- In my first major speech as superintendent of Portland Public Schools, I will address the urgent challenges facing our schools Friday, Sept. 5, at the City Club of Portland.
Latest News and Photos
Our future high school system
June 24, 2009
Wednesday morning I endorsed a new model for our high school system - one that I believe will help us increase our graduation rate, eliminate the achievement gap, better engage all students in their learning and ensure that every school and program is in high demand. [ Read More ]
A new structure for PPS administration
June 3, 2009
I want to share with you more details about the leadership and organizational restructuring that I discussed in the amended budget proposal I presented recently to the school board. [ Read More ]
Legislators' budget means further cuts, uncertainty for Portland schools
May 19, 2009
Monday afternoon, legislative leaders released their state budget proposal for 2009-11, outlining proposed funding levels for state-funded programs, including education. Unfortunately, it does not clear up the budget uncertainties Portland Public Schools faces. [ Read More ]
Clearing up confusion about modified diplomas
May 12, 2009
On Sunday, The Oregonian published a story claiming that several Portland high schools were granting modified diplomas to students to inflate the schools' graduation rates. I'm writing to clear up any confusion or doubt that the article may have caused.
What is a modified diploma? Modified diplomas are granted instead of regular high school diplomas when students' disabilities prevent them from meeting all the standard graduation requirements, even with special education services and support.
The article claimed that several schools use the modified diploma as a "loophole" to inflate their graduation rates. However, this isn't supported by the data. [ Read More ]
Portland School Board hears three "Big Ideas" that could change high school system
April 14, 2009
On Monday night, we presented the Portland School Board and public with three big ideas for how the district might reshape its high school system in the coming years.
Each of the three ideas would lead to a significantly different arrangement of programs, school sizes and options for high school students. Our staff developed these three ideas based on research and our student data, after consulting with community groups and with students, and with helpful feedback from so many of you: teachers, principals and many other employees.
Now I'm asking you to weigh in again. The idea, or model, that we choose in June will likely mix and match from the three now on the table. I want your feedback on which aspects of these three ideas you like, which you don't like, and which you simply couldn't live with.
Please read the linked news release to learn more, share your thoughts online, or attend a community meeting. Thank you for your attention and your help. [ Read More ]
Superintendent's 2009-10 budget puts students first, asks for shared sacrifice
April 13, 2009
PPS Superintendent Carole Smith proposed a $435 million General Fund budget for next school year -- on that would maintain a full school year and which calls on employees to give up cost-of-living pay increases to protect jobs in the classroom. With additional millions saved in central office cuts, the budget balancing plan protects schools and continues key initiatives to improve student achievement. [ Read More ], [ Superintendent's Budget Message (Adobe PDF) ], [ Balanced Budget Chart (Adobe PDF) ]
Superintendent shares serious financial news, asks for feedback
February 10th, 2009
Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith on Monday shared the district's current financial picture and framed her approach to developing a budget for 2009-10. She pledged to set clear priorities and asked for the community's input and support. [ Take the survey ] More
Weather decisions: how we make the call
December 19th, 2008
An extended bout of winter weather has caused havoc for students, parents, teachers and many more of us this week. I recognize that weather-related school decisions can cause tremendous anxiety and inconvenience for families and employees alike - and I would like to let you know how Portland Public Schools goes about making those decisions. More
In My Opinion (Oregonian, December 17, 2008) Holding the Line Holds Oregon Back
December 18th, 2008
As The Oregonian's editorial board noted in a recent editorial ("This time, less is more," Dec. 11), Portland Public Schools has reserves to cushion some of the ravages of the economic downturn. The district is in that position because we scrimped and saved to build our reserves, budgeted conservatively and benefited from a little good luck. More
PPS forecast includes budget cuts, short-term facilities work
December 9th, 2008
The economic downturn is having a serious impact on Portland Public Schools' budget — and after two years of a fragile budget stability, cuts are once again in our forecast.
Fortunately, in 2007-08 our school district collected some unanticipated one-time revenues, offsetting the state's $4.2 million in funding custs during the current school year. We expect to finish this school year with adequate reserves, roughly 9 percent of operating costs. More
PPS enrollment increases for first time in a decade
October 8th, 2008
In case you haven't heard the good news, PPS enrollment is up for the first time in more than 10 years.
We have 600 more students in the elementary and middle grades, especially in kindergarten. And we're down by only 447 in the high school grades — a much smaller drop than the PSU population researchers had projected. Overall, our high school enrollment is expected to level off in a few more years, then begin to rise as the students in elementary and middle grades move upward.
Our news release includes PPS enrollment figures over time.
Many of the forces driving our enrollment are outside our control, such as the city's birthrate or the price of family housing. But families have a choice — and it is exciting that more families with young children are choosing Portland Public Schools.
This year's growing enrollment is a great sign that PPS is on the right track.
My thoughts about this year's report cards
October 7th, 2008
Today the Oregon Department of Education released its annual report cards for our district and for each school. We put out a short news release, and compiled a quick summary table of our schools' ratings and the change from last year.
For all of you who work in schools with our students, these report cards may not tell you much that's new. You've developed school improvement plans and reviewed data with your administrators, and most of all, you have a good sense of what's working and what's not, based on your everyday interactions with students. More
PPS receives Japanese Foreign Minister's Award
September 25th, 2008
This evening, I had the great honor of accepting the Japanese Foreign Minister's Award for PPS' ongoing efforts to bring Japanese culture and language to our students. Portland Public Schools is the only school district in the country to provide a Japanese immersion program for students in Pre-K through 12th grade. We were also recognized for the ongoing presentation of Moshi Moshi, a Japanese language instruction program on Channel 28 since 1996.
The presentation was held at the beautiful official residence of Akio Egawa, the Consul General of Japan. We were joined by many of the people who do the work of promoting the cultural exchange and strengthening the friendship between Japan and the U.S. The principals of Mt. Tabor Middle School, Richmond Elementary School and Grant High School, and a number of the teachers, or sensei, were recognized by the Consul General during the presentation.
The effort of our teachers and administrators to bring the world to Portland is just one of the things that makes our district unique. The Japanese immersion program is also another great example of how we are teaching our students the real world skills that will help them succeed in our changing world.
A high school system for Portland's future
September 5th, 2008
Today, I spoke at the City Club about the most urgent challenge facing Portland Public Schools - and perhaps our city: building a high school system that truly meets the needs of our students in the 21st century.
Portland's high schools must change to prepare students to succeed in a changing world and to maintain Portland's ability to grow and thrive. Fifteen years of school funding instability have led to a highly decentralized high school system, with dropping student numbers and inconsistent programs across schools.
Our goal is to establish a system of attractive and innovative high school programs that prepare all students for college-level work (whether they choose to attend college or not), so students can succeed in a globalized, technology-driven economy.
Like other major urban cities, we aren't there yet. More
A great start to a new year!
September 3rd, 2008
Visiting three schools today, the first day of the new school year, I felt tremendous energy -- from families, from staff and, most of all, from students. There's a real joy in throwing open the school doors and greeting students fresh from their summer breaks. I hope we can keep that level of energy and enthusiasm high throughout the year.
I'm also excited to see new connections forming between our teachers and students because that's what nurtures learning. And we can measure the results. As you may know, the Oregon Department of Education released the latest state student achievement results yesterday. I'm pleased to report that Portland Public Schools students continue to outpace their peers statewide on tests in most grades. More