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October 08, 2007

Comments

Terry, I'd just like to point out that "the marketplace mentality of education" isn't unique to Portland. It's happening all over the country.

Maybe if PPS moved the dual-immersion Spanish program from Beach to Sitton, both neighborhoods would be better served.

But in all seriousness, this is the kind of crap that makes me spitting mad. Educators are now supposed to be marketers. I don't want my children's teachers and administrators spending a single minute worrying about this kind of thing. It detracts from education.

But nobody in power seems to think there is any problem with this. It's a "success story" to be celebrated.

Don't fool yourself, Terry, the board isn't going to change the transfer policy. They're going to kick it down the road another year at the very least. They're going to do focus groups and surveys and show us how much everybody dearly loves "school choice," and they're going to continue to let this policy hammer our poorest neighborhoods.

Nobody on the school board wants to touch it, and the city council is completely out of touch, as evidenced by Eric Sten's loopy plan to offer a million dollars to poor schools to help with their marketing campaigns (channeled through the ever-so-concerned-about-equity Portland Schools Foundation).

The invisible hand of the free market reigns in Portland Public Schools, bringing racial isolation, blatant funding and programming inequities, and nerve-racking uncertainty to students, parents, teachers and administrators everywhere. But it's worth it because... well, because... Because SCHOOL CHOICE is worth it, damn it! I can't tell you why, it just is! Everybody likes CHOICE, right?!?

(Meanwhile, our neighbors to the west continue with their traditional approach to neighborhood schools, and have avoided these problems. Everybody goes to their neighborhood school, and they get the same offerings as every other neighborhood school. Pretty radical, huh? Too radical for the PPS school board anyway.)

Terry, this may be beside the point, but I don't think its accurate to say that Rieke has "succumbed" to grow or die, if you are suggesting that they have changed their philosophy. Indeed, Rieke lobbied hard during the reconfiguration battle last year to be given the opportunity to grow into the 400-600 mandate. They are simply carrying through on the deal they made with Vicky last year to avoid closure.

I can see marketing the district. But marketing your elementary school. We've sunk pretty low.

Steve R., I think your take is correct, but it compels me to reiterate something I have said before: we will not see change on the school board until we see change at the PSF.

All I can say, blueteeth, is that Rieke struck a deal with the devil. Perhaps they felt they had no other choice, but of course they did. Hell, with a Harvard lawyer at the helm, they could have threatened a lawsuit if the district closed Rieke. They could have threatened board members with recall.

Bottom line is that someone has to take a stand against bad district policies that threaten the educational well-being of Portland's students. Why not Rieke? Now other schools, less well equipped, will be left to fight the batttle against the obliteration of our neighborhood schools.

Staving off closure with a slick PR campaign won't help schools in North and Northeast Portland a single iota.

Terry, on what basis could Rieke have sued? They would have had to prove that the Board had violated PPS School Board Policy in some way; what policy would have been violated by such a closure?

Parents and teachers need to learn how to say NO! to marketing our schools. Practice in front of the mirror....."NNNNN......OOOOOO!"

I remember when Astor was on the chopping block....A deal was struck with "someone" in the district that we could stay open if we went to K-8. Then on one of her last days in Portland, VP took a stroll through our school and when someone made the remark that we felt lucky just to still be open, VP's answer was she didn't know how Astor ever got on that closure list....It wasn't supposed to be there at all...Guess that's not the message we got at the meetings held with Board members and Cathy Mincberg at Roosevelt prior to the K-8 deal....There we were fighting for our life...It makes me wonder if Rieke was ever on the "list" also.

Marcia, wow, interesting revelation. Maybe we should all try our hand at conspiracy theories -- might be fun. Recently I heard that Columbia Sportswear is interested in Benson's building. And we have the VP's #2 ready to carry on her policies. The Jeff closure conspiracies. Still haven't gotten a response from PSF outlining their budget. We could probably come up with some theory there. Wonder how the million dollar deal went down for PSF and the city council?

