In the news: PPS sells “surplus” copy paper, toilet paper

Beth Slovic report in today’s Willamette Week that Portland Public Schools last week sold “surplus” copy paper and toilet paper, among other items, for less than market value. Portland teachers spend an average of $600 a year out of their own pockets for classroom supplies, according to their union. They are currently fighting for a contract that doesn’t roll back their pay to pre-2007 levels, even as they deal with an increased workload.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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Teacher contract negotiations stalled well into second year

Teachers in Portland Public Schools are in their second year without a contract. District negotiators seem to have “backed themselves into a corner,” according to Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) negotiators, and are unwilling to entertain creative bargaining suggestions, like adding a third year to the contract under consideration.

The contract currently being negotiated is for the two-year period ending in June 2010. In normal circumstances, negotiations for the next contract, covering July 2010 through June 2012, would begin early next year.

It is no secret that virtually all teachers work many hours and days beyond the requirements of their contract. They are insulted by the district’s insistence on taking a furlough equal to a 2.63 percent pay cut, especially after they worked for ten days for free to stave off a threatened 24-day cut to the school year in 2003. No other bargaining unit at PPS sacrificed like that.

The district’s call for “shared sacrifice” is seen as disingenuous by teachers. They are being asked to take on more responsibility for less pay, even as administrators at BESC are given five-figure raises for — that’s right — “increased responsibilities.”

The top pay for a PPS teacher with a PhD and twelve year’s experience is around $70,000. The part-time (80 percent) Director of Planning and Performance at BESC, who has an MBA and no prior K-12 education experience, makes $90,000.

The state has been called in to mediate, but so far there is still no progress.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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In the news: school to charge parents for late pick-up

Fox 12 TV is reporting that Woodmere Elementary School in southeast Portland will begin charging parents late fees when they pick up their kids more than ten minutes after the final bell. For every each ten minute block after the first ten, parents will be charged $5, the equivalent of $30 an hour.

Woodmere students are 57 percent non-white. Eighty percent qualify for free or reduced lunch, and 34 percent are English Language Learners. Fox 12 reports that the district will study the program and consider implementing it at other schools.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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In the news: Carole Smith’s challenges

Jennifer Anderson writes in the Portland Tribune about issues facing Portland Public Schools superintendent Carole Smith, including stalled teacher contract talks and the stalled — some would say failed — experiment in k8 schools.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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In the news: K8s exposed

Beth Slovic documents the obvious inequities between K8s and middle schools for middle grade education.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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This Week in PPS: Terry Olson


Download audio, subscribe to the podcast, or listen here:

tolson

This is a full transcript of the podcast, with hyperlinks:
This week in PPS, we mourn the passing of Terry Olson.

The veteran teacher, husband, father of three, and grandfather of two passed away peacefully on Thursday, October 15th, after a long fight with cancer. He turned 63 on October 9th.

Terry’s blog Olson Online was a seminal space in Portland’s blogosphere. He started writing about “[p]ublic education advocacy, tax reform, and other stuff” in January of 2003, and continued writing forcefully about these issues until recently. To the end, Terry never pulled his punches.

Six weeks before he died, he wrote his final blog post  about a bizarre charter school proposal in Corbett. The title of his last piece: Hypocrisy.

Terry’s blog was the first electronic gathering place where Portlanders discussed school equity issues extensively. He worked with the Neighborhood Schools Alliance when they rose up in opposition to Vicki Phillips’ rushed school closings and reconfigurations. He encouraged me and my wife Nancy to “come out” (well, actually, he “outed” us) when we were blogging anonymously about PPS.

By pushing us into the open, he emboldened us to mature as bloggers and expand the chorus of voices calling for school equity.

I only knew Terry as an education activist, and only in the last five years of his life. Our conversations were virtually entirely online, either in e-mail or on the blogs. I only met him twice in person. But his influence on me as an activist and citizen journalist was crucial. Without his ongoing encouragement and guidance, it’s unlikely PPS Equity would exist today.

The last time I saw him was In February 2008.  Terry stood with me in icy wind and rain at the last Celebration, the school district’s school choice fair, handing out fliers (PDF) about the inequity of school choice. He stayed with me in the wind and rain until we had handed out all 500 fliers.

To me, this epitomized Terry’s selflessness in fighting for the greater common good, even as he literally fought for his own life.

He was a contributor to PPS Equity, both as an author and in the comments section.

Terry will be deeply missed by his family, to whom we send our deepest condolences, and in the community, where he led us by example.

Thank you, Terry Olson.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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Rest in peace, Terry Olson

Friend of PPS Equity Terry Olson passed away on Thursday. Tomorrow’s PPS Equity podcast will be a tribute to him. His son Adrian posted a note on Terry’s blog Thursday.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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In the news: teachers take on “Race to the Top” nation-wide; PPS staff recommend hip hop charter

Teachers and their unions are gearing up to take on the Obama administration’s pro-charter, pro-merit pay “Race to the Top” initiative. Paul Abowd writes in Labor Notes reports that teachers from New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles met recently in LA “to bring a vision of education reform that puts educators, not ‘education management organizations,’ in the driver’s seat.”

Kim Melton reports on OregonLive.com that PPS staff are recommending the school board approve a charter high school with a focus on hip hop, modeled on the High School for Recording Arts in Minneapolis.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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Just drops in the bucket

Amidst unstable funding for education and a lingering recession, Portland Public School teachers like me are stuck in the middle of contentious contract negotiations, one year overdue. Much information that is available to the public is filtered through Portland administrators, namely Carole Smith, who seems very much out of touch with the day-to-day workings of most teachers.

As news stories broke about $500,000 spent on Blackberries for “higher ups”, and $80,000 spent on hotel meetings for the same, one starts to wonder how much more is being spent on “non-classroom” items. One such story saw Matt Shelby, district spokesperson, say something to the effect that these items were very minor compared to the overall budget. And this got me wondering, “If these items were just “drops in the bucket” so to speak, how many drops in the bucket do there need to be, before the bucket gets filled, and people get mad?”

Drops in the bucket. There are 80+ schools in the Portland district. If each of these schools received $1,000, then that $80,000 spent on hotels takes on greater significance. I have had to scrounge for materials each and every year I have taught. $1,000 to buy the novel sets I desperately need to teach 7th grade. Wow, what a luxury. How many drops is that $80,000 now?

Not to mention $500,000. As I think about the computer lab our school was promised, but then denied, because we didn’t have the room, I wonder. Would half a million buy a lab? Or how about an addition to our cramped, “only suitable for elementary students but made to serve middle school students as well” library? A place to house our nurse and counselor and special ed. teachers, who currently have to share small quarters? This would not go far to fix all of our K-8s that are sorely lacking in facilities and resources. But, what if even one school got the treatment it deserved? How many drops in the bucket is that worth?

As we see the district move forward with its grand high school redesign, one cannot help but wonder what happened to the K-8 redesign. Did we miss it? And can we really trust a district that feels as if several hundred thousand dollars are just drops in the bucket?

Sheila Wilcox is a PPS parent and K8 teacher.

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Video of PAT rally and Rebecca Levison’s remarks to the board

Approximately 400 people gathered before the school board meeting last night to demand a new contract that doesn’t balance the budget on the backs of teachers.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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