Executive team takes a beach retreat

6:28 pm

Portland Public Schools’ 13-member executive team, headed by superintendent Carole Smith, left today for a two-night retreat at the beach, according to an anonymous tip to PPS Equity.

District spokesman Matt Shelby confirmed that the superintendent’s team will be in Rockaway tonight and tomorrow night. Some will stay at the private home of a team member; others will stay at a rental house.

Shelby wrote in e-mail to PPS Equity that the rental and food are being paid for “by a fund in the [superintendent’s] office — established by private donations — designated for organizational development and staff recognition. The only taxpayer money spent on this comes in the form of staff paid time.”

It was not clear exactly what they would be working on. “It’s my impression that it’s some goal setting and defining this year’s budget building process,” wrote Shelby.

The executive team consists of Superintendent Smith; chief of staff Zeke Smith; general counsel Jollee Patterson; chief academic officer Xavier Botana; deputy superintendents Greg Baker, Mark Davalos, Toni Hunter and Charles Hopson; director of community involvement and public affairs Robb Cowie; director of finance Mike Gunter; director of human resources Hank Harris; director of operations C.J. Sylvester; and director of system planning and performance Sara Allan.

Shelby said he requested more information and promised more details later; I’ll post them when I get them.

Friday update: Matt Shelby confirms that this is indeed the house the district is renting. Based on published rates, PPS is spending $850 for the rental, plus a $250 cleaning fee, for a total of $1,100 for lodging. They are also spending an undisclosed amount on food.

Shelby says this will be charged to an account with a balance of $8,000 from a private donation (an inquiry about the source is still pending). “The account has also been used to purchase cards, flowers, etc… during Teacher Appreciation Week and Classified Appreciation Week,” writes Shelby.

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

filed under: BESC, Budget

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30 Responses

  1. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    Wow! Interesting timing. Is anyone surprised? Nope. WHO exactly is working on the contract negotiations? Anyone? Anyone? There is such an atmosphere of superiority with regards to the super and the other “higher ups.” I wish some private fund would donate to me so I could buy some books. But of course, that is too mundane and common. No one can be bothered. They are focusing on more sophisticated topics, like who gets the room with the view.

  2. Comment from John B. Tang:

    I bet everyone a hundred dollars that the money for this retreat comes from the Portland School Foundations. Has anyone checked into the spendings of Portland School Foundations? Luxury office and furnitures, trips, dinners….All in the name of children!!!

  3. Comment from pdxmomto2:

    Or it came from our good friends at NIKE ….

  4. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Wow, how clueless can the TOP be, right before an election for Measures 66 and 67, NO TEACHER CONTRACT, and all the HS “re-design” going on?

    Oh, I’m sorry…the retreat is probably ABOUT HS “redesign” (I use that term loosely and with sarcasm!). Yes, people, I know I, as a district employee, couldn’t possibly think or focus here in town, one must do that in an atmosphere of natural wonder, where the soul is nourished and creative juices flow. That could only happen at a beach retreat, people, and only there can true administration teamwork flourish in the beauty and peace of the great Pacific Ocean and good restaurants and lovely accomodations……


  5. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    …NIKE, who never misses a low-cost branding opportunity before a captive audience of minors, but whose CEO campaigns against modest tax increases on corporations to preserve already inadequate ed. funding.

  6. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Pretty windy in Rockaway. Manzanita or Cannon Beach would have been a little nicer.

  7. Comment from Zarwen:

    If only we could get a TV reporter to tail them out to Rockaway and pester them for interviews.

  8. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    I’d like to know how much is in this fund. It must be the first time they’ve accessed it if it’s for “organizational development”.

    What if they all took the same vehicle and it had a flat? Do you think they could coordinate changing a tire?

    Zeke would probably talk about the other three tires.

  9. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Carrie, usually I go to You Tube for a bedtime laugh, but your last sentence does it tonight! ROFLOL. Might as well joke about this thread, because it just boggles the mind—makes one really wonder what’s in the drinking water or air at BESC…..

  10. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    We need our own offline retreat.

  11. Comment from S. Wilcox:


  12. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Got an update from Matt Shelby this morning. Items on the three-day agenda are milestones/department goals, budget, and high school system design (including “Building consensus on scope of change”).

    Rumor has it they’re staying at this “oceanfront home with 5400 sq ft. of sensational luxury,” but I have not received a confirmation or denial of that. Looks like a nice place, in any case.

    Also requested total amount being spent and the source of the donations paying for it, but haven’t heard back on that, either.

  13. Comment from Rita:

    Thanks for dogging this one, Steve. Even if it makes some sense ( not a given), this is like the poster child for political tone-deafness.

  14. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Amen, Rita. Regardless of the source of funds, from the checkbook of Phil Knight or Bill Gates or whatever “private source”–IT JUST LOOKS BAD! Poor timing, looks elitist, gives the No on 66/67 troops more fuel for the fire….just pray it doesn’t get written up by Betsy and Kim in the Oregonian…..

    This is embarassing. Spent my time convincing people to vote Yes and then Carole and crew pull this stunt? *smacking head against wall at the decisions of so-called educated and professional people”…..

  15. Comment from Allen Marks:

    At first look to the taxpayer, it may seem this a waist of money. However, I wonder which would be of more interest to the taxpayer prior to this election, the executive counsel having a two day retreat, or a teacher’s union demanding more money at a time when everyone else is taking pay cuts, if not losing their jobs. I fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) will not be affected by 66/67, but I find it difficult to justify a tax increase knowing it will pay for union greed, not reducing a budget deficit.

