In the news: fire safety

11:23 pm

Beth Slovic reports in today’s Willamette Week that there are serious concerns for life safety in our schools. Carrie Adams pointed out the district has facilities reports available for all schools, including life and fire safety.

Take a look. I notice my kids’ school has “Fire Alarm is Missing or Inadequate” for over 25,000 square feet.

The district has just ten employees testing and maintaining fire alarms at its approximately 100 sites.

Back at the central office, there are twelve people listed as working in “Community Involvment and Public Affairs.” Maybe one of them can write us a press release explaining why our children’s lives are being put at such risk and why it’s so important to write, design, print and mail a large, full-color, glossy advertising flier to every residence in the district each year.

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

filed under: Facilities, Media, Safety

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43 Responses

  1. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Steve, To be fair, the district isn’t putting all children’s lives at stake. That would be immoral. It looks like the kids at Rieke, Ainsworth, Bridlemile, Alameda, Chapman and Lincoln would be ok because their schools have fire alarms.

    The news isn’t so good for Woodmere, Clarendon, Binnsmead, Ockley Green, Tubman, Jefferson or Marshall to name a few.

    The district must have just cut maintenance staff for high poverty schools.

    Check out and you’ll see that some schools (Lincoln) appear to be on a regular maintenance schedule.

  2. Comment from Super Teach:

    Carrie Adams,

    Where did your info come from that those schools do not have fire alarms? You’ve got me curious… I went to, but it doesn’t give me that info.

  3. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Super Teach, the missing alarm info comes from the facilities reports Steve referenced in this post. provides information about building permits etc.

  4. Comment from Super Teach:

    Thanks. When I read too early in the morning, I miss important details!

    I would hope that in light of Marysville, those would be immediately remedied. In seeing how fast the district responded to getting Rose City Park up and running, we know they can motivate and activate quickly. This seems like an appropriate time to repair at least one “small” thing that could have a huge impact.

  5. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    There’s a law requiring schools to notify parents if their child’s school is failing based upon test results that have been so manipulated that they’re virtually meaningless.

    Where’s my right to know that my child’s life is at risk because her school doesn’t have a fire safety system?

    That information needs to be added to the schools “facts” page.

    FYI. Rest assured that the BESC does have a fire safety system. Support staff there might still want to plan an escape route because some of the administrators might trample them running by.

  6. Comment from marcia:

    Very strange…after the k-8 configuration I kept saying PPS must have paid off the fire marshall. Suddenly there were seemingly no inspections, and really glaring violations due to so many people being crammed into such a small space. For example, there is practically an entire classroom set up in a hallway, whereas before, no furniture was supposed to be allowed in a hallway. Very strange.

  7. Comment from Zarwen:

    Steve, I am so glad you mentioned the “large, full-color, glossy advertising flier” that showed up in my mailbox last week. Did anyone besides me notice where, thanks to “prioritizing classroom spending,” PPS has “offered students art, music and PE”? Funny, there’s no art nor music at my son’s school–other than what volunteers provide, which has nothing to do with PPS budgeting. Just how blatant are the lies going to get?????

  8. Comment from Zarwen:

    Concerning the facilities reports, linked above: let’s not forget that the firm who wrote them, Magellan, had ulterior motives. While no one disputes that our schools need upgrades, it is possible that Magellan exaggerated conditions at any number of buildings to further their own agenda. (And yes, I did look up the report on my son’s school.)

    Let us also not forget that, at this point, no one knows what caused the fire at Marysville. I don’t know what the state of their alarm system was, but apparently it was good enough to get everyone out safely.

  9. Comment from Susan:

    Part of the alarm system at Marysville must have been the teachers who were two days shy of working 500 days without a contract. Heartfelt thanks to all the teachers, staff and building administrators who do those drills throughout the year and can multi-task under pressure. The cuts to facilities and programs rely on building staff and and parent volunteers to pick up the slack.

  10. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Correction from Robb Cowie: While the published org chart lists a dozen senior staff in Community Involvement and Public Affairs, there are actually close to 50 people working in that department.

