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Friday, February 18, 2005

How dare she!

Portland schools chief Super Vicki takes a hit on the front page of The Oregonian today. The story's supposed to be an "analysis" of whether she allowed appropriate public input before announcing the impending closures of several schools. "She doesn't understand that Portlanders demand process," blah blah blah.

When you fire Neil Goldschmidt's brother from the outrageously overpaid position that he was handed by Neil Goldschmidt's wife, you can expect flak from The Oregonian. After all, it's the Official Publication of the Portland Old Boy Network.

Ignore 'em, Vicki. You go, girl.

Comments (10)

As one of the people impacted by her closure annoucement, I say hit away. Her proposal has nothing to do with firing Steve Goldschmnidt, which was a great move; nor does the heat she'll take on her closure proposals.

My son attends a school with stable enrollment, highly utilized building, low cost per student, and that has earned an excellent rating two years in a row.

We meet or exceed all the supposed criteria that the district set out to judge whether to keep a school open in this supposed "data-driven" process. Yet, we're still closing.

Last night, I attended a meeting at my son's school where an assistant super and board member were supposed to "listen" and "answer" questions. And what we were told reflected The O story -- it's a done deal. They told us there are myriad reasons why our school is closing -- they wouldn't be more specific than that. Would the data that they used to determine why our school is closing be released? Nope, at least not in time for us to digest the information and make an informed decison. We were simply told our school isn't "viable," altough they never gave any details on how they arrived at that conclusion.

It would have been nice to be told in some sort of public forum before she announced her proposals that all that stuff we were told counted actually didn't count in our case. Plus, I find it insulting to be called to a public meeting to "discuss" the proposal and then told it doesn't matter what we think. Why hold a public meeting in the first place?

Yes, damnit, I'm rambling. But I'm also pissed because sometimes a process is necessary. Firing Goldschmidt didn't need a process; closing schools does.

I don't disagree. My thought is that the O's front-page editorial on the subject, which coincides with your view, seems to have been designed to inflame people even further against the super. And if that's so, I doubt the paper's motivation was a genuine concern about process. Instead, I suspect they don't like her already, because she's not playing along with the Old Boy program.

I must say that given the nature with which "super vicki" ran her previous operation it would be in keeping with her modus operandi to dismantle someone else's old boy network so that she can install her own.

BTW -- what is it about the position of school superintendent that attracts these carpet baggers anyways? Could it be the humongous salaries and bloated budgets just waiting to be (re)distributed amongst various friendly "consultants"? And, just where is Ben Canada plying his brand of the trade these days?

Yours in cynicism...

Chris – I attended past board meetings where they did fully discuss the criteria they would use. If you had gone to one of them you would have been extended all the courtesy of a three minute whining session as you witness the board members get fidgety. They did note, then, that the savings on administration by closing schools was almost so meager as to not serve as any justification whatsoever. The focus on “data” seems be a matter of reliance upon making superficial Power Point presentations, without which they would have nothing to talk about to explain their actions. The continuing PERS matters swamps any financial savings that can be obtained by closing schools; you, and your kid, are expendable just as were the janitors . . .

The O's criticism was tame and objective. It is what I would consider ok reporting. I would, however, not mix it with the Steve G. issue. Steve does not butter the O's bread. The G's are out spent in the buying of editorial loyalty by others.

Perhaps the O's position is better illustrated by their apparent non-reporting of the Monday rally in Salem to demand that the constitutional requirement to adequately fund education be met. This would have been a free public announcement for Stand For Children. To which I would note that the constitutional requirement would be better met by the hiring of lots of new teachers rather than redirecting more dollars to PERS to supplement the private investments of teachers who had already been fully paid.

If Ms. Phillips has the macho to close schools then perhaps she has the macho to effectively lower class sizes too, which would necessarily mean dealing honestly with regard to PERS and dealing squarely with the new teachers. I still think she may eventually come around to my way of thinking, but then she too will be given the boot just like Steve.

The O is just filling space. If open discussion is the issue then I have got one issue that needs more airing and it is the same one that the O's Editors claimed was the most significant issue facing the public just a few short months ago during the heat of labor talks. All that we get today is silence, and secrecy, from the advocates of openness.

