Category: School Board

Monday school board: open thread

I only caught the tail end of board discussion on the HS redesign… didn’t see the staff presentation. Who watched? Who was there? What’s your take?

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


In the news: board wrestles with high school redesign

Kim Melton reports in The Oregonian today that school board members are starting to debate and discuss specifics of the high school system redesign.

Bobbie Regan is quoted questioning staff assumptions about curtailing neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers and the size (and by extension, number) of high schools to close. “I’m not clear that those are the board’s assumptions,” said Regan.

Board co-chair Trudy Sargent worries about closing “successful” schools, while David Wynde and co-chair Ruth Adkins warn about labeling schools as “successful” and “unsuccessful.”

As we get down to brass tacks, battle lines are being drawn, with a split board possible on student transfer policy changes.

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


In the news: Regan questions proposed transfer policy tweaks

School board member Bobbie Regan may be signaling opposition to proposed limits to neighborhood-to-neighborhood student transfers, according to a report by Beth Slovic on Willamette Week‘s news blog.

Regan’s apparent expression of unease with the proposal, which is part of a larger redesign of the high school system, comes on the heals of an Oregonian editorial Monday which expressed more direct opposition to the idea of limiting the flow of students and funding.

Each year, thousands of students and tens of millions of dollars in education funding transfer from Portland’s poorest neighborhoods and into its wealthiest. Schools in the Lincoln cluster home to Regan and the wealthiest familes in Portland Public Schools, had a net gain of nearly 600 students in 2008-09, representing over $3 million in funding.

In that same school year, schools in the Jefferson cluster, encompassing some of Portland’s poorest families, lost nearly 2,000 students and about $12 million to out transfers.

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


Breaking: Oregonian notices contract dispute after 531 days, sends reporter to rally

The Oregonian, after missing a major teacher rally last month, sent a reporter to tonight’s rally, where teachers called  for a contract to replace the one that expired 531 days ago. Kim Melton reports that teachers disrupted the school board meeting, with superintendent Carole Smith and board members filing out of the auditorium in the face of chanting teachers.

The Oregonian‘s coverage includes no quotes from the district or teachers and does no critical analysis of the causes of stuck negotiations, instead proffering that “[t]he economy is partly to blame for the slow pace.” Melton also fails to mention that teachers included concessions in their settlement offer Friday, and were met with district demands for more concessions. With this dearth of information, the usual teacher- and union-bashing  ensued in reader comments on

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


Contract talks remained stalled; teachers to rally Monday

In negotiations Friday, the teachers’ union offered a settlement package including concessions the district has been demanding. Portland Public Schools negotiators accepted the concessions, and demanded more.

Frustrated by this lack of progress, teachers will once again take to the streets and march on the school board Monday to press for a settlement. The rally begins at 6:15 p.m., Monday, December 15 14, at the Rose Quarter Parking lot on N. Broadway and Benton.

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

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PGE, Nike fund anti-tax campaign

Nigel Jaquiss reports in today’s Willamette Week that Nike, PGE and other large Oregon corporations are funneling money to oppose two tax measures on the ballot in January through the Portland Business Alliance and Associated Oregon Industries.

PPS School board director Pam Knowles recently resigned as Chief Operating Officer of Portland Business alliance after five years there.

Nike branding opportunitySchool board co-chair Trudy Sargent sporting the Nike swoosh (photo courtesy Kenneth Libby)

Nike is a long-time corporate partner with PPS, as evidenced by ubiquitous Nike “swooshes” on school district property. Earlier this week, school board members sported Marysville shirts at their meeting to show solidarity with the recently displaced school community. Prominent on the shirts was a Nike logo.

If Nike were serious about supporting schools, they would take a stand for re-balancing corporate and individual taxes in Oregon, skewed against individuals and in favor of corporations for at least 20 years.

But paying taxes doesn’t provide branding opportunities.

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


This Week in PPS: teachers rally for a contract

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“More than anything, people just want to feel like they’re respected… If people felt more respected, they might have more sympathy for the district’s ongoing financial difficulties.” –Cheyne Cumming, teacher and PAT organizer

Approximately 1,500 teachers and their supporters took to the streets and marched on the school board Monday night to demand a contract. This Week in PPS, we hear from Portland Association of Teachers president Rebecca Levison, as well as organizer Cheyne Cumming.

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 #2

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On the Calendar:

  • The school board’s Finance, Audit and Operations committee meets Tuesday at 4pm in the Willamette Conference Room at BESC, 501 N. Dixon St.
  • The PPS Parent Union meets 6:30 Thursday evening at the library at Concordia University, NE Dekum and 27th. Parent Union organizers are preparing for their kickoff press conference October 9 at the Mallory Avenue Community Enrichment Center and information fair October 10 at the Curious Comedy Club.

In the News:

  • Lincoln High’s head football coach and one of his assistants pleaded guilty to interfering with police and have been placed on paid leave by PPS pending a review of the situation. Maxine Bernstein writes in The Oregonian that Chad Carlson and Kyle Fairfax were ordered to do eight hours of community service by Tuesday in exchange for having their records wiped clean. Kim Melton reports in Saturday’s Oregonian that this case triggers the first use the districts new conduct code for coaches. District administrators will decide the fate of Carlson and Fairfax, as well as two other coaches present at the time of the incident. Before the code of conduct was instituted, principals had almost sole discretion in meting out discipline.
  • The ranks of homeless students in Oregon’s schools have swelled by nearly 14% over last year. According to a report released by the Oregon Department of Education Friday, 3.8% of students in PPS were considered homeless, writes Amanda Ingram for Willamette Week.
  • Beth Slovic covers last week’s school board meeting, and the board’s reaction to high school redesign plans presented by staff. David Wynde complained that questions he had about the process in June all remain unanswered in September.