  11. Comment from Zarwen:

    Our tax dollars at work!

  12. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    “Meet me in Mazama”…BESC conference rooms get new names AND central office workspace has been redesigned again!

    In the four years I worked at the BESC, HR’s physical layout was redesigned 3 times.

    Redesigned by people who never even considered ADA compliance but that’s another story.

    The PPS news release says “Moving on this scale requires support from many quarters. Thanks to these PPS team members: Jerry Lively and the crafts staff, especially the carpenters, the rovers, painters, electric shop and lock shop.”

    Seriously? Jerry Lively is over the staff responsible for the fire systems. No wonder they’re 60 days behind in inspecting the buildings.

    The district prioritizes BESC physical redesign over the safety of children?

    Can anyone name a time that a BESC physical space redesign benefited children?

  13. Comment from Rita:

    Can somebody tell me what this “large, glossy flier” was? I didn’t get one. But then I live in a zip code with a low SES and low turnout for elections, so clearly not worth “engaging” with — despite the 50 people allegedly doing it. 50. What, are they all tweeting?

  14. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    What is wrong with you people?? Since when did fire inspections, alarms and sprinkler systems become so important? Did you not get the email from the district announcing the IMPORTANCE OF RE-NAMING of conference rooms? I mean, somebody really, ACTUALLY, SERIOUSLY spent time on that, kudos to them! (Kinda thought it was a JOKE email, in light of all the problems the district has?)

    This renaming and remodeling is so that people at the BESC can enjoy some aesthetic amenities and be more efficient? I think? Folks, this is important stuff, where are your priorities? Certainly where our admin. conducts their business is important, isn’t it? Don’t they deserve at modern and new place to do their business?

    Snidely snickering…..

    I can’t believe how outta whack the public priorities are. Shame on us for questioning this brilliant remodeling and renaming effort!

  15. Comment from marcia:

    I saw RED when I read the fluff piece on renaming the rooms and rearranging the furniture…for two reasons….The first is..Our staff room is a microwave next to the asbestos wrapped boiler in the boiler room. ..I suggested they come over and remodel our staff room for us in the email I sent. The second reason I saw RED was that someone is actually paid money…probably lots more then us measely weasely teachers to sit at a computer and write these silly little puff pr pieces….And I guess I am jealous…I am applying for that job.

  16. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Here’s the press release Carrie and Marcia are referring to.

    The “large, glossy flier” is a mailer that was sent out to every home within the boundaries of the district (I think), and is also available as a fancy online presentation.

    The district got some financial and in-kind help from Nike and Premier Press, but still spent $28,000 to print and distribute it, as well as quite a bit of staff time. I’ve asked Robb Cowie how much staff time went into producing the 9″ x 27″, full-color, two-sided, trifold mailer, but haven’t heard back yet.

    Cowie assures me that his staff of nearly 50, while not able to help the ten maintenance staff catch up on their fire alarm inspection backlog, were quite instrumental in helping the Marysville community after the fire.

    It is not yet clear whether deferred maintenance was a contributing factor in that fire.

    Marysville’s facilities deficiency report (PDF) does list a number of electrical issues, as well as an ominous note present in many of these reports: “Fire Alarm is Missing or Inadequate.” Evidently students owe their lives to a well-prepared staff who managed a safe and orderly evacuation. And, perhaps, sheer luck.

  17. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    I didn’t get one of those fancy brochures either but I checked out the online version.

    PPS has always focused their resources on putting out fires rather than preventing them.

    The Willamette Week story says that the PPS maintenance department responsible for fire safety has been cut by 18 staff members since 1997.

    It sounds like Cowie’s department has gained at least that many. Let’s cut his staff to hire maintenance people. Or does he think he’ll need them for the next fire?

