Category: Elections

School board candidate forum

The Beverly Cleary PTA is hosting a school board candidate forum this Thursday, with all six candidates expected to attend (or send a surrogate).

  • Thursday, April 2nd, 7:30-8:30 pm
  • The Cafetorium, Beverly Cleary School, Fernwood Campus, 1915 NE 33rd Ave.

Childcare will be provided by the PTA on a first-come, first-served basis for a maximum 20 children.

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

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Bailey on K8s

Note: this is Scott Bailey’s response to questions from PPS Equity about his positions on K8s. –Ed.

  1. PPS shifted to a K-8 configuration, but has never had a K-8 education plan.
  2. The reconfiguration was poorly planned, done too quickly, and so was poorly executed. Let me qualify that by saying given the task and the timeline, I would guess that line staff were overwhelmed and did the best they could with not enough resources. The responsibility lies elsewhere.
  3. And yes, there was no, and still is no, education vision for K-8s, it’s just a configuration.
  4. As is obvious, there are substantial problems with enrollment, with some K-8s being overcrowded and some under-enrolled. Those schools that are under-enrolled either have an under-populated catchment area or lose middle grade students to other schools. As a result, they are hard pressed to offer adequate electives, and so the latter are in no position to retain more students. Adding to the imbalance in the Northeast is that Beaumont, after losing one of its feeder schools, has to recruit from other schools in order to remain viable.
  5. K-8s, if properly implemented, do have some advantages over middle schools, in that they can be a more intimate atmosphere, and there is one less transition, which can be important for many kids. If the teaching staff is consistent, there will be teachers who know the kids all the way through 8th grade—potentially important relationships that can be maintained. If parent involvement is done right—and I mean specific programs to welcome all parents into the school community, good school-parent communication, education on what to do at home to help your child succeed, and inclusion of parents in decision-making at the school—then K-8s can be a great community. I think it’s tougher to do that at a middle school, and tougher for parents to work at school improvement, with only a three-year span. Finally, if a K-8 school intentionally links the big kids with the younger kids in positive ways, it’s a real plus.
  6. On the down side, especially if you don’t have the population, you won’t be able to offer the electives. Socially, at any school, there are some kids who don’t mix well due to personality dynamics, and if you only have one class in that grade level, you’re stuck. And there is often less diversity at a K-8 because of the narrower catchment area.
  7. The research seems to say that there isn’t a clear advantage of one over the other. I think it’s much more important to look at how a school is managed, regardless of the configuration.
  8. An important question that you raise, and that was raised in the workshop at the CPPS Parent Leadership Conference, is how do we measure success with this whole experiment—and by extension, at what point would we pull the plug. I think it’s important to remember that many of the middle schools that got dismembered were not working very well. I think the root problems are still with us, however—we don’t have an educational vision for the middle grades, the curriculum is often not challenging enough or engaging enough, the suspension rates for children of color are way out of line, etc. These are issues regardless of the configuration.
  9. So where do we go from here? Building on the last point, we need a clear evaluation of whether students will be getting a better education after full implementation of the K-8s than before. If not, then we need to carefully map out some better options. I think that part of the challenge is to “reinvent” middle grade education—this is a time when students are very active, and so there are great opportunities to involve them in project-oriented learning, and connect them with the greater community. This is also a time when parents may need some guidance shifting from hands-on to a different level of involvement, that focuses on building skills like time-management.
  10. The school choice policy that we have is clearly part of the issue in K-8s as well as high school. I think it’s clear that if we allow unlimited transfers, it can make it very difficult for a school that loses families to recover. Maybe we need to limit neighborhood school-to-neighborhood school transfers, to prevent schools falling below a certain population. On the other hand, that might lead to more families jumping ship to private schools or charters. I think we need to get the issue on the table for discussion, however, because it doesn’t serve anybody when a school’s population slowly drains away.
  11. The optimum solution, of course, is to improve our neighborhood schools. I have worked on and will continue to work on key factors like improving procedures for hiring and evaluating principals. I’m hoping that the current round of negotiations with teachers leads to a joint committee which will work on improving teacher evaluations. I’ve played a major role in laying the groundwork for building system supports for parent involvement. I think there are management systems that can be introduced that will help shift the Central Office to supporting schools as opposed to imposing on them. I was a founding member of the Community Education Partners, which is pushing PPS to address the suspension/expulsion rate for children of color, so far getting very little traction. This is an issue I bring up at every gathering I’m at, as one important priority among the many issues of equity that need to be addressed in PPS. And then there’s the vision thing for middle grades.

Scott Bailey ran for the Portland Public Schools Board of Education zone 5 seat in 2009.


Campaign finance watch: Knowles catching up

The money race in zone 5 is getting tighter, with Scott Bailey approaching the five figure mark and Pam Knowles closing with over $7k raised. Knowles has also bagged endorsements from city commissioners Dan Saltzman and Randay Leonard.

