.
    I do not question the Madison’s teachers assertion at all, if anything he is too kind and patient. Until more of us are outraged at this caste system we will continue to see more of the same.
    Kudos to parents and teachers who continue to expose the inequities in this district.

  55. Comment from David Colton:

    Ann. Thank you for your comments. Madison teachers and adminstrators met last night with Toni Hunter, assistant to the superintendent, to talk about the selection of the newly assigned principal to Madison. Ms. Hunter stated that Deborah Peterson was having second thoughts and I would attribute to second thoughts to the impact of this blog. My thanks to all of you who have chosen to comment. We are most assuredly dealing with an inequity, one of many in this district in regards to what is handed down from one school to the next. We were told that Ms. Hunter felt that Deborah Peterson was the best choice for Madison based on conversation she had with Dick Wythicombe, the consultant hired to address structure and leadership issues at Madison. None of us were aware that the consultant would be part of the process and that anything said to him in meetings or in private would be used as the criteria for what central office feels is the best fit for Madison in terms of leadership. Several of us in the meeting last night attempted to make it clear to Toni Hunter that we are concerned about process not necessarily choice. When Franklin, Lincoln, Marshall, Wilson and other schools are allowed to use the policy in place from the school board, a policy that involves the entire community including actual patrons of the district, to select a principal and Madison is told that central office knows what is best for us, I call this paternalism or in this case maternalism and I personally feel infantilized and slackjawed by the manipulaltion of fact and fiction that I am witnessing. Toni Hunter is a lovely and capable leader without question and I know that she lives equity in ways that many will probably never understand as we are not a person of color or a woman. This fact does not excuse central office for sending her as the messenger and leaving this staff with the feeling that there is nothing we can do about the choice, the process nor the future of Madison other then being told it is our job to bring back the students we have lost over the years to the most destructive and devisive transfer system existing in all of public schooling anywhere and at any time. What NCLB has not taken from Madison the trasfer system has.

    Personally I plan on attending the next PTO meeting to talk with parents about their voice and the value of their voice in the Madison commnity.

  56. Comment from Val Gogoleski:

    Well, golly gee whiz….I’ve taught at Madison 23 years and didn’t even know we had an ACTIVE PTO!!! No kidding!!!! Just visited and bookmarked the website. Yes, I will also be at the next PTO meeting and hope other teachers will show.

    Parents have an awful lot of influence in parts of this district….teacher voice is either a) not heard OR b)may be BRUTALLY silenced. Oh, how well I know…

    See you Mad Hi parents at the next meeting….May 5 at 6pm in the Library.

  57. Comment from Liz:

    I reel the need to send the Madison community flowers of condolences. I am a Roosevelt parent and am very sad to see Carole Smith recycle a very bad principal onto anyone, but it makes sense to send her to a community that doesn’t have resources to fight the decision. Peterson looks good she schmoozes with the movers and shakers. She can bring resources. I approached her with my concerns for my daughters future at our neighborhood school whine she was in 8th grade. She sold me on the product. I have since fought like satan to get rid of this woman. She protects abusive coaches. She doesn’t return phone calls or emails. She is out right scared of of the school diverse population and would rather suspend a male black student rather that have a conversation. She declares new rule and policies without no notification to the students or parents, so if you wear orange one day you may find yourself suspended. Personally I have had many contacts with the woman, most all of them disappointing. Last summer I scheduled a meeting with her I had my daughter tell her what it was like to be a student on her campus. Sometimes with a very little voice and most of the time with tears in her eyes, my girl told her story. Peterson response, she could offer her a transfer. Is this an acceptable response? But it proved fatal to cross Peterson Roosevelt’s homecoming football game she trumped up some allegations that my daughter was “taunting” cheerleaders, she physically assaulted my daughter and had her removed from campus onto a dark side street unchaperoned. She put her hand in my face and refused to “deal” me. Then went on to notify her coach that she was to be suspended for a week of athletic activity. I and many other parents marched into the office at 8am on monday. She was out due to a medical procedure. I went to the district office to Greg Wollock, even got to Toni Hunter by phone. None of these action were PPS policy. There was no due process, and she got away with it. She conducts student senate classes, after listening to her expound on what its like to be “wealthy”, my daughter refused to take part, stating that Peterson was so inappropriate, and inflammatory. Eventually the student leaders of ACT refused in writing to not participate as long as Peterson facilitated the class. Oh I could go on, but it gets my blood boiling. She really doesn’t help out our challenged communities. I feel truly sorry for you Madison. She should not be recycled. I wish you well.

