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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 8, 2005 8:52 AM. The previous post in this blog was Oh my God! You're kidding!. The next post in this blog is Everybody's blogging. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Friday, July 8, 2005

Message to Super Vicki

An e-question for Portland schools superintendent Vicki Phillips: I know we're trying to send a message to folks about how dire things are financially, but do we really need to allow every grassy space owned by the school district to be overrrun with clover? It's ugly and it's hard to reverse. I know it's heresy, but could you please have your grounds folks (if you still have any) make a quick Home Depot run and pick up a few bags of weed and feed? Maybe not the kind you use over at the mansion -- a generic brand will do. Just a thought.

Comments (22)

A few years back, our neighborhood school looked like an abandoned farm during the summer--thigh-high weeds, grass growing way over the sidewalk, wilted flowers, etc. Some folks from the neighborhood thought it would help if they took 3 hours from their Saturday morning and tidied it up--mowed the grass, cut the weeds back, raked, etc.

Uh, nope. That would be a BIG violation of the contract the district has with the union, and it was made pretty clear that the neighbors could get in trouble for doing this.

Neighbors: "We'd like to clean up the school."
PSD: "Sorry, but we have a union contract to do that cleaning."
Neighbors: "Ok, well, could you have them clean it, please?"
PSD: "No, we don't have the money."

D'oh. And argh.

Well, nowadays you could take a picture of the bad school property and forward it to your favorite blogger, who could post it...

Maybe the groundskeepers union has "negotiated" for them the same sweet package that teachers get. Nine months of work on a 12 month rate of pay.

I think the logical solution is that PSD hires several consultants to help them design a brochure that tells parents about future steps the district will take to control clover.

While that might have been the situation before, the elementary school near my house has had parent groups mowing, weeding and edging the grounds for a while now. And there is a prominent sign in the front that says something like "The Portland School District thanks parents for their help taking care of the yard."

While that might have been the situation before, the elementary school near my house has had parent groups mowing, weeding and edging the grounds for a while now. And there is a prominent sign in the front that says something like "The Portland School District thanks parents for their help taking care of the yard."

That's good to know, and I neglected to report that the formerly horribly maintained school near my house looks better than it once did, even during the summer, so perhaps that union issue is no longer applicable.

I wonder if the neighbors grabbed lawnmowers and spreaders and had at it would you get busted for trespassing? I've noticed that they've let the lawns around Grant get really long before mowing, and then no clean up of the clippings afterward.

I know that my brother's church has spent several Saturdays mainting the grounds at Jefferson High School. So, I don't think the union rule applies anymore. But, the principal goes to his church, so maybe the principal was able to bend the rules... i don't really know.

Uhh, Jack. No offense, but until I get fewer than 40 students in the high school science classes I teach I'd prefer to see the clover overrun the field.

This is what happens when people choose to underfund schools. Maintenance folks don't have the time to take care of everything- we're running with 1/2 the maintenance staff we had ~10 years ago (no decrease in students). Just keeping the heat on in our aging facilities, the hallways clear and the school running is a really full plate for these workers.

I don't know how it works in Portland, but they've probably outsourced the landscaping and have a terrible contract. Maybe you'd like the biology teachers to become landscapers, too?

Jeff at July 8, 2005 11:19 AM: Uhh, Jack. No offense, but until I get fewer than 40 students in the high school science classes I teach I'd prefer to see the clover overrun the field.

JK: How come you have 40 students when there are only about 11 students per district employee per Multnomah County's TSCC report? See http://www.co.multnomah.or.us/orgs/tscc/financialinfo.html
(PDF Page 173 has # students & # employees - do the math.)

What is the average class size anyway?

Thanks
JK

From what I'm remembering, maintenance crews will only mow twice during summer months, and in recent years, parents and others were given permission to augment the services provided.

And I'm not absolutely sure of this, but I believe the Irvington Community Association, for example, helped provide landscaping maintenance funds for Irvington School, using a private contractor in previous years (don't know what the situation is this year.)

It's yet another example of those 'public-private partnerships' we're apparently trying to foster here.

Who cares what the school grass looks like in the summer? The point of a school is to educate kids. And I can just see the fuss now, TAXPAYER MONEY GOES TO SCHOOL AESTHETICS!

And, Jack, do you have proof that Vicki Phillips lives in a "mansion?" Just curious ...

To continue my rant - in San Diego the schoolgrounds have been DIRT for at least 20 years now - no grass, period. And you're whining about a little bit of clover?

Having lurked a long time (thoroughly enjoy your blog, Jack, esp. as an L&C law grad from a long time ago), I have to weigh in on this one, as I'm in the Alameda/Sabin/Beaumont 'hood with kids in school. Parents have been organizing for several years to run landscape committees and do the mowing, etc., but realistically it can only happen on a massive scale (which is what's needed on the amount of land involved) a couple of times of year. There's no union contract issue that I'm aware of. On the contrary, as someone else said, I think the District is grateful. Certainly the principals & staff are. Besides, clover is good for the soil, fixes nitrogen in it, right?

