This Week in the Mercury


Schools

Friday, March 28, 2014

Art School is a Goddamned Racket

Posted by Bobby Roberts on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post noticed something interesting this morning, regarding the cost of pursuing higher education in America. Thanks to a tool made available by the US Department of Education, it's easy to see what schools are actually the most expensive to attend, and they're not in the Ivy Leagues.

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I had to doublecheck to make sure #2 wasn't actually a fuckin' clown college. It's not, but the list of notable alumni isn't all that impressive for being the second-most expensive college to attend in the whole country; that list includes people who spent about 40k for the honor of having "YouTuber" listed in their post-graduate achievements.

I used the tool to see if Oregon colleges pinged on the best or worst lists, but it seems our state is nestled comfortably in the middle somewhere. So maybe art-inclined students in the region are getting soaked, but if so, at least the pressure is more like "water-pistol", and not "firehose", or in the case of the above list, "having a water tower land on you".

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Surprise! The School District Has Even MORE Money Than It Thought

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 11:44 AM

Portland Public Schools just announced it's gotten a second unexpected influx of cash from property tax revenues—a development that could either ease tensions with teachers or send them howling.

"This morning the state’s legislative revenue office announced higher than forecast local property tax revenues for the 2013-2015 biennium," reads a release from the district. "They increased their estimate for Portland Public Schools’ state school fund revenue for next year by $4.65 million."

This is either very good news or very bad news for those hoping a teachers strike called for Feb. 20 doesn't come to pass. That will depend, probably, on how the district elects to use the money.

PPS already infuriated its teachers' union, the Portland Association of Teachers, when it announced an unexpected infusion of roughly $20 million in January. The union wants administrators to invest significantly more in its contract, hiring 175 new teachers, increasing salaries and holding steady on benefits. The district has said it will agree to 88 news teachers in the contract, but perhaps hire more as part of the budgeting process. Administrators say they don't want to write expenditures into a contract that they may not be able to account for when the next agreement comes up.

PAT President Gwen Sullivan hasn't returned a call for comment, but expect renewed calls for stepped up investments in the union contract.

Meanwhile, PPS says it's too early to say what the influx means. In the release, Superintendent Carole Smith said the expected new money "allows us to increase our investment in teachers and staff in our schools.” But how that "investment" is made is what's going to be most important to the union.

"I think having just got that information this morning, the superintendent is very pleased and every bit of funding helps," says PPS spokeswoman Christine Miles. "But we also have to look at the longterm. We still need to figure out how this will play in our budget."

After mediation the last two days, the district and PAT are scheduled to next meet tomorrow.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Union: "Slow Play from District" Led to Strike Announcement

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 12:14 PM


At some point in the latest round of talks with the Portland Public Schools (PPS) last Friday, teachers union officials became convinced a strike might be necessary.

"They began to say things like 'We don't have any more ideas,'" Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) President Gwen Sullivan said this morning in a sit down with reporters. "We began to see kind of a slow play from the district."

So after a vote union members described as nearly unanimous last night, the PAT has formally filed notice today with the Oregon Employment Relations Board: Absent an agreement, teachers will walk February 20th—the first-such strike in the district's history.

The move contrasts with the union's tenor a couple weeks back, as PAT representatives met with teachers individually to get a sense of how much support there was for a strike. Sullivan at the time said it was merely a precaution in case PPS chose to impose labor conditions.

"Our hope is still not to go on strike," she said this morning. " The district has the power and authority to figure this out right now."

Chief among the union's concerns: Teacher workloads. The PAT has said the school district—relatively flush with cash this year—should hire 175 new teachers. PPS has offered 88 new hires, and says it's open to adding more as part of the budget process.

The union has also cited benefits, pay, hiring policies and the question of whether student performance should affect teacher evaluations, among other sticking points.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Circle February 20 on Your Calendar: That's When a Teacher Strike (Maybe) Starts

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 10:10 PM

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There was a lot of talk of the tough decision that had just been made, but moments after authorizing the first teacher strike in Portland Public Schools history Wednesday night, hundreds of educators filing out of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall seemed bubbly and upbeat.