On the PPS Equity blog:

  • Bonnie Robb, winner of last year’s prestigious Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award, writes about how Portland schools serving students with high rates of poverty struggle to fund the most basic curriculum enrichment, and how teachers frequently spend their own time writing grants  “so [their] disadvantaged students can experience a world outside of their neighborhood.” Even with all the extra effort, students affected by poverty get far less of this kind of enrichment than students at wealthier schools.
  • Last week’s report on late opening for professional development drew conversation from readers, including parent Rose, whose children reported low attendance on the first early opening day. She writes that “a lot of parents left kids the whole day with relatives, or worse, left them home alone all day because there was no transportation to school.” The conversation began with district spokesman Matt Shelby pointing out that the late openings amount to an increase in instructional time and a reduction of professional development. Veteran teacher and former school board member Steve Buel argued for the abolition of even more professional development time in favor of instructional time, and Susan notes that the two hour professional development days will make it difficult for staff to attend training outside of their buildings.

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


This Week in PPS #1

Note: This the first episode in a new series, This Week in PPS. This will be a weekly podcast featuring news and events of interest to the greater PPS community. –Ed.

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

School starts two hours late on Wednesday, and the school board holds a regular meeting. That plus a review of last week’s news on: This Week in PPS.

The school board has a regular meeting tonight (PDF). They will hear an update on the high school redesign process and vote on a resolution to support the free transit pass program for all high school students. They will also consider a business agenda which includes a contract for $51,000 in on-site graphic design work, and slightly less (25K) for mobile computer labs for K8 students. There is also a $200,000 amendment to an $800,000 contract with Broadway Cab for taxi services, and a $12,000 amendment for construction of modular classrooms at Laurelhurst and Rieke K8 schools. The board meets at 7pm at BESC, 500 N. Dixon St. Meetings are televised live on cable channel 28 and rebroadcast throughout the week.

School starts two hours late this Wednesday, the first of eight such late openings. Schools will open two hours late on the third Wednesday of each month except November and June this year to integrate staff training days with instructional days. Please check with your school about drop-off times and breakfast. If anybody has information to share, please comment on the blog!

Last week in PPS, our first week of school, parents were alarmed by the district’s handling of an incident involving erratic behavior by a school bus driver and a bus load of kids. Kim Melton reports in The Oregonian that parents were frustrated with how they were informed of the incident. All students made it home safely, many picked up by parents before replacement buses arrived, and the driver is suspended from duty pending an investigation.

Also last week, Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Load covered school equity on their Tuesday show, specifically with regards to the new PPS high school plan. The show featured PPS’s John Wilhelmi and me discussing elements of the plan, along with Jefferson High students and Principal Cynthia Harris. On-demand audio of the show may be accessed at

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


Who Funded Pam Knowles’ Election?

This article is reprinted with permission. It originally appeared on the author’s blog Global Ideologies in Education –Ed.

Portland Business Alliance COO Pam Knowles recently won a seat on the PPS school board. She ran against Scott Bailey in a high-price race for the zone 5 seat. Knowles spent $34,030 on her campaign and Bailey spent $33,561 to publicize his candidacy. This begs a few questions: does this de facto “pay to play” policy lock out particular communities, viewpoints, or opinions? Who can raise $30,000 for a high-involvement volunteer position while maintaining a job and raising a family? These questions become even more relevant when considering the election process in Portland: anyone can vote in any zone’s election. (See also this open thread for previous discussion of these issues. –Ed.)

The election process has turned into a media campaign complete with campaign managers, corporate donations, media budgets, and the presentation of false statistics (more on this later; let’s just say Knowles either has no idea what she is talking about or is knowingly misleading the public).

Location of Pam Knowles’ campaign donations larger than $100

The map above shows the sources of 57 donations to Knowles’ campaign. Several of them are in her district, but the vast majority aren’t even on her side of the river. All of this information is available here through OreStar, Oregon’s election reporting website. These 57 donations account for around $15,000 of Knowles’ $34,030 campaign; the other donations were less than $100 apiece and do not require documentation. I have no doubt that Knowles had the support of some people in her district — some of those sub-$100 donations were from voters in her district — but she certainly pulled in her biggest chunks of funding from the West side (and Portland businesses).

What is Knowles saying that makes the business sphere take note? First, Knowles claims we have a 42% dropout rate. She pushes for “stabilizing funding” for the schools without calling for taxes on businesses (she’s also the COO of the Portland Business Alliance; do you think they like the new tax hikes?). She practically screams efficiency and accountability in the voters’ pamphlet — all while suggesting the K-8 model is here to stay because “research” says it’s better. Added insult: part of that “research” is an overt attack on teachers (they’re more “accountable” in the K-8 model). Question for Pam: why do we have the K-8 model only in one part of town while another part of town (the wealthier side) gets a 6th grade academy and then a 7/8 grade school for middle school?

The claim of a 42% dropout rate isn’t unique to Pam; the Mayor has made the same claim as well (although I informed the Mayor’s office of their error and it sounds like Sam understands the issue). I’ll elaborate on the dropout statistic soon — but I can tell you that Knowles is intentionally misleading the public or completely misinterpreted educational studies (or she never bothered to read them).

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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