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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Portland school board's radio ads cost $5K for a month

We wrote last week about the fact that the Portland public schools had purchased a sponsorship on the local National Public Radio affiliate. We wondered where the money for that was coming from, and whether it was a wise expenditure.

The folks who monitor the craziness emanating from the school superintendent's office checked into it, and here's what they found:

PPS signed a contract for $5000 with OPB to air its message for one month with a "drive time" package. If you look at the Restore Education Before Building site (REBB) using this link, you will see the one-page contract signed by Robb Cowie.

Teresa McGuire, one of the REBB folks, also explained to us that some of the commenters on our post were wrong about some of the facts:

Garage Wine mentioned $8K buys a quarter worth of air time. The PPS rate would appear to be almost double this amount. Sally's comment that this is being paid by public employees is INCORRECT!

The management at PPS appears to operate without any regard to fiscal accountability. It has no mechanism in place for proper auditing of financial transactions. It has an "assistant CFO," David Wynde, who has a masters in social work from the University of Hawaii and as far as I can tell no real experience to hold such a position. His job at U.S. Bank involved community relations. Who is the CFO? Why is he not doing his job?

We have three board positions that are now open for filing with Multnomah County Elections. Please, somebody run who is not "hand picked" by the district.

That would be good, but the problem is finding a smart person with the time to do the job, and who hasn't given up on the Portland public schools. That species gets scarcer by the day.

Comments (9)

Well they only have 400 million plus to blow before asking for more money.

This lady has the right stuff.
She should be the chair.


"But Wilker is an unlikely opponent: an intellectual-property lawyer who is a self-described “liberal Democratic soccer mom from Laurelhust” with a third-grader and a sixth-grader in Portland schools."

"Her shift from being a rabid school-district supporter to vocal critic has cost her allies among activist parents. “They all became part of the establishment,” Wilker says. “I’m not part of the establishment.”


"Schools activist Lainie Block Wilker is actively recruiting a slate of School Board candidates to reform Portland Public Schools in the May 21 election".

" Wilker, a persistent critic of PPS, says she doesn’t have time to run herself but is urging others to streamline the district, beef up course offerings and “replace Superintendent Carole Smith and her executive team.” The current board praised Smith in an October review and extended her contract for three years. The filing window for candidates in the May election opens Feb. 9. "

You'd have to be insane to want to be on a school board. The federal mandates and testing requirements alone make the whole enterprise a Kafka nightmare. The federal takeover has been disastrous. The one thing the tighty righties were actually right about -- federal izing Ed policy is bad -- they gave up on because the W, the Boy Blunder, wanted to channel big bucks to his testing company exec brother and other big corporate donors.

The one thing that might actually improve education in America is certainly never going to happen: abolish the US Dept of Ed and create instead a lean National Instittute on Education modeled on NIH, with a mission of channeling its limited resources into research on what works best in the kaleidoscope of school districts that exist in the US, a country where one size fits all is the biggest lie in the world.

After many months of study Super Carole has come up with a great plan, I guess it doesn't cost as much operating 2 campuses as with the same name as it does operating 2 schools with different names.


Sounds like the Education system is broken.
Sounds like what we have here are cliques who go along and do not like people who challenge. This works for the clique when people attending the meetings are then uncomfortable with any criticism or challenge. . . and some get agitated/upset with those who are willing to speak out. . .so changes or resolve of situations are not easily possible in such an environment.

What I don't get is why PPS thinks it has to advertise. If you can afford private school, you've already weighed your options and made your choice. If you can't, how will their radio commercial (because really, that's what it is) going to influence your behavior?

If PPS has money to burn, send it out to David Douglas. They'll gladly put it to good use.

The big problem with PPS has a lot to do with the first word that makes up the acronym.

"Sally's comment that this is being paid by public employees is INCORRECT!"

I said "looks like" and gave a link to the website workplace giving program. That was what I found on a OPB search. I am no fan of public employees or public schools, and while I am a listener of OPB I dislike as I said their deceptive advertising policies.

Anyway it was a guess and apparently a wrong one.

It seems the district makes habitual mistakes without ever trying to remedy their way of doing business. Education is a business and that should not be some sort of horrible epiphany to those down at the district office.

If it is easy to spot a misspent $5K here and there, think of what is hidden and needs to be exposed. The public information request that the district provided last year about this time and that can be viewed in full on the REBB website by scrolling down and clicking on “Response to TM Public Records Request on 2011 Bond campaign” will show how they spent over six figures in planning not only on the bond campaign but for engineering and design services before they even had a bond passed.

Was this a proper use of district funds? The Secretary of State seemed to agree since their report outlines this and proposed a small fine. The other part of this that no one has thus far answer for: should we have paid for planning and design fees before a bond was passed??

We truly need new blood on the board to ask these tough questions. We have a CFO at PPS but I would not be able to pick him out of a line up. Why do we need an assistant CFO? Most private firms that would be comparable to PPS in staff and budgeting do not have an assistant CFO.

What sort of new staff positions are going to be created in light of the almost $500,000,000 construction bond? We already have excess manpower at the CFO position. In looking at the Department of School Modernization, which seems overmanned as well, what positions will they want to add as they will be overseeing the construction schedule?

Lastly, what else have we been paying for that is hidden away since the district does not have a transparent auditing system?

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