Many teachers refused to talk to reporters or give their names, but in a few minutes details became clear. By a resounding margin, Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) members decided to walk out on February 20. That could still be prevented, if the union and district can reach an agreement in a coming mediation session.

"It was a horrible, horrible decision to have to make," said a teacher who'd only give her name as MS. "We're united."

Half an hour after news of the vote emerged, PPS said it was "disappointed" in the decision.

"We remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement and we hope both teams are able to make significant progress during the next mediation session on Sunday, Feb. 9," read a statement by School Board Co-Chairs Pam Knowles and Greg Belisle.

But agreements have been vexingly hard to come by in the last 10 months, with the district and union butting heads on teacher workloads, benefits, pay and hiring practices, among other things.

The vote's success isn't much of a surprise. Union leaders had twice taken members' temperatures about a strike in recent days, and said they wouldn't have called a vote if they weren't confident it would pass. By all accounts, that passage was nearly unanimous. One educator who attended the meeting estimated there were six "no" votes, out of hundreds and hundreds of votes cast.

What is news is the union's willingness to push ahead with a strike immediately (teachers have to give 10 days notice before a walkout). PAT President Gwen Sullivan has said in recent weeks a potential strike vote was a precaution in case the district imposed labor conditions on teachers—something PPS can do because the two groups are at an impasse, but has so far avoided.

Instead, this has just become an even more pressurized situation, and the clock is ticking.

"Portland teachers are united and resolved to stand up for our students’ learning conditions," Sullivan said in a statement after the vote. "It’s time to move this to a conclusion so that we can have a contract that is fair for teachers and good for students.”

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Union and University Administrators Reach Détente

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 11:29 AM

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One of the season's labor conflagrations has been extinguished.

In a late-night bargaining session ending this morning, a union representing nearly 4,500 employees at Oregon's public universities worked out a deal with administrators, it announced today, averting the possibility of a strike next week.

The Service Employees International Union Local 503 says the Oregon University System (OUS) met its demands part way—largely reinstating worker's yearly step raises and agreeing to cost-of-living increases of 1.5 and 2 percent over the two-year life of the contract. The union had been pushing for 2.5 percent increases.

"We moved everybody forward," said Marc Nisenfeld, a Portland State University development engineer who chairs the union's bargaining team. He had not been to bed since reaching the agreement at around 2:30 am.

The union had threatened to begin a strike on Monday—the first day of fall courses—if the contract wasn't hammered out. That won't happen, but it's likely similar impasses will mark contract negotiations well into the future. This was the second consecutive round of negotiations where the SEIU threatened to strike.

One big reason: The state's seven public universities have seen stark disinvestment in recent decades, meaning workers' expectations that they receive annual pay bumps are harder to satisfy. The portion of the state's general fund being kicked to public higher education reached a record low in the 2011-2013 budget. At the same time, the system's serving more students than ever. Enrollment has swelled by around 30,000 per year since 2000, and many of the costs have been passed on in the form of tuition.

The SEIU has long pointed to the salaries of university presidents and other administrators as fat to trim. Presidents pull in anywhere from $195,000 to more than $440,000 in taxpayer dollars each year, with some getting additional money from private university foundations. At the same time, some SEIU members qualify for food stamps. As I've pointed out, the OUS even expressed concerns during this year's negotiations about a union-proposed "wage floor" saying it "may result in loss of other valuable assistance, such as food stamp eligibility, or housing and child care subsidies."

By the way, if you're the type who likes the spectacle of union/employer acrimony, don't fret! Contentious contract negotiations at Portland Public Schools, Trimet, and the Portland Police Bureau are ongoing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

STRIKE! (Maybe) Coming to a University Near You

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 7:54 PM

Nearly 700 Portland State University employees, as well as thousands of their counterparts throughout the state, have given notice they intend to strike later this month, a move that would effectively grind the Oregon University System to a halt.

In votes this week, members of the Service Employees International Union "overwhelmingly" signaled a willingness to abandon their posts if raises and other provisions aren't re-instituted in their next two-year contract.

