You're Running for Portland's School Board?!

By Michele Schultz of Portland, Oregon. Michele is a candidate for the Portland School Board, District 2 (currently held by David Wynde.) She describes herself as a "social worker, school advocate, and parent." Learn more at vote4michele.com

Michele_schultz
Yes, I am running for a seat on the Portland School Board - and here is why.

First, I want to improve communication between the school board and PPS communities and help strengthen those communities.

Second, I want to challenge this district to think more creatively about how we measure school success.

Third, I want to bring a fresh perspective to the board and help establish greater board independence. I have almost 20 years experience as a social worker and school advocate. I have been on local boards and appointed to statewide governing boards. Now that there is more stable funding, I know I have the skills and experiences to help the board focus more carefully on its necessary responsibilities of independent monitoring and oversight.

We are all want Portland to have the best school system in the nation. We all want to know that every child in this city, regardless of where they live or what school they attend, will receive an exemplary education. However, in order for the district to reach this goal, we need to change where the school board is headed and how it tackles the district's current challenges.

The school board and Superintendent Phillips have worked well together as crisis managers, but now we need a different model: We need to get back to the messy business of democracy, where the board provides strong checks and balances - as well as support - to the superintendent.

I believe that an effective board and superintendent relationship should be like holding a rubber band between your hands. There should be enough dynamic tension to keep the rubber band taut, but not so much that it stretches and breaks or so little that it collapses. It needs to be a relationship of both flexibility and strength.

I have been hearing a lot about the great work all of the incumbents have done for the past four years for Portland's public schools. I commend all of them for their past service. Of course there are advantages to continuity in any elected body, however we cannot value continuity over the wisdom our country's long history of open elections, and the accountability that comes from an open election process.

If you would like more information about me and my campaign - check out my website at www.vote4michele.com. Because, yes - I am running for the Portland School Board in the city-wide election representing Zone 2.

Comments

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Michele -- Where do you stand on further school closures?

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    Any candidate who doesn't lead with 100% open FULL transparency of district finances (I mean to the penny and justification for each penny) is going to be facing skepticism (at best) in a vast number of people's eyes. People who have gone to the mat for funding and support public schools. People who pushed to pass the i-Tax, who have helped with local bond measures and fund-raising drives. Without full, clear, open books, and holding the superintendent to account, the board will b a party to killing the PPS.

    While I myself am no longer within the PPS (I moved to Washington County a year and a half ago, just offering this as an observation and unsolicited friendly advice.

  • Larry K (unverified)
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    Ms. Schultz:

    Can you explain, in very concrete terms, what this means? - "I want to challenge this district to think more creatively about how we measure school success."

    How do you propose that school and student success should be measured?

    Thank you, Larry

  • Terry (unverified)
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    I don't speak for Michele Schultz, but the answer to your question, Larry, is simple: Look at something other than standardized test scores!

  • lin qiao (unverified)
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    Now that there is more stable funding...

    Now that's news to me.

    we need to change where the school board is headed...

    which is where exactly?

    ...and how it tackles the district's current challenges.

    Please tell us what those challenges are and how the board is presently acting incorrectly.

    Sorry, but Ms. Schultz' statement is generic. It's boilerplate. If someone read it to me without attribution, I could imagine just about anyone writing that stuff.

    Sigh.

  • Michele Schultz (unverified)
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    Hi Blue Oregon! Here are some further thoughts regarding school closures and school assessments...

    1. Further school closures – I appreciate that this has been a district of declining enrollment, and understand that school closures were necessary to respond to that. However, I am concerned about which schools were closed or not closed (and/or reconfigured) and the rationales behind that. I think it is risky for a system to dismantle strong schools in the hopes that it won’t negatively impact the system too much. I think it is risky to do what is perceived as “top down” experimentation on a community.

    So, for the future. If enrollment continues to decline, and further school closures are still necessary (although I think the elementary and middle school numbers are close to what they need to be – there clearly is excess capacity in some of our high schools, and overcrowding in others) then the Board needs to clearly communicate what the capacity problem is, the cost of taking no action, and then provide strong, clear, responsive and respectful leadership if additional school closures are needed. No one wants PPS to be wasting money. However, school closures and reconfigurations are significant decisions, and they need to have a respectful timeline and excellent process.

