PPS buys headsets for administrators, so they can keep talking and driving

7:45 pm

Citing a new Oregon law that goes into effect January 1, Portland Public Schools IT administrators have sent an e-mail to staff reminding all “PPS Blackberry users” that they must use hands-free devices when talking on the phone while driving. Users who have lost the headset that came with their Blackberry may get a new one from the district.

Peer-reviewed studies published in both the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal show a four-fold increase in the risk of collision when drivers are engaged in phone conversations, and that hands-free phones are no safer than hand-held. Another study, published in the journal Sage, shows that “the impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk.”

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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, Safety

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29 Responses

  1. Comment from east vs. west:

    Ok, so if we are being realistic and human, there are so many of us who drive while talking on the phone. Sure we are in negotiations and money is definitely an issue. However, there are those who travel between buildings who need to multi-task. Are we really going to be that critical? It comes off as a bit nit-picky.

  2. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Nit picky? Here is another expense that could be used in the classroom. My building expects the HS art teachers to BUY THEIR OWN SUPPLIES, THEY DO NOT HAVE A BUDGET. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA THE COST OF ART SUPPLIES WHEN YOU GET TO THE HS LEVEL??When was the last time a doctor had to buy his own supplies out of his paycheck? I mean, they are not given one penny to purchase the materials THEY NEED TO TEACH!!!

    Why shouldn’t the admin buy their own headsets? Special Ed resource teachers were given $350 in 1986, $300 about 2000–now it’s down to $200 per year, per teacher for ALL INCIDENTAL and academic SUPPLIES! Teachers used to order out of the district supply catalog to the tune of $50 a year. That, too was discontinued a few years ago!!! Now it’s zero. I would go to Costco to buy Kleenex, and other things you can’t get at Schoolhouse Supplies.

    NIT PICKY? Yes, I’m very nit-picky when teachers are held responsible for getting kids up to benchmark, meeting standards, etc–YET NOT GIVEN THE FUNDS OR SUPPLIES TO CARRY OUT THE JOB. I think that should be a pretty high priority on the nit-picky scale, don’t you?

  3. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    The new Oregon law doesn’t go far enough; the research is quite clear on this.

    But now comes PPS not just enabling its administrators with fancy toys, but encouraging them to engage in behavior as risky as drunk driving.

    Hang up and drive, people!

  4. Comment from east vs. west:

    Steve, I appreciate your professionalism and your demeanor in addressing concerns. I have enjoyed reading the concerns and conversation raised in this blog.

    Miss Merry, you’ve got to stop yelling at folks! I read your commentary on Oregon Live and identified you before you even mentioned it here. I appreciate your passion for your work (or are you retired?), but your tone is angry. As someone who holds many opinions different than yours, I don’t really feel welcome to discuss them here because YOU WILL YELL AT ME! When you come in anger, folks stop listening and your message is ignored.

    Anyhow, I’m outta here for a while. Have a Merry Christmas and a restful 2 weeks.

  5. Comment from Diane Dean:

    Miss Merry has every right to be angry. When you are in the trenches each day and end up buying what you need to teach with, it gets really old hearing about the superfluous items that are given to administrators. Besides nobody should be multitasking because you will do neither activity very well. In the case of driving, you are actually putting others in a dangerous position. I am tired of begging for glue sticks, dry erase markers, etc. to do the learning activities that are taught to us during district sponsored inservices. I use much of my own money to buy what is needed to enrich my kindergarteners’ learning so that they will love school and become lifelong learners. When will PPS get it?

  6. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    Amen! I just about lost it when I got the pps email last week. First of all, it was sent to ALL pps employees. Is the district that insensitive that they do not realize that a majority of the people they sent the email to are teachers, support staff, etc. who DID NOT get the FREE Blackberries to go with said headsets? Miss Merry, I applaud you. Thanks for speaking up.

  7. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I kinda wonder if somebody in IT support sent that message out to all PPS staff just to make a statement…

  8. Comment from ppsparent:

    This REALLY pisses me off as a taxpayer, and as parent who has children in PPS.
    I hope that the local news will run a story on this…more people in this community need to know how their money is being spent, and how poorly this district is being managed.

  9. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    EAst vs. west—oooh, I’ve been outed! hehehehe…anyway, yeah, I yell a lot because I cannot fathom how clueless the PPS is when they make decisions not thinking one bit of the consequences or response! It kinda goes like this, as I YELL one more time: IT’S BEEN LOVELY, BUT I HAVE TO SCREAM NOW!!!!