"If things don't change, our intention is to walk of the job on Monday, September 23rd," said Marc Nisenfeld, chair of the bargaining team for SEIU Local 503. The union's been trying to reach agreement on a contract since February, but late last month declared an impasse.

There are myriad issues at play, but of particular concern, Nisenfeld said, were suggestions by the university system to award employees with partial year-to-year "step raises"—yearly bumps many employees receive until their salaries max out. The raises were frozen in recent years, as challenging financial times befell Oregon's public universities.

"People are counting on this," Nisenfeld said. "Now they want them to take half steps. It's just completely unfair."

By law, the SEIU is required to give 10 days' notice before a planned strike. The union plans to hold talks with administration officials on Friday and Saturday at Oregon State University, Nisenfeld said.

SEIU represents roughly 668 employees at Portland State—including many clerical jobs, IT and AV workers, public safety and facilities staff, and more. Nearly 4,500 public university workers statewide fall under the union's banner.

"The people who are the infrastructure of the university," Nisenfeld said.

The last time the union actually walked off the job was 1995, he said. It gave notice it would strike in September 2001, but pulled it after the September 11 attacks and eventually reached an agreement.

I spoke with Nisenfeld after 7 pm, and haven't reached anyone with university system administration.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

PSU Budget Woes Have it Canceling Courses Just Weeks Before They're Set to Begin

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Wed, Jun 19, 2013 at 2:14 PM

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  • www.pdx.edu

Portland State University last week gave some of its students surprising, if perhaps welcome, news: No school this summer.

In the middle of exam week, mere weeks before summer courses were set to commence, the university sent out e-mails to students enrolled in a number of classes, saying they'd been cancelled due to "budget constraints beyond our control."

But people affected by the cancelations are wondering how that pencils out.

"All these courses were beyond capacity," said Greg Twiss, a pre-med student who'd counted on taking an Introduction to Genetics course this summer. "There were already three people on the wait list for it. What's the budget cut logic there?"

According to an email he received June 10 from the PSU biology department, Twiss' best bet to take the course is now to enroll this fall.

"Due to budgetary constraints beyond our control all sections of this course, as well as the associated recitations, are being cancelled for summer 2013," the e-mail says. "We apologize for the inconvenience this will undoubtedly cause, and recognize that this is a truly unfortunate situation for all. BI 341 Genetics will be offered during Fall term 2013."

That's a message Twiss was surprised to receive weeks before the class was set to begin.

"They opened registration for these course months ago," he said. "If they were gonna make a policy decision to make these changes, it would have between great to know sooner."

The cancellations apparently go well beyond Twiss' genetics course, but university staff has been unresponsive to my calls so far today.

PSU Adjunct Professor Carey Booth, who's sounding the alarm on the cancellations, says they appear to be aimed at saving money on outside staff—Booth is a lab instructor at Reed College, and only teaches at PSU during the summer.

"They won't explain to me or (Biology Department Chairman Jason Podrabsky): What is their logic?" Booth says. "How do they pencil this out?"

According to her own calculations, which Booth concedes are simplistic, the university stands to make something like $40,000 from her classes alone this summer. Here's her logic.

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More on this when (if) the university decides to call me back.

UPDATE, 3:06 pm: Documents available to PSU students indicate the university is also slashing more than half of its summer economics offerings. According to this list [PDF], PSU had 17 summer courses in economics listed as of Monday.

Today, according to a screenshot Twiss sent, that list has been pared down to eight.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Where Your Money from Those Very Expensive Prince Tickets Went

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Thu, May 9, 2013 at 11:44 AM

Prince in Vancouver, a few nights before the April 21 Portland shows.
  • image via Rogers & Cowan
  • Prince in Vancouver, a few nights before the April 21 Portland shows.
As NME reported last week and OPB reposted yesterday, Prince used part of the proceeds from those very expensive tickets to his two April 21 shows at the Roseland to help send Portland-area high school jazz students on a trip to a competition in New York City. The American Music Program's Pacific Jazz Orchestra is made up of musicians in grades 7 through 12 and, thanks to Prince, are going to the Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival at Lincoln Center this weekend, where they're one of only 15 finalists from across the country.