As expected, Knowles is starting to tap the business community, with a $1,825 in-kind contribution from Web services firm WeClik and a $500 cash contribution from Rooper Construction. She’s getting some large contributions from individuals, too, such as Ron Beltz ($500), Erin Devaney ($750), Steve Holwerda ($350), Portland Business Association president and CEO Sandra McDonough ($500), and several individual contributions between $100 and $250 (including Commissioner Dan Saltzman and and former city council candidate Jon Branam).

Knowles is lagging in spending, having spent just over $800 in cash.

By contrast Bailey, who’s raised just over $9,000, has spent over $4,500, mainly to Kari Chisolm’s Mandate Media ($2,040; 22% of money raised and 45% of money spent) and his campaign manager (and CPPS board secretary) Kathy Couch ($1,200).

Both candidates are spending money with the printer Witham & Dickey (Bailey $620.07; Knowles $709.75), but Knowles’ expenses are offset by a $250 cash contribution from co-owner William Dickey.

Maybe Bailey needs a different printer.

No candidates in zone 4 or 6 have reported any money raised or spent.

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: Moore declares for zone 4

PPS Equity friend and contributor Rita Moore has declared her intent to run for school board in zone 4, as reported by Beth Slovic on WWire.

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


K8 questions for Scott Bailey

Community and Parents for Public Schools (CPPS Portland) held a parent leadership conference on February 28, which included a workshop on K8s. CPPS co-founder Scott Bailey, who is running for Sonja Henning’s zone 5 seat on the school board, sent out a summary of comments and questions from workshop particpants (see below).

Since CPPS has been generally uncritical of Portland Public Schools policies, and Scott Bailey is running as a CPPS candidate — CPPS board members Kathy Couch and Rick Barasch are his campaign manager and treasurer, respectively — I thought it would be informative for Scott to express his own opinions about what many consider to be a botched K8 reconfiguration. Here’s the e-mail I sent him yesterday. I have extended Scott an open invitation to respond in a new post on this Web site, and articulate his own vision for how middle grade education should look in Portland.

It’s pretty clear to me and many parents and teachers I’ve spoken with that, as you allude to, K8s that started as middle schools can do pretty well, but K8s that started as K5s have immense problems — facilities, staffing, etc. — that aren’t going to be solved without spending a lot more money, which is obviously in very short supply these days.

We’re already spending a lot more general fund money than we ever expected on these schools, only to put middle graders in portables without access to electives or age- and curriculum-appropriate facilities.

You note the lack of a K-8 option on the west side in #3 (Skyline notwithstanding, I assume), but fail to mention the lack of a middle school option in the Jefferson and Madison clusters (as well as in broad swaths of the Roosevelt and Marshall clusters). If we’re serious about #10 (“District needs to ensure equity in all schools”), this is a glaring inequity. Why do we treat middle schoolers in one part of town differently from those in another part of town?

Or, to be more explicit about what’s going on: Why are poor and minority students disproportionately assigned to K8s for middle grades, while white, middle class students have generally maintained access to comprehensive middle schools in their neighborhoods?

There’s a fiscal responsibility question here, too, since comprehensive middle schools provide vastly more opportunity at lower cost due to the size of student cohorts. For example, a 400-student middle school gets around 17 teachers in the current staffing formula, easily enough to provide all the basics plus a broad array of electives, advanced math and performing arts. A K8 with, say, 100 students in the middle grades, gets a little more than four teachers for those grades. How many electives are they going to provide?

How much more do we have to spend to give these students access to electives, adequate science labs, advanced math, and performing arts? How do we justify this additional expense, when these things are essentially free with the middle school model?

In other words, what are the specific benefits of this model, given its dramatically higher (and still not fully known) costs, and its relative dearth of academic opportunity when compared to the middle school model?

Are these benefits somehow specific to poor and minority students? If not, why not implement this model district-wide? What metrics can we use to determine if these benefits outweigh the cost to the district and students, in terms of higher spending and lost educational opportunities?

More to the point: How are ethnically and socio-economically segregated, self-containted eighth-grade classrooms preparing our at-risk youth to be successful in high school and beyond?

Other than a stated desire to follow through on a decision by a previous administration, Portland Public Schools board members and staff have have failed to articulate an overall vision and rationale for this reconfiguration.

I’ll appreciate your thoughts on this, since you’re aspiring to a policy-making position currently occupied by a director who opposed the K8 reconfiguration.

Participant questions and comments on the CPPS K8 workshop

1. Things have improved at Vernon in terms of course offerings (Spanish, PE, art, algebra) with a full rotation of teachers for students. There is only one sixth-grade class, which is a big concern. The 7th and 8th graders are segregated from the rest of the school in portables, and do not feel welcome in the school. PE equipment is inadequate for the older kids, and the gym is too small for activities for them.

2. Faubion: same issue with lack of integration of 7th and 8th graders. Mentoring programs linking older and younger kids need to be started.

3. No K-8 option is available on the west side.

4. Loss of electives in the switch from middle school to K-8. This can lead to a vicious cycle, where low FTE lowers offerings which makes it hard to keep families at the school.

5. Roseway Heights–lots of positives. 8th graders can get high school credits for algebra. Art and band are offered. Lots of linking of older and younger kids–maybe it helped that it was a middle school growing down rather than an elementary growing up. School is packed, enrollment-wise.