The reality is PPS needs to merge (close) some schools, enrollment is down, costs are up, and a full range of programs, i.e. art & music are not available at all schools in the district. Parents at both Smith & Edwards cannot really claim to be blindsided as both schools have been recommended for closure for sometime, but there was no “leader” at PPS willing to make the tough decisions. I know it must hurt to have your neighborhood school close, but it has to happen to somewhere.

It was also interesting to see the two different takes the Trib and the O have on Phillips - with two front page stories, no less...

We had to close several schools down in the Eugene School District a few years ago. We had a citizen task force consider the options, made their recommendations to the superintendent and the school board, who ultimately did the deed. There was some opposition, of course, but it was handled very professionally.

Portland has avoided taking this necessary step for so long I can't say that I blame Vicki Phillips for trying to take the bull by the horns. But I think the way we did things is better if you can actually get the job done.

Auggie -- Thanks. Your command of the facts is impressive.

Yes, I'm only critical because I'm attached to the school and was ignorant of the reality you mention. Thanks to you, I now know that enrollment is shrinking and costs are increasing.

Of course, I also know that my son's school has music and PE. It is at near capacity. It delivers education at a lower cost than 40 other PPS schools.

The fact is, there is little or no savings in closing the school right now. Does it make sense to close in the future? It'd be nice to have time to study the options.

And, yes, families felt blindsided. I wasn't there during the first round when the school was targeted. I felt blindsided. So did families who were part of the process the last time. Why? Because the school does everything right, and the data indicate that it is doing everything right -- supposedly the same data that the district is using to determine whether a school should close.

I do not have kids but I am a proud product of what I think is still one of the best large city public school systems in the country. I've had a love/hate relationship with the school district through my experiences and learning of the experiences of others.

Saying that, I stand firmly behind the new superintendent and her decisions. An unfortunte reality of the PPS, one which I lived through in the early '80s, is that it has a shrinking enrollment and, thus, costs must be cut. On top of that the district has to deal inherently higher per student costs because of at-risk, disabled and other government required student needs.

Ms. Phillips is the first recognizable leader we have had for the PPS in my memory. I under stand that some of her decisions will be unpopular, and heck even wrong. But so far what I see is that she is doing a good job (despite what the Big O might tell you).

This city still has the highest percentage of resident children attending public schools. It is something like 75-85% (I apologize for not remembering the exact number of providing a link to accurate data). Compare that to other cities that have rates of 50% or even 30%. The PPS is not only still viable, but is thriving in some quarters and, I firmly and optimistically believe, can thrive throughout the city given the right direction.

I personally question the Smith and Edwards school decisions, but strongly support Superintendent Phillips in her overall decisions thus far.

And, just to spite the raving far-right conservatives that sometimes fregquent this blog, I believe in public education as one of the most important governmental responsibilities. It is the true equalizer. Private schools benefit, by far, mostly only those who can afford it. Vouchers are a pipe dream that just do not make community sense.

And on that note I challenge Lars, Ted, Mr. Sizemore, and Mr. McIntire to answer the simple question (so that the general public really truly understands their intentions): Do you even believe in the concept (yes, just the concept) of public education?

I am a surviver of a school closure. After reality set in and my children were welcomed at their new school I realized how many more services became available for my kids.

Well run school districts evaluate enrollment projections, costs per student in each building, achievement levels and then make adjustments to keep costs low every single year. Some districts re-district 2 or 3 streets to balance enrollment problems anually with the agreement not to move students more than once in their elementary years.

High achieving students remain high achieving students even when they move to a different school.

I applaud Vicki's leadership. She is no carpet-bagger, she is a leader who is doing what the vast majority of superintendents do on a regular basis with little fan fare. I'll take a fiscally responsible leader over a school district run by parent committees who can't see the long term advantages of closing their little incestous schools.

PS. Once Neil was out of the picture it was safe to fire Steve.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference How dare she!:

» Cover-girl Vicki Phillips, workin' the town... from Metroblogging Portland
I'm a fan. But depending on which publication (or weblog) you read, people either love her, hate her, or question her motivations. The Tribune and The O had dueling and dissonant versions this morning - she's got a cadre of... [Read More]

» "Outrageous" School Closures from BlueOregon
This past week, PPS Superintendent Vicki Phillips proposed closing six schools. The usual outrage then ensued, with folks essentially saying [Read More]


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