Well, Steve B., I'm not sure I'm a conspiracy theorist, but it did seem odd that if we weren't on the list, that VP didn't speak up a little sooner and say...Oh, hey, by the way, Astor isn't supposed to be on that closure list after all...Don't you think that is a little strange? I sure did. So what do you think that was all about? Guess we'll never know, just as we'll never know half of what goes on behind closed doors right here in River City.

If you're talking about this policy, Zarwen, which was only adopted after Rieke was threatened with closure in 2003, I would expect that any good lawyer could have a field day with the vague and subjective standards for closure outlined by the board.

In fact, the Rieke community did just that in its testimony to the board in 2006. The only possible reason for the closure of the school was that it was relatively small in terms of enrollment. It's clear that the proposal to close Rieke was arbitrary, and justified only by Vicki Phillips unilateral decision to consolidate as many schools as possible into K-8 behemoths.

All of that may well be true, Terry, but since you opined earlier that Rieke should have "threatened a lawsuit" INSTEAD of striking "a deal with the devil," I would like to suggest the possibility that the threat of a lawsuit was a bargaining chip that led to that deal. Other schools that fought and won in similar situations used similar tactics.

Marcia, I would like to suggest something to you too: when VP said "she didn't know how Astor ever got on that closure list....It wasn't supposed to be there at all..." she was being disingenuous at best. Down in SE we had been hearing rumors of a closure at Grout, then once we got into the "Sellwood Conversation," we were told that Grout was "hands-off". . . . This kind of shit was going on all over the District during VP's tenure.

The complaint we at Rieke heard from the district in 2003 was that the student population was shrinking and that westside parents were sending their children to private schools. We asked them if the district ever considered promoting their strong neighborhood schools. The answer was no because there was no money to do so. When the closure nonsense started again, parents again asked the district about marketing the neighborhood schools. At this point we had 2 years of data. We knew how many children were in either private school or a focus option program because their parents were afraid the district might close Rieke or Smith (and Smith was closed). Parents developed the marketing plan. It worked. The children that came to Rieke live in the attendance area with many having left private schools and focus option programs. Stephenson and Humboldt parents are using the Rieke plan as a template and developing their own plans.

Terry, perhaps the word "marketing" is what is bothering you. Put it aside and look what the parents did. They showed the district that you can keep and in fact gain students by promoting strong, stable neighborhood schools NOT focus option programs. It's too late for Applegate, Meek, Smith, Youngson and others we've lost in the past few years but we can help promote the good neighborhood schools we still have in the district.

Hey Eamon,

The word marketing does indeed bother me, as does the marketing extravaganza Celebrate PPS! that Ruth Adkins once described as a "meat market." And she, as you well know, is a Rieke parent.

I have nothing but respect for the battle waged by Rieke parents against closure. Unfortunately, the success Rieke has had in attracting new students plays right into the hands of those who think public schools should be run according to the dicta of the marketplace. That's evident in Matt Shelby's remark in the PPS press release that other schools should follow Rieke's example.

I'll say again that what Rieke has accomplished isn't going to work in many poor neighborhoods. The district needs to step in and take responsibility for falling enrollment in schools like Sitton. It could start by revamping its transfer policy which is especially harmful to poor neighborhood schools.

I'm not sure what you mean by the "good" neighborhood schools, Eamon. The schools that the media describe as "successful" are the ones with successful students and involved parents. It's all about the demographics, Eamon.

Eamon, Rieke is undoubtedly a nice neighborhood school. And when kids leave there they can go to a reasonable middle school. And I have no problem with promoting it. But -- how come we can't have schools worthy of promotion in lower economic areas of Portland? That is the basic question in this promotion business.

"Yeh! Rieke Elementary is great!" What do those other schools say? "Yuck, Ourschool Elementary sucks". In fact, when Reike works, doesn't it make sense for me to want to transfer my kid out of our nonworking Ourschool Elementary and send him/her to Rieke?