6. District needs better communication (resentment that communication just seemed to stop), and another K-8 meeting with parents.

7. Anger over the Pearl District decision–inconsistent with recent closures of small schools in other areas.

8. Astor: biggest issue is space– no room for library, science lab, etc.

9. Question: how will the K-8 programs be evaluated?

10. District needs to ensure equity in all schools.

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


Campaign finance watch: Bailey on a roll, Regan among donors

In the only (so far) contested race for school board this May (zone 5), Scott Bailey has set the wheels in motion on what looks to be a campaign fund-raising juggernaut. He’s raised over $7,000, including $250 from school board member Bobbie Regan, and spent nearly $3,000 in the two months since he kicked off his campaign fund-raising efforts.

Other donors contributing more than $100 so far include Elizabeth Marantz ($200), Donald Oman ($200), Lynn Youngbar ($200), Joan Volpert ($200), Kalyn Culler Cohen ($200), Laura Foster ($150), Leslie Comnes ($200), Robert Arnott ($1,000) and David Oberhausen ($350).

Kari Chisolm’s Mandate Media, Inc., remains the number one beneficiary of Bailey’s campaign spending, having pocketed $1,000 for “management services”. Bailey also has campaign manager Kathy Couch on his payroll, to the tune of $900 since February 12.

Bailey’s opponent, Pam Knowles, will be playing catch up, having only raised $100 to date and spent nothing. One can assume the business community will start ponying up to her campaign soon enough, and the first mailers for both candidates should start hitting your mail box within the next several weeks.

The school board election for Portland Public Schools zones 4, 5 and 6 is May 19. The filing deadline is March 19.

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


Money race begins in zone 5

Scott Bailey is off and running, already having raised over $3000, including a $400 loan from himself, a $1000 contribution from Robert Arnott (this Robert Arnott?), and $1055 in donations of $100 or less. He’s spending at a good clip, too, including $575 for a logo, $1000 to Kari Chisolm’s Mandate Media (presumably a down payment on a Web site, which, to me, seems a tad exorbitant for “management services”), and another $40 to Chisolm’s company for a domain name (something that can be had on the open market for $10-$15, including hosting and several e-mail accounts).

We can assume that the usual suspects (Portland Schools Foundation and Stand for Children donors) will show up on Bailey’s balance sheet before long.

Pam Knowles hasn’t yet reported a dime raised or spent, though her Web site is up and running. (Hold on… you can have a political Web site in this state without putting a cool G in Kari Chisolm’s pocket? Oh, wait… maybe she’s not a Democrat.) I’m sure we’ll see the Portland business community lavishing Knowles with cash soon.

Incumbents Trudy Sargent (zone 6) and Martin Gonzalez (zone 4) have yet to register campaign finance committees with the state; perhaps they’re waiting to see if any opponents show up before bothering.

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

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Run, Lakeitha, run!

I took some heat for for encouraging Sonja Henning to run for re-election in the face of election filings from über-establishment candidates Scott Bailey and Pam Knowles. I hadn’t even considered a Draft Lakeitha Elliot movement (thanks change seeker and Terry for hitting me upside the head with the clue-by-four).

At this point, I’m ready to throw my support to a real community candidate, no matter how quixotic the run may (or may not) be. We need somebody at the candidate forums telling it like it is for working families. And you never know, Terry may be right; Knowles and Bailey might just cancel each other out in the voting.

I can’t think of anybody who has a better understanding of the problem, and who is more likely to tell it like it is than Lakeitha.

If you agree, why not leave a comment here to encourage her to run?

Run, Lakeitha, run!

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


The numbers paint a picture

2008-2009 PPS student migration


Percentage of enrollment gained (or lost) due to student migration (compared to cluster population)

Student population vs. enrollment

Availability of comprehensive secondary schools correlated with race and poverty

cluster # comp. high schools # comp. middle schools % non-white by residences % free/reduced meals by residence
Jefferson 0 0 67.48% 61.39%
Roosevelt 0 1 67.6% 72.30%
Madison 0 0 61.95% 61.77%
Marshall 0 1 57.96% 72.79%
Wilson 1 2 24.57% 20.80%
Lincoln 1 1 21.60% 9.30%
Franklin 1 1 35.05% 38.52%
Grant 1 2 32.85% 23.17%
Cleveland 2 2 27.16% 30.15%

Note: teacher experience and student discipline rates also correlate highly to race and poverty; that is, average teacher experience is lower and discipline referral rates higher in schools serving high poverty, high minority populations. Data for the current school year are not yet available for these factors.

Data source: Portland Public Schools.

This report is available in PDF format (240KB).

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


In the news

Helen Silvis writes about Portland’s Small Schools experiments in The Skanner.

In the Portland Tribune, Jennifer Anderson reports that erstwhile Vicki Phillips supporter Scott Bailey is throwing his hat into the ring for the May school board election in zone 5.

Beth Slovic reported on Willamette Week‘s blog last month that Ben Joy (a critic of Phillips’ disastrously rushed K-8 conversion) would not run for the zone 5 seat, but he now appears to be considering a run, according to the Trib.

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

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