    The PSU Demographers also clearly indicate that at some point in the next few years the enrollment for the district will level out, and then tick up again. So we also need to be sensitive to the fact that demographic predictions are just that, predictions. If the PPS system becomes too lean, it might end up costing even more money to rebuild capacity then it would have to invest in some excess capacity for a relatively short period of time.

    The loss of a school for a neighborhood and community is profound, and those communities struggle with that for a long period of time… it is time to tread extremely carefully with any additional school closures, at any level of the system.

    1. How we measure school success – I recognize that there is tremendous state and federal–level pressure for standardization, and there is a certain reassurance in “numbers.” But there is also an opportunity for the district to think beyond standardized test scores and numbers and to look more carefully for the information that gives a full picture of a school’s performance. How might we capture and evaluate more of what happens in a classroom? How would we talk about that, and how might we compare it to what is happening in another classroom or school? Also, is such comparison necessary? This kind of nuanced assessment takes imagination, time, and effort, but I think it’s important to pursue it and to attach value to the unique, at times chaotic experience of education.

    When we all look back on our own educational experiences, the odds are good that what we regard as most valuable or memorable were the relationships with certain teachers, particular projects or experiences that spoke to our hearts and by the complicated, and sometimes perilous social environments that we were asked to navigate. So, I am advocating to include more qualitative data in a school’s assessment, and recognize that standardized test scores take a snap shot of how well a student does on a pen and paper test – no more and no less. As a strong proponent of local decision making, I also think that school Site Councils should be in a position to define, for their own building, via the School Improvement Plan, their own assessments – and those assessments should be valued and respected by the district and board. That “ground level” information is most likely to be more reflective of what is happening in that building than the measures of a standardized test score.

    I am more interested, and feel we will make more progress on closing the student “achievement” gap when students have a quality relationship with the teachers and staff in the building, and teachers and staff have a quality relationship with the building administrator and central administration staff.

    Thanks for asking!

    Michele Schultz Candidate for Portland School Board - Zone 2

  • Larry K. (unverified)
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    Sorry Terry, but your oh-so-simple answer didn't satisfy my question at all! I asked for concrete, real answers, not "do it differently than we are now".

    The reason I asked in the first place was because as Lin Qiao pointed out later, statements like "I want to challenge this district to think more creatively about how we measure school success" are exactly the kind of thing that EVERYONE says.

    So if that's what you want to do, please tell me how you plan to make it happen. I'm an open mind ready to be molded with Ms. Shultz's (hopefully) unique, revolutionary ideas.

  • miles (unverified)
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    Thanks for the answer on school closures, Michele. Personally I have struggled with the issue. At first, I thought closures seemed necessary -- with declining enrollment, obviously some schools are going to have to close. But over the last four years it has become clear that those losures do very little to actually save money. The staff all go somewhere else, there is way too much community opposition to sell the sites and so they sit vacant, and the school district saves maybe, at most, $100k in operating costs.

    Meanwhile, hundreds of kids and their families are uprooted, and neighborhoods suffer. Portland is absolutely unique in terms of having lots of neighborhood schools, many that sit in out of the way residential areas. These neighborhoods change for the worse when schools close -- always. They become less desirable, property values suffer, and families with kids either move somewhere else closer to their kid's school, or out of the ditrict altogether.

    In the end, it just doesn't seem that the benefit outweighs the costs. Mostly, the closures appear to be political -- an attempt to appease those skeptical of PPS' financial management. What I'd like to see is a school board that stands up for small, neighborhood schools, by actively recruiting to increase enrollment. The problem with declining enrollment can be solved through better neighborhood capture rates -- but PPS needs to make that case.

    I'll be voting for the candidate who does all this and calls for a moratorium on school closures for at least 5 years.

  • roger (unverified)
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    Michele,

    Could you explain more about your plans for improving communications? Seems to me the board (especially Bobbi Regan) has been incredibly open to listening to the public in the past 4 years.

  • Marvin McConoughey (unverified)
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    Michelle assumes: "We are all want Portland to have the best school system in the nation." That is almost certainly not an accurate belief. In their challenging daily lives, I believe that Oregonians seek to balance their expenditures and in so doing, want moderately good services at a moderate cost. Many will want a good school system, some will not care, and others, perhaps a minority, actively want "the best school system in the nation."

