Willamette Week donates “surplus” paper to Woodlawn, Boise

When staff at BESC sold (and bought for themselves) “surplus” supplies at below market prices last month, Willamette Week bid unsuccessfully on a kiln and a pallet of paper, with the intention of donating them back to the schools. The buyer of the paper, who paid $100, agreed to give some of it to WW for that purpose, and Friday, WW announced it would be donated to Woodlawn and Boise-Elliot K8 schools.

A Boise-Elliot parent commented on the original WW story that there was no homework for fourth grade students due to a lack of copier paper. A teacher at Woodlawn, which she describes as “yet another inadequately funded PPS Pre-K-8 school,” said she and her colleagues would have gladly accepted the toilet paper, since the school can no longer afford to provide Kleenex to classrooms (even during the worst flu outbreak in recent history).

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

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Does PPS want a teacher strike?

It’s a concept I brought up without much thought: since a major sticking point in contract negotiations is a five-day furlough for teachers, does the district want to force a strike, then, after five days of teacher picketing, come back to the table without the furlough in their contract offer? At least one teacher thinks that’s exactly what the district has in mind. Discuss.

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

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Money Talks, Bulls**t Walks. But Money + Bulls**t = Bulldozer

Much has been written, at least of late, about the Gates Foundation’s influence on public education. From donating money to Race to the Top applicants to the multiple Gates officials serving in the DOE (and all the billions of dollars flowing in between), there’s no doubt the foundation has a great impact on public education. One of my big concerns is this: Bill picked former PPS superintendent Vicki Phillips to head his domestic education program. Why’d he pick her? She’s a hammer (or, as she was known here, a “hurricane“). She’ll say all the right things, deliver her bit about just bein’ a humble Kentucky girl, and repeat a litany of education catch-phrases – just like Duncan (he’s not a Kentucky girl, but he has his own scripted story about his path to education stardom). It’s scary to think of what those two could accomplish (or demolish). Oh – and Vicki’s assistant, Margot Rogers is now Duncan’s chief of staff. Neat. For a nice taste of Vicki’s dog and pony show, check out Willamette Week writer Beth Slovic’s summary of Vicki’s recent speech to the Council on Great City Schools. Here are a few highlights:

Phillips’ audience was a mix of about 200 to 300 superintendents from large, urban school districts and school board members from around the country. Perhaps that might explain why Phillips opened with a statement that might have angered teachers (had there been any in the room.)

“What’s the toughest job in education?” Phillips asked. “Urban superintendents and school boards.”

It’s what’s happening inside the classroom, Phillips said, that really mattered. “Structure is not enough,” Phillips added, before dropping a line that sounds kinda funny when repeated outside the room. “High school is not high enough,” she said.

She then jumped to the controversial topic of merit pay, though when I spoke with her after the talk she said “merit pay” wasn’t the right phrase for what she was promoting. “This has been the third rail,” she said, but “we can do this the right way.” She then introduced the Gates Foundation’s “Measures of Effective Teaching” project, which involves videotaping teachers to find out what makes the great ones tick.

PPS attendees at the lunch included Superintendent Carole Smith; Zeke Smith, chief of staff; Robb Cowie, communications; Jollee Patterson, general counsel; Sara Allan, system planning; Mark Davalos, deputy superintendent; Sarah Singer, high school redesign; Cameron Vaughn Tyler, partnership manager; Dave Fajer, procurement; Judy Brennan, student enrollment; Cynthia Harris, Jefferson High School principal; plus School Board Members Dilafruz Williams, Ruth Adkins, Pam Knowles, Bobbie Regan, Trudy Sargent, Martín González and — for old time’s sake — Cathy Mincberg, formerly chief operating officer for Portland Public Schools.

Note: PPS Superintendent Carole Smith was Vicki’s chief of staff; Zeke Smith worked for the Portland Schools Foundation, a big Gates recipient and believer in all things Gates; Sara Allan is a former Broad Resident and is now in and executive director in charge of systems planning and performance management; Sarah Singer is not only a Broad Resident, but also in charge of Portland’s high school redesign process; Cathy Mincberg – a former HISD board president, well-known Broad lover, and partner of both Don McAdams and Rod Paige – is now working for a company owned by Michael Milken’s Knowledge Universe, KC Distance Learning. Fitting.

The reform proposals of Vicki, Bill, Arne, Eli, and their pals is “the light at the end of the education tunnel” the late Gerald Bracey referenced in a July 5th twitter posting. Bracey said it was a “standards freight train,” but it’s driven by a hurricane, a former Chicago education chief, and their philanthocapitalists backers.

SourcedFrom Sourced from: Our Global Education

Kenneth Libby is an independent education researcher and a recent graduate of Lewis and Clark's Graduate School of Education and Counseling. He writes about national education issues, testing and philanthropy on Schools Matter and Global Ideologies in Education.

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The Manifesto

I’m feeling discouraged. The district seems to be once again careening from crisis to crisis, from an unresolved teachers’ contract, to an unfinished, perhaps unfinishable K8 transition, to charter schools preying on the empty buildings left in the wake of destructive enrollment policies. We’re embarking on an ambitious high school system redesign that appears headed in the right direction with regard to balancing enrollment geographically and providing equity of opportunity, but trust in the community is low.

When everything seems to be blowing up, it’s useful to make a list. So I came up with the PPS Equity Manifesto. There’s nothing on this list that we can’t do; there’s nothing there that costs money. In fact, it will save money. In a way, this is a distillation of all the discussions we’ve had on this and other blogs over the last couple years. Comments are open on the manifesto page. I’d love your feedback.

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

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Hip Hop Charter eyes Jefferson

In another sign of the failure of Portland Public Schools to fund and support a performing arts magnet school in a historically black neighborhood, a proposed charter school focused on many of Jefferson’s current and past strengths — namely video production and music — has its eyes on the now vacant music wing at Jefferson High as a possible location.

