Super Vicki leaving Portland

Breaking the news a few minutes ago, the Oregonian is reporting that Vicki Phillips - superintendent of the Portland Public Schools - is leaving.

She's reportedly going to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to head up their educational initiative. Until last fall, that program had been led by Tom Vander Ark - the former supt. of Federal Way's schools. During his seven-year tenure, he led the awarding of $3 billion in grants in the education sector alone.

From the O:

Portland Schools Superintendent Vicki Phillips has accepted a job heading up U.S. education grants for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the most powerful education jobs in the nation, The Oregonian has learned.

After inquiries from The Oregonian, the district called a news conference for 4:30 today to announce her departure. Observers have speculated almost since her arrival that Phillips wouldn't stay long in Portland, but she's repeatedly denied she planned to leave, and her announcement will come as a shock to many.

Already, folks are analyzing her tenure:

Phillips' fans will say she's leaving Portland Public poised to become the nation's premiere urban district, with stable finances, repaired relationships with the business community and legislators and a staff deeply dedicated to eliminating the achievement gap.

Her foes will point to a pile of unfinished or barely started business: stubbornly poor high school student achievement, a school choice system in need of repair and a brewing battle between district leaders and teachers over what's taught in classrooms.

Read the rest.

Questions: What did you think of Super Vicki's tenure? What should Portland seek in a new superintendent? How will this impact the School Board races this spring - for which ballots will arrive in a matter of days?


  • (Show?)

    Wow. That was quick.

    Super Vicki leaves a lot undone, and I suppose the Board will now have to grapple with whether any of it goes forward. I'm hoping we can find a qualified candidate who's already here, rather than yet another extensive, national search. I don't think the District has the luxury of a months-long search process--my sense is that parents are pretty dissatisfied with many of the changes Vicki Phillips & the Board initiated so far.

  • Hawthorne (unverified)


    If you were not happy with Super Vicki, what makes you think that there is a qualified internal candidate? She seemed to do a pretty good job of packing the upper ranks with friends. On the other hand there may be local, qualified candidates who are not part of PPS who could do the job- but that's different than what you said. Is that what you meant?

  • Jerry (unverified)

    You've managed to understate things Leslie. Most of the parents I know are just plain disgusted. The current board made a decision to appease the business lobby and other power players (in order to bolster the fiscal situation) and to put parents and community interests in the back of the bus. Now that Vicki's leaving, I wonder how many of the newly minted business supporters will remain "on board".

    Hopefully her imminent egress will stimulate our rather moribund school board races. There are incumbents who swallowed this strategy hook, line and sinker. At the very least, they should have to defend the decisions they made over the last 3 years. You can bet they weren't planning on this little bit of news until after the election.

    On the bright side, maybe PPS can utilize its new inside connection to bring home more of Bill G's grant monies.

    I agree with Leslie's statement that we don't need to conduct a new nationwide search for the next Super-Vicki while another interim superintendent maintains the status quo.

    We don't need another Super Administrator.

    We need a competent leader who knows and loves Portland, who both business and community members trust and who won't grab the next train outta town when someone waves a bigger paycheck or a larger spotlight in front of them.

  • (Show?)

    This will be my fourth superintendent since we moved to Portland in 2001. I think Phillips is worlds better than the disaster Ben Canada and the placeholder who followed him.

    I suspect the posters don't like the school closings that occurred, but with a district that has already lost, and is slated to continue to lose, 1000s of students, this was inevitable.

    I don't want to settle for mediocrity. We don't need a competent leader. We need a national leader. If we get national leaders, sometimes they get better jobs. That comes with the territory.

    But first, we ought to get a paid school board. Having a set of volunteers run a district this big is no longer feasible.

  • (Show?)

    On the other hand there may be local, qualified candidates who are not part of PPS who could do the job- but that's different than what you said. Is that what you meant?

    Uh, yeah. I meant to say that I hope that we can find someone who can navigate Portland a bit more easily--not just the business community, but parents and other less powerful school supporters. She seemed to bump up against the culture here pretty hard, and often.

  • (Show?)

    I don't even live in the district and I think she's a disaster.

    Now it's even more important who you elect for school board, since they'll be a big part of the search for her replacement. It's even more important for people like Ruth Adkins to be a part of the board.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    It seemed to me that Ms. Walker ran into a buzz saw of neighborhood (and perhaps union) opposition as she tried to reduce school facilities to match declining enrollment. I would not want that job. As Portland moves in the direction of other large urban centers (NYC, Boston, SFO, Seattle) we will need fewer and fewer neighborhood schools to serve the rapidly declining number of K-12 students. Good luck to the next person who is chosen to throw him or her self onto that grenade.

  • Zarwen (unverified)

    Jenni, you forgot to mention Michele Schultz, the other challenger running for the PPS Board.

    I am hoping that VP's "consultants" and other friends will quickly follow her out the door.