    Portland can possibly have the nation's best school system if it: 1. Lobbies for reduced higher education system funding. 2. Cuts back on road repairs, light rail, new bridges, etc. 3. Cuts back sharply on health benefits for all public workers other than educators. 4. Raises taxes. 5. Lengthens the school year a month, or more. 6. Has a tutor for every child. I think that those steps have zero appeal and that most citizens neither expect nor are willing to pay for a school system that exceeds that of every other state in the nation.

  • Terry (unverified)
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    I'm for #4, Marvin. Many local districts are quite willing to raise taxes to support better schools.

    As for my "simple" answer, Larry, I said I don't speak for the candidate. I think Michele Schultz' response, and her call for "qualitative assessments", provided more specifics. But allow me to elaborate.

    When I taught middle school in Hillsboro, we used an elaborate school report card system to assess the school's performance. It included feedback from students, teachers, and parents on issues like school climate, classroom performance, and student and parent satisfaction with school programs.

    In addition, after the 1990 legislation establishing the CIM and CAM, we concentrated on "performance" assessments, problem solving, and student portfolios, all of which has been called "authentic" assessment. Unlike multiple choice standardized tests, performance assessments require students to demonstrate what they can actually do with acquired knowledge. Unfortunately, the state legislature eviscerated CIM and CAM in the mid 90's, replacing them with paper and pencil tests in core subject areas.

    Obviously standardized machine-scored tests are more efficient to use. But they yield a woefully incomplete picture of student learning. Our school board seems oblivious to that, and continues to talk blithely about strong academic schools and underperforming schools based on test scores alone.

    I think that's Michele's point. And why you should probably vote for her.

  • Michele Schultz (unverified)
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    More Thoughts from Michele Schultz the School Board Candidate -

    In terms of assessing schools - we have to find ways to provide qualitative data on the School Enrollment Profiles. As Terry mentions, other districts have been using a variety of surveys and tools in addition to academic test scores to paint a broader picture of that school. I also think we need to be looking carefully at how the School Improvement Plans (SIP) are being crafted and utilized. Every school's Site Council is required to participate in the development and monitoring of that plan. I have heard too many stories of how the SIP has become a meaningless hoop to jump through - when it should be a valuable working document. A document that would make sense to parents, staff, teachers - and not just full of lots of jargon that appeals to hard core administrative types. These kind of “service delivery plans” can be quite meaningful, and can be a wonderful tracking and evaluation tools.

    I worked for four years on developing "transition plans" for students with special needs as they exited high school into the world of adult services. I also worked on the statewide level for Maine’s Early Intervention System and in both areas we found ways to avoid the trap of trying to look good on paper - although it takes a lot of individual and group discipline to do that.

    Roger also asked about communication, and the fact that the board has been good at listening (some board members more than others!). I agree that the board gets high marks for RECEIVING information - however I want to see improvements in two areas:

    1. Reaching out and initiating communication with constituent groups. For example, if elected I would contact every Principal, PTA Board President, Site Council Chairperson, and Neighborhood Association President in Zone 2 at the beginning of each school year.

    2. Clarifying what the actual problem is the board/district is trying to solve. The school board must make improvements in articulating what the issue or problem is they are trying to resolve with a certain action or policy. And it needs to be what the real problem is.

    I am still struggling to understand the reasons for some of the school closures and reconfigurations that happened so quickly last spring. When was the district trying to create cost savings (which will probably be less than they hoped for) by closing a building that had a lot of empty classrooms - and when were they trying to help student achievement by reconfiguring to a K-8? (And there is not clear evidence that a K-8 model will help student achievement.) This paints the picture of the difficulties inherent in creating a community involvement process. I would have recommended untangling the two issues at hand. First, identifying which K-5 schools in the district WANTED to reconfigure to a K-8, and starting demonstration projects for those reconfigurations where possible. The district would then have a chance to learn about what a reconfiguration process to K-8 will mean for a school, what the facility needs are and what are the unknown costs with that reconfiguration. This information, and the process of reconfiguration could be monitored and evaluated and then the district would be able to provide local results and information as the configuration issues of other buildings were reviewed. (I am deeply concerned about those schools that are now going to a K-8 model as a result of a top down decision...)

