Friday, May 11, 2007

Is $700K higher than $0?

The Portland School District closed the Smith Elementary School last year, and the building has stood vacant ever since. It's a georgeous facility in a great little SW Portland neighborhood.

Parents whose children went to Smith decided to start their own chater school. Portland denied the proposal, but they appealed to the state, and a week ago the State Boarad of Education approved the school.

The charter school made an offer to the district to lease part of the vacant school building for just under $700K over five years. The district rejected the offer as "not financially sufficient."

Huh? They are getting nothing from the property now, and they have to still maintain it. Another rationale was the bureaucratic runaround that they've given for years: they want vacant space on hand as they see how all their recent school reconfigurations hash out.

This is the same song and dance the district has done virtually since the charter school law passed. While the district is closing schools, charter schools are opening, yet the district refuses to lease any of the vacant school facilities to the charter schools.

The public should be furious. The district should be required to GIVE the schools to the charter organizations. These are public school facilities paid for by the public for the purpose of educating public school kids. Charter schools are public schools, and their students are public school students.

By what moral standard does the district let a facility sit vacant rather than allow it to be used for the purpose that the public paid for and built it?

I have asked this direct question to current board members and to Vicki Phillips, and none of them could answer it. Truly, there is no answer, other than the obvious:
The district views charters as competition, and they don't want to help their competitor. It has nothing - zero - to do with the kids. They could care less about the kids.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Portland School District is bankrupt. Ethically.

Keeley said...

Same story different town. Hmmm. Maybe we should pass a law that says that a school district must lease a public empty building first to a charter.

Anonymous said...

What kills me is these people, on the school board, school administrators, teachers, unions and organizations ALL prop themselves up as the chosen, righteous defenders of good. Above and beyond any challenges to their intentions, ethics and caring.

In reality many of them are so entrenched in their biases and irrational obsession with the status quo that they are incapable of recognizing inappropriateness even when it rises to this level.
Denying public school space for Public Charter school organizations is as monumentally wrong as enabling Jefferson High School to wallow in education dysfunction for decades.

These people are unethical political hacks of the worst kind. Despite their self image and group adulation for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Rob,
To lease the school out to a public charter school that was put together by the parents of Smith School children and have it be successful would expose what a dumb decision it was to close it.

Also, as mentioned in the prior comments, it would put in stark relief that the decision to close Smith was political. In other words, Superintendent Phillips lied through her teeth.

If my memory is right, you were lukewarm about keeping Smith open. Maybe you didn't want to upset Superintendent Phillips, or maybe you wanted to get Smith for a charter school through your own auspices.

Can you see now that your 'soft' position on Smith was iladvised?

It has got to be said:"Phillips and the Schoolboard were cowardly and craven when they closed Smith School for the reasons they gave at the time."

The real reason they closed Smith School was to balance out the schools the board closed in Northeast Portland, ie, a political pallative to Northeast parents that they dared not own up to publically.

Rob, it's too bad you didn't call them out on the carpet at the time instead of playing political footsie.

Why? Because it's clear now that they took you and everybody else for fools then, and are still screwing you and all the Smith people now.

Rob Kremer said...

anon:
I hate to inform you that your memory is not right.

Far from being "soft" on the Smith closure issue when the controversy was swirling, I met with the Smith parents at the school, and advised them in how they could use the charter school law to keep the school open. Then we did a press conference at the district headquarters at which the Smith spokespeople and I announced that if the district closed the school they would 1) propose a charter school in its place; and 2) not have their children attend any PPS school in the interim.

Yeah, I was really playing "footsie" in an attempt to curry favor with Vicki Phillips!

I can see why you didn't put your name on this post, as horribly as you remember your facts.

Anonymous said...

Rob,
I agree with you much of the time. And it's usually a mistake to take somebody on when their "turf" is at issue and yours(mine) is not.

But, then again, I'm not one to back down.

I do remember hearing you on the radio, early on in the conflict(before your personal involvement), reflecting on the low enrollment, and balancing the points, pro and con, in, rather, an even way(certainly with no outrage against Phillips[she has a hard job]), hence the 'soft' qualifyer.

"footsie" was an inappropriate word, but you did want to stay on her good side because of your ongoing work on behalf of charter schools in the district. Didn't you?

I listened intently to your comments on the radio because I lived near Smith and planned to testify and did testify at Wilson high against closing the school.

Closing the school was disgraceful.

Of course, once you were approached by the Smith parents, you advocated on their behalf, doing your job. I would expect no less.

Now, since you only denounced my characterization of your attitude(prior to your personal involvement), I'll take it that you agree with my characterizations of Superintendent Phillips and the board, or do you believe they were being straight with the Smith parents and the public at large in their announced reasons for closing the school?

Because why would they be any more honest then, as they are being now?

The Smith School closing was even more outrageous when you consider that Phillips later changed the alignment of schools, district-wide to K-8, because that's what Smith was originally designed for when built. Had she already planned for the alignment change amid the Smith closure? If so, how dispicable.

I'm anonymous because your unhappiness was to be expected, and also, that's the way I always post.