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June 14, 2007

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Welcome back to the blogosphere, Terry! You have been sorely missed out here.

Now, if I may, I would like to plunge right in by offering to disabuse you of the notion that there is anything "hidden" about the agenda of PSF/PPS. As I have posted elsewhere, the hiring of this professional charter school advocate sends up a signal, loud and clear, that the powers-that-be in Portland are going to privatize/charterize/mega-size our erstwhile PUBLIC school system! Nothing hidden about it.

Until the local electorate rises up and votes in an ALL-NEW School Board whose members have NO ties to the Foundation, CPPS, Stand for Children, or any of the other local "king-makers," we will only see more of the same. Is such a thing even possible any more, when candidates have to raise $25,000 or $30,000 just to run for a local school board?

On a tangentially related note, the cover story of today's inPortland recounted the sad, egregious, even sickening story of how a local school board (or at least 4 of its members) exploited the disparities of income within a school community to "tear it apart," as one affected parent so heartbreakingly put it. Whoever's interests they are serving, it clearly ain't us.

When will the people of Portland rise up to take back our public schools? What can we do to remedy this? Dare we discuss the idea of recalling some of these corrupt board members?

Mary, Recalling corrupt school board members wouldn't be enough. Public school supporters should stop donating money to the Portland Schools Foundation too.

I agree with you in principle, guinea pig. It is nothing short of frightening to me to see what this "Foundation" has become. I was present at the beginning, when it was just a bunch of concerned parents trying to help out their local schools. Donations were raised $1 at a time. Now it seems to be funded mostly by corporate grants. (Whether the corporations actually are "public school supporters" is questionable at best.) The rest comes from well-off neighborhood school parents who are not about to stop their annual auctions because that is how they pay for music, art, field trips, etc. that the District no longer pays for. Thus the "Foundation" has morphed into a behemoth that wields its power in all the wrong places and for the wrong reasons. In view of where the funding now comes from, would it really make any difference for donors to stop donating?

I predict there will be a public uprising if they try to hire Mincberg or any other pro-Phillips PPS insider as the new Superintendent. No f'in way we're going to accept that.

I look forward to meeting Terry Olson personally. If I understood the blog commentary correctly, there is a solid misconception about me. Perhaps a personal conversation will help clear this up.

Best cordial regards,
Connie Van Brunt

( will be at the Portland Schools Foundation on Monday and Tuesday of this week. )

Connie,

Welcome to Portland. It would be great if you'd respond to some of Terry's concerns in this forum. We are all interested in your views on these subjects.

Blueteeth

Below is an excerpt from a Substance magazine article that shows how charter school implementation under a plan "Renaissance 2010" in Chicago has come at the expense of public schools, which have been dismantled and closed. Detroit Public Schools has implemented a similar plan, closed 34 schools last year, and they are not done yet!

I think it is fair to ask Ms.Van Brunt her view of school closures, given the huge number of closures in both Chicago and Detroit recently. I would also ask what she thinks the role of corporations should be in a PUBLIC school system. And given the comment by Ms. Van Brunt in a recent Oregonian article about the importance of public relations in a school district, I would have to warn her that we here in Portland are very weary of spin and the emphasis on P.R. over substantive actions to improve the education of our children.

Here is the link and an excerpt. Can readers of this blog please continue to research what is happening in Chicago public schools and other schools nationwide, especially regarding privatization and corporate control?
Anne T.
Portland OR

http://www.substancenews.com/content/view/191/81/

"As the Detroit dismantles its public school system, Chicago school advocates need to look carefully at the Chicago Public Schools’ plans to begin to dismantle our public school system. Chicago’s “Ren 2010” (as it’s been dubbed by its critics) plan proposes closure of 10 percent of CPS schools. In their place, Chicago’s CEO and school board say they hope to to create charters and contract schools. These can hasten the closure of even more public schools.

In January, 18 “new” schools — charter, contract and performance schools — were announced for fall 2005 opening by CPS officials. Exact numbers are difficult to pin down, because many of the entities are “small schools” within existing schools. With the financial backing of Chicago’s biggest corporations, some of these schools are being infused with cash grants, although recent press reports indicate that promises of upwards of $50 million in corporate donations to Chicago’s schools have not been kept.