    The second issue this process was trying to resolve was the more complicated one of unused capacity at certain buildings, and overcrowding at others. This thorny problem would have been better served with a conversation process based on feeder patterns, with all of the schools in a particular cluster coming to the table. (And having staff along with parents talking about this.) For example, it was difficult to look at capacity issues for the Cleveland cluster, without all of the Cleveland cluster schools being represented. I was on the Inner SE Community Conversation team and we bumped up against the "you can't talk about schools that are not at the table." To which I say - hey - let's bring everyone to the table!

  • TMT (unverified)
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    Marvin, I do not claim to speak for most Portlanders. But, I know that the top concern for local businesses this past year has been the low quality of our schools, per their own association. Quality companies need to attract quality employees. Quality employees require quality schools for their children. Period.

    It is even more ideal for business when the local school system is producing those quality employees, so they do not have to spend as much money recruiting and re-locating them.

    Let us not forget that Oregon businesses, in most part, are giving up their kicker to establish a rainy day fund, and it seems to rain a lot in Oregon, mostly to stabilize school funding. They know which side of their bread is buttered.

    Oregonians who want a "moderate"/mediocre service for a "moderate"/cheap price are not calculating in the mediocre quality of living that results from a lack of excellence.

  • Nate Angell (unverified)
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    People are asking what Michele Schultz means when she says she wants "to bring a fresh perspective to the board".

    I can't answer for her, but I've heard her speak on some of her ideas.

    I'm inspired by Michele's candidacy because I think she will bring some fresh thinking to the current board and administration's strategy of seeking educational equity via standardization. They have put a lot of energy behind making all Portland schools K-8, or of a certain size, etc...I'm sure with good--but I believe misguided--intentions to ensure equity.

    I believe what is already making PPS strong and unique and what needs to be supported to make it even stronger is diversity in educational choices. We won't even have a viable public education system if we focus on making cookie cutters.

    I believe Michele will support school diversity rather than standardization as a road to ensuring better education for all.

  • TMT (unverified)
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    re: continuity on the Board

    Continuity is already built into the system. Only 1/2 of the board positions come up for election every 2 years. This allows the best of both worlds; continuity & fresh ideas, since continuity can all too soon become stagnation. And, of the 4 positions open this year, only 2 have challengers!

    The only good reason to vote for an incumbent over an equally, or even more qualified challenger is that you love the job they've been doing and want 4 more years of the same. I sure don't.

  • roger (unverified)
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    Thanks, Michele. That makes sense.

    One of the issues that should be communicated out to us a lot more than it has been is the larger road map with regards to consolidation /closures. I've heard the sound bites: this will save money, allow PPS to restore arts and music teachers to schools, etc.

    But, a plan. Where's the plan we can refer to, to measure our progress (or not) toward these goals? If the district is saving money through these changes, how does the money being saved compare to projections? What are the next steps?

    Every board member, running or not, contested or not, should answer this question: is there a road map? And if so, can we see it, please?

  • TMT (unverified)
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    Dear roger, you are correct. Bobbie Regan has been very open to listening to the public. Please note that no one is challenging her re-election.

    I can not speak for Michele herself, but my experience with her the past 4 years re: communication style, has been that she is committed to hearing from as many points of view as humanly possible. She doesn't just listen to those who come to her after the fact. She goes to them prior to acting!

    This is very different from the current Board, which has made decision after decision, and then had to back peddle when the feedback started rolling in. It's one thing to listen to the up-roar you've caused. It is completely another thing to not cause or to minimize the up-roar from the get-go.

    This approach actually results in less wishy-washy wavering back and forth. Since Michele has heard from all sides before making a decision, she feels she stands on firm ground having made a decision. She invests her caution in deciding, not in implementing. Which, I believe, is best way to go.

  • Brock (unverified)
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    I am a strong supporter of both Michele and Ruth Adkins in this years PPS board election. The main reasons that I feel we need change in this board is the whole reconfiguration process this last year. It was terribly handled both in terms of process and outcome. If you followed it, there was complete dishonesty by Superintendent Phillips and her team throughout. The end result, was that small schools in affluent communities were left alone and larger, strong schools were closed in less affluent communities. The end result being 40 block holes with no schools of anykind in some of the most family friendly areas in the city.

    The worst part, is that the 4 member board majority (Wynde, Morgan, Regen, Sargent) all rubber stamped these extremly flawed proposals. They attended "community meetings" where entire communities urged them to take the necessary time to make well informed, reasoned, decisions that would lead to success. Instead, those 4 members ignored the community time and time again.