    I also hope that the populations of the Jefferson, Binnsmead and Gregory Heights attendance areas will call for a reopening of their "Conversations" to lead to a conclusion that is satisfying to the neighborhoods, not VP.

    I hope that the school board will lease Smith School to the new Southwest Charter School instead of leaving it empty for who knows how long.

    I fear it will take years, if not decades, to undo "Hurricane Vicki's" damage. We have no time to lose. Start by voting for Ruth Adkins and Michele Schultz for school board.

  • David (unverified)

    I may not approve of her decisions, but she had to, and did make some tough choices, and now Portland at least has a stable budget. I respect her for that and know she will do well with the Gates Foundaiton.

  • Zarwen (unverified)

    I would like to add that this board should be looking back at the 5-year plan their predecessors approved in 2000, which VP promptly threw out the day she arrived here. That plan contained some very worthy goals, including full-day kindergarten at EVERY school and SMALL elementary schools of 300-400. Any interim or new superintendent should agree to support this plan BEFORE (s)he is hired.

  • joe_hill (unverified)

    Vicki has made a series of rather profound misjudgments, and she's hopping the train out of town just as the bill is coming due. Her choices to ignore parent input on school configuration and closures, and her ill-advised decision to blow off teacher input on curricular reform have resulted in the one thing you absolutely can't have in a school district - the very people we need the most, those who are responsible for implementing the core mission of teaching and learning, have become convinced that Vicki doesn't have their best interests at heart. This announcement merely confirms the conventional wisdom. The school board has been equally complicit, and I hope the community communicates that message in this election by voting out the incumbents. Adkins will do a better job of fixing this mess than Morgan and Michele Schulz is infinitely preferable to David "Could-I-be-any-more-of-a-shill-for-the-Chamber-of-Commerce"Wynde.

    I don't see how this gets better before it gets worse. If you think you can make a better educational system by ignoring students, teachers, and parents, you're profoundly mistaken. Vicki was profoundly mistaken.

  • mt (unverified)

    I think now it a good time to reflect on how things could have been better with Ms. Phillips.

    I hope her successor would:

    1. Increase the level of tranparency of the decision making process. We all heard too much "the PPS Board was directed by Superintendent Phillips" and we just saw the results (or the fallout). Ms Phillips then tried to bandage these issues by having "public forums" which ended up being directed as "the decision has already been made" and we're here to help you adjust to the changes, end of story. I attended a number of these meetings including one at Franklin High and another at Abnernathy Elementary.

    2. Earlier development of consensus-building by the Superintendent's office and the PPS Board with parents and teacher. A specific example it core-curriculum. If 200+ teachers sign a petition against a program how can you expect parents and students to support it as well.

    In many cases I don't disagree with Ms Phillip's goals, I just think she lacked a clear understanding of the struggles many schools have gone through. I also think she could have done a better job of integrate their progress with her goals. Specifically, Cleveland's International Baccalaureate program has take this inner southeast high school from an average ranking to highly regarded (many of its graduates are getting into Tier I national colleges because of this program). Her plan was effectively scraping this program by making it impossible for middle school students to transition into it from the core-curriculum.

  • (Show?)

    As Portland moves in the direction of other large urban centers (NYC, Boston, SFO, Seattle) we will need fewer and fewer neighborhood schools to serve the rapidly declining number of K-12 students.

    Wow. Good to hear the population of Portland is shrinking, and will continue to do so...just like NYC.

    Except I'm in Brooklyn, NY, right now, visiting my pregnant daughter and her husband, and I'm told that babies are popping out all over in her 30-something crowd are the condos being built on the end of and across the street.

    Babies come in waves, and selling off the great local schools we used to have has never been a good strategic move.

    I won't miss Vickie and her emphasis on test scores as the penultimate measure of a good education.

    Full disclosure (hey, I usually don't get to say that): my Dad was a teacher, principal and superintendant.

  • (Show?)

    School closures are never easy but, speaking as a person who saw the school closure process up close in my neighborhood, I have to say that PPS process reeked like last week's garbage.

    I don't have kids in school and I understand the pressures of diminishing enrollment. I also understand the management challenges that come with tough situations and start with a fair amount of sympathy for whoever is superintendant.

    My problem with PPS is two-fold:

    First, my experience is that when they venture into the community to address a difficult topic, district central staff routinely treat parents and community members with a good approximation of utter disdain.

    Second, they never seem to manage to come up with a plausible and defensible rationale for much of anything they do. I'd be perfectly happy to give the experts the benefit of the doubt but when a plan can't even manage to be internally consistent and when the staff responsible can't answer basic questions about it, I don't feel I have that option.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    No matter how you "package" the issues, the person who takes the point on closing neighborhood schools is going to be slightly less popular than the guy who runs the gas chamber at the animal shelter. Some people (me) paid tens of thousands of dollars extra for houses located in a "just right" neighborhood school area, and they go ballistic when the district proposes to close the school. It is not just an educational issue, it is a money issue. Likewise, some teachers have spent a decade or longer teaching in certain schools, and they go ballistic if they are told they need to move to a different school. I doubt that King Solomon himself could solve this one, and in the immortal words of "Mr. T.", I pity the fool that tries.