From NME:

Acclaimed jazz trumpeter and Artistic Director of the programme Thara Memory said: "The promoter [of Prince’s Portland gigs] is a longtime friend of mine and he told Prince about the programme. Prince was looking for something to give some money to anyway, and that’s how it came about."
Tickets for the two Portland shows were $175 for floor seats—substantially cheaper than tickets for Prince's shows in other markets like Seattle and San Francisco. Assigned balcony seating were $300. I believe there were several day-of-show tickets that went on sale for $100, and those may have been the tickets that, at least in part, went to fund the AMP's Pacific Jazz Orchestra's trip.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Oregon House Votes for Daily Pledge of Allegiance

Posted by Virginia Alvino on Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 12:59 PM

The Oregon House Representatives this morning said okay to a bill that requires all schools in the state to allow time—every day—for the Pledge of Allegiance.

HB 3014 requires all Oregon classrooms, including public charter schools “to provide time for students to salute flag once daily during school hours.” School districts would also have to pay to procure flags—“of suitable size”—for every classroom.

The bill’s chief sponsor Representative Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, says the pledge is currently recited once a week, which he's decided isn't enough.

Groups like the ACLU of Oregon are opposed to the measure. In written testimony, legislative director Becky Straus says “in our view, the bill only serves to heighten existing concerns about the religious freedom implications of the current law.”

But most House reps don’t seem to share that sentiment. The bill’s vote in the House began with lawmakers sharing stories of veterans, and the proposition that reciting the pledge every day allows time to reflect on patriotism. The bill cleared the House 42-16.

Now the measure heads to the Senate where it can expect a vote in the next few weeks. If approved, students would still be able to opt-out, in accordance with a 1943 Supreme Court case. It's unclear what would happen if schools or districts tried to opt out, too.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Let's Go to Florida and "Passively Distribute" the Koran, the Book of Mormon, God Is Not Great, and The Joy of Gay Sex Inside Public High Schools and See How That Goes Over

Posted by Dan Savage on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Meanwhile in Florida:

Orange County school leaders are allowing members of World Changers of Florida to passively distribute Bibles to students Wednesday.... Passive distribution means the group cannot have any contact with students and can't even speak to them. The Bibles will be placed on an unattended table for distribution in a location where students normally congregate outside of class. The students won't face pressure to take one.

And students won't be pressured to pick up a copy of God Is Not Great or Joy of Gay Sex either.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Is the Arts Levy a Benefit to Portland or a Burden?

Posted by Fiona Smith on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Things are slowly heating up in the campaign around Measure 26, the "Arts Education and Access Fund" ballot measure that aims to restore arts funding in Portland’s six school districts this November. The measure was officially okayed for the ballot on September 4th.

It may come as a surprise that despite Portland's thriving arts and culture scene, Portland schools have a way-below-average number of art classes compared to other school districts nationwide. The question voters need to consider is: The proposed fund will improve arts education in schools, but is it a fair way to fund the arts?

The proposal, put together by School and Arts Together and the Creative Advocacy Network (CAN), would charge Portland residents who are over 18 a tax of $35 a year and direct the money to a fund for arts and music programming in elementary schools. People with an income below the federal poverty line are exempt from the tax. If passed, the tax would raise $12.8 million annually for schools' arts and culture programs.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adams Okays 30-day Armistice with TriMet on Youth Passes

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 1:14 PM

TriMet is still prepared to honor a handshake cost-sharing agreement.
It was a handshake deal. But the terms, as Mayor Sam Adams saw them, were pretty clear. The city wouldn't raise a stink over TriMet's decision to cancel free light-rail trips downtown—so long as the transit agency used the money to keep alive another of Adams' top priorities: free bus and rail trips for high school kids for the academic year that starts this fall.

TriMet didn't quite hold up that bargain in its most recent budget, and so Adams decided to get its board's attention. He pitched a surprise plan that called for raising permit fees for TriMet some 8,000 percent—raising $2 million bucks that he'd then hand back to keep the YouthPass program alive.