  18. Comment from Ken:

    Nike may have helped the district with the mailing, but the company isn’t doing anything out of genuine concern.
    A few years ago, Nike helped change Oregon’s tax system into something called the “single-sales tax,” which means Nike only pays taxes on what it sells in Oregon, saving the company between $16-23 million PER YEAR (according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy). Shortly after the law was changed, Nike announced it’s $9 million “Innovation Fund.” Pam Knowles is (was?) on the board of advisors for this “gift” from Nike.
    Of course, Nike gets some nice publicity from their “gift,” and PPS communications staff have written up press releases fawning over Nike’s benevolence. PPS students have been used in commercials for the fund, including this promo put up by the PPS communciations staff:
    “Because Nike believes there’s no finish line,” concludes the promo. Nike also doesn’t believe in paying their fair share of taxes, and the footware giant certainly believes in utilizing child labor and overseas sweatshops.

  19. Comment from Super Teach:

    I have been involved in two of the Nike School Innovation Fund projects. Sure, they get good publicity from all of what they do, but can you really say that they do it solely for their own publicity? The programs they fund in PPS have made a significant impact on both students and teachers – I can say this firsthand.

    All this corporate tax business whining is tiresome. Think for a minute about how Nike’s presence benefits Oregon. First, their employees need a place to live, so they buy homes. Second, they pay Oregon Income Tax each month. They shop at local stores and volunteer at local schools. Many spouses work and pay taxes too. They contribute heaps to our local economy that would otherwise be somewhere else.

    This corporate tax business does not address the horrific spending problem Oregon has. When it gets its spending in check and stops growing a budget it cannot fund, then we can talk about more money.

  20. Comment from marcia:

    I am now convinced that SuperTeach is a mole.

  21. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Yeah, Super Teach,

    Exactly HOW much money in corporate income tax does Nike pay???? PGE pays $10 a year, so I’m wondering if you have any figures? I suspect it ain’t much, and I sure as heck pay thousands more than PGE does—YEAH, WE HAVE A RIGHT TO WHINE ON THE TOP OF OUR LUNGS ABOUT THE CORPORATE MINIMUM TAX!!!!

    Horrific spending–like on what, where? Social services cut, programs stripped to the bare bones, schools have suffered plenty since Measure 5 hit in 1990, so, pray tell, where is this ‘horrific spending’? Maybe the Oregon Health plan? Nope, that was cut, too. DHS, or Police or Fire? Nope, all those cut. So, while you’re at it, please tell me where the horrific spending problem is…..i’m listening…..?????

    Yeah, the ‘corporate tax business’ does address how property owners have assumed the corporate share of taxes, while corporations barely pay income tax. Surely, these mega-corporations, such as Nike, who benefit from lower than low wages abroad, can CERTAINLY AFFORD TO HAVE THEIR FAIR SHARE UPPED A BIT? C’mon, let’s have some equity here, businesses have seen their burden/share of taxes go down in the past 19+ years of Measure 5. And I’m talkin’ big business here.

    Please explain why you think corporations SHOULDN’T pay a bigger proportion of taxes, like they USED TO, before an ignorant and gullible public swallowed McIntyre/Sizemore in big gulps….

  22. Comment from Super Teach:

    Not a mole. Just a rare breed: The logical-thinking, non kool-aide drinking conservative teacher. 🙂

  23. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:


    I’ve said it before–I do NOT think “Super Teach” is in education at all. A mole? I second that, based on the verbage of the last post, quite obvious.

    The last time I had a mole problem, I borrowed a nasty little determined terrier and that solved the problem. WOOF!! 🙂

  24. Comment from marcia:

    bubble gum down the mole hole

  25. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Super Teach, you still haven’t used your “logical-thinking” to answer ANY of my questions or points.
    I like Kool-AID, just not the stuff you’re drinking. We obviously like different flavors?

    Would be interested to understand how you can justify a corporation paying less in income tax than a teacher….hmmmm…doesn’t seem quite fair, does it????

  26. Comment from Super Teach:

    Nice to throw insults. I have the right to remain anonymous just like the rest of you. Just because my opinions are different from yours and those of most teachers does not mean I am a liar.