    Merry Christmas from Merry Sunshine, may 2010 bring a dose of intelligence to some of the PPS administration about the STOOPID things they do as a public display……..that makes a lot of us go absolutely bonkers *Merry smacking head on wall trying to understand*

  10. Comment from Steve Buel:

    PPS needs a plan of attack. Presently they are just overwhelmed with the problems. Used to be they worked school by school to get each of them to work. The asst. supt. knew what was going on in each school and which ones needed real attention. We now seem to have PR people in those positions — not administrators concentrating on how things are actually working. We know all the test scores but seem to fail to evaluate the real education taking place. It seems like it is the same throughout each of the sections — special ed, maintainance, whatever. It must be terribly frustrating for people at every level.

  11. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    Let me tell you Steve, you hit it. It is ALL about test scores. NOTHING more. Disgusting….

  12. Comment from Marcia:

    It is frustrating! And darn, I can’t seem to find my headset.

  13. Comment from Zarwen:

    When I lived and taught in NY, the school districts provided ALL materials for ALL teachers in ALL programs. No one was expected to spend a penny out of pocket for teaching materials.

    As far as the headsets are concerned, I am waiting for the news report stating that some PPS administrator has crashed into a car full of small children while talking on the phone . . . God forbid!

  14. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Did anyone see the two central office positions posted in the last two weeks: RTI Director and a RTI Assistance Director. RTI stands for Response to Intervention. These two positions report directly to the CAO. Each of the position pays almost $100K not counting benefits. So what is going on with central? How does PPS account for hiring more and more high level paying jobs while asking teachers to sacrifice their pay and making do with less. I had read somewhere that Carole had asked all departments to freeze their wages as well as new hires. The latest was the Director for Strategic Partnership but it apparently did not stop there. Last Thursday, Carole had a huge feast at BESC with caterers to bring in fancy foods for her staff and school board members to celebrate the holidays and to show her appreciation to staff. Isn’t this a little bit extravagant? Check it out!!!

  15. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Ah, yesss…RTI…..don’t even let Special Ed teachers get started on what that monster is about. Any of you Speds out there with opinions on this horrible way of getting kids the services they TRULY NEED? No wonder they need to hire two highly paid administrators to deal with this–no surprise to me. I’d love to hear some RTI stories around the district, anyone have them?

  16. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Dear Ms. Merry Sunshine: Tell me more about RTI. BTW, I finally got a chance to read the article about PPS and the philanthro-capitalists and undertand a little bit better about the Broad residents. I would say these residents need more life experience as well as education experience. The Broad resident that left three years ago was so arrogant, condescending and was so clueless about the resistance from change from such a huge organization like PPS. His name was Alex Hernandez and he was one of Vicki’s favorite Broad fellows. He finally grew so impatient of his own inability to move PPS along so he quit. He is now running a charter school in Stockton, I believe. I wonder how successful he became with this experience.

    It is also interesting to note that the newly hired CAO, Xavier Botana is taking more of a prominent role in PPS. So this in a way reflects Carole’s and her senior team leadership’ ability to run the district? Is it about time to question Carole’s ability to lead?

  17. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    This is how I understand RTI (Response to Intervention): previous to RTI, if a Special Ed student was having a difficult time in a program placement, such as a Life Skills classroom, the educational team (teachers, parent, student, school psych, counselor, VP, etc) could meet and decide the student might need a different placement to be more successful. Of course there were other hoops to jump through, justifiably so, in order to protect the student and give the parents some due process, etc. Every time I was in a situation as this, moving the student usually was better for the student. Sometimes not, requiring yet another placement change. Not a perfect system, but for the most part, good for the child, and in some cases, other children in the classroom. You cannot, repeat CANNOT move students on a whim from one program to another, it took many meetings, documentation, justification, testing, etc….to make a case for a necessary change of placement.

    RTI means the classroom teachers (gen ed and special ed) must TRY ENDLESS INTERVENTIONS, ENDLESS REAMS OF PAPERWORK impractical for documenting all the way, and this not only takes copious amounts of time, but I believe it harms a student who needs to get the most successful placement they can, as soon as they can. In my opinion RTI is morally/ethically wrong–and if the district is having to hire two bigwigs with big pay to administer this–WELL, LET’S FLY THE RED FLAGS ON THIS BABY??? Something is wrong with RTI if it needs two admin. for implementation, training, monitoring, etc.

    I’m sure I’ll get blasted by Sped admin and district people with “research” on how great this system is. Ask a gen ed or special ed teacher just how great it is on a day to day basis. It’s the next “great new thing” we are all supposed to buy into, and of course is such a great improvement on what we had—NOT. I beg to differ.