  16. Comment from Zarwen:


    You can bet the rent that no one on that retreat is taking a pay cut! Some of them have even gotten raises! And the raises are tax-funded, NOT donation-funded!

  17. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    How quicky you forget the 10 days of working for free, pay cuts, out-of-pocket benefit increases, pay freezes. Then, INCREASED CLASS SIZES, larger caseloads for support personnel, fewer resources, longer work days and hours…yadda, yadda, yadda…..

    UNION GREED? Where? If it wasn’t for labor unions, especially in teaching, I’d likely still be shoveling coal in a boiler and scrubbing my classroom (oops, that last one all teachers do now, anyway, since custodial help has been cut back so severely! Yup, even bought my own cleaning supplies year after year–sponges, buckets, solutions, etc).

    Unfortunately, out of touch/erroneous opinions about labor unions, and your disparaging comments about teachers and pay is indicative of how our nation and our culture values education–NOT. Schools in deplorable conditions, teachers disrespected in every way, decades of budget cuts in this state since 1990 and Measure 5–is education valued? I can only hope that you would visit your local school, talk to teachers, talk to kids, and do it on a regular basis, you’d be talking a different story.

    Union GREED? Simply an unsubstantiated catch phrase based on ignorance of what is happening in public education. I have a feeling it’s been a long time since you set foot in a school, or talked WITH a teacher, right?

    I just finished reading “Three Cups of Tea”–some of the most impoverished cultures in this world give EVERYTHING because they value education and want future generations to have a better life than they did. Americans are not willing to pay for what they want, but talk a good game and lay blame, as you do, on just one element you see as “evil”.

    Read “Three Cups of Tea” and you might get some insight…and DO set foot in your local school. It will open your eyes!

  18. Pingback from PPS Administrators Head to Rockaway Beach | Willamette Week | Friday, January 22nd, 2010:

    […] us to following up on a tip from yesterday that Portland Public Schools’ top administrators are at the Oregon coast for a three-day retreat. Teachers, meantime, are pounding the pavement for the Yes on Measures 66 […]

  19. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Disappointment!!! Decisions by Carole and her crew might be out of good intention but the timing is terrible. Now it is in the news all over the city. The impact on voters would be tremendous. I myself called folks I know the last couple days to encourage a YES vote on the measures and was planning to do phone bank this weekend. Now I wondering if I should make this effort. Is this stupidity or ignorance on Carole’s part?

  20. Comment from Diane Dean:

    All this after the so-called district bargaining team wasted 20 hours of PAT bargaining time with no move closer to an acceptable settlement. I am disgusted with the administration of PPS.

  21. Comment from stephanie:

    The retreat itself doesn’t bother me that much; I used to be a part of corporate world and you do actually work from 7am to 10pm and get a lot of stuff done but it could have waited until after the vote.

  22. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Matt, I commend you for being an honest guy when you said you were not sure what the executive team was doing during their retreat. I hope you won’t get into trouble with that team later when they return because they might not like for you to be so honest. Stay that way and report to the public exactly what you know.

  23. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    What if the PAT and district negotiation teams had gone on the retreat? Would we be any closer to reaching an agreement?

    Trips like that have a way of breaking down walls. Somehow I don’t think that’s a problem within Carole’s team now. It just looks like more of the “war room” mentality.

    Miss Merry Sunshine is right. The people at the top are clueless. That includes the board! I’ll bet board members are out campaigning this weekend. They’ve forgotten that the superintendent and her staff work for them.

  24. Comment from by97225:

    I agree that while an off-site retreat has its benefits, the timing is stupendously bad.

  25. Comment from howard:

    “What if the PAT and district negotiation teams had gone on the retreat? Would we be any closer to reaching an agreement?” Now that both sides are in arbitration unfeasible. At 500 days and counting its probably too late for fence mending and bridge building..

  26. Comment from moon baby:

    I wonder what the poor people are doing this weekend….

  27. Comment from marcia:

    This poor person would like a contract settlement…and a possible 2 percent raise from a couple years ago so I can pay my bills.

  28. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    It looks like they might have been working on a job announcement. A full-time position opened on 1/22 for a CIPA Government Relations Director. Is that new?

  29. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Wow!!! I thought that job belongs to Lolenzo Poe. One of the comments I heard from the BESC central office staff was “They keep hiring new people” How does central office save $1M on the pretext of restructuring? This is not acceptable. Either Carole and Zeke lied to the public or they are so arrogant that they think whatever they say will fly. I bet teachers are up for a strike because it is not fair for them to sacrifice while the central office does whatever they please. In addition to the three new positions, RTI director, RTI assistant director, CIPA Government Relations Director… PPS is spending money on RACE training by the PEG group and Glenn Singleton. This man spins out school district training like a machine. The taxpayers are paying big bucks for the training. What are we getting in return? How is this going to close the achievement gaps for African American males?

  30. Comment from Zarwen:


    I explained this in a post on January 3, but here it is again in case you missed it.

    It is a very common practice, in both public and private sectors, to eliminate positions and announce that it is a cost-saving measure. The part you don’t announce is that you have created NEW positions that cost about the same as the “eliminated” ones. So you dupe the public into thinking you’ve made cutbacks when you’ve done nothing of the kind. The “savings” is being spent on the new hires. Happens all the time.