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January 18, 2008


One thing you won't get from this school board is a real conversation, unless of course you are from Stand for Children or some other high powered organization or government official. But if you are not, then they will listen, but they won't comment. There are reasons for this. One, they don't want to take the time since they could care less what people with little power say since they can't influence their standing in the community, and two they would look like fools. When you move into the lower economic parts of Portland the positions PPS espouses are not really defensible. We have seen that over and over on this blog and Steve Rawley's blog.

How refreshing it would be to have the board banter with the community members bringing their concerns. Or even ask for claification or move to involve them in the real discussion of the issue they have brought forth.

The only discussions this board holds is when their friends or the powerful whisper in their ears, or call them at home, or talk to them over coffee. I wonder if there is a real conversation then even. Or does the board just receive their marching orders.

I'm trying to figure this stuff out, and I find your insights very valuable, Steve B. I'm finding people like Carole Smith far more willing to speak frankly about the problems of inequity than the school board. Why is this?

I understand the policy of taking testimony, but not engaging in discussion. Meetings would become interminable. But I've had private discussions with a handful of school board members, and even then they are circumspect about the problem and will not discuss its cause: the open transfer policy. This is the Problem That Shall Not Be Named, much less discussed.

Instead, the problem becomes A Very Complicated Problem, and its solution becomes partnering with colleges and universities. While I support the notion of high school students earning core college credit, I'm not seeing how this addresses the fundamental inequities we're trying to fix at schools like Jefferson, with its half-empty library shelves, and its mothballed metal shop, wood shop, auto shop, TV studio and band room.

Steve B.,

How did it work when you were on the school board? And what has changed since then? And what has caused such changes?

Meetings were interminable. But there was pretty much full discussion, not only with people presenting, but among board members themselves. Open government to the n'th degree.
Also, the administration (Prophet and McElroy) believed all kids were of equal worth and acted on that. Every school's problems were of equal importance.
The difference was that 3 and 1/2 members of the school board believed their constituency was all the district, including the politically powerless and lower economic areas. At times there was 4. This has never happened since (over 24 years). Now, none of the board believes this. It makes a whole lot of difference about what does get addressed.

Hey Terry,

Hate to tell you, but those 3 minutes are essential to me, especially when I have a student board report that was pushed back because everyone (apprx. 6-15 angry, concerned people)always goes over those three minutes.

Sorry if I am "too quiet" or "silent" and I don't like to ask questions at board meetings but I tend to listen intently and take notes instead of asking questions just for the hell of it. Sometimes, the best conversations happen when I'm not surrounded by a bunch of disappointed adults who want me to say what they want to hear. If any wanted my opinion they would just have to ask it. I wouldn't pour out my life on a blog but in person, I wouldn't mind having those conversations. You see, I don't have an organization backing me or someone sponsoring me. All I have is my self-respect, respect for others, dignity, and honesty. I tell the truth to those who ask me in person, no one seems to ask because they think I'm just a face behind the name tag. Like I wrote to Steve R., I am not at all a sitting duck. I engage in the conversations that welcome me into them without trying to simultaneously tear down the other board members.

Hope your MLK day was swell, my friend!

Toni, tens of thousands of students, about 100 schools. No way can you get the business done correctly by 9:00. Start earlier -- go later. This allows some time for real exchanges. It is important that the board actually listens, that is how they learn. Listening and discussing in public is part of the process. Asking questions and making comments is part of listening. Dump some of the district presentations that can be put on paper and use the time to discuss real business. That would be a step to better government and thus better decisions. Of course, not everyone would always look so good. Hard to fool someone when you are doing real discussions and conducting real business in public.

That's right Steve. These one-way conversations with 3-minute limits not only fail to accomplish anything meaningful. They discourage public involvement. Board meetings should be held at schools, rotated throughout the city. Board members should be engaging with those that elected them at these meetings, not stuck up on their "throne" at BESC with seemingly nothing more important than cutting people off when the red light goes on; disgusting.

Right, and with no need to respond, there is no need to listen, is there?

Dump some of the district presentations that can be put on paper...

Oh yeah, what a concept. Wouldn't it be great to limit all the power point presentations to three minutes?

"I'm sorry, your time is up. Next!"

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