  • (Show?)


    From what I've read on here, Michele Schultz seems pretty good. I just don't know a lot about her. I've known Ruth for some years now and know how hard she has worked to improve PPS. I don't live in PPS (I'm in Gresham-Barlow), so I have to admit to not knowing as much about all the PPS candidates as I could. But I do know about Ruth's race and know she's the best candidate.


    That's very true. My sister-in-law and her husband are expecting their first child. They live in NYC and are late thirty-somethings.

  • Jerry (unverified)

    There are lots of levels to peel back on this onion. Here's one:

    Due to almost 15 years of chronic underfunding by the state and a simultaneous demographic dip, PPS was faced with a series of bad choices two years ago. Bluenote is right when he/she observes almost any decision would have engendered significant opposition (ballistic). But that does not excuse Superintendent Phillips or the Board from making the worst of the bad choices and then forcing their predetermined conclusion down the throats of their constituents and cloaking their actions in sophistry (as mt noted).

    Some schools had to close for very good reasons (Lakeside), but others were obviously someone's idea of mitigation, and the reasons for closing them seemed to shift with the winds (e.g. To save money, to provide additional programs at the remaining schools, to maintain class sizes, etc). Say this sounds familiar.......WMDs anyone?

    But this isn't just about school closings. The district and its recent leadership have made incredibly flawed decisions and acted in an autocratic and haughty manner toward Portland's citizens.

    Four hints: Steve Goldschmidt, Janitors, Dudley, Settlegoode. These decisions, made by the superintendent and signed off on by the Board cost Portland Public Schools millions of scarce education dollars (in the case of Dudley, the decision wasted another year in the lives of Jefferson High students) and no one has been held accountable.

    Hopefully voters will remember that when they fill out their ballots next week.

  • (Show?)

    Having heard Ruth Adkins speak at the Multnomah County Democrats meeting, and gain their endorsement, I second Jenni Simonis' comment: "[With Vicki Phillips splitting for greener pastures] it's even more important for people like Ruth Adkins to be a part of the board."

    Ruth Adkins is very bright, and obviously cares about what is happening to our children. She is a listener, and a consensus builder.

    I plan to vote for her.

  • (Show?)

    Firing the custodians was such an awful idea from the get go, as though the presence these long-time employees had in thei kids lives had no meaning. Instead of "friends" our kids could rely on, we put strangers in their schools.

    I have a very warm spot in my heart for Doug Morgan, who I took many graduate classes from at Lewis & Clark --including Public Budgeting-- and who mentored me through graduate school. But PPS' continued lack of transparency about spending that's outside and beyond their General Fund budget, and this sinking feeling about the status quo locked in place with contracts and job positions offered to former Vickie-pals...the fresh eyes of Ruth Adkins certainly seem worth my vote.

  • (Show?)

    Ms. Philips inherited 10 years of decisions put off by previous school boards and former superintendents. Extra funding from voters wasn't enough to keep small schools open. Combining schools reduced the costs and found efficencies. It is tough to live within the allocated dollars. Fiscal responsibility is a concept patrons of all schools regularly struggle with. Previous posters noted declining enrollment in Portland's schools which can forecast even less dollars for school funding.

    Philip's goals for a more uniform curriculum and expanding the K-8 model should be explored further by her successor. Portland lost their first high calibar school leader in years.

  • Curt (unverified)

    "Firing the custodians was such an awful idea from the get go, as though the presence these long-time employees had in thei kids lives had no meaning. Instead of "friends" our kids could rely on, we put strangers in their schools."

    Really weird strangers, too. Remember, one almost burnt down a school? Got mad that he was being fired, and sabotaged the power box?

    The school custodians might have cost a buck or two an hour more than the felons and illegal aliens and whatever else the low-bid contractor brought in. But I don't ever remember one sabotaging a school.


  • (Show?)

    I used to think that the problems at PPS were not solvable because of the restrictions from the legislature and the tax ballot measures. After watching the process of hiring and keeping a strong superintendent I am becoming convinced that the problem lies closer to home. This community will have trouble keeping a quality superintendent.

    No one leader is perfect and Vicki made some mistakes that I am sure she regrets as well. However, the carping that has taken place in the media recently and shows up on this blog is dispiriting. The job is tough. I wouldn't want it. Every parent is looking out for their kid and somehow the greater good gets missed. The budget realities are dismissed. If we require consensus management for such a large institution, no decisions will ever be reached. It is not possible. Unless we are willing to take radical action and break up the school district into 8-10 separate districts, we will require a strong leader that will step on some toes.

    I for one am sorry that she is going and sorry that this community is making it even more difficult to recruit a qualified replacement.