Adams' gambit worked. Today, during a scheduled council vote on the fee hike, TriMet's board chairman, Bruce Warner, and others showed up and asked for a 30-day window to reopen discussions. They said they couldn't afford the fee increase—without cutting service even further than they already have, they claim—but offered to re-examine the original handshake deal.

TriMet is "still prepared to honor what I thought was a cost-sharing agreement"—a deal that would have split the $3.5 million cost of the program between school districts, TriMet, and the city, Warner told the council. "If the student pass program is really the issue, please defer this entire ordinance for 30 days to allow us to talk through with your staff, and with you, the mayor, how we can come up with a true agreement."

Adams, along with the rest of council, agreed.

"The reason I have felt compelled to be as hardheaded on this as I have been," he said, was because "I didn't see this in the budget. You took the resources [from canceling the free-rail zone] but you didn't do the second part of the handshake agreement. I'm willing to take 30 days and set this over and talk seriously about this."

The fee hike plan won't come back to council until July 25. It's the second big hammer the city threatened to drop today, only to hold back for more discussion. Asked whether this was a day of "delaying action," Randy Leonard told me it was more about using sticks before carrots: "motivating people" to do "problem-solving."

The YouthPass program, as we reported this spring, has long been a source of tension between Adams and TriMet. The program had received most of its funding—$2.55 million—from state energy tax credits, with Portland Public Schools paying the other $1 million. That worked until the state, facing its own budget mess, pulled the plug. When TriMet wanted to cancel the program for the school year that just ended, Adams lobbied them to keep it alive.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bang a Pot! Quebec Solidarité Protest Downtown Tonight

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Jun 11, 2012 at 11:29 AM

Students in Quebec have been massing in the tens of thousands since February, protesting, at first, sizable hikes in university tuition, and, later, their government's heavy-handed police response to the protests. And since then, the movement has only spread. Nightly protests called casseroles—where people hit the streets, or open their kitchen windows, and bang on pots and pans—have erupted in regular neighborhoods all across Montreal. In some recent protests, crowds have surged to well over 300,000 people.

Tonight, activists in Portland, many of them affiliated with Occupy Portland, are planning to gather in Pioneer Courthouse Square in (forgive me) solidarité. They're also calling on people all across the city, if they can't make it down, to bang pots wherever they live. Our local event—maybe better described as a burgeoning Occupy-like movement—is aimed at the rising cost of education here, but also at larger questions of debt (as in, crippling student loans) and the privatization of what ought to be a government function (educating its people).

Many of the protests in Quebec have ended violently, with fringe participants, yes, throwing things at cops—but mostly because of riot cops, working at a numbers disadvantage, throwing things like flash grenades, kettling people to make mass arrests, and using their batons. Portland's organizers have sent a letter to Mayor Sam Adams letting him know they're not getting a permit for tonight's protest but asking him not to send in the riot cops to bust it up.

Hit the jump to read it.

Continue reading »

Q & A with Schoolyard Farms' Courtney Leeds

Posted by Alex Zielinski on Mon, Jun 11, 2012 at 10:14 AM

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What happens when you turn three quarters of an acre into an urban farm right next to an elementary school? You get Schoolyard Farms, the six-month-old start-up—located near Oregon City's Candy Lane Elementary—with a mission to educate kids on urban farming and the local food system! Schoolyard took over from Singer Hill Farms, a local CSA that used the plot to fuel their weekly output of produce, but without any real connection to the nearby school. Courtney Leeds and Justin Davidson, Schoolyard founders, both worked at SE Portland's educational Zenger Farm, and saw this abandoned site as a perfect spot to kickstart their project. Now, as they head into the summer months, the pair are jumping headfirst into fundraising and brainstorming for the future of their small educational farm.

I caught up with Leeds for a quick Q & A about Schoolyard Farms a little while back.


MERCURY: What encouraged you and Justin to take the reins of Schoolyard Farms in the first place?

LEEDS: It was more born out of our love and work for urban farms across Portland. And already having the Singer Hill Farms plot on school grounds made it easy to coalesce well with the school.

