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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

We know, we know

In press releases, the Portland School Board is now referring to itself as "the volunteer Portland School Board." This is to remind us that the board members are not paid for their time and effort.

We appreciate their dedication. But why the reminder? To soften us up so that we won't look critically at the policy decisions they are making? Nice try, but that's not how it works.

Comments (29)

This is to remind us that the board members are not paid for their time and effort.

We get our money's worth.

Actually, a lot of people don't know that board positions aren't paid - including many PPS parents.

Yeah, really.

Yeah, I didn't know that until early last year? I mean who has that kind of time if they're not being paid? Considering the amount of budget dollars and major stakes involved, don't you think the positions SHOULD be paid? Would that attract wider range of candidates (note that I specifically did NOT say "better" candidates). Would we have more candidates from economically "challenged" area of town if they were being paid?

But then again, what's up with a part-time legislature?

Nice generosity of spirit, Ricky. Where do you spend your own volunteer time and effort? You appear, from your comments on this board, as someone who would begrudge another penny going to the school system from your own pocket.That makes your criticism of the school board doubly mean-spirited. Or is it just a knee-jerk libertarian reaction to take a poke at anyone who tries to do something for the community, through government or otherwise?

There's a number of unpaid volunteer boards and commissions available for citizens to get involved - the Portland School board is but one, albeit a high profile one. And I know from my own involvement that the examples rolled out in this blog of hand-selected committees rubber-stamping pre-ordained outcomes, are the exception, not the rule - we can and do send things back or make decisions that run counter to the original intent of the bureau.

Here are the lists for Multnomah County and Portland.

rr is quick to judge a board that is forced many times to make very difficult decisions, but I would challenge him/her to suggest improvements.


You amaze me. Your ability to infer, assume, conclude and judge is without parallel. Your knowledge of the nature of mean-spiritedness and knee-jerk reactions unassailable. I do, however, detect a whiff of (dare I say its name) self-righteousness and its concomitant defensiveness in your comment. I hope that's not too, too ad your hominem. The "have you stopped beating your wife" bit was a nice touch, too.

Where I spend my time or money is entirely beside the point of my comment on Jack's post. Your "nuclear option" reaction is typical of the apologists for the status quo in education nationwide. Been there, done that.

And, just to pull your chain, it turns out all that new money isn't "for the children" after all - most of it's "for the teachers". Not quite the moral equivalent.

rr is quick to judge a board that is forced many times to make very difficult decisions, but I would challenge him/her to suggest improvements.

Forced to make difficult decisions? Were/are they unaware of what the job for which they volunteered entailed? That doesn't bode well for correct, informed decisions, does it?

As far as suggesting improvements, maybe paid positions would help - I'll think about it. But not having the answers doesn't mean I can't pose the questions.

Last time I looked, anyway.

So, Ricky, calling the incumbent Portland school board worthless is how you "pose the questions"?

And, just to pull your chain, it turns out all that new money isn't "for the children" after all - most of it's "for the teachers".

Yeah, the children would be sooo much better off if we got rid of the teachers and just gave them the cash -- to spend however they wanted in their classrooms.

Well, I've been churning out releases for the school district (and School Board) for two and a half years, and the practice of noting that they are volunteers in those releases pre-dates me. Sometimes I leave it out, but the template I inherited includes it and last night, as the clock crept toward and past 11 p.m. and the Board members were still meeting . . . it ended up in the release.

No matter what commenters may think of their decisions, Board members spend an incredible number of hours guiding the school district and working to do right by our students.

rr: Forced to make difficult decisions? Were/are they unaware of what the job for which they volunteered entailed? That doesn't bode well for correct, informed decisions, does it?

My choice of words, perhaps inappropriate. A better way of wording this is that they often have to decide matters by choosing the lessor of many evils.

As far as suggesting improvements, maybe paid positions would help - I'll think about it.

The rewards are small, the budget management responsibility level high, so the position would have to have a significant salary attached to it. That attracts guys like Kohler or Goldschmidt or their ilk. No thanks, I'll take the unpaid volunteers any day.

But not having the answers doesn't mean I can't pose the questions.

You didn't pose a question; you simply called them worthless, as has already been pointed out by Allen.

the lessor of many evils.

Let's leave Joe Weston out of this.

My neighbors and I spent several months lobbying the board last year over the closure of our local school. In the end they still closed it. I think that was the wrong decision but I walked away with an enormous amount of respect for all of them. They put in a vast number of hours (at least one took a year of work to do it full time) and were willing to make changes when faced with a good argument. In our case I think they got bad advice from the district and our PTA leaders made some odd decisions.

They knew that without closing some schools the levy wouldn’t pass and the chance of some stability would be gone. No matter what they did they knew that they would receive hundreds of emails from angry parents. I got replies (and one phone call) from them at bizarre hours of the day and night. I like to say that I’m interested in making this city work, but there’s not the slightest chance I would put in that much effort even if it was paid.

rr’s response was expected but sad. Instant cynicism when it comes to politicians has become the norm. They asked for it so who cares. In this case it’s just embarrassing, not that I would ever expect him to acknowledge that.