  • (Show?)

    All I can say is that reading these postings indicates why PPS will continue down the road to mediocrity. In my opinion, some of the posters here need to wake up and smell the roses, or manure, as the case may be.

    You need to read Paulie's comments very very closely, because you are blaming Phillips for problems that were in place before she got here, and refusing to credit her with any solutions.

    Custodial firings took place in 2002, before Phillips.

    Goldschmidt hiring took place under a previous administration, the firing took place under Phillips.

    The curriculum decisions were poorly handled, but in Phillips's defense, standardized high quality curricula are precisely the sort of reform that, guess who?, the Gates foundation is spending 60 million dollars to promote in this year's Presidential campaign.

    I don't know any district or any superintendent who could have made these closings and realignments in a way that did not alienate some parents. Transparency is a wonderful word, but ultimately someone has to make a DECISION.

    This district has dragged its feet for a decade regarding school closings, and the consequence is that we have far too many buildings with too few children.

    I have no opinion on Ruth Adkins, but I could not support Michele Schulz, and here's why: she is primarily running because she leads a group of WinterHaven parents who are angry about their school being moved.

    Winterhaven is symptomatic of the problems with this district. Winterhaven is a wonderful school--we couldn't even get into the school when we tried. But let's be honest, here: WH is a magnet school primarily serving three wealthy white communities: Sellwood, Westmoreland, and Eastmoreland. Most of their enrollees come from that area.

    Is it a fair and equitable use of district resources to support such a school when we have serious performance issues in areas of the city where--surprise surprise--there are few specialized magnet programs?

    It seems quite reasonable to me to move this school out nearer target audiences--lower middle and working class children who have neither the advantages or the money for transportation that many of the Winterhaven parents have.

  • jerry (unverified)

    paul The methodology of Goldschmict's firing was exactly my point. It cost PPS (I mean us) $600K in damages.

    John, I agree that many of the problems have been festering for too long. Making flawed decisions, whether radical or not is the problem.

    Many who dealt with Superintendent Phillips come away with a great deal of respect for her willingness to do and say what she believes in, and her ability to weather the resulting storms. We also came away with the nagging feeling that she was hired to emulate Chainsaw Jack Welch, who was brought into GE to radically "restructure" it, before moving on to the next crusade.

    Too bad she (and the board) only paid attention to one of Jack's three precepts:

    “Too often we measure everything and understand nothing. The three most important things you need to measure in a business are customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and cash flow. If you’re growing customer satisfaction, your global market share is sure to grow, too. Employee satisfaction gets you productivity, quality, pride, and creativity. And cash flow is the pulse—the key vital sign of a company.” -- JACK WELCH --

    While cash flow is temporarily improved, I'd submit employee and customer satisfaction are way down.

  • Roger Devine (unverified)


    Michele is on record stating that she will abstain from all decisions having to do with the siting of Winterhaven. She is most definitely not running to change that set of decisions (when we invited her to speak to our parent group, this was my primary question for her).

    However, it is fair to say that the process that was used by the staff did inspire her to run -- and rightly so, in my opinion. Dr. Phillips conclusions after the "community conversations" process left a lot of us who participated in that process incredibly frustrated, and Ms. Schulz' call for a more independent board, one that is less tied to the Superintendent that they hired, seems even more necessary this morning.

  • (Show?)

    I don't know any district or any superintendent who could have made these closings and realignments in a way that did not alienate some parents.

    Sure, any time you make changes some people are going to be unhappy but the above statement is a gross underestimate of the alienating PPS has managed to do during the Philips tenure, almost all of it, in my view, completely unnecessary.

    I don't question that Philips is a capable person and did a number of good things--I'm totally open to the notion that she may even have been the best person available. I don't fault her for deep sixing Goldschmidt and taking the expensive consequences. (I don't like it when my favorite NFL team has to cut someone and take a big hit on the salary cap either, but I do understand that when they do that the mistake is almost always to be found on the front end when they signed the contract with those big guarantees.) I also don't blame her for bringing her own people in. I wouldn't be surprised if part of the problem was that she couldn't replace enough people rather than replacing too many.

    Transparency is a wonderful word, but ultimately someone has to make a DECISION.

    This is what's known as a "false dichotomy". Transparency and making decisions are distinctly not mutually exclusive. I want a school board and a superintendant who are committed to both.

    I agree that the district has been less screwed up under Philips than it was before but the fact that the district was even more screwed up before Philips came can't excuse the screwing up that happened while she was here. It's nice to have made the improvement from disastrous to bad but it hardly allows us to rest on our laurels in self congratulation. Most of the work is yet to come.

  • Zarwen (unverified)


    It is clear from your post that you did not participate in the Sellwood area "Conversation," nor did you attend the Binnsmead hearing in January, nor have you looked at the resumes of Michele Schultz and Ruth Adkins.

