Category: School Board

Open thread: school board zones, elections, and pay

Should school board members be paid? An unpaid board position is conservatively estimated to be equivalent to a half-time job. Why should service on the board be limited to those who can afford to work a half-time job for free?

Should school board members be elected by the zones they represent, instead of the whole city? Currently, school board members must live in the zones they represent, but all seats are voted on city-wide.

(Tip of the hat to Lakeitha for the open thread idea!)

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


Election postmortem

Election results are in. With fewer than 15% of registered voters bothering to mail in their ballots, Pam Knowles has coasted to victory in her zone 5 race over Scott Bailey, 61% to 38%. Zone 5 was the “money race;” the two candidates raised a combined $75,000. Bailey, who received 15,479 votes, has so far reported $36,441 spent (of $41,154 raised) on his campaign, or $2.35 per vote received. Knowles reports $29,116 spent (of $34,040 raised), and received 25,055 votes; that’s 86 cents spent per vote.

In the much lower profile zone 4 race, incumbent Martín González walked away with 51% of the vote in a three-way race. Rita Moore and Steve Buel split the difference of the remaining vote. Total campaign spending by the three candidates in zone 4 was around $7,000, or less than 10% of what the two zone 5 candidates spent. Roughly the same number of votes were cast — just over 40,000 — for both positions.

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


Public comment open on the updated PPS discipline policy

I attended the school board meeting this evening where they discussed the new discipline policy. Apparently this policy has not been updated since 1977 with the exception of the the drug/alcohol policy. This draft policy is a significantly different and far more uplifting and proactive than the current policy. I believe in positive behavior supports and this is stated in the wording of the policy several times and I could not be happier. I would like to note that Ruth Adkins publicly addressed the use of the word disruptive in the current policy as being a racial code word and also the fact that the data shows inequitable discipline practices. Ruth noted that this draft policy includes the tools and resources that the staff have been requesting.

Public comment will open on this tomorrow and I will post a link in the comments section when it opens. There are only 21 days to comment and then policy will be adopted I believe June 8th.

Some positive highlights of this draft policy:

  • Discipline should be equitable, timely, fair, developmentally appropriate, and match the severity of the student’s misbehavior. (Behavior consultants call this “reasonable response”)
  • A positive, respectful, and inclusive school climate is the mutual responsibility of district staff, who are expected to create and environment for student success using principles of positive behavior support and cultural competency in managing student conduct. It goes on to also include the student, family, and community.

Another board member brought up a point about principals having discretion to make decisions in unique situations. I will comment on needing more clarity here because I do not agree with a principal making decisions that are counter to policy because I believe this is too much of a slippery slope. Positive behavior supports covers unique situations and I am concerned that there are any loopholes that may allow for actions that are questionable or abusive.

Once I post the link be sure to get your comments in and also comment on discipline and behavior in general.

Stephanie Hunter is a behavior consultant and the parent of a student at Ockley Green. She is active in local and statewide advocacy for children and adults with disabilities, which she writes about on her blog Belonging Matters.

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Wynde: Oregon education commitment “luke warm”

PPS school board member David Wynde takes the legislature to task in an Oregonian commentary this morning.

It’s no coincidence that Oregon has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation. Our lukewarm commitment to education hurts Oregon’s short-term and long-term economic growth.

Oregon’s response to this crisis couldn’t be more contrary to President Barack Obama’s strategy. The president is using stimulus dollars to blunt school cuts and spur important reforms because he believes education is vital to our nation’s economic growth.

In Oregon, we say education is a priority, then slash schools and programs for lack of funds. The state does not have the same budget flexibility as the federal government, but other states keep their schools operating.

We are suffering a dismal failure of leadership in Salem. Even with a Democratic super majority in the legislature a Democratic governor, nobody is taking the lead in proposing reforms our inadequate, unstable revenue stream, and nobody seems to connect the dots between education and the economy as Wynde does.

Perhaps we need to look at local funding options again. If the state of Oregon doesn’t have the sense to fund our future, perhaps the people of Portland do.

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


In the news: Oregonian endorsements

The Oregonian today echoes yesterday’s Willamette Week endorsements, giving their nod to Pam Knowles and Martín González for next month’s school board contest. Ballots go out tomorrow.

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: WWeek endorsements, NCLB failure

Willamette Week has endorsed Pam Knowles and Martín González for school board. On the national front, the New York Times reports that the achievement gap persists in spite of No Child left behind.

The achievement gap between white and minority students has not narrowed in recent years, despite the focus of the No Child Left Behind law on improving the scores of blacks and Hispanics, according to results of a federal test considered to be the nation’s best measure of long-term trends in math and reading proficiency.

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


Campaign finance watch: zone 5 race tops $40K

As expected, Pam Knowles has caught up with Scott Bailey in the race for dollars, with both candidates having surpassed the $20,000 mark in fund raising. Bailey leads in spending, with $12,500 spent. Knowles has spent $6,900.

Incumbent Martín González leads off the much saner money race in zone 4, with $2,500 raised. (Neither Rita Moore nor Steve Buel have reported any campaign finance activity to date.)

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

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Knowles on K8s

This is Pam Knowles’ contribution to the K8 conversation that we started with Scott Bailey last month. Thank you Pam for offering your take on the issue.