    The reason I hadn’t answered yet is because, whether you believe I am a teacher or not, I have work to do to prepare for my conferences this week and am not always online.

    The state gives tax incentives to companies in order to attract them to Oregon for the reasons I mentioned above. These companies contribute to our community in many ways: homes, income tax, shopping (grocery or otherwise). I know some of my Nike families at school do heaps of volunteer work. By being in Oregon, they help stimulate our economy and provide jobs for Oregonians. I’m sure there are folks out there who are looking for a job who would rather have a company move here and employ them rather than worry about the taxes Nike is paying. The tax incentives make companies come and stay. Oregon has driven out many companies based on the way it treats and taxes businesses.

  27. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Oregon’s rate of taxation is one of the lowest in the nation, and, not coincidentally, our school year among the shortest and our class sizes among the largest.

    The two measures on the ballot in January would basically keep us at our current, inadequate level of school funding if they pass. If they fail, we’ll be well on the road to being California North, with complete budget meltdown.

    Many high tech businesses have taken note of our low rate of taxation as a negative for their businesses, since they rely on a highly educated workforce. If they get a tax credit, but have to import workers, it’s not much of an incentive.

    (Let’s stick to facts, please. I don’t like the name calling.)

  28. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Super Teach, Steve, et al—having Super Teach refer to “Kool-Aid drinkers: is name calling of the highest degree. Like the kids would say: “HE STARTED IT!”

    Super Teach STILL hasn’t answered, explained or discussed any of my points, so I’ll try one last time:

    1. How can you justify low corporate income taxes, (last I read at 1931 rates?), where companies like PGE are paying $10, while, teachers like me are paying THOUSANDS?


    3. How can you explain the logic in the disproportionate corporate share of income tax over 20 years, no matter jobs or whatever the philanthropy of Nike, etc. Why SHOULDN’T BUSINESSES (CORPORATIONS, NOT SMALL BUSINESS) PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE? Remember, we only have an income/property tax funding schools.

    4. With property owners/renters, aka “regular people” assuming the burden of taxes for education, is it any wonder getting a bond/levy has trouble being passed! Do you think it is really fair NOT “to worry about the taxes Nike is paying?” I can’t ignore this inequity!

    I figure you won’t answer any of these questions, because, after all, philanthopy and jobs and stuff is what is important. Well, taxes pay for schools and how can you dismiss what corporations in this state are not paying?

    Oh, and you haven’t answered my questions about where else the state should cut?? What’s left to cut? Where? There must be fat somewhere, but would you cut basic services, already stripped to the bare bones since 1990??

    I’m trying to understand, seriously trying to understand your logic here, when you are facing poverty, homelessness, neglect, joblessness, parents working 2-3 jobs and the result of cuts to education in your classroom every day. I live this stuff, see it—hence my suspicions who you are.

    Please, please try to change my mind here, convince me otherwise.

  29. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Miss Merry, I have no doubt there are Republican/libertarian true believers working as teachers in PPS. I’ve even met classified staff, with ridiculous workloads, who complain about taxes and “government waste.”

    There’s almost no place left to cut in our state budget. Our higher ed system is spiraling down as fast as our K12 system. We barely have highway patrol. Our level of social services (mental health, seniors, poor children) should make anybody who pays attention ashamed.

    We could cut prison costs, but that would require a sane look at our drug laws and our draconian sentencing laws that have, with dubious constitutionality, violated the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches.

    But in any honest, intelligent assessment of the situation, we have a revenue problem in this state, not a spending problem (prisons notwithstanding).

  30. Comment from marcia:

    Maybe if Nike paid their taxes instead of “volunteering” I wouldn’t have 30 kids in my kindergarten class. Such nonsense. Now, who drank the Kool Aid???This tax laws have been on the books since 1931. I think $10 went a whole lot further back then.