The program's pretty new. How's it been going so far?

It's been overwhelming! But really good. We have a great support network with the school and the surrounding community. And getting to work with these kids is very exciting. There aren't really other models out there that we're going off of, so we're really learning by doing.

I know this is a bit of an old question, but why is encouraging students to cultivate their own food is important?

Our current food system in the country is not quite working the way it should be. Education is one way of shifting people's views on the system, especially when you start at a young age. At Schoolyard, kids can actually see the process and understand how much work goes into bringing food to the table. Also, neighbors can see what we're doing here and hopefully be inspired to start a garden of their own.

So where does the food you grow at Schoolyard go? To the students?

Well we give five CSA shares out a week to low income families whose children go to Candy Lane, and of course the kids snack as the work. We're hoping that in the future we can actually serve what we grow in the school cafeteria!

And what's being harvested right now?

A lot of lettuce and garlic!

Woohoo!


Tomorrow, June 12, Holocene is hosting Schoolyard Farms' first big fundraiser. Swing by to learn more about the inspired project and catch some local bands!

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Salad Bar Coming to Local Elementary School

Posted by Alex Zielinski on Thu, Apr 26, 2012 at 3:29 PM

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  • HBO
Blasphemy!

Portland has been selected to be one of the 12 cities targeted by HBO's "Weight of the Nation" show on childhood obesity. One school in particular, James John Elementary, will receive the HBO treatment. Which isn't as fancy as it sounds. Turns out, these kids are going to be rewarded with a salad bar and water tap station (isn't that just called a water fountain?).

HBO representatives, city councillors and school board members will unveil these gifts on May 1 at 10 am at the school. Here's the agenda, according to the press release:

"Following a short speaking program to celebrate the new salad bar and water tap station, all will enjoy a screening of “The Weight of the Nation for Kids”: The Great Cafeteria Takeover, followed by a healthy lunch."

Celebrate the salad bar? I doubt many kids will be pushing each other out of the way to get a heap o' iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. But I can see some serious fireworks going off for the water fountain (which they didn't have before? Is this a problem?).

Jokes aside, I think it's a little weird that Portland of all places is on the list of places needing to combat childhood obesity. Granted, it's an issue everywhere. Not all Portland babies had liquefied flax/spinach/acai berry baby formula.

Catch the show's premiere on Monday, May 14th at 8 pm on HBO.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Red Fang to Play Benefit for Grant High Art Department

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 11:13 AM

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While one might not initially think of the Red Fang dudes as role models (exhibits A, B, and C), they're getting into the do-good business with their next hometown show. On Friday, May 25, Red Fang headline a benefit show at the Hawthorne Theatre which will raise funds for the art department of Portland's Grant High School. It will be just like a bake sale! But with more metal.

The show—which also includes performances from Lopez, Nether Regions, and a band of Grant High students called Hell's Parrish—will raise money for basic art supplies like paint, paper, and clay, as well as awareness for the beleaguered, underfunded arts programs in schools. Red Fang's Aaron Beam has this to say:

It is a shame that Grant High's arts are underfunded, and a bit mysterious to me. Young artists looking for cheap venues to create and display their works move to and revitalize cities and neighborhoods. It happens repeatedly. I watched it happen in Portland in the 1990s, with artist communities such as The Lab and The Modern Zoo, and clubs like the X-Ray.
It all goes down Friday, May 25 at the Hawthorne Theatre. It's a mere 10 bucks and tickets are on sale here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

PDX Hosts First Youth Violence Summit

Posted by Alex Zielinski on Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 11:59 AM

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Thanks to the internet and, most recently, the controversial documentary Bully, the issue of school bullying has elbowed its way into the national spotlight. And local. The Multnomah Youth Commission, the "official youth policy body" for the city and county, is putting on a first-of-its-kind conference in Portland this weekend: the Rob Ingram Youth Summit Against Violence.

This comes on the heels of MYC's new Youth Against Violence Committee, formed in response to the growing local violence directed towards youth "in the forms of gang, anti-gay and gender, home, school, police, sexual/dating, and cyber-bullying."