    In my view, we need new board members to put back into effect a check and balance on a superintendent who is making one bad decision after another (Jefferson re-design disaster, Jefferson principle fiasco after spending $33k on a consultant to do her job, Reconfiguration fiasco in which beautiful strong neighborhood schools are closed only to hide non ayp middle schools, curriculm standardization, etc....). It is one thing to have a strong leader, it is quite another to have a top down, community ignoring leader. We should all be tired of that kind of leadership from our current President. It doesn't belong in Portland, Oregon.

    These two candidates both have actual children in PPS schools which will also be a nice change from Director Morgan, who I believe is completely out of touch with his constiuents.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    TMT states that local businesses really really want better schools so they can attract better workers.

    Tell me, then, why are Oregon businesses fighting "tooth and nail" every day in Salem to keep the lowest business tax in the entire world -- $10 a year -- same it has been for nearly 100 years?

    Sounds like business is talking out of both sides of their mouths, as usual, in Oregon.

    But I can't hear them since their cash register is ringing way too loudly!!!!!!!

  • Zarwen (unverified)
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    Just want to throw my 2 cents in on the school reconfigurations. Roger is right about hearing sound bites instead of a plan. My own conclusion 2 years later is that this never had anything to do with savings (so far, less than $1 million) or restoring electives. If it did, then the schools that already meet the enrollment targets (and there are quite a few) would be getting music and/or PE next year, but they are not. Instead, our levy $ is going to hire counselors and assistant principals. These positions are not without merit, but they are not why I voted for the levy, and I do not think they would help children reach "benchmarks" as effectively as music and PE teachers would. My own conclusion about these reconfigurations/consolidations is that they have to do with the pay scale for principals. The more children and staff in the building, the more the principal is paid. (Jefferson HS being the glaring exception.) And that is where the rest of the levy $ will end up going. Music and PE were just carrots on a stick so VP could have more $ for administration in the District.

    Michele is right--this Superintendent definitely needs more "checks and balances." There are not enough people on the current Board who are willing to provide that. Vote for Michele and Ruth--otherwise you will have to wait 2 years for another opportunity!

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    Posted by: Sid Leader | Apr 23, 2007 11:09:11 AM Tell me, then, why are Oregon businesses fighting "tooth and nail" every day in Salem to keep the lowest business tax in the entire world -- $10 a year -- same it has been for nearly 100 years?

    Really? Interesting that the Portland Business Alliance, as well as numerious other business groups back the changes to the corporate min. and changes to the corporate kicker to build a rainy day fund.

    So your statement is demonstratively incorrect.

    That said, given that this topic is about Portland Schools, it simply doesn't matter what some business owner in Medford might think on the subject of how the PPS administers itself.

  • delgardner (unverified)
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    I served on a Board with Michele for two years and found her to be a thoughtful, hard-working leader. Her campaign focuses on the claim that she will listen to all sides in decisions coming before the board, and based on my experience with her, she really will. There are too many decisions coming from the school board which they can't seem to justify. Which gives the impression that they are making decisions based on information they choose not to share. And boy, does that sound familiar! Michele cares about public schools - and about the decision making process at PPS. I plan to vote for her.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)
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    Hi Lesty.

    PGE's Peggy Fowler makes a cool million dollars a year... and sent Oregon a ten dollar check for her company's taxes, as seen here:

    http://www.ocpp.org/cgi-bin/display.cgi?page=es040223

    Please show me a link where PGE, Nike and Intel call for higher, fairer taxes. Please.

    BTW, the OBA is a paper tiger, on its way to a long, liquid lunch, and nobody is listening.

  • npdxparent (unverified)
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    I heard Michele at the School Board Candidates Forum last night and was very impressed. The forum reminded me of some of the reasons I absolutely do not want David Wynde to have another term on the school board, and also convinced me that Michele deserves to win. I know at least three other people who were planning to vote for David, or to not vote for a candidate in Zone 2, but decided to vote for Michele after hearing her at the candidates forum.

    The forum is being rebroadcast on cable tv Tuesdays and Thursdays. The schedule is listed on the League of Women Voters' website: http://www.lwvpdx.org/Voter%20Info%20Center/CandidateForums.htm

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