  31. Comment from Ken:

    I appreciate Super Teach’s comments about Nike. It’s a point a view I do not agree with, but a healthy debate is far better than nothing at all. Yes, we don’t want to tax businesses out of the state – and, yes, Nike does provide jobs (and those people pay taxes). But Oregon already has a very friendly business climate compared to other states. There’s a “race to the bottom” between states (and nations) to offer the best incentives for businesses, and this can ultimately hurts students (and businesses).
    Personally, I believe the business community is highly confused about education issues. They claim to want smart, creative people capable of working in groups with others – but then they push high-stakes testing, which clearly doesn’t help develop smart, creative people capable of working in groups!
    I’m glad Super Teach found her/his involvement in the Innovation Fund to be worthwhile – but I think it’s highly interesting (if not scandalous) that Nike claims to be supporting education just a few years after they helped change the tax laws to clearly benefit themselves (to the detriment of both public education AND small businesses/families).
    PS: apologies for directing the discussion away from the original topic: the serious concerns about fire safety at PPS. Libertarian, Republican, Democrat, socialist, communist – we can all agree our kids deserve safe schools.

  32. Comment from Stephanie:

    Another quick side note from the main topic related to Nike. I need to better educate myself on the details of taxes in Oregon but do want to say that my daughter gained tremendous benefits from the Nike Summer Academy. With that said, the excellent communication with me and teamwork from the teachers and staff was why my daughter succeeded.

  33. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Stephanie, OEA has a pretty darned good history of taxation in Oregon.

    We’re teetering on the brink here. Tax policy in this state has been following California’s lead, delayed by about a decade. If we don’t want to end up in the kind of hole California’s in with regard to education and social services, we need total tax reform, pronto.

    These two measures on the ballot in January are nothing but bandaids; we need comprehensive revenue reform.

    Putting some of the burden back to corporations is a good general angle to start with, since the balance has shifted so dramatically to individuals since Measure 5.

    Super Teach may call that whining, but the facts speak for themselves. Corporate Oregon has gotten a free ride for at least 20 years.

  34. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    The Nike conversation is relevant to the fire safety issue. One small example of that was pointed out in the Oregonian’s “Portland lets school building maintenance slide” article on 5/11/08.

    At a time when fire alarm systems languished, maintenance crews spent 13 hours hanging Nike banners at various schools.

    Never fear…Carole Smith was unaware of disparities in maintenance at the time (over a year ago) and she said “It’s one of our most significant issues now.”

    Well maybe not “now” but right after the BESC finishes their latest remodel.

  35. Comment from Ken:

    Could you provide more details about PPS employees hanging Nike banners?
    I’m glad Nike’s summer school is beneficial. That being said, the best research says closing the achievent gap requires more than little programs like Nike’s summer program. I’m skeptical of Nike’s corporate philanthropy, bit that’s just the critic in me.
    At last night’s meeting, the PPS board all wore t-shirts with a good-sized Nike swoosh printed below the word “Marysville.” Is this appropriate? Nike seems interested in helping out – particularly when they can slap their swoosh all over the place.

  36. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Regarding that last comment from Ken—-ommigosh, I’m gonna be sick. The ‘swoosh’ on Marysville t-shirts? Free advertising….eyuck. Of course the Trailblazers have their emblem on the refinished gym floors a couple years ago, and Madison HS about 10 years ago collected needed big money by going with Coke-only contracts in vending machines—corporate buyout and influence in education was a concern over a decade ago! Schools are desperate and will take it any way we can (oh, but maybe we should cut government spending??? ha!)

    Oh, boy, now I’m steemed up and gonna go Google “Corporate influence in public education”…..SORRY to be so far off fire safety as a topic here, but maybe we could get a corporation to ante-up for fire-safe upgrades in our skools? We could name the schools after the companies or maybe a corporation could sponsor a classroom and name the classroom and give the teacher a year end bonus, a car, and an IRA or 401 k….hmmmmm…

  37. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Ken-the Oregonian story didn’t go into detail. The Nike banners were mentioned to make the point that important maintenance was being deferred while maintenance staff spent their time on nonessential projects.