What many people have said over and over and over on this blog is that how good a school is should not be almost solely dependent on the economic status of the people who send their kids there. The playing field needs to be leveled somehow. And there are only two ways to do it. Drag the schools which work down to the level of those which don't or elevate the schools which don't work up to the level of those which do. Which do you people at Rieke want to support? The answer thus far from the entire west side and other upper economic parts of Portland is "Why should we care about your schools, as long as my kid is doing fine?" and also "Let's make sure our schools keep doing fine, to hell with those poor kids."

All we are asking is to give these poor kids a chance. (I loved the 60's.) (And we reject the argument that the poor parents need to get off their duffs. Unless we are now condemning these children for the sins of their parents.)

Sitton Elementary may or may not "suck", but I'm not sure what sort of PR campaign the Sitton community might run to attract new students to the school. I don't think pointing out that half of the current students are either in special ed or are English Language Learners is likely to augment enrollment.

Unless, of course, Sitton wants to become a magnet for ELL instruction or special education. Maybe that's a good idea, but it wouldn't do much for Sitton's test scores. And isn't that what it all comes down to in the new competitive educational marketplace?

Steve Buel, it doesn't help that PPS transfer policy segregates by race and economics. One option you don't mention is making school populations less poor. Ending neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers would do this instantly. If you want to level the playing field, this is the least expensive and most effective way to start. Take a look at the maps Beth Slovic posted on WWire yesterday. As Ruth Adkins said, "We're concentrating poverty and segregating by race."

Steve R., I think you are correct, but think about this. If we return the students from the poorer neighborhoods back to their neighborhoods it might possibly make the poorer schools a little less poor, but wouldn't it also make the richer schools a little richer since some of its poorer students left? The playing field stays uneven. But if you bring up the quality of education in the poorer schools to the level of the richer schools that might also help level things out. A combination of the two would seem to be the best approach.

"But if you bring up the quality of education in the poorer schools to the level of the richer schools that might also help level things out."
Supposedly this problem was addressed with the new curriculum adoptions. According to VP, at least. Everyone teaching the same thing, on the same page, ....etc etc..equals an even playing field...(Not that I agree)

Hmmm. Declare "equity" on the basis of new curriculum adoptions while taking FTE away from small schools and giving it to larger ones. Take bond $ that the voters approved for music and PE teachers and use it for pay for vice principals at tiny, silo-style "academies."

Oh, yeah, sounds like a plan all right!

In answer to the question whether the Board could have been sued for the way it handled last year's closures, it certainly could have been. The Board clearly violated its own closure rules by failing to insist on Closure Reports from Superintendent Phillips. At the 11th hour, Phillips created "draft" closure reports, but they were too little too late and the timing violated the Board's rules. Phillips didn't want to issue closure reports because that would have violated her cardinal rule of never telling parents what was going on until it was too late for them to effectively participate in the process and, if need be, stop it. Director Williams referred to this violation of the closure rules in a public meeting several months ago, suggesting that the Board would need to do something "to clean up the mess" left behind in the blatant failure of the Board to follow its own clearly articulated closure rules. Those rules were drafted in the aftermath of a previous round of closures to specifically address the insufficient public notice and opportunity for public comment that had afflicted that earlier closure. The Board was contacted by attorneys who threatened suit on behalf of a Northeast parent consituency, but the parents lacked the necessary funding to carry on that legal battle. The old Board knows damn well it dodged a bullet on that one.

The district and the board violate their own rules all the time, probably practically every day. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think violating your own rules is cause for a lawsuit. Now if they're violating state law -- that's a different matter.

School Board Policies ARE rooted in state law. That's what makes it grounds for a lawsuit when they are violated. My source on that is a retired high-level District administrator who is very familiar with legal issues.

This must be what Vera Katz was talking about in yesterday's Tribune article, where she said something about a stack of papers regarding all the school board screw-ups. Shame on them for letting VP run amok with our children's futures! Especially since it was all for her own personal gain. Disgusting.

Hello,
Some thoughts on the "marketing" & transfers issue. Absolutely, it is unworkable for most parent communities to do what the Rieke group did. That is why the District needs to actively support and yes, promote, schools esp those under 400 and those suffering from large #'s of out-transfers.