    You have charged Michele with "primarily running because she leads a group of Winterhaven parents who are angry about their school being moved." While that charge is untrue in itself, would it interest you to know that Ruth Adkins is a member of a parent group at Rieke who are angry about their school being targeted for closure? For that matter, the Neighborhood Schools Alliance, of which Ruth is a founder and Steering Committee member, formed because so many parents were angry about poorly planned and unresearched "reforms" at Jefferson. Why is it OK for these parent groups to get angry and not Winterhaven's?

    You also stated that "WH is a magnet school primarily serving three wealthy white communities: Sellwood, Westmoreland, and Eastmoreland. Most of their enrollees come from that area." The numbers prove otherwise. Last spring, during the Sellwood "Conversation," it came out that, while 70% of WH enrollees come from SE PDX, the largest group are concentrated in the Brooklyn/Grout area. This fact is reflected in the capture rates of the neighborhood schools: Duniway, 86%; Grout, 58%. Which makes sense when viewed in an historical context, because back when WH was co-housed with the Brooklyn neighborhood program, Brooklyn children had preference in admission to WH. And later, so did their younger siblings, under District policy. When the Brooklyn neighborhood program closed, the Brooklyn attendance area was annexed to the Grout attendance area, thus the low capture rate for Grout today. I wouldn't characterize those neighborhoods as "wealthy." You may choose not to believe these facts, but there are spreadsheets and scattergrams to back them up. Furthermore, during the "Conversation" the parent reps from the places you mentioned made very clear that they have no love for WH and want it to go away!

    "It seems quite reasonable to me to move this school out nearer target audiences--" Had you attended or watched the Binnsmead hearing, you would know that the Binnsmead/Clark/Bridger group expressed no interest whatsoever in having WH move out there. They already have one focus option in their area (Creative Science) and have no desire for another. It is worth remembering, too, that the Garden Laboratory Charter School, which was also in that area, closed two years ago due to lack of enrollment. You also mentioned transportation, so I am compelled to point out that Clark school is NOT served by Trimet, which is how many current WH students get to school.

    You mentioned "serious performance issues in areas of the city where--surprise surprise--there are few specialized magnet programs?" As far as I know, the most "serious performance issues" in PPS are at Jefferson and its feeders, where one focus option after another has been tried and failed. Why have they failed? Because no one ever asked the constituent families if they would send their children to these focus options! The problem isn't lack of focus options, it is lack of community support for them. Even a focus option will close if no children show up to enroll. That is why the WH parent group got angry--the receiving community made clear they were not interested in enrolling their children at WH, so what was the point of moving there?

    Now, about Michele: as Roger mentioned, it was the lack of PROCESS that got her into the school board race. Unlike David Wynde, Michele will not support sweeping changes at schools without first hearing from parent groups that they will support the changes. Indeed, that is why some of her support, like Ruth's, is coming from the Neighborhood Schools Alliance. To learn more, you can:

    1) Read Michele's guest column right here on blueoregon. 2) Read Scott Learn's interview with Michele in today's inPortland section of the Oregonian. 3) Attend the forum at the BESC at 7 PM tonight. 4) Visit Michele's website at

    Thank you, Paul, for giving me the opportunity to provide this information to the blueoregon audience.

  • nic (unverified)

    "Ruth Adkins is very bright, and obviously cares about what is happening to our children. She is a listener, and a consensus builder."

    Leo it seems to me that Ruth's whole campaign has been geared towards challenging Phillips and the current members of the board on the decisions they made this past term. That is not building consensus, it is complaining without offering viable solutions. Now with Phillips gone her major griping point has disappeared and I guess her campaign can be considered successful without even getting elected.

  • Becky (unverified)

    I nominate Rob Kremer as the new super. For the Kids, for Jefferson HS and for the district.

    The tired model of the status quo must be retired.

  • (Show?)

    Oh gawd help us all if Rob joins the is hoping Becky's post is tongue in cheek.

  • Neisha (unverified)

    I agree with everyone above who thinks we could use someone with some consensus building skills now, after the last three years of top-down.

    What do people think of someone like Dilafruz Williams, at least as interim? I have no idea if she would even be interested, but I was really impressed with what I saw of her at the hearings last spring. She was thoughtful, knowlegeable, respectful, and really seemed to care about community involvement. She's also local, but with an internationally impressive resume of education experience, both the practical and the wonky.

  • Zarwen (unverified)

    Neisha, the idea would have merit if Dr. Williams weren't a school board member and also a candidate for school board right now. Even if she withdrew from the campaign and resigned from the board immediately, it would still create an enormous conflict of interest. And since she is running unopposed, there is no one else to fill the Zone 7 seat for the next four years.

    But maybe you are on to something--maybe there is someone else at PSU who could be the interim Super? I definitely DON'T want Cathy Mincberg or any of the people VP imported from PA or TX! You are quite right, it needs to be someone local who is invested in PPS and PDX.