"it’s just embarrassing"

It's more than embarrassing; it's corrosive. People who are sensitive to this kind of knee-jerk criticism are unlikely to be willing to serve, and that's the wrong sieve for selecting public servants. What's more, as some smart person once observed, "any jackass can knock down a barn; it takes some skill to build one".

Well said, Allan (and sorry about miss-spelling your name yesterday). And there's no need for anyone serving in this capacity to take it personally or to stop serving because of such criticism. I get it at regular intervals because my area is land use, and to me, it's one indication that the commission I'm on is doing its job. If we were never criticized, I'd worry.

So, Allan, from your perspective, the kind of public servants we need are so sensitive that my little jab, stuffed and dressed like a voodoo doll with your preconceptions, will drive them away? Hyperbole is both too weak a word and has far more letters than the two necessary. The pushing and pulling from parents, unions, interest groups and taxpayers isn't going away, so a thick skin should be a prerequisite. Leadership is what's missing - Phillips is trying but has tenuous backing from the existing board. As with many publicly financed endeavors locally, it seems, firm priorities are either nonexistent or not adhered to. The PC weather vane that the board frequently emulates is not working.

If my comments are "corrosive", perhaps the Magi (Allan, Sherwood & Rettig) will set out the truth. Is everything OK with PPS? What needs changing? How should we proceed? How much is enough? What should the educational standards be? Measurable goals?

BTW, I'll happily acknowledge that you're embarrassed, Sherwood.

Good questions, Ricky.

rr: I'll let the other two speak for themselves, but I never professed to have the solution; I merely challenged you to be more constructive in your comments. It's a tough job, and they should have our support.

And I'm not sure why you just picked out the three of us for this honor, other than we confronted you directly on the first comment you posted. No one else in these comments appears to share your views, it would appear.



It's a tough job, and they should have our support.

It is a tough job, but the tough issues are well known and need to be dealt with. I do and will support anyone with what I consider to be the right attitude - like Phillips. Support for those with whom I disagree or whose attitudes I believe ineffective, if not counter-productive (let alone destructive), simply because they're "volunteers", would be a betrayal of the students. That same "logic" is what is used to justify every new contract in which salaries and bennies increase. It is also the "logic" used in dismissing and demonizing those who advocate merit pay, vouchers, charter schools or ANY idea that might jeopardize the current, fiscally irresponsible, "system". Simply and reflexively castigating anyone who questions the status quo - including the last couple of farcical contract "negotiations" is no more productive than name-calling - which, incidentally, seems to have originated on your side of this discussion. Inconceivable as it may be for some, not all taxpayers who question current and past actions, inactions and policies of the board are "knee-jerk libertarian(s)" or "doubly mean-spirited" - however convenient, if worn, that cant is. An honest appraisal of the system would raise many questions about its effectiveness and efficiency. These two words are not code - they're the first and most important two things that the public has a right to expect from its schools. If that expectation requires a look at contracts, bennies, work rules, outsourcing, etc. then that's what the school board ought to do. Failing that, they fail. That some groups will be pissed, and do whatever they can to keep change from happening, simply demonstrates what's wrong with the system.

Teachers deserve whatever they can get through negotiations - not whatever they want. When a PPS board gets its priorities in order, that will be self-correcting.

I though we'd been over this part, but OK: As a start, let's set out to address the problems faced by PPS with a constructive attitude, rather than engaging in tactics such as declaring the board worthless, and proceeding to argue about that part of it for 24 hours.

The questions at the end of your second-to-last post are a good start.

My previous comment was directed at your 12:55 posting, not the most recent. Sorry for the lack of context.

rr, sparkling wordplay as always. A pleasure to read and, dare I say, almost Wildian. If only your powers of perception were as strong. I believe the consensus was that you have nothing to offer but hackneyed phrases and a sub-sarcastic cynicism that you mistake for intelligence. How you got “hey everybody, wouldn’t it be jolly if we had a debate” from that I don’t know.


I'll be sure to consult you in all matters hackeyed in future.

As for "consensus" about my intelligence, well, anyone who can extrapolate and interpolate with your evident facility and recklessness won't be impeded by the mere lack of basis for his judgements. Why you feel compelled to persist is confounding, however. All this from a single sentence - you never cease to astound me, Holmes.

But "jolly"; I never use the word "jolly".

"hackeyed" is the hackneyed spelling of "hackneyed"

the shame

Once again, great stuff. Pure gold from start to finish. I hereby surrender. Please accept my humble apology for wasting your time.


When this becomes a waste of time I'll be ready for my grave.

Jack started it.

wow. the pps communications speaks. if sarah ames says it, the correct information has yet to be mentioned. it was julia brim edwards to coin the "volunteer school board" talking point. anyone that's been in the besc for a week knows that.

It appears that it's impossible for karla to express herself fully without profanity.

How constraining.


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