Right now the only "marketing" most neighborhood schools get is their AYP status, state report card label, and test scores. (That, and a standard PPS website where they can list their programs and after school clubs.) Meanwhile, under the state law, charter schools are proliferating and marketing aggressively to families, as are private schools. Like it or not, we are in a competitive marketplace. Why should we allow our neighborhood schools to be solely defined by standardized test scores and NCLB labels?

What I want the district to help make happen includes...
* preschool story hours/parent education (perhaps with local Mult. Co. librarian along with the K teachers) to draw in young families
* principals/front offices incorporate welcoming potential families (eg weekly tours)in their SOP
* visits by principals/active parents to preschools and neighborhood groups
* every school given a template for a school promotional materials (flyer, etc) that they can customize, and help distributing it
* clarifying to parents that if you transferred in the past or are starting a younger sibling at neigh. school, yes you can come back, and please do so, and here's why & how you can get involved at your school
* district-wide website aimed at newcomers to portland
* training and support for site councils in Title 1 schools
* follow thru on implementing the parental involvement policy passed last year
* focused effort on getting out "good news" on great stuff happening at all schools (there is)

But wait you say, Ruth you're an idiot, this is all useless given the lack of resources and equitable programming in high-poverty schools. The district also needs to get going, fast, to support schools (esp those under 400 or close to that cut off point). Arts enrichment in schools w/out fundraising resources is a huge piece, the issue of equity in how kids are being taught (are teachers forced to drill for tests or is their some latitude and creativity?) is another. The board did add add'l arts enrichment this last budget. I will continue to push for the district to support schools under 400- this is critical.

The transfer policy essentially says, every student has the right to attend their neigh. school, and the right to apply to any other school of their choice. Ideally, we would wave a magic wand and every family who transferred out would come back. But forcing people to attend their neighborhood school, esp. given the proliferation of charters, is not the answer. It won't work. I hear what you're saying, that the only way to provide the equity/quality is to get families (and $ per student) back. But we can't get families back by forcing them. I think a combination of some tweaking of the policy (eg requiring a tour and visit to your neighborhood school, would be a start), the outreach efforts described above, AND direct programming/enrichment support, along with removing the "mark of doom" on schools under 400, is the way to go.

Moreover, the last thing we need right now is more upheaval. Pushing through a major change in a short timeframe without adequate community input? We've been there and it's not good.

The board will have a "work session" (discussion) on the enrollment/transfer issue on Nov. 5. Coming out of this we need to have a clear directive, with deadlines, for the Sup't to provide a workplan that will address the issues raised in the Flynn/Blackmer audit as well as the research done by the enrollment and transfer office.

P.S. on the issue of facilities & capital bond. I hope everyone will come to the "reshaping schools" work session on November 6 at the convention center. There is a daytime session 8:30 to 4:00 and evening 7:00 to 9:30. So they can get head count for food, please RSVP to rsvp@pps.k12.or.us or call 503-916-3325. This is not yet about planning for each specific school (those meetings will happen in January) but about where the community thinks we should be heading overall in terms of school size, community use, historic preservation, etc. Please show up and be heard. Thanks!

Ruth, thank you. I get it now. We market the messes as if they weren't messes. And the public should not take part in any real criticism (which would look like upheaval). This then continues buying time so that we only address the real needs of the upper middle class neighborhood schools supported by our benefactors, SFC and PSF. Everything works out great then, just as it has for the last several years. Count me, as always, until we make serious efforts to improve schools for all kids, out. Whatever weaknesses I have, being a fool is not one of them.

"perhaps with local Mult. Co. librarian along with the K teachers)"
I assume you mean during our work day, with a sub provided. I am not into marketing my school in my off hours, thank you, Ruth.

"where the community thinks we should be heading overall in terms of school size, community use, historic preservation, etc." These talks should have taken place BEFORE any schools were closed. Call it sour grapes, but I for one will not vote to pass any bond measure to build new schools...(What is that nasty taste in my mouth?)

