Category: Media

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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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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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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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.


In the news: PPS sells “surplus” copy paper, toilet paper

Beth Slovic report in today’s Willamette Week that Portland Public Schools last week sold “surplus” copy paper and toilet paper, among other items, for less than market value. Portland teachers spend an average of $600 a year out of their own pockets for classroom supplies, according to their union. They are currently fighting for a contract that doesn’t roll back their pay to pre-2007 levels, even as they deal with an increased workload.

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


In the news: school to charge parents for late pick-up

Fox 12 TV is reporting that Woodmere Elementary School in southeast Portland will begin charging parents late fees when they pick up their kids more than ten minutes after the final bell. For every each ten minute block after the first ten, parents will be charged $5, the equivalent of $30 an hour.

Woodmere students are 57 percent non-white. Eighty percent qualify for free or reduced lunch, and 34 percent are English Language Learners. Fox 12 reports that the district will study the program and consider implementing it at other schools.

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


In the news: Carole Smith’s challenges

Jennifer Anderson writes in the Portland Tribune about issues facing Portland Public Schools superintendent Carole Smith, including stalled teacher contract talks and the stalled — some would say failed — experiment in k8 schools.

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: teachers take on “Race to the Top” nation-wide; PPS staff recommend hip hop charter

Teachers and their unions are gearing up to take on the Obama administration’s pro-charter, pro-merit pay “Race to the Top” initiative. Paul Abowd writes in Labor Notes reports that teachers from New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles met recently in LA “to bring a vision of education reform that puts educators, not ‘education management organizations,’ in the driver’s seat.”

Kim Melton reports on that PPS staff are recommending the school board approve a charter high school with a focus on hip hop, modeled on the High School for Recording Arts in Minneapolis.

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


This Week in PPS #4: update

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

This week in PPS, the school board and community get their first chance to really dig  in to high school redesign, and the PPS Parent Union kicks off.

But first, a review of last week’s news.

  • On PPS, Parent Polly Zagone tells more of the story that Beth Slovic introduced in Willamette Week September 23. Zagone complains that her son, who was given a modified diploma, was denied the basic education the state requires local school districts to provide. Zagone lists the eleven so-far-unanswered questions to the district, beginning with: Is Pioneer a school? If not, what school did my son graduate from?
  • The Lincoln High football coach discipline situation has been resolved, but the football program is left hanging. Portland Public Schools has fired head coach Chad Carlson, who refused to step down. Two assistants stepped down, and can coach next year.  A fourth coach was suspended for three weeks.
  • In The Oregonian, Kim Melton writes about the dearth of environmental education in Green Portland. This as the North American Association for Environmental Education prepares for its annual conference and symposium in Portland Tuesday through Friday this week.

This week in PPS:

  • The school board will begin to dig deeply into the high school redesign at their regular board meeting tonight. According to senior staff and board members, it is becoming more clear which specific issues — such as the nature of  modifications of the transfer policy — will be directly addressed and decided by the board, and which will be left largely to staff. The board meets at 7 p.m. at BESC, 501 N. Dixon St., and is aired live on Comcast channel 28 in Portland and rebroadcast through the week.
  • Kevin Carroll is the featured speaker at An Evening With the Black Parent Initiative, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday the eighth at Cha Taqueria, 305 NW 21st.
  • On Friday, the PPS Parent Union holds a kick-off press conference and rally at the Mallory Avenue Community Enrichment Center, 126 NE Alberta. The Parent Union is also holding a Parent Information Gathering Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Curious Comedy Theater, 5225 NE Martin Luther King Blvd.
  • Corrected information: Portland Public Schools holds the first of two all-day meetings this week on high school reconfiguration, getting down to nuts and bolts about the size and number of neighborhood schools that will remain. The meeting is Friday the ninth from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Marshall High School in southeast Portland. The second meeting is Saturday, October 17 at Rosa Parks Elementary in north Portland, also 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (The original version of this report listed the second meeting as October 10, not October 17. We regret the error.)

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


In the news: high school field trip inequity

In a story complementing elementary teacher Bonnie Robb’s story here two weeks ago, Beth Slovic explains a similar problem for high school students in yesterday’s Willamette Week.

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

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