And, as I recall, the puff piece on Dr. Vicki in the Boregonian a few months back had her in a cottage, didn't it? She appears to live a fairly frugal personal life and is excessively Type A.

If you plan to use chmicals in a Watershed you had better hurry as Weed-b-Gone is soon to be Gone forever.

Where is the watershed? It starts at the tip of Mt. Hood and ends about a mile out to sea.

Vicki makes $200K+, and she's got only one mouth to feed. I can only imagine what kind of pension she's getting, and who knows? Maybe she "retired" or is on disability from her old state job, heh.

JK:JK: How come you have 40 students when there are only about 11 students per district employee per Multnomah County's TSCC report? See http://www.co.multnomah.or.us/orgs/tscc/financialinfo.html
(PDF Page 173 has # students & # employees - do the math.)

Jeff:

Of course, schools need employees besides teachers (secretaries, counselors, administration, maintenance, coaches, speech therapists, educational assistants, translators, etc...) that probably factor into the report you cite above. You'd need to find the number of certified teachers to get a reasonable estimate of average class sizes.

But there's more to it than a simple division problem. First off, elementary classes are rightly smaller than those in a high school. Secondly, some specialized classes in HS are smaller than the required classes. For example, a physics class might have 25 while a required freshman science class could go to 42.

Now- plenty of countries get by with big class sizes (Japan, for example) but I bet they haven't adopted some of the incredibly time consuming (and to some extent beneficial) CIM standards. If all I had to do was lecture, 45 students wouldn't be a problem. Except, of course, for the fact that I'd hate my job and wouldn't want to do it. No offense to the lecturers out there- it has its place and is a good way to get out a lot of information to a group that is able to process information that way.

Finally- like I said, I don't know much about the PPS- I don't teach there.

Go check out the grounds at other municipal agencies.
If it's like Tualatin and Tigard the municipal works grounds and sewage treatment facility grounds are pristinely maintained while the e school playgrounds are so bad mole hole warning sings are posted to warn against ankle injuries.

As several have already said, PPS welcomes volunteers willing to assist with keeping school grounds tidy - some PTAs do this regularly.

Each year there is a special effort to spruce things up for the start of the school year; coincidentlaly we just announced this at teh school board meeting on Wednesday evening:

The Fifth Annual Community Care Day this year will be held on August 27, 2005.

Community Care Day is a unique project in which Portland area faith- and community-based organizations, along with partners in the business community, will join together to help local schools. Just one morning’s worth of effort will make a difference in children’s lives by beautifying their learning environment and showing them that adults care.

To date, 60 sites have been confirmed for clean-up activities on August 27th. If you are interested in participating in this event, please call Kathy Birch at 503.916.3310.

Corporate sponsors of this event, including Best Buy Landscape, Thriftway, Qmedtrix, the Palau Organization and others are excited to partner with Portland Public Schools for this worthy venture that directly impacts academic achievement.

Community Care Days now also take place in the Hillsboro and Beaverton School Districts.

Come and join the fun on August 27th from 9 am until noon.

Jeff: "This is what happens when people choose to underfund schools."

How can schools possibly be underfunded when private and charter schools are educating kids at less than half the cost?

Is it transportation cost? Nope, transportation averages about $300 per student per year. Special Ed? I would hope special ed doesn't average $3,000 per student per year. Administration? Maintenance? PERS?

I'll just betcha there's a slew of potential savings somewhere in there.

>The point of a school is to educate kids.Now- plenty of countries get by with big class sizes (Japan, for example) but I bet they haven't adopted some of the incredibly time consuming (and to some extent beneficial) CIM standards.Now- plenty of countries get by with big class sizes (Japan, for example) but I bet they haven't adopted some of the incredibly time consuming (and to some extent beneficial) CIM standards.

Oh yeah. That CIM/CAM stuff is just beneficial as all get out, isn't it, Jeff? Let's see...colleges discount it, students and parents discount it, most teachers discount it. Uh...what's that benefit again?

Frankly, large class sizes or small class sizes - who cares? Oh sure, people try to use large class sizes as a sop for why our kids aren't learning. Here's a news flash: average class size in my elementary school was 40 to 45. More by the time we hit high school. The difference?

Well, teachers taught stuff. Discipline was strict. We didn't have to suffer through all the PC crap, nor did we have to learn how to "celebrate diversity". And nobody gave a rat's heinie about your "self-esteem".

Converting the grounds of closed schools (those that are indefinitely closed until kids return to the community) to "Community Gardens" would be nice.

Then the problem would be water and, of course, the weeds in some else's patch.

If people could bring a little beer or wine with them as they tend their little piece of heaven it would do wonders for one's nerves.


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