"visits by principals/active parents to preschools and neighborhood groups" Sounds great, but not so sure my principal will have time, given the huge amount of extra work that has been heaped on his plate and the secretary's plate with the K-8 conversion and extra bodies in the classrooms and hallways...extra paperwork, extra everything...With no assistant principal...And who is in charge when he is out of the building...Will the district pick up the tab for a sub for him? Just a few reality checks...Thanks...from the battlefield.

"principals/front offices incorporate welcoming potential families" Once again...what makes you think the front office will have the time or energy to do this...The most frequent remark I hear from our secretary since the K=8 conversion is "I am OVERWHELMED!" Please...before you construct any plans for our schools, take the time to think through what the implication is for the extra work load for these people who are already at their wit's end. What's it going to look like from their side? Do you think they just sit around and twiddle their thumbs all day?

Steve, serious efforts to improve schools includes removing the 400-600 mandate and the accompanying lack of staffing and enrichment based on the 400 cut off. Also, training and development of active, functioning site councils at Title 1 schools. No, this will not solve all inequities but it is still worth doing.

Thanks Marcia -- yes teachers, staff, and principals are already stretched thin so that is where the district support comes in. for example, providing sub coverage in the K classroom, if K teachers wanted to participate in any preschool times (these would be during the school day is my thinking). These are just ideas I am putting out there, not a fully formed plan.

And of course I agree -- citywide planning should have taken place before any schools were closed. But it didn't, and here we are. Regardless of how you vote on a capital bond, I hope you will come and share your views on where we should be headed in the future. BTW every school will be included in the planning, including those currently closed.

And I have to add one more thing...With 27 kids in my kindergarten...(31 in the half day) I am busy doing one on one assessing, (all year) and small reading groups, and reporting data on the computer to the data hounds. I do not have the time or the energy or the inclination to start focusing on Preschoolers, too. Just fyi. Thanks, Ruth.

Thanks for chiming in, Ruth. I agree with much of what you propose, but I take issue with the notion that "we are (already) in a competitive market place," and, by implication, there's not much we can do about it.

Look at it this way. Someone fairly recently made a conscious decision to apply the rules of the free market to public schools. Perhaps it was in response to Measure 5 and funding problems. Or perhaps it was inspired by too closely collaborating with the likes of Eli Broad or Bill Gates. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Charter schools are an example. They proliferate in the district only if the board allows them to. You know that. But the idea of school choice, unheard of when I went to school, is now so embedded in district thinking that the existence of charters now seems like a given. I say that charters can be revoked as well as granted.

I also disagree that changing the transfer policy would cause an upheaval. I think transfer applications should be carefully examined for merit. We both know that many parents choose schools other than their neighborhood school to avoid the distasteful prospect of forcing their kids to rub elbows with the "unwashed masses." There should be an academic rationale for the desire to transfer other than higher test scores. If programs across the city were equalized --no more special options-- then legitimate reasons for transferring should disappear.

Speaking of transfers, nobody yet has answered my question about the source of data for the before and after maps the board is apparently studying to determine the effects of open transfers on poverty, ethnicity, and enrollment in our public schools. I assumed when I first looked at the maps that they were based on kids actually enrolled in the schools. But since the numbers don't add up, my assumption must have been wrong.

Ruth, so the improvement we are doing for poor kids is putting the rules back the way they were before we made the rules a couple of years ago and having site councils which we have had for years? Well, knock me over.

Ruth,

Where can we find detailed disclosures of the District's current thoughts concerning the use of funds raised in a bond measure? Or, will this be another situation where the public gets to "participate" by offering its comments in a relative vacuum of information concerning the District's real thinking? So the Board gets to say that a "public process" was allowed even though the process was based on a deliberate dearth of information about the real plans for the money?

Back to my original question, can you point me to the District's detailed statement concerning desired uses of the money, or the minutes of some meeting where real details were discussed? Please don't ask us to fly blind again until the powers that be want us to know what is going on--too late to alter course.