  • Neisha (unverified)

    Yeah, I also thought of the conflict of interest issue. But, as a concerned parent and community member who doesn't work in the field (so, I don't know who else is out there), Professor Williams seemed like a good model of the kind of person we need right now. If not her, someone like her. Maybe the next person doesn't even need to be an educator. People seem to speak fondly of Jim Scherzinger.

  • TR (unverified)

    Good riddens! This overpaid dominatrix with her school closing policies has done more in her three years of tenure as the Portland Public Schools Superintendent to undermine and damage the quality of life, and destroy the family friendly demographics of inner-city Portland neighborhoods than any other one person has done in the last two or more decades. Affluent schools are untouched, the impoverished schools get more than their share of funding in part due to a double standard stop gap measure she lobbied for at the legislature to pick the pockets of Portland taxpayers, and at the same time, the taxpaying working class neighborhood schools became targets for closure. The faster this purveyor of class discrimination leaves town, the better off Portlanders will be.

  • Dan (unverified)

    Considering that the Gates Foundation could hire just about anyone it wants to, she must not be all bad. As a matter of fact, they must figure she's pretty good.

    I know that free markets are difficult for many of you to understand, but the employement market (outside of the disincentives provided by a union) tend to favor those with talent, skill and hustle.

    vicki, if you're reading this, congrats! Don't let the sour grapes of this cry baby blog get you down.

  • Garlynn (unverified)

    I think there are plenty of qualified local candidates who could succeed Vicki as Super. If nobody else, Pat Burke, who is already an assistant to the superintendent, would probably be qualified and able to take the position. He has been a principal in the district; he knows what the values of the district are, and is not as likely to run head-on into the buzz-saw of Portland public opinion.

    And maybe he'd be open to some kind of Parent-Teacher-Student Association advisory panel to give him a feel for how his ideas might be received by all of his constituents, prior to turning them into policy? I think too often we focus on the needs of the district, the needs of the teachers, the needs of the parents -- without asking the students directly what input they might have. They're smarter than you might think.

    Even if Pat isn't picked, I think it's pretty obvious that preference should be given to a candidate who has an in-depth local knowledge of the district. We don't need another gunslinger from out of town. We just need a competent, level-headed administrator who is willing to work with the customers, the employees and the budget to deliver solutions that will keep PPS one of the best urban school districts anywhere.

  • Jerry (unverified)

    Well that's a little condescending of you Dan. Apparently you've conflated opposition to autocratic decision-making with ignorance of the free market. The two are unrelated.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I came away from my interactions with Superintendent Phillips impressed with her poise under fire, ability to stick to a strategy despite withering criticism and capacity for organizing decision-influencers behind her vision.

    That doesn't mean her vision was the right one or that her decisions to push it through were good for the schools or the community.

    I wish her well in her new position. Hopefully she learned from her experiences here and will take those lessons with her to the Gates Foundation. That doesn't mean I support all of her past decisions. If she had learned from her experiences, I would have liked to see her stay, if only to save the district from having to go through the upheaval of finding a new superintendent.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    The Oregonian says the person who hired Hurricane Vicki at the Gates Foundation is her best friend on earth and how lucky they will all be to get up in the morning and go to work together!

    How sweet!

    Meanwhile Jefferson burns, Dudley Do Right has moved back to Texas, and Lincoln kids go to school with "Free The Cocaine Dealer/Murderer" tee shirts on.

    Naw, not much work to do here.

  • raul (unverified)

    As noted above:

    //First, my experience is that when they venture into the community to address a difficult topic, district central staff routinely treat parents and community members with a good approximation of utter disdain.//

    As Winterhaven parents we were informed that the school our children attend was going to close. We were invited to a meeting and basically told that this was how it is going to be. They then invited our input, and here is how. Colored markers and poster paper was passed out to parents. At that point we were encouraged to make a poster listing our grievances. What was VP going to do with the bright colored posters? I left that meeting convinced that the deal had already been struck to sell our school to McMenamins so they could open a new beer/greasy food joint.

    Winterhaven is a Math/Science focus school- these are areas that every economic authority reports that our country is slipping behind in.

    As a Winterhaven parent, we participated in a lottery to get our daughter in that school. We are required to donate 25 hours per year at the school. We carpool with two other families, we do not live in the neighborhood- and many others do not as well. It is a great effort for us to get our children to this school, but we want our kids to get a top notch education in Math and Science.

    The parents and students participating in this program are not wealthy, just average. All electives are run by parent volunteers. I helped with the basketball team, and parents had to supply the basketballs.

    Good riddance to VP- and I want my poster back.

  • Neisha (unverified)

    Garlynn -- there is a Superintendent's Student Advisory Committee in place (Super SAC). A student from Super SAC sits on the school board. And you're right, the students are extremely impressive. You can watch their meetings on cable access, if you have cable. I think it's channel 28?

