Living With the Vicki Phillips Legacy

by Steve, September 5th, 2007

One of the most puzzling things about Vicki Phillips’ agenda at Portland Public Schools was the way her policies either contradicted or competed with one another. “School Choice” (note the capitalization) was a held so dearly, that it may have cost the district $1.1 million in federal grant money.

With open transfers causing massive divestment in North and Northeast Portland, school closures were inevitable. Unfortunately, one of the schools on Vicki’s chopping block was Applegate Elementary, which was one recipient of a $5.2 million US Department of Education grant awarded to help desegregate the Jefferson cluster.

Without the efforts of Lynn Schore, a Neighborhood Schools Alliance activist, PPS would have happily swept this under the carpet. But Lynn was dogged in filing and following up on the Freedom of Information Act request that brought this to light.

Schore’s work has exposed yet again that an open transfer policy is at odds with other district goals, such as strong neighborhood schools and ending racial segregation. The sad fact is that even with Phillips gone, we’re stuck with a strong “School Choice” bias in our administration and, evidently, on the board (the degree to which we will discover as they take up the issue this fall).

PPS seems quick to dismiss this loss of money as a problem. “When the buildings closed, the need was reduced,” Willamette Week quotes an unamed PPS spokesperson as saying.

There’s a lot more to this story, and hopefully we’ll get more of it in the weeks to come. How was the rest of the grant spent, for example? Will this stick to Vicki Phillips, or did she cover her ass? If she covered her ass, who will take the fall? Stay tuned, folks, this could get interesting.

4 Responses to “Living With the Vicki Phillips Legacy”

  1. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Yes, indeed — who will take the fall?

    Lynn, thanks to you (and your husband, another Steve!) for all of your hard work on this.

  2. Comment from marcia:

    “When the buildings closed, the need was reduced.”
    Now, someone really said that? That’s an intelligent observation….no schools, no need?

  3. Comment from Zarwen:

    Apparently this “spokesperson” (and probably a lot of other folks at the BESC) believes the need lies with the buildings, not the children in them. Based on that theory, the district could eliminate need of any nature entirely by closing ALL the schools.

    Maybe that was the road VP was heading down when she quit.

  4. Comment from NeverMind:

    Well duh! VP along with any new neocon the board decides to replace her with is on the privatization road. They obviously want to close all public schools favoring a publicly funded private system.