Thanks

I must have too much time on my hands today...Actually I just mowed the lawn...as I was doing so I kept thinking about your proposal, Ruth, and what about it that had touched a nerve. Boiled down, here's what I think. Instead of coming up with new programs, the focus should be on giving support to teachers and principals in sorting out the mess and chaos that has been created in the past couple of years. And instead of coming up with ways to market our schools, perhaps the Board should put the brakes on creating more nd more charter schools that we now have to compete with. I am pretty sure you understand where that comes from...not so sure other Board members do, so perhaps part of your job could be educating your fellow board members.

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments....here's some responses FWIW.

Terry, my understanding is the maps show a) all kids residing in each PPS "cluster" and b) the number of kids attending PPS schools in that cluster. So yes, the "attending" map leaves off private school, homeschool, and I believe charter school students as well (we're working on getting that crucial piece of info added back in and/or at least broken out so that impact is clearly shown).

Marcia, you are absolutely right, teachers, staff, and principals have way more than enough to do as it is. We know you are all working your butts off. Any of the ideas I outlined above (which are just ideas at this point) would need to come with time/money/extra help to make them happen without being yet another burden. I'm just floating ideas here-- this is not an official statement of a program that is about to be implemented. Thank you for the reality check from the trenches. I know that Carole is focused on helping support teachers and principals in sorting thru the chaos.

Steve, there are a bunch of schools without fully functioning site councils. that is a huge problem that the district has to fix and that is what I am trying to get done.

blueteeth, there is a final report that just got published showing how all the $ were used from the last (1995) capital bond. I am not sure if it is up on the PPS website yet but I will ask. I haven't seen any detailed discussion of how the money will be used for a new bond - that is what this public process is supposed to be about:
a) on Nov. 6, determine big picture questions like minimum and maximum size for schools (!), how much emphasis to place on historical preservation vs. building new; ideas for making schools more sustainable; what types of community uses (that is, co-locating of community groups, whatever, along side schools) the community is interested in; etc.
Your voices are needed!
(there will be a way to give input on the web as well for those who can't make it on the day or eve of the 6th)

b) in January, attend meetings to give feedback on options for each school. As I understand it there will be 2 or 3 options for each building, with listed improvements and a total price tag for each option. For example, for building X, we can give it basic upgrades for $10 million, we can do a full remodel for $30 million, we can build a brand new building for $40 million. You can also suggest a different approach.

Basically every building in the district, since there has not been sufficient money to properly maintain/upgrade for many years, needs at least some work. As taxpayers we need to weigh the tradeoffs and costs of a combination of remodeling, rehab, and new construction.

Coming out of this process we are going to have a master plan that spells out what improvements are planned for each school, which would be paid for by a capital bond that we will ask voters to approve. The whole thing will take many years, rotating around the city and doing the work in stages.

Bottom line, please participate in this process. It's really important to have as many people as possible speak up for what we want our schools to look like and how we invest in them. Participating doesn't have to mean you will vote yes in the end but it will help make it a better process. Thanks everyone.

Suffice it to say, any consideration of changing the transfer policy -- a policy that has caused a radical upward redistribution of wealth, concentration of poverty and racial segregation -- is off the table.

I'm still waiting to hear what problem the open transfer policy is meant to address, and how that mystery problem is more important than the significant equity problems the policy causes.

Color me disappointed.

Sorry, Ruth, but every time a bond measure gets passed, it gets spent on something other than what we are told. I do not believe for one minute that the next bond will be used to upgrade/remodel school buildings, so you can count on my vote--NO.

Geez Ruth, it sounds like you are really trying. Too bad the board won't address the real problems in those lower economic neighborhoods where thousands of kids are dropping out after getting a pretty rotten education. Oh well, SFC has lots of money and their schools are doing fine, so all is well in the district.

I am voting yes on the bond. Even if the money isn't used for what they say some of it may trickle down to those schools in poor neighborhoods.