  58. Comment from David Colton:

    Liz, I sincerely appreciate your comments as they underscore the need for the Madison community to rally an appeal for reconsideration of this appointment. I am aware of other positions that were open in the district that followed a shared process of community, teacher and student input prior to the selection of a new principal. Fernwood, Marshall, Franklin were all fortunate enough to be granted the right to interview new candidates. It has been bantered around the “water coolers” at Madison that the community is asking Deborah Peterson to stay but the teachers and staff are thrilled to see her go. The wisps of smoke from Roosevelt to Madison tell of a fire somewhere and I say why does Madison have to settle for burnt offerings. I have too much faith in the gifts of Madison’s very talented teaching staff to sit back and let central office pull a fast one like this on the Madison Community. Bringing Madison back and showing the public what a great place this is for kids will take hands on leadership and a people willing to listen and share governance. I’d like to hear from more people in the Roosevelt communtiy. Thanks again Liz for your comments.

  59. Comment from markey:

    At Benson, Steve Olzack was brought in as a interim principal to replace the fairly popular Christi Plinski at the beginning of the 07-08 school year. It is widely believed that the departure of Plinski was due in large part to a long running conflict between Plinski and Olzack in regard to the future of Benson and the shape that career-tech ed. in the district should look like.
    The staff has never,ever trusted Olzack (rightly or wrongly) yet he was allowed by the district to remain interim for two years. The belief is that he was essentially hand-picked and placed at Benson to oversee its transition or dismantling (depends where you stand). A hiring committee made up of staff, parents and alumni was finally created but the process was so flawed that it broke down. No qualified candidates were ever put forward and the feeling was that the process was never genuine but a charade. Finally, last week Olzack had the interim removed from his title. Zero input on that decision by staff or community at large. Madison, we feel your pain.

  60. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Benson remains a basic example of where the inequities have played out to the detriment of children in lower income neighborhoods. It hasn’t been maligned by the transfer process but by the benign neglect of the people who control the school board. One of whom told me recently that the Benson teachers should just quit complaining and teach the kids who come in the door. See, we first underfund one of the most outstanding technological high schools in America, then we eliminate the application process, and therefore pretty much crush the quality within Benson’s programs. And the school board response: just shut the heck up. This, while hundreds of kids from poorer neighborhoods have their rise out of poverty made a whole lot harder. Of course, they are not their children.

  61. Comment from David Colton:

    Madison’s dynamic and profoundly passionate and intelligent PTO met last night under the able leadership of Kim Nickens. They were also graced with the pressence of none other then Greg Wollack and Toni Hunter, assistants to the superintendent. At the point of the meeting when the chair asked for comments from any of the 20 or more parents, my hand shot up. Kim asked me to attend after we discussed the PTO’s concern for the lack of process in the selection of Madison’s new leader. When I put the question to Toni Hunter and the room in general about lack of voice from teacher, parents and students, a flood of questions, concerns and comments filled the room with passion and deep concern about how the Madison community was treated when Toni Hunter made the unilateral decision to give Deborah Peterson the job that according to Hunter was owed to her by virtue of her being out of a job at Roosevelt. The room was not buying Hunter’s claim that Peterson was chosen based on what Hunter “felt” was best for this school. After at least an hour of this practiced fandango in top down decision making we all pleasantly agreed that of course we would give Ms. Peterson the chance she deserves as she too is a victim in this kind of unilateral, top down, closed door decision making that essentially only happens to people in this district that central office sees as expendable. No power, no voice, invisible and easily dominated not by reason but simply a “feeling” that Deborah Peterson will be a good fit. Let me remind you Toni Hunter that feelings are not facts and if they were the “feelings” in the room last night would have melted you and your unfortunate decision to circumnavigate any kind of process in placing Madison’s next principal. What I like about our new leadership in our nation’s capitol is that they seem to have the ability to admit mistakes and even correct them. Equity? I don’t think so. Not for Madison.

  62. Comment from Val Gogoleski:

    I also attended the PTO meeting last night and was so pleased to see such an active and involved group. The parents who spoke were willing to ask the difficult questions and demand clarity in answers. This area of town is soooo underestimated—look at the recent efforts of the Madison South Neighborhood Association in defeating big-box development across the street from Madison! Who woulda thought this neighborhood could have stopped a big-box-business developer? Amazing! There is life in “Madisonville”, and it shows in the Madison PTO. ABOUT TIME, HOORAY!!!