Jennifer Anderson reports in the Tribune today that Erica Jayasuriya, the organizer of the school modeled after a Minnesota charter school, also has her eye on Madison and Roosevelt areas.

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

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Rally with teachers Monday

The Portland Association of Teachers is sponsoring a rally and march for teachers Monday, November 9 at 6 p.m., starting at the Rose Quarter Benton Surface Lot (between the Coliseum and North Broadway). After the rally, participants will march to school district headquarters, where PAT president Rebecca Levison will address the school board. Teachers at Portland Public Schools have gone nearly 500 days without a contract, and union negotiators report continuing district intransigence in bargaining talks.

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

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Teachers leaflet at the Great City Schools conference

While district administrators attended seminars like “Successful Teacher incentive and Pay for Performance Programs in Urban Schools” last week at the Great City Schools Conference, teachers leafleted attendees with the following:

To the Attendees of the Council of the Great City Schools Conference:

Welcome to Portland. In Portland, we are proud of our public schools. In this city, over 80% of residents choose to send their children to public school rather than other alternatives. The community respects and supports its teachers.

Teachers in the Portland Public Schools are some of the most highly educated and experienced staff in the state. 86% hold masters degrees or higher. Over 50% have 12 or more years of teaching experience.

No wonder Superintendent Carole Smith and the Portland Public Schools Board members are proud to host this conference. Unfortunately, however, they do not show similar regard for Portland teachers and our work.

Portland educators have now been working without a contract for SIXTEEN MONTHS. Despite that, day after day we continue to go to our school buildings because of our deep commitment to our students and to our community.

Just six years ago, Portland teachers took a pay cut of more than 5% when we worked ten days for free to avoid a threatened 24-day cut to the school year. Because of our action, all Portland students had a full school year. No other employee group in the district worked 10 days without pay. And now we are being asked to take another 5-day pay cut and a cost of living freeze.

The District calls for “shared sacrifice,” but it’s disingenuous. Portland teachers are continually asked to take on more responsibilities for less pay, while administrators at the central office are given five figure raises – for “increased responsibilities”.

One manager in Communications got a raise this year of $15,268. The amount of his raise alone is more than one-third of the annual salary of a 4th year teacher with a Masters degree. One part-time (0.8) Director of Planning and Performance at the central office, who has an MBA and no prior K-12 education experience, makes $90,000, while a full-time teacher with a PhD and twelve year’s experience makes $20,000 less.

Your PPS hosts probably did not mention that Portland teachers are frustrated and angry over the District’s lack of respect for us and our work. Teachers are seldom included in educational decisions that directly impact our students. Our professional training and experience is rarely acknowledged.

The District’s misguided priorities have resulted in staff frustration, low morale and a lack of confidence in PPS leadership.

What makes Great City Schools? Great teachers and great leaders who recognize that it takes teachers who feel respected for their professional knowledge and skill.

We have great teachers …

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

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Great schools conference: sorry about small schools, let’s try merit pay

As Portland teachers approach 500 days without a contract, and as discontent bubbles to the surface over a failing experiment in K8 schools and an ill-conceived “surplus” auction, senior management of Portland Public Schools spent last week at the downtown Hilton, enjoying seminars and speakers, not to mention complimentary breakfast and lunch.

They were there as hosts of the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) fall conference, with a headlining keynote address by former PPS superintendent Vicki Philips. Philips, now director of education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was the architect of Portland’s devastating experiments in K8s and “small schools” high schools.

She openly acknowledges that small schools were a failure (as does PPS, at least as implied by the proposed high school redesign). The latest trend being pushed by Gates — not to mention the Obama administration — is merit pay. Only we can’t call it that. “This has been the third rail,” Philips told Willamette Week‘s Beth Slovic.

Instead, much as fundamentalists have re-clothed creationism as “intelligent design,” Philips and other merit-pay proponents dress up their union-busting with terms like “performance” and talk about ways of measuring it, like videotaping teachers, sampling student work and surveying students.

According to Oregonian education blogger Betsy Hammond, Gates “will award millions to several pioneering urban districts that agree to hire, place, train and pay teachers differently…..”

So while bargaining team members from the teachers’ union report intransigence on the part of the school district in resolving their contract dispute, while a second generation of middle graders begins a middle school career in contained classrooms, and while parents report no homework due to a paper shortage even as the district auctions “surplus” paper, our superintendent and at least ten administrators spent last week taking tips from the very person responsible for a great deal of the morass our district faces today.

Portland Public Schools spends $35,000 a year in dues to the CGCS, and it spent at least $1,750 on conference fees (the superintendent and board members attend at no additional fee), not to mention the much greater cost of 11 person-weeks spent away from the district’s business of (ahem) educating our children. On Facebook, a senior PPS administrator defended attendance at the conference as a “relative bargain.”

But what’s the value to our students in sending so many senior administrators to a week-long conference (at a luxury hotel) touting the latest corporate foundation-driven trends in urban education? Under Carole Smith, our district has taken a welcome turn away from trend-hopping, instead proposing a bold, homegrown vision for our high schools, firmly repudiating the bad Gates medicine we swallowed under Philips.

Why should we blow good money to listen to Philips now?

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: the State of Black Oregon


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

“It is a civil rights violation of the worst kind in the city of Portland when based on race and zip code roughly 85% of white students have access to opportunity in rigorous college prep programs, curriculum and resources compared to 27% of black students. We are a better state than this. We are a better city than this.” –PPS Deputy Superintendent Charles Hopson

This week in PPS, we feature sound clips from the Urban League of Portland‘s presentation to the Portland City Club on the State of Black Oregon.

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

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