P.S. Every site council I have ever seen are just yes people for what the district and principal feed them. Even if they want to go in another direction they aren't allowed to go there. Spending your time there seems inconsequential compared to what you could be doing. Of course, you don't want to take on the real problems which I have been talking about the last few years like getting kids better engaged in schools, dealing with the most important problem in middle school years (disrupted classrooms), increasing the number of minority and outstanding teachers in the district, increasing the number of kids who can actually read, increasing the number of parents involved in schools, etc. etc. Maybe the new site councils will deal with them. Of course, maybe I will win the lottery too.

Ruth, I will participate, but I want to know what the Board is thinking up front. I have no doubt that various Board members have penciled out uses of these funds. I do not want to see the Board hold its cards close while the public aims at a moving target. I know that Vickie Phillips has had appointed community members working the new bond issue for a good number of months now. I mean, I know that for an absolute fact. So, I'm not buying the idea that the Board is a blank slate on this issue now. I know better.

Steve B.,

The current bond has "trickled down" to the poor neighborhoods in the form of extra vice-principals at those silo academies. Is that worth paying higher taxes?

The one before was illegally used to remodel the BESC. None of it managed to "trickle down" to any poor schools. Was that worth paying higher taxes?

If your answers to the above questions are yes, then you have a good reason to vote for the next bond.

But I don't.

Zarwen, for the record, a capital bond is distinct from any kind of I-tax or local option or any other tax of funding that goes into the district's general operating budget. A capital bond, by law, is separate $$ and can only be spent on upgrading and remodeling buildings or infrastructure. The only bond PPS has ever had was passed in 1995 and just ran out of $ in 2006.

The final report details how the money was spent, including (all in millions):
$61.4 for capital renewal (exterior and interior building improvements)
$44 for IT (computers/wiring for internet)
$38.5 for seismic improvements
$13.8 for fire and life safety improvements
$10 for building improvements (includes one new school)
$9 for building accessibility (ADA)
$7 for environmental health and safety.

In order to ask the voters for a capital bond there has to be a plan detailing what will be done. It will be pretty obvious whether or not the work is being done as promised--if we do what I hope we can do, every building will eventually be upgraded or remodeled (though over many years since it will be a big investment).

Again, no matter how folks plan to vote on any eventual capital bond, I hope you will participate in the planning process to help shape the plan and the district's direction as far as school size, etc. (Nov. 6 is the first time I can recall where there has been an opportunity for the public to weigh in specifically on the topic of school size.)

Steve-- one board member's comments on a blog count for zip. It's not an official position of the board, just me saying where I, personally, happen to be on this issue at the moment, and also listening to your views. Nothing is off the table. Onward; I'll see you all at BESC and around town. Thanks very much for the dialogue!

Thanks, Ruth, for the info. Now, can someone help me understand...does this bond then get added into property taxes?

Hi blueteeth, I saw your comment after I just posted... Yes, there is a "citizen's oversight committee" with various movers and shakers along with reps from PAT, a principal, etc. I've been attending their meetings for the past few months and they are reviewing the overall process, but there is no discussion or planning re: specific schools at this point. I'm sure everyone in town has pet ideas for remodeling or rebuilding particular schools. I'm sure there will be jockeying for for position from the "powers that be." (Which is why I'm spending time on this blog encouraging you guys to participate...) But if folks (board or otherwise) are penciling anything in, it's only in their heads at this point. I'm waiting to see the recommended upgrades and the price tags.

The plan that will be developed is going to be a public one. Now I know you guys will just love this, but you can go to the website for the consultant that is doing the assessment of the facilities and will help develop the master plan. You can see how the timeline/process and how plans have been developed in other cities. Go to the PPS website and click on "Reshape Schools."

Zarwen, I would be happy to get you a copy of the report from the 1995 capital bond detailing the work done at *all* schools. Is there inequity in that some schools can privately fundraise for additional improvements to their building, like newer computers or paint? Yes. But the fact is, the capital bond was spread around to all schools.