On February 22, a business-based group called “New Schools for Chicago” announced it is awarding $3.7 million to seven charter schools and one new CPS “small school”. New Schools for Chicago claims that it has raised $24 million so far to help dismantle Chicago Public Schools and replace them with charters and contract schools. Critics have charged that the manipulation of corporate taxes — both property taxes and corporate real estate taxes — and government subsidies to corporations under the administration of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley have cost the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. In the view of these critics, corporate giveaways have cost the city and its public schools much more than the corporations (and foundations they control to help dictate public policy) are returning in what is being reported as charity. "

Article about the Chicago Renaissance 2010 plan

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2004/07/14/42chicago.h23.html

Check out the community resistance to the military school in Chicago
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2004/11/10/11chicago.h24.html
http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2002/01/rotc.html

Ms. Van Brunt,
You can clear up any misconception for me by answering this YES/NO question:
Are you going to support converting Jefferson High School into a charter school as desired by some PSF and PPS leaders but opposed by Jefferson families?

Connie,

If you are beginning to get the impression that everyday Portlanders are fed up with policies being crammed down their throats by the educational establishment elites (which includes the Foundation), then you are developing an accurate understanding of the pool you into which you have waded. Do not underestimate us. We booted one establishment Board Director, replacing him with a grassroots activist and very nearly tossed another one (David Wynde) out on his ear running against a virtual unknown. We've had enough of being dictated to by the so-called leaders. That chapter is over and we are starting a new one now.

Blueteeth

On the subject of charter schools, please check my voting record before making any assumptions about where I stand. Oh, and Dilafruz Williams was also on the Foundation board at the same time as I was.

Dilafruz Williams has supported the creation of new charter schools that divert enrollment and resources from our existing public schools. Also, she talks a good game about the importance of equal educational opportunities for low income and minority students but her voting record for Jefferson and its feeder schools has fallen way short of the talk.

During the election she spoke eloquently about how unfair it is that the district has closed the middle schools in low income and minority neighborhoods, but offers fabulous middle school programs in wealthier neighborhoods. She also talked about how wrong it is to force all-girl and all-boy schools onto the Jefferson community. All talk.

Sure, she spoke out against the citywide K-8 reconfiguration last year, but did she raise objections about the K-8 reconfiguration of the Jefferson cluster the year before, or make any attempts to stop the latest top-down Jefferson reorganization? NO. Did she vote against closing Tubman middle school at the end of this school year to make way for a new 7-12 girls school at Tubman? NO. Did she oppose PPS's removal of popular and successful programs from Tubman middle school a few years ago to decrease enrollment in the school? NO. In 2005, did she vote against removing one of Jefferson's most successful and closest elementary schools (in the gentrified North Mississippi neighborhood) and adding it to the Grant cluster? NO. Has she spoken out against the Superintendent's Jefferson community advocacy board agreement that marginalizes parent voice in school decision-making and formalizes a relationship with a wealthly "community leader"/Portland Schools Foundation board member who wants to control Jefferson with his appointed community representatives? NO. She and the rest of the board also granted a long-term lease of recently closed Kenton School to a private high school that competes for enrollment with Jefferson, even though the district has said they will close Jefferson if enrollment doesn't increase.

I predict that in a few months both Dilafruz Williams and David Wynde will also vote to support the latest assault on Jefferson neighborhood schools - a new Montessori charter school (appropriately named after a non-native invasive plant) which organizers plan to locate in North/Northeast Portland possibly in the neighborhoods of recently closed Applegate or Kenton Schools, or Humboldt which was threatened with closure last year. I guess a Waldorf charter school, Trillium charter school and varied array of alternative and private schools in the Jefferson cluster isn't enough - some people think we really need a Montessori charter school too. Imagine if all that energy was going into supporting our neighborhood schools instead of creating competitors of them?

Mr. Wynde, I'm not sure what the purpose of your comment was about Dilafruz Williams being on the board of the Portland Schools Foundation at the same time that you were there. But if you're trying to suggest that she has just as much reason for being tossed out by the voters as you, then I would agree.

Thanks for joining the discussion, David.

I've written that the school board has been reluctant to approve many charter school applications, but that's not the real issue here. The board's tacit approval of NCLB, which DOES push charter schools as a legitimate alternative to traditional neighborhood schools, it's eagerness to close many of those same schools, it's backing of Vicki Phillips after a NATIONAL search, its close alliance with Gates and other foundations, and its backroom deal making with Tony Hopson, who DOES run a charter school --those are the issues.

I stand by my assertion that PSF's choice of Connie Van Brunt sets a bad precedent for the district, but I guess only time will tell whether my concern is justified.

Terry, thanks for your informative and vigilant blogging. It's a real service to the community.

David and Connie: Welcome to the new landscape of Portland Public Schools. We parents have had enough. We don't want hackneyed reconfiguration, we don't want more charter schools, and we don't want corporate money with boat anchors attached. We sure as hell don't want "market-based" approaches to education. Our children's education is not a commodity to be bought and sold.