The Saturday event starts off with a youth-only portion—asking local kids/teens to get together and brainstorm policy recommendations to later present to local policy makers. Later in the afternoon, invited elected officials (Mayor Sam Adams, Multnomah Board of Commissioners Chair Jeff Cogen and Police Chief Mike Reese) will meet with the 21 and under group to hear their stories and understand how they, and other adults in the community, can help combat youth violence and bullying. Interesting to see what will come from this.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Glenn Beck's Blog Bashes PSU Courses

Posted by Alex Zielinski on Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 3:44 PM

The Blaze—Glenn Beck's news blog—zoomed in on a pair of Portland State University's "controversial" courses today: "Revolutionary Marxism: Theory and Practice“ and ”Art Within Activism.” The author is shocked that good ol' American taxpayers are funding these Marxist courses without providing a political balance. The Marxism course urges student to connect with local groups like Occupy Portland, Jobs for Justice and Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights. The author asks: "Would Portland State University allow a 'Limited Government: Theory and Practice' course where students were forced to make a 'connection' with Tea Partiers and the NRA?" The art class is really just that: a course on modern art based off of recent activism pieces and products. WAR!

The dual courses are part of PSU's Chiron Studies program, when students can layout and instruct classes for credit. The post's comment stream are on FIRE, of course, chock full of fist shaking at the education system and that crazy "B. Hussein Obama" and pleading for a McCarthy return.

Here are a few gems:

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Education Evaluation

Posted by Alex Zielinski on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 at 12:44 PM

Great news everyone! The state's on-time high school graduation rate has increased one percent! According to state school Superintendent Susan Castillo, a rise from 66 to 67 percent over a year is something to write home about, calling the results "encouraging."

However, head honcho (read: Governor) John Kitzhaber reacted differently to this news, calling the low rate "unacceptable." A Department of Education study also unveiled a discouraging dropout rate of public high school students, marking one out of every three attendees an eventual high school drop out. This adds up to about 11,000 high school students in this school year.

Like I said, fantastic news.

Thankfully, Kitzhaber has promised to turn these dreary statistics around. Kitzhaber hopes to push the Legislature to require every school district and community college to sign a yearly "achievement compact" spelling out key results it will try to deliver. If singed off, this compact aims to jump start schools across the state in hopes of securing more stable — and uplifting — enrollment results in the future.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

University of Oregon President Ousted

Posted by Alex Zielinski on Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 10:10 AM

I feel obliged to report on this because this man handed me my diploma: Oregon Board of Higher Education decided not to renew the contract of Richard Lariviere, University of Oregon president. To put it nicely, he's fired.

Why? It looks like the man didn't have many supporters in the Oregon University System, let alone Gov. John Kitzhaber, due to his budgetary decision making.

The Hat and his posse. Aka students.
  • University of Oreogon
  • "The Hat" and his posse. Aka students.

"Dr. Lariviere's actions have done damage to our vision for higher education and other institutions of higher learning; and, ironically, have served to undercut his own aspirations for the University of Oregon," Kitzhaber told the Oregonian.

But his firing didn't go unnoticed. Nearly 60 pro-Lariviere faculty members filed complaint to the university's state's ethics commission, as the Board of Higher Education apparently publicized their decision prior to a mandatory meeting and vote. Students aren't too pleased either. Last night, a group of upset students decorated OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner's home with eggs, leaving behind an angry letter and the words "The Hat" — Southern gent Lariviere is known for his ever-present fedora, see photo — spray painted on the driveway.

Larievere remains classy in his rejection. On Wednesday, he published a letter to the campus: "I have been heartened by the outpouring of support I have received for the work we are doing to reimagine public higher education in Oregon. While the positive comments from members of the campus community and beyond help to galvanize my commitment to this outstanding institution, I hasten to remind you that this is not about me. We must all redouble our efforts to bring about positive change to the governance, funding and accountability of Oregon’s public universities."

His contract terminates on June 30, 2012.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Military Recruitment Meets its Match

Posted by Alex Zielinski on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 3:14 PM

What do anti-war recruiters have on tanks?
  • Department of Defense
  • What do anti-war recruiters have on tanks?