Steve B., getting parents involved in school improvement at Title 1 schools as fully empowered members of site councils, is just an example and it's just one small area that I am trying to do what I can to get some traction on; obviously it's not the full answer.

and now, good night-thanks again, everyone.

Call it a bond, call it a tax, call it a purple elephant, it is still more $ out of my pocket.

I am aware of the rules governing bonds, but that doesn't mean they get followed. I was employed by the District from 1992-2000, and I remember quite well the state investigation into improper use of the bond money. Did your report mention that part?

Ruth, considering you are the one board member who was elected specifically as a neighborhood schools advocate, and as chair of the committee studying the issue, your position on the transfer policy is pretty darned important. If it's off the table for you, I have a hard time seeing anybody else on the board taking the lead. So I assume it's off the table for the board at large. (I'd love to be proven wrong.)

Carole Smith made similar remarks to a reporter, further reinforcing my understanding that nothing is going to change with the transfer policy for at least another year.

I'm still waiting to hear somebody at PPS articulate what problem the transfer policy is designed to solve, how exactly it is working in that regard, and why this unnamed problem is so much more important than desegregation and neighborhood funding equity. If the school board doesn't know, whom should I ask?

Many thanks, Ruth, for taking the time to explain to folks your positions on various issues. I (for one) appreciate the effort.

Obviously there are a few commenters here that are skeptical of board and district intentions. I hope you don't take any of it personally. You shouldn't, since you weren't responsible for the hiring of Vicki Phillips nor the closure of neighborhood schools which really angered a lot of parents.

As for school taxes, well, some people are just plain anti-tax. I'm not one of them.

Zarwen-- is this what you are referring to? "In 1998...the District also identified $10.5 million of expenditures that were appropriate capital projects, but were not on the list of projects included in the ballot measure presented to voters when the bonds were approved. The District subsequently repaid this $10.5 million to the bond program from the general fund and established procedures to ensure ongoing compliance." Sounds like after this they established oversight committees, I don't think there were issues after that. Pam Brown (former head of facilities) explained about this at the last committee meeting and I don't think anyone is eager to repeat that mistake.

While we can choose not to spend our money on upgrading our schools, sooner or later they are going to start falling apart (in some cases, literally) and we will have to do something. I'd rather figure out a long-term plan now and try to do it right. We just sank a ton of public money into the "big pipe" sewer project -- not fun but a necessary infrastructure upgrade. I think the same public investment is called for, for our schools.

Steve R., what I don't think will happen -- and what I think would be irresponsible to push thru in a short timeframe without adequate community input (sound familiar?)-- is any kind of wholesale change to the transfer policy, before this January's transfer cycle. Esp. given that much of the district is still in the process of undergoing reconfiguration to K-8. I know you are frustrated by the lack of action since the Flynn/Blackmer audit, and so am I. But pushing thru major change on what is now a short timeframe, even with the best of intentions, is not the way to go. Moreover, the reality is that one person cannot simply swoop in and enact changes to a complex system.

We are out of whack, as the district's maps (and everyone's observation) plainly show. I am hoping that the board discussion on Nov. 5 will get at the questions like what problems are we trying to solve and what problems are we creating.

While I know you think this is wrong, it's my best judgment that taking an incremental and multi-faceted approach is the way to go (including but not limited to: tweaks to the policy, form an ongoing citizen advisory committee to adjust the policy that reports directly to the board at specified times, provide supports and resources for schools under/near 400, build up site councils, outreach to preschool age families that doesn't further swamp teachers and principals, etc.....) Where my role will come in is to keep the focus on this effort during this school year, amid the many other urgent issues coming at us on a daily basis, and make sure that there is a plan with firm deadlines and that we stick to it.

Well of course we wouldn't want to change the transfer policy this year. That would limit Rieke's ability to grow by attracting transfer students from other schools wouldn't it Ruth? First things first right? Your efforts at providing resources and supports to schools at/near 400, like Rieke, will do nothing for a huge portion of the schools that are harmed by the tranfer policy and other PPS policies.

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