Thanks for contacting me and providing the opportunity to join the discussion about K-8 and middle schools. I attended the CPPS Conference and workshop on K-8s and listened carefully to the comments and concerns of parents whose children are currently in K-8 schools. We had a great discussion about the hasty transition to K-8s for certain schools in PPS. It would have been helpful to have someone there from the district who was intimately involved in the transition to provide an update on the identification of issues and what solutions are being proposed to solve the problems our new K-8s face.

Your frustration and the frustration of parents about the transition is clear from your questions and the responses on the PPS Equity blog. I want to respond to your questions by covering the benefits of the K-8 model, what happened in Portland Public Schools that is different from other cities that experienced successful transitions and what our next steps need to be to fix these problems.

As to why make the change from middle schools to K-8, I believe the District, in its continuing struggle to narrow the achievement gap, turned to the national research on K-8 as a potential solution. The research shows that in K-8s that have been implemented successfully, academic achievement rises. Why?

  • Kids continue to build on established relationships with teachers and other adults (as with looping which has also been shown to increase achievement).
  • Parents continue to be more involved in the schools because they are already involved and do not have to reestablish themselves (sounds like the same reason we use for kids).
  • Behavior is more positive. Kids do not have to establish a new identity, but rather can take the role of mentor and protector of younger students
  • There is opportunity for enhanced teacher coordination and articulation between and among grades
  • There is more personal accountability for teachers as they are not passing a student along to another school.

As a parent, a business leader and board member I want students to be successful. I want to see a decrease in the achievement gap and an increase in our graduation rates. I want all children to have the opportunity for success. So what happened in Portland? Why haven’t all our children and our schools experienced success under this model?

First and foremost, implementation began without thorough planning and buy-in by all stakeholders. Parents, teachers, students and community members all should have been a larger part of the decision-making process.

The district was dealing with several issues at the same time that impacted the transition, including the need to close schools, transfer issues, changing enrollment patterns and magnet/special option schools. Many parents, teachers and principals were skeptical and this skepticism increased as the implementation was rushed. Without strong, effective leadership and good, committed teachers the transition cannot succeed district-wide.

Where do we go from here? We do need an assessment of our K-8s to determine which ones are working and why, and which ones are failing and why. This needs to be completed immediately. We cannot delay. We also cannot assume that if we went back to the K-5, middle school model that students would be more successful. Clearly, there were significant problems with that model as well. And, as we all know there are many issues that effect student achievement and they are all entwined. Many of these issues have been discussed on the PPS Equity blog, including transfer policies that weaken neighborhood schools, teacher evaluation and support, kindergarten, parent involvement, and poverty.

My initial belief, without the benefit of an assessment, is that K-8s that were developed at small elementary schools are struggling because they cannot offer the variety of programs/electives that larger K-8s can. In effect, they are still elementary schools that have simply stretched to include 6-8. In some cases this was achieved by adding portables to the school, which fails to provide opportunities to mix the older students with younger students. The integration of all grades is key component and rationale behind the K-8 transition. As a result they do not have the experiences that lead to better behaviors and increased achievement.

The middle schools that expanded to include elementary students are having more success, but still have a long way to go. In both cases, leadership through collaboration between the principal, the teachers and parents as a team will help with the transition and is the most important factor in achieving success.

I would be interested in hearing more from your readers on ideas for how we decrease the achievement gap and increase graduation rates. Ideas I have been considering include:

  • Expanding programs that help children start school ready to learn.
  • Partnering with the county and the city to stretch scarce dollars that support families, young children and at-risk youth in after school and summer enrichment programs
  • Expanding partnerships with community organizations that provide mentors and programs to increase performance.
  • Involving the business community to engage youth through job shadows, internships and employment, to expand their vision of the opportunities that come when they stay in school.

I have extensive experience developing solutions to problems through collaboration and implementing those solutions. I think it is time we move beyond discussing problems. It is time to pull all stakeholders together and develop and implement system-wide solutions. I will pull together teachers, parents, the administration, and community members to turn the challenges faced by the district into opportunities to improve and make the real, quality changes our children deserve.

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment. I look forward to a continuing dialogue on these important issues.

Pam Knowles was elected to the Portland Public Schools board of education in 2009.


Support MECP in person at the school board meeting April 13th

As I stated in a previous blog post Multnomah Early Childhood Program has been notified by PPS that they will not be renewing the contract for early intervention evaluations and PPS plans to take this over. MECP has a streamlined, cohesive, family-friendly, child empowering, and working system in place. This change will affect a lot of families and the risk of children unprepared for Kindergarten is at risk of increasing not to mention the philosophical difference I noted in my blog post.

This will be a showing support for the citizen comment section at the April 13th meeting on MECP. PPS is supposed to give MECP the final word on renewal next week and it is important that we show our support for good programs that work and we show it in person and in quantity.

The school board meeting is at 7pm at 501 N. Dixon in Portland. You can email me at if you want more information or if you would like to testify and need some input.

Stephanie Hunter is a behavior consultant and the parent of a student at Ockley Green. She is active in local and statewide advocacy for children and adults with disabilities, which she writes about on her blog Belonging Matters.


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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