    I have lived within walking distance of Madison (where I teach) for 19 years, and seeing the parent and community activism last night was heartening. We need answers about why this school and community had absolutely no input after the awful uprising and chaos of last year. This is a demoralized and extremely frustrated staff, for the most part, and for various reasons pertaining to our “leadership”. I had a private meeting last April with Carole Smith, in her office, detailing the impending implosion at Madison. I literally BEGGED her to come out to Madison and give teachers a voice–to listen and make us at least feel we were heard—even if the outcome wasn’t agreeable to all. Speaking up as an employee means paying a price. I said this last night about teachers (such as myself) having to hire attorneys to protect our jobs… so be it.

  63. Comment from PatronOfTheProcess:

    I wonder how many comments it will take before the “leadership” actually does something that starts things moving in a positive direction.

  64. Comment from Val Gogoleski:

    I went to the “top” with my concerns last April and nothing happened. So much of this drama could have been avoided IF people (students, parents, teachers, staff) were given a voice–and LISTENED TO, actually LISTENED TO!! But nooooo…it didn’t happen, and lookie where we are now.

    The sad thing, people move out of this neighborhood so their kids DON’t have to go to Madison. I had a Real Estate License at one time (the days of teachers working two jobs!) and know of what I speak–two of my neighbors with small kids have sold their homes for the ‘burbs. Look at our neighborhood school “capture” rate of kids who live in the Madison attendance area—less than 50% from figures several years ago, and it sure hasn’t improved, folks.

    I would welcome any ideas on how to get heard and how to build Madison up, not down. My property value depends a lot on my neighborhood HS!!!

  65. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I wonder how many comments it will take before the “leadership” actually does something that starts things moving in a positive direction.

    It may take some form of direct action… a walkout, a sit-in, or protest rally. Blogs are good for organizing, sharing, and raising awareness, but that’s about the extent of it. At some point, taking to the streets (so to speak) may be required.

  66. Comment from Scott:

    Some history: in 2001, I and other CPPS members went to Steve Goldschmidt, then head of HR for PPS, and advocated for including parents, teachers and classified staff, and students in the principal hiring process. To our surprise, he said he was thinking the same thing, but only for transfers from another school. We convinced him it should be for all hires. So we got a PPS policy adopted.

    There was never an administrative directive written about how it was to be implemented, only a couple of paragraphs on an otherwise plain sheet of paper. Mr. Goldschmidt’s process was cumbersome and divided school communities between staff and parents/community. But in cases of transfers, the school community at least had the opportunity to interview the candidate and veto the transfer.

    After Goldschmidt, HR decided that in the case of transfers, there would be no interview, just the initial meeting with the school community about what was needed in a new principal. These days HR doesn’t even hold a separate meeting for the teaching staff.

    This is not a rich school-poor school issue. I was on the interview panel for Grant High School last summer, and it was quite the experience. HR staff was rude to one of the candidates and to two of the school community panel. We took an entire day to interview five candidates, three of whom were from out of state and frankly were not of very high quality. We spent at least an hour listing the pros and cons of each candidate. Then we were asked “who would we vote off the island.” That’s right–pick one we don’t want, and our input is over. We were told that HR staff “knew” who our first choice was. I didn’t even know who our first choice was. Several panel members felt that HR was biased in favor of one candidate.

    And to top it off, there was no evaluation process. HR never asked “how did we do serving your school community?” A number of us wrote to Carole Smith. Nothing has changed, from what I understand.

    As a school board member, this is one area I will zero in on immediately.

    To HR’s credit, they realize that interviews are not the best tool for evaluating candidates. They are developing some “inbox scenarios”, throwing simulated problems at candidates and evaluating how they respond. That’s a good addition. But the school community should be involved in all aspects of hiring a principal, they are the ones who know best what the school needs.

  67. Comment from Val Gogoleski:

    I hope everyone has read Steve Duin’s column in the Oregonian this morning, Thursday, May 7, Metro section page one—-I can barely get my oatmeal down–THANK YOU STEVE DUIN !!!! YOU ARE DA MAN!!!!! WE NEED PEOPLE LIKE YOU!!!!


  68. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Scott — good thoughts. By school community I assume you are including the teachers who are truly the people who know best what the school needs. Also, Grant at least had the meetings and interviewed the candidates. Madison didn’t even get that if I am reading the posts correctly. So maybe it did have a hint of inequity in it. There are lots of things that could be done to improve teacher hiring also. I would love to talk to you about it.