  • Sid Leader (unverified)


    I hear Hurricane Vicki is taking all of her colored pens AND posters to Seattle where they will get a real workout, for sure!

    If it's any consolation, that is the way most, if not all, PPS schools work.

    Good hearted, but often completely inexperienced administrators present ideas, good and bad. The school talks about it, with those cool pens and posters, then the administrators do exactly what they wanted to do before the meeting was ever held.

    Like at Winterhaven, Edwards, Whitaker, etc,...

    It gives us regular people who do the serious heavy lifting in PPS a shallow, perverse sense of ownership... which is a sham, of course.

    As for Hurricane Phillips leaving town after her stint as a "drive-by" superintendent, I have just three words: REMEMBER EDWARDS ELEMENTARY!

    She won't, we will.

  • Garlynn (unverified)


    Thanks, I wasn't aware of the Super's SAC. That sounds like a great idea.

    And the outgoing super wasn't all bad. The idea to make middle schools into K-8 schools was probably one of the better reform ideas to be floated for PPS in recent years.

  • BeenthereDonethat (unverified)

    Melinda Gates better be on her toes. If there's anyone that can put a strain in a marriage it's Grimmy Vicki. She did it in PA with some very decent people that got caught up in her manipulation. She destroyed many many people in Lancaster, PA and Portland. I wouldn't be surprised to read in future articles...Melinda and Bill Gates divorcing...Vicki will stop at nothing until she gets what she wants.

  • Michael Meo (unverified)

    None of the commenters so far has mention Benson Polytechnic High School.

    My own testimony is partial, since I'm the head of the math department at that school.

    But it is a signal example of the means that are being employed to dismantle the best schools in the District (I have no idea whether this is the case with elementary schools). It is not only Queen Vickie, but also the School Board that is culpable. I will I hope justify that advertisement.

    Oh, and by the way -- I can call the administrator in question "Queen Vickie" because of a presentation she gave to so-called "educational leaders" near the beginning of this school year (as the only faculty member at any school present, I have no idea why I made the grade); the perjorative title has to do with the breathtaking hypocrisy she displayed a that meeting. Shortly after the firing of Neil Goldschmidt's brother, who had at least, at some cost to his standing as Personnel Dept head, had at least succeeded in obtaining contract changes requiring teachers to contribute toward their own health insurance costs, Vickie Phillips stood in front of a public forum and took credit for that "accomplishment" of her tenure! Something begun before she came aboard, and the author of which she summarily fired!

    Okay, now about Benson Polytechnic. The federal government provides funding for vocational and technical education through a program called the Carl Perkins fund. The entire allocation earned by the Portland Public Schools is earned because of the vocational, professional-technical courses offered at Benson.

    Vickie Phillips' administration withdrew the funds --more than one hundred thousand dollars -- from Benson and spread it around the District; and when I at this meeting stood up and asked her about it, she gave no reason for it. No reason for taking money earmarked for professional-technical education away from the school which has qualified for the federal funding in the first place. No, all she said in answer to my question was that she was anxious to put those funds to their "best use."

    That is exactly the kind of treatment meted out to a host of other interested parties in the school community, as the reader of comments prior to this one can see -- Doctor Phillips Knows Best. Shut Up and Sit Down.

    Bu that's not all. With Vickie Phillips' arrival at the Superintendant's office, the entire magnet program at Benson Polytechnic was crippled by the rquirement to let any middle-school kid into it -- no rational process to select the best qualified was to be allowed any longer, and admission had to be based on a "lottery" of all applications received.

    Again, the justification for this move ("equity" was the buzzword) was a moving target. We were initially advised that such a requirement -- entrance standards -- conflicted with No Child Left Behind legislation at the federal level. But in point of fact, NCLB says magnet schools can have whatever entrance requirements they like. So an action is decided upon, in this case as in many others, and the rationale is just MADE UP.

    It didn't stop there. The so-called "lottery" was not a random selection process, despite its name. No, the students who applied from the weakest schools in the District were given priority in the selection process. Rather than the best-qualified, Benson received the worst-qualified applicants. In the name of "equity"! Nor was this explained, admitted, adopted after discussion. It was just done. Like the Carl Perkins hijack.

    Vickie Phillips has on more than one occasion, in private discussions with people whom I consider to be reliable, stated that the model of rigorous professional technical education as embodied in Benson Polytechnic is "obsolete."

    I trust I have indicated with sufficient cogency my attitude towards Ms Phillips' tenure and the reasons for it.

  • Susan Abe (unverified)

    Ooh ... Garlynn, don't EVEN talk about the K-8 idea. The one they tell us we can't have because Chief Joseph is bursting at the seams with just K-5. Because just one year before when they closed Kenton, they said Chief Joe alone would be more room than we needed for the next 15 years.

    Yeah, from this end it's hard to see how Supervicki was anything but a net loss.