The Portland School Board voted unanimously Monday to allow "counter recruiters" as much freedom and attention on school campuses than military recruiters. With this nod of approval, board members said that they expect peace-promoting and anti-war fliers, posters and groups to pop up around local high schools. Reports the Oregonian:

"There is nothing in this resolution that says there is a condemnation of military service," said board vice chairman Martin Gonzalez, a primary driver behind the new rule. "There is a desire on our part for our students to become more educated in the choices that they are making."

This movement comes just under a year since Portland Schools signed a two-year deal with the Department of Defense to teach forth and fifth grade science — an idea which many argued was disguised military recruitment. While this provides a more level playing field for both sides, I'm sure parents will still rally against the not-so-camouflaged military presence.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Campus Gun Ban Lifted

Posted by Alex Zielinski on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 12:14 PM

An Oregon Court of Appeals panel rejected Oregon University System's ban on guns on its seven state campuses yesterday on the premise that firearm regulation remains solely in the hands of state legislature. Prior to yesterday's ruling, people with firearm permits could not pack their weapon on campus, even if it was clearly concealed. Now, permit-holders can carry their concealed gun all over campus — just as long as they don't brandish it.

This ruling comes partially as a result of a suit filled by the Oregon Firearms Education Foundation over Western Oregon University suspending a gun-toting student who had a permit (which was, in fact, legal).

OUS officials have yet to respond to the decision, but OUS spokeswomen Di Saunders told the Oregonian that they haven't given up the push to eliminate guns — even those carried by permit holders — on campus. One possible solution could be requiring students to sign a waiver promising to not tote their guns in campus buildings, dorms, etc.

"This does not erase all the safety protections we have on campus," says Saunders. "It invalidates one Oregon administrative rule, but it doesn't invalidate our mission to keep students safe."

While the appeal panel deemed the OUS' ban illegal on the state level, it did not mention its potential violation of the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment which protects gun rights. Nonetheless, OUS is walking on thin ice.

This ban lift also creates a backdrop for the recent discussions by mayoral candidates about city gun laws.

This Week's Back-to-School Issue

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 11:58 AM

vocquizlogo.jpg

This week's Mercury is our annual Back-to-School issue, and it's crammed with lots of useful useless info for students—or anyone looking for career advice, really. We interviewed a bunch of local professionals with weird, unique, or cool jobs to find out how they got to be where they are (sometimes school helps! And sometimes it doesn't), PLUS we've got a scientific, not-at-all-bullshitty vocational guidance test, to help you pinpoint exactly what job you're best suited for.

You can take the test online right here, and our magical computer interface will calculate your answers and spit out a result: your perfect job. It's totally foolproof. (It's also binding, so, you know, fair warning.) So go ahead, take it!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Boy Wearing Skirt Is a "Distraction"

Posted by Dan Savage on Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 9:44 AM

Having that boy arrested for wearing a skirt and suspending him and making the news and attracting the attention of vicious gay bloggers all over the country? Nothing distracting about that...

Let the real distraction begin...

Coffee High School (Home of the Trojans!)
Principal Greg Tanner
greg.tanner@coffee.k12.ga.us
school 912-384-2094
fax 912-383-4142
159 Trojan Way
Douglas, GA 31533


Superintendent of Coffee County Schools: Dr. Morris Leis
morris.leis@coffee.k12.ga.us
(912) 384-2086 x223
Other BOE members

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ghost Animal's Practice Space at Reed College

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 11:14 AM


We like Lance Bangs lots. The Vice folks, slightly less. (An illuminating scene in the new New York Times documentary Page One indicates that a significant amount of douchebaggery is running that enterprise at the executive level.) But we really like new local duo Ghost Animal, and Bangs along with Vice TV have this quick little video doc/performance that peeks into their rehearsal space at Reed College, along with great-sounding excerpts from "Tired (A Ceremony)," the title track of Ghost Animal's new 12-inch.

via Ghost Animal's Tumblr

End Hits: Ghost Animal is a better name than our band, Dead Pets Society.

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