  69. Comment from David Colton:

    I want to weigh in on my gratitude to Steve Duin and his “right on” column in today’s Oregonian. Steve Duin gets it and he has the voice to communicate it and hopefully be listened by as it is quite apparent that those who either collectively or unilaterally made the decision to place Deborah Peterson here are not thinking about students, parents, teachers or other administrators for that matter. This tempest in PPS’s collective teapot could so easily be avoided by taking away the kind of power placed in the hands of those surrounding the superintendent. I personally will never be convinced that one person near the top can make a decision that is purportedly in the best interest of the masses. History gives us examples of the dreadful consequences of this kind of abuse of power. Democratic process is messy and complicated and no one will ultimately ever agree on any one issue but just being at the table and actively participating in the process is a powerful and enriching experience. Being told that someone is the best person for the job is such a dangerous set up for failure when anyone one of us at either school could have participated in the selection of a person who may truly have been the best person for the job.

  70. Comment from MadisonClassOf11Senator:

    For those who don’t know the article they are referring to above, I believe it is this one that hits the nail right on the head:

    A low blow at Roosevelt High
    by Steve Duin, The Oregonian
    Wednesday May 06, 2009, 8:30 PM

    The adhesive power of trust is invaluable for public schools, especially in communities in which adults too often vanish before completing the job they started. Therein is the irritation, and the irony, regarding Deborah Peterson’s forced march ‘cross town, from Roosevelt to Madison High School.

    Even as the seeds of revival take root at Roosevelt, Portland Public Schools is jerking Peterson, the Roughriders’ popular principal, from that campus and dropping her off, uninvited, at Madison.

    It’s hard to say which academic community is more annoyed by the grandstand play, the one that feels abandoned or the one that’s insulted it had no say in the matter.

    “We’re on such a roll over here. A lot of people are feeling really positive about the direction we’re going. So, there’s some confusion. When something’s working for the community, why make a change?” Peterson said.

    That’s the telling question for those who have plunged into the fray at Roosevelt, where — at the beginning of the school year — 78 percent of the dwindling student body was on free or reduced lunch, 35 percent didn’t list a Social Security number, and as many as 140 students were classified as homeless.

    “Changing leadership in the middle of a crisis makes no sense at all,” says Norm Daniels, the former CEO at G.I. Joe’s and a key player in the $3 million campaign to erect a new athletic complex at his alma mater. “When you’re trying to do good and Portland Public Schools gets in your way, it’s pretty discouraging.”

    David Carboneau, Roosevelt ’64 and retired from PGE, took those concerns to Toni Hunter, the district’s assistant superintendent, and was basically told that Peterson was less important to Roosevelt’s future than a small-school model that long ago outlived its usefulness.

    “We tried to convince her there were bigger issues here, such as leadership,” Carboneau said. “I’ve been in business for a long time. I look at risk and reward opportunities. This seems like a very risky proposition, and I don’t understand the rewards.”

    Folks at Madison don’t understand why they aren’t shown the same respect as the parents and faculty at Lincoln, who put Peyton Chapman through a community-based interview process before she was hired as principal.”

    “My understanding,” said district spokesman Matt Shelby, “is the decision was made that she (Peterson) would be the best person for the job.”

    “The feeling here,” one Madison staffer said, “is we’re being treated like the redheaded stepchild. Roosevelt feels they’re having someone stolen from them, and Madison feels they’re having someone forced upon them.”

    The Peterson transfer is necessary, of course, because the district is determined to keep the small-school model going at Roosevelt.

    The Gates Foundation has quit funding the initiative. It’s a lousy drawing card for kids in the neighborhood, 560 of whom leave to attend other high schools. Even Madison is kicking the concept to the curb, reverting to a comprehensive school.

    Whatever. Roosevelt is stuck with the plan, even though sacrificing Peterson in order to retain three small-school administrators means the high school has $250,000 less to spend on teachers and other pressing needs in these dire times.

    “There are a lot of barriers here to kids achieving academic excellence,” Carboneau said. “In Deborah, we finally found someone who could break down those barriers.”

    Heck, they found an adult who wants to finish the job she started. Trust the district not to recognize the difference that makes.

  71. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Under Carole Smith’s central office reorg plan, some Area Directors are returning to school buildings as principals. Will school communities once again be shut out of the principal selection process?