    I find it morally incomprehensible how a child could be left in a miserable setting where he/she is unsuccessful, and not have placement changed in a timely fashion, with appropriate documentation. RTI does harm to students by delaying an appropriate placement and is a hoop-jumping barrier to ALL teachers of all subjects.

    But–I wouldn’t mind hearing if it is working anywhere, by someone in the trenches, and if they see it as an improvement over the old placement system used in Sped. My experience with it is only one example. I don’t have enough experience with it, and have formed an opinion on how lousy RTI works…so someone change my mind!

    Hope this helps!

  18. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Thank you, Miss Merry Sunshine. I will talk to some of the Special Ed folks to see what they think of this. Special Ed has been going through a program review during the past several months and they last held a two-day Stake Holder’s meeting a couple weeks ago at the Coliseum. RTI was not mentioned during these two days. PPS newly hired CAO, Xavier Botana, has a huge challenge ahead of him. He oversees both Special Ed and ESL and both programs are in trouble. The State is withholding Title III money from PPS due to the district being out of compliance in not providing a quality education to ELL students. Special Ed is in danger of being sued…for not serving its students well. Wow!!! Our district is in a holy mess!!!

    Thank you again. I appreciate reading your comments.

  19. Comment from Stephanie:

    I can only offer a parent perspective on special education but I have been in the trenches as a parent advocate for families who experience multiple placements in the role of behavioral consultant and would like to say RTI if implemented with proper support and training will be a very good thing. I don’t know what the job description is and if it warrants that much pay but we need an evidence-based behavior response system right away. I was at the two-day stakeholder’s meeting and RTI was mentioned both days but perhaps it was just at the table talk. When we did our recommendations RTI rose to the surface as a top priority from the participants (teachers, paraeducators, admin, ELL, parents) I was part of a panel of parents that spoke the first day.
    RTI will assist in actually meeting the IDEA which requires children with disabilities receive the right supports in the least restrictive environment which is general education first. I am sure Miss Merry is accurate that the current paperwork is not at a whim but to parents that is what it feels like; we appreciate anything that makes it harder to get kids kicked out of schools. I know many children who have experienced multiple transfers because they keep moving the classroom or the teacher and these kids cannot grow roots and become a part of the school community. You have to wonder why this population of students get moved more than any others? These kids have a hard enough time making friends and then get transferred around the district at what appears to be the benefit of general ed and transfer slots. I have been told from within PPS that admin have to tell some principals they cannot consider a special education student a potential transfer in slot.
    As a parent I have had to carefully engineer my special education experience because I never want my kid in a self-contained classroom and do not think most of the kids in those classrooms belong there (as a behavior consultant I will admit some kids need and even want smaller settings). Another parent I know who has child in general education with a great deal of support needs has spent the last 2 years writing so many grants for the school that she is now enmeshed. She confided that her hard work is a trump card based on keeping her daughter from being transferred out of general ed. The parents who have mentored me have told me that to keep your placement you need the people at the school to love you so much they would never let the SPED department take you away. That is pretty messed up that parents who already have more challenges at home have to lose sleep and sanity to keep their child from being moved around every year.
    My hope is that RTI will facilitate more support across the board in both gen and special education and all kids with our without IEP needs will be able to stay in one place and not get bumped around like the do now.
    Did you know some kids in self-contained classrooms are not even pictured in the year book? Why can’t parents who have kids on IEP’s “shop” for a transfer slot? There is no tour, they just tell you where you are going to go. Some parents in the past have told me they do not know what school their child will be at until a week or two before school starts. The E & T department will get transfer applications for kids with IEP’s because the parent has had to find out on their own that this school might have a classroom that is a good fit. Alameda is an example of a school that gets a lot of transfer requests for kids with autism.
    We need RTI like yesterday. The director of special education has shared with parents in the special education PTA where the stimulus money is being spent for IDEA and RTI is part of that. I have been pretty happy with what I have been hearing and being part of the stakeholder process.

  20. Comment from Stephanie:

    I just briefly reviewed the stakeholder preliminary results and in summary what came in as a #1 priority was team collaboration time and collaborative team teaching. #2 priority was a district wide and cross setting supports and intervention system such as RTI. Stakeholders I left out above were TOSA’s, counselors, slp’s, ot’s, and community partners.
    There was general education representation there but I only heard from one teacher who was on the panel. It sounds like if there was enough time to plan and collaborate less kids would be placed elsewhere so often.

  21. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Stephanie, thanks for your comments from a parent perspective. Because the implementation is so new, and my experience so sour and limited, I appreciated your comments.

    But….I still feel negative toward RTI when I read your comment: “RTI if implemented with proper support and training will be a very good thing.” AYE, THERE’S THE RUB!