The recent school board election was a referendum on the failed policies of the Phillips era. Those who disregard the results do so at their own peril.

What about the future of Chief Joseph? Penned in by the new Waldorf Charter School to the north, and struggling Ockley Green K-8 and Trillium Charter School to the east, Beach Spanish Immersion to the south and Astor "We have money!" to the west. CJ is not set up for PPS K-8 -- building is not big enough, portables are ancient, supposedly new portables are not in the works -- but it's the perfect size for a small K-8 Catholic school. I've heard De La Salle is scouting around for this, and reps from De La Salle have visited Chief Joe.

I'm not so happy over here, fyi. (And in the interest of being above board -- I'm the wife of Himself.)

You know what I'd like for Jefferson? A real high school. With boys and girls, grades 9-12. A yearbook, newspaper, photography staff, DANCE TEAM made up of only Jeff students, and French, Spanish, German and Latin. And great art teachers. And a strong media department. And the International Baccalaurete Program. ALSO a real partnership with PCC, for all four grades, not just juniors and seniors.

Keep it real, please.

Terry

I have faithfully followed your blog and value your opinion all while adopting a somewhat contrary path in that my children have attended a PPS focus program (Odyssey in SW) for the past 4 years...

Now my (soon to be) 9th grader has chosen LEP (Charter) over his local HS (Wilson) and our middle schooler has opted to leave Odyssey to attend Da Vinci (Magnet)...

Personally, for our family, school choice has been a positive option and one that goes against the grain of this blog perhaps...

But, still, I have a difficult time accepting that the endgame of the participants of charter, focus or magnet programs (any level) are devious, misguided or nefarious...

Just my public school educated opinion...


As a libertarian believer in a diversified system of K-12 schools composed of private-secular, private-sectarian and government provided common public schools for children whose parents elect to send their children to "common" schools for egalitarian, financial or reasons of indifference, I also am mystified by the choice of Ms. Van Brunt to lead PSF.

I look forward to hearing of her unique abilities and her plans to marshal and employ the resources of PSF and the community for the future of PSF and PPS. I strongly suggest it is counterproductive to ask her to justify past history in Detroit, Texas, Illinois and Portland that she was not involved in.

These are reasonable comments Gus. However, I can't help but think that if the Board had examined Phillips' sorry history in Pennsylvania more closely before hiring her, we could have avoided that hiring mistake. It was a history of chronyism and lack of process exactly as played out here in Portland to the great detriment of our public schools.

This is not to say that Connie has a bad history in Chicago. And, I don't particularly share Terry's concerns about charter schools and magnet schools in general. (I am concerned, however, when magnet schools are preserved while existing neighborhood schools (and neighborhoods) are destroyed.) We should have an open mind about Connie. However, PSF has justifiably lost the support of many in Portland and we will be watching to see if PSF moves in a more positive direction going forward.

As a teacher in North Portland, I can only say that the Charter schools run the risk of sucking our school dry of the kids we would like to retain. Those are the kids with involved parents, etc....

Welcome back Terry. We missed your input. I finally figured out that I needed a new e-mail to post comments here. I just wanted to question the commentor on the Astor "we have money" bit? WHAT? As a teacher there, I have to tell you...that's not the case. Our usual song is....We are an exceptional school....and we have nothing....This coming year we will have a P.E. teacher....First time in several years....We had to scramble and beg to get that. But nothing else. And we are adding 7th grade..and have been given the task of being creative when it comes to offering any kind of program. At the same time, the new charter school at the old DeLasalle (sp?) site is offering art, music, drama...etc....etc...And talk of another charter opening in St. Johns. Get the picture?

While there are still many unknowns facing PPS, I have been thinking a great deal about what I would like to see happen. I must admit the PPS Foundation and its role in within education politics here in Portland has always intrigued me - and I must also admit that the current practice (although I know they are reviewing this) of the Equity Fund dollars to be distributed back into the community through a competitive grant process has always mystified me. (The "Equity Fund" is the 30% surcharge that the foundation places on dollars raised for FTE for an individual school.)

As I reflect on my many experiences running for school board (and I had a blast - I encourage more folks to think about it. You do not have to raise thousands of dollars to have an impact) here are my hopes and dreams for the Portland Public Schools foundation. One common issue I have heard over and over again during the school board campaign is communication and lack thereof within schools and the district - here are three ideas I have to help resolve that...