    And I agree that we should look for a local crew -- people who have some conception that if you go to a neighborhood's leaders and ask for support in turning a public elementary school into a private high school, and they say not unless you communicate clearly with the people who live near the school, and you agree to a schedule for public discussions and a plan to get the message out, that you really ought to follow through. Especially if the neighborhood leaders warn you up front that your lack of communication with the neighborhood has already left you with a lot of ground to make up.

    Or, if we can't get people who inherently understand that it might be a Good Idea to occasionally keep a simple promise, let's at least get people who want to stay in Portland a while and can see that it might be a Bad Idea to earn a reputation for double-dealing.

  • (Show?)

    Zarwen and Raul,

    The attendance figures on Winterhaven are available here: click

    I'm sorry if you don't like the figures, but they indicate that over 1/3 of Winterhaven students are from nearby neighborhoods (I count here students attending from Abernethy, Grout, Hosford, Lewis, Llewelyn, and Sellwood). I have ignored any school with <10 kids transferring in to ease the calculation.

    Ok, so where do the other 2/3 come from? The vast majority come from schools in the south east of Portland (Binnsmeade, Kellogg, Lane).

    Of the schools with >10 transfers into Winterhaven, 5 are schools with > 25% kids on free or reduced school lunch, and these same five schools have <60% white enrollment.

    They transfer into a school with 78% white enrollment and only 15% free and reduced lunch.

    The figures are clear: Winterhaven draws, generally, white upper middle class students away from schools in the outer SE.

    That's OK, but don't try to duck the reality.

    And why are the parents opposed to the move? Who is really leading this charge? Because for the vast majority of the parents coming in from the SE, the 82nd avenue location will be MORE CONVENIENT.

  • meagan (unverified)

    For all those who think it is a boon to have Phillips up there waving her magic Gates wand, think again. Think about what you want public schools to look like in the future. Are they training grounds for coroporations? Or are they training grounds for a creative, free thinking citizenry? Susan Ohanian wouldn't mind me quoting her I am sure. "When will the media start interrogating Gates and other Corporados about their failure to invest in the upgrade of worker skills? Instead, corporate moguls whine that schools aren't doing the worker training for them.

    I would caution the Portland school board members to be careful of what they wish for. He who pays the piper calls the tune. And Bill Gates has a very big pipe."

  • meagan (unverified)

    To the poster who thinks the school board race doesn't matter now that Phillips is leaving...STOP...think....who brought Phillips on board with her reformist, corporate, top-down agenda? The current school board. Who will be hiring the new superintendent? Hopefully a new school board.

  • moi (unverified)

    "As Portland moves in the direction of other large urban centers (NYC, Boston, SFO, Seattle) we will need fewer and fewer neighborhood schools to serve the rapidly declining number of K-12 students." This is quoted from above.....Now...did you know a new facilities committee has been formed at PPS to study how to pass a bond measure to build new schools...because LO AND BEHOLD! ENROLLMENT IS PROJECTED TO GO UP!!!!! Ask CFO Cathy Mincberg about this one...She's the one in charge of it...She also helped lead the charge to close all those neighborhood schools.....FLABBERGASTED? I am.

  • Zarwen (unverified)


    Your original post described Winterhaven as "primarily serving three wealthy white communities: Sellwood, Westmoreland, and Eastmoreland. Most of their enrollees come from that area."

    Your more recent post says that the "vast majority come from schools in the south east of Portland (Binnsmeade, Kellogg, Lane)." You then went on to say that "Winterhaven draws, generally, white upper middle class students away from schools in the outer SE."

    Well, which one is it? It clearly can't be both. Especially in view of the fact that most of the neighborhoods around Binnsmead, Kellogg and Lane are hardly "upper middle class."

    Let us also bear in mind that, just because a family does not qualify for free- or reduced-lunch does not make them "upper middle class." There are many families all across Portland that are just above that line and therefore struggle to feed their families without the help of the Federal lunch program. (I should add that Winterhaven, like many other schools, also offers free breakfast for students who qualify.)

    Also you seem unaware that the proposed new location for WH is on 92nd, not 82nd Avenue, and therefore is not served by Trimet. You might be interested to know that 80% of current Winterhaven families surveyed said the proposed location would be LESS CONVENIENT, or even impossible, to get to, given the lack of Trimet service. That leaves 20% who said it would be more convenient or felt neutral about it. Paul, I don't know what your idea of a "vast majority" is, but where I am from, 20% is a minority.

    I also refer you to my previous post which states the following: "the Binnsmead/Clark/Bridger group expressed no interest whatsoever in having WH move out there. They already have one focus option in their area (Creative Science) and have no desire for another."

    Paul, why do YOU want WH to move somewhere that it is not wanted? Do you have so little respect for the expressed feelings of those who actually live there?

  • johnnyredman (unverified)
    <h2>I don't blame her for quitting....If I had to be in charge of a bunch of 'tards like "sid leader," i'd probably quit my job as well.</h2>
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