    It has NOT been implemented well, in fact, it has NOT been implemented to the gen. ed. teachers that I know, AT ALL!!! Given the history of this district, most things are not implemented soundly, with best practices for staff in place, so I give RTI a rat’s chance of being effective UNLESS all staff (including classified) understand the concept and how it operates.

    Given the history of the district implementing changes, new programs, RTI is doomed from the start. As a Sped teacher, I was given RTI forms before I even knew how or why or given any traininng. Par for the course, shall we say?

  22. Comment from stephanie:

    Agreed on all points. Top down implementation and only making RTI about special education is sure to fail. It makes sense that collaboration time came in first followed by what needs to be implemented based on actual experiences of PPS employees. A lack of knowledge and support from admin rose to the surface in the audit results. Trust me, I know they just hand you these forms and expect you to train yourself and I have been bringing those issues up in these forums. Of course, I am always told “my observation is incorrect” but I keep squeaking anyway.
    As an advocate for meaningful integration of our kids I know that inclusion must be a partnership and not a mandate or it will never work. I have heard that top down inclusion mandates have in fact hurt PPS in the past.

  23. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Stephanie, your observations on lack of training and prep is right on. I’d like to hear some gen.ed. and classified staff (always ‘forgotten’ in the Sped picture). This is probably another thread we are starting here, maybe we can get a Sped/RTI one going?

  24. Comment from stephanie:

    I was thinking the same thing and was inspired to finally start a post draft on the stakeholder meeting last night (this morning to people that sleep) and will get that sent off to Steve with a goal of today or tomorrow. I have some archived stuff on special education and universal design if you want to check it out.

  25. Comment from Clarity:

    To get back to the thread in the title…How many of us have ever had to contact their principal on a Thursday? I don’t know about you but at my school my Principal is at district meetings three Thursday’s a month, not all day but part. I _know_ if needed I can contact, have a secretary call, or email him and I _will_ get a response. The only reason is those damn blackberries that everyone want to make a federal case out of. A cell phone is not a toy, superfluous, or a new high tech gadget people. They are the way of the world, not new by any means, and keep us connected. Just my two sense. Our district (yes our district – I’m a member of it’s workforce, I’ll own my part) has many many issues to work out. Cell phones…really not worth the time.

  26. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Clarity, I have to agree with you. Whether or not an administrator gets a cell phone to help them with their job is not really a big deal. Lots of other problems to deal with. Part of the reason people wondered about this is that there are libraries which deperately need books for instance. So is having good books for children to read more important than being able to reach your administrator all the time? Some people are saying, “no, library books are more important, why wasn’t this money spent here?” Or they are suggesting it doesn’t look good in the middle of absurdly protracted contract negotiations to purchase something for administrators when some teachers don’t have telephones or even decent computers in their classrooms. That is the issue being addressed. Not that a cell phone isn’t really helpful. It is.

    I think the most important issue you raise is that principals are gone each Thursday. This is crazy and always has been. Principals should be in their buildings. Now that we have email there is no reason to have innumerable principal meetings. We are already doing way too much in our schools which comes from the top down and arrives here via some national trend, which generally is not very successful and is pretty much meant to increase test scores, which is the wrong target anyway. One meeting a month during school time — probably a little too much. Sometime we need to understand that how a building runs and works is much more important than what national trends we are using to make us look like we are addressing the test score problem. And when a principal is gone the school itself generally runs worse. Probably a couple exceptions. 🙂

  27. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    Thank you again, Steve, for bringing us back to why we all are part of this blog. Blackberries are GREAT! But why is the district paying for them? That is the issue, is it not? I NEED BOOKS!!!! I think I have mentioned that before. And the district is buying Blackberries. Books or Blackberries. Which will it be folks? Such a silly question.

  28. Comment from Clarity:

    Can’t argue with any of that Steve. Well said.

  29. Comment from John B. Tang:

    Stephanie, you mentioned that ARRA money is being spent on Special Ed program. Did anyone else wonder about how this $15 Million ARRA money is being spent. Did the district do a careful analysis of what students need this the most? How was it being spent to close the achievement gaps? What accountability is being put in place to ensure a fair distribution of this money? How would the report look like and who is going to ensure that the money is indeed spent on what the report says? Was a public input process created to ask for parents and community advice?

    ARRA money has to be well-documented and transparent to the taxpayers. Are all these things being done before it is being spent. At this point, it is pretty much in the hand of the Director of Funded programs, Susan Kosmala. Who is going to question her and ask for accountability? $15 Million is not small chump change.