1. Make sure that every middle school and high school family has access to email from home or work. We have some wonderful organizations that can work in partnership with the district to make this happen. I know the free wifi system in the system is clunky and in its early stages... but it is a place to start. We also know that teachers at those grade levels communicate most effecitvely with parents via email... putting those that do not have access to it from home or work at a terrible disadvantage.

2. Work through whatever bizarre history has occured to have an online district-wide database of parent leaders. I know that CPPS tried to make some effort in this area a few years ago but could not break down the walls. I would love be able to find other PTA Presidents, Foundation Chairs, Site Council Chairs, LSAC Chairs, School Newsletter Editors, etc... at the click of a button. I know there are issues of confidentailty, but clearly the neighborhood associations have worked through that - and can model a wonderful system for us.

3. Would the foundation want to help seed and develop a parent organization for those schools that do not have an active PTA or some parent support organization within the school? This is especially critical at the elementary school level - when a parent organization can play a key role in supporting parent invovlement, staff support and fundraising for non-FTE needs.

I know that in the months ahead we will all be embroiled in a difficult discussion about the enrollment and transfer policy - and I want to encourage all the parent activists out there to make sure that we work hard to send clear and effective messages to the school board. Also remember that there is an issue of how many magnate and charter schools are in place, and where they are located and their effect on neighboring neighborhood schools - but there is a much more thorny issue of families transferring from a neighborhood school to a different neighborhood school. I have numbers on all that if anyone is interested....

Michele Schultz

Three groups of people run the PPS School Board -- The School Foundation, Stand for Children, and the editorial board of The Oregonian. They are not about to let their power diminish for it is that power which makes sure the schools in upper middle class neighborhoods work as well as they do. (Wilson, Lincoln, parts of Grant, and parts of Cleveland). The problem becomes large only when they try to muddle in the rest of the district which has a very low priority for them and about which they know little or nothing. They don't live in those neighborhoods, their kids don't go to school in those neighborhoods, they don't work in those neighborhoods, and their friends don't live in those neighborhoods -- hence, they not only don't know much about them but could care even less. By approving school board members (incidentally Dan Ryan had $70,000 not 25 or 30, and for those of you who think Ruth Adkins was a victory against these groups you might remember she was endorsed by Stand For Children and The Oregonian and it was after these endorsements that her $ coffers filled up), they guarantee people on the board with the same priorities and lack of knowledge and caring. These people hire the superintendent and guess what -- the superintendent is just like them. Joe Rieke once told me about hiriing Bierwirth, "he's one of us." Another thing. The middle schools even in the most upper class middle schools are not even in the same league as Vancouver's, but they are considerably better than in Portland's lower economic neighborhoods which continue to languish as the worst in Oregon (or Washington) because no one will get serious about dealing with the real problems in those schools. (Hint: it is not just testing but a lack of engaging activities, electives etc. and a total failure to deal with classroom disruptions.)

Geez, Buel, no wonder you didn't get elected. I voted for you though.

I've written many times that's there's little democracy in local educational politics. However, if we could get everybody out to vote --yeah I mean the blogosphere-- we just might restore some semblance of democracy, the grassroots kind, to the school board. I truly believe that Ruth's election, despite the endorsements, was evidence of a mini-democratic uprising.

Now, why don't you go have a talk with Ms Van Brunt?

Terry, lots of comments on this blog about the politics of school board elections. Here is how it works. The person who can put good looking literature (preferably more than one piece) in every mailbox in the city will win -- end of story. If The Foundation and Stand for Children support you then you will get the money and the expertise necessary to do this. Plus you get the buzz in the well-to-do neighborhoods that vote. (The teacher union is helpful, of course, but go back two elections and you will see their candidates, who were far superior in my opinion, lost. So, in my race say, instead of supporting a 38 year teacher, 10 years in PPS, they went for a nice guy, who knew nothing about the schools really, and still knows very little even though he chairs the board. Why? I imagine it was because they knew he would win and it is pretty well know that I am very independent.) The other stuff is pretty much meaningless. So, when people talk about taking on the school power structure in a political way I am really sceptical. I think the one exception to these rules, however, is if a well known political person ran for the board, an Erik Sten type say. He or she could win regardless of the support. Problem is, no one of that nature exists who wouldn't be oriented the same way as SFC and The Foundation. I don't really dislike The Foundation and Stand for Children, they have done a lot of nice work. I just get tired of their hypocrisy. If they would just say, look, we are an organization which believes in making the schools in certain neighborhoods better and know nothing about the rest of the school distriict then I would be a big supporter.

Even if you are the only one who wants to save your troubled marriage you can do it alone once you know what you need to do. So, relax, take a deep breath and let's get started with some things you can do to get started on saving a troubled marriage.

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