    Here’s the link to the story:

  38. Comment from marcia:

    Nike also had a program that provided P.E. for the upper grades at our school for several years, when we had no P.E. teacher. This was fine, except for that fact that it was basically replacing a position that should have gone to a certified teacher, to serve all kids in the school…Now if Nike had been paying taxes at an equitable rate, maybe we could have afforded to pay a real P.E. teacher, not just be served by volunteers from Nike.???

  39. Comment from JustaGuy:

    Come on folks. You might recall that I commented a few weeks ago on the tone and tenor of the PAT leadership. I know you can’t all be this bitter in real life. Lets take Nike, which don’t fit me (shoes) so I don’t wear the gear. Philanthropy is defined as altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons. Carnegie built libraries, some businesses donate to the food bank, and Nike has taken an interest in PPS. Just say thanks.
    I can explain the minimum tax, but I do so without endorsing or hating on it. Remember it is a minimum tax, not a maximum, and most corporations in Oregon are quite small, not multi nationals like Nike. Even Intel is not an Oregon Corporation. PGE is onerous, but utilities are highly regulated by a panoply of commissions at the state and federal level, and taxation of utilities is a different animal altogether. Many of Oregon corporations simply do not turn a profit and even under federal tax law a business or individual only pays taxes on income earned or net profits, not gross receipts. The last stats I saw, and I do not hace a citation show that the average corporartion nationwide employees less than 20 people. I admit that is not what we think of when we think corporation. On a separate note, I do believe that SuperTeach is a teacher. If you think about it, the comments Super Teach adds stimulate conversation and in no way threaten anyone, though apparently they cause some of the wits posting here to go back in time to playground insults (mole). The name calling, at least to this tax payer seems silly. As educators, you all must have taken statistics; there has to be an outlier in the data set of teachers in PPS, or in this case, a conservative teacher in PPS. I say welcome to the marketplace of ideas. I would encourage all of us to reinforce our arguments, not raise our cyber voices in shouting down a differing opinion. Type at you later.

  40. Comment from Super Teach:

    Ok, so conferences are over (for those of you who believe me when I say I’m a teacher).

    Thanks to Ken and Justa Guy for a little bit of understanding even though we might have differences. I am too fried from back-to-back-to-back-to-back….conferences to post something meaningful at this point.

    Ok, I’ll try: I know firsthand that the Nike banners were hung to let parents know the Summer Academy is funded by the very generous donation of the Nike School Innovation Fund. Propaganda or not, those banner and incentives provided by Nike were a really exciting prize for learners to receive after a hard week’s work in the summer. There were only 6 sites for Summer Academy, so it was really no major investment of time to hang a sign of appreciation. I do think the fire issue is a critical one and think it should be addressed, but the facilities folks didn’t ask me! -)

    On the Marysville/Nike swoosh issue, Nike made a pretty generous (albeit small for them on a grander scale) donation to that community. The swoosh just goes on everything. If the swoosh is the worst thing they do, so be it. Just say thanks for the support.

  41. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Regarding PGE and how they are supposedly so tightly controlled—didn’t Peggy Fowler walk away with a huge payout? If these corporations are so benign, and such, why the big payouts to those at the top–there are others, can’t draw the names off the top o’ my head, but don’t tell me how some of these corporations are “struggling”—please!!!!!

    The corporate minimum tax–well, c’mon now…that is a pathetic joke when someone like me pays in the thousands, and PGE pays $10 a year?

    Ran into a group of Marysville teachers today at Starbucks (on break from conferences). Sure enough, there was that ‘swoosh’ and they all just rolled their eyes to the heavens when I commented on it! Oh, well, take the freebies and grin, ya, thanks for the ‘support’, NIke!!! Ha!

  42. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Guess who makes the list of donors contributing to the defeat of the January tax measures?

  43. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I just put up a new post about Nike spending money to oppose 66 & 67. How about we discuss philanthropy vs. taxation over there. I’m closing comments here.