Vicki Cared. Vicki Tried.

Last night, Vicki Phillips presided over her last meeting as Superindendent of Portland Public Schools. As many readers know, she is now headed to Seattle, and a position as head of education giving for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She’ll oversee a $2.3 billion budget.

I do know that Vicki Phillips leaves here with her share of admirers, detractors and those who feel her three-year tenure here was too brief to impose final judgement.

I do not have a child in the Portland Public Schools, so my view of Vicki Philips admittedly cannot be informed by those experiences.

I will say, though, that I’ve always seen something in her eyes, her gait, her manner.

As one who has been around educators, done a bit of educating myself but most importantly as someone who has been interpreting the mannerisms of females ever since childhood with two sisters, I can tell how much Vicki cared about the schoolchildren under her watch.

We have deep educational problems in this city, and nation. Vicki could not have solved them alone. She’s human, and has made mistakes.

But the point is that she tried. And when I look at her face, I see a caring loving person who must have wept, even in her dreams, for the battles not won and the parents not convinced and the children not saved by the light of learning.

Now, far from retreating from a local battle, she has taken the essence of who she is and what she wants to do in this life, to a position where she will lead the public educational support efforts. A position for the world’s largest foundation, with the name of both another passionate educational advocate and the world’s richest man on her door.

Vicki, I can see into your heart. You know there are more battles to fight, children’s minds to be harnessed.

Vicki, there are so many young minds to educate in this demon-haunted world of superstition, illiteracy and ignorance.

So fight the good fight, Vicki.

5 Comments so far

  1. Himself (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 11:30 am

    Vicki Phillips’ “good fight” is the creeping corporatization of our public schools. She has a broad and easily identified neoliberal, “market-based” agenda. We’ve been fed this snake oil by Phillips, her supporters on the school board, and mega foundations Gates and Broad for three years, and we’ve just repudiated it in local school board elections.

    It’s time to stop treating our children as commodities to be bought and sold. Phillips was never so concerned about our children as she is about her career advancement.

    And now the school board, which evidently did not get the memo from the recent election, is using a Web-based “survey” to solicit “community support” for more of the same. I’ve written an analysis of this marketeering quackery on my blog:

  2. Betsy (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 2:15 pm

    Um, I could have done without the whole ‘interpreting the mannerisms of females’ bit – but as someone who has watched Vicki up close, I know that she does indeed care about the kids under her watch – and will continue to care and stay involved in key initiatives, even after she’s moved up north (I heard that directly from her yesterday as she sat next to me; I have no reason to disbelieve her.)

    “We’ve” just repudiated her work via the most recent school board election? Really? There may be *some* parents who are less than thrilled with Phillips – but that hardly represents *all* parents, much less a ringing mandate – especially when 70% of voters decided not to participate at all.

    Sure, she made tough, unpopular decisions. But I know we’d be much worse off had she never landed here to begin with, and I appreciate her work.

  3. Himself (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 2:41 pm

    Betsy, you and I have been around on Vicki Phillips before. No need to rehash it here. But come on. Erstwhile Phillips supporter Doug Morgan lost by 20 percentage points to Neighborhood Schools Alliance founder Ruth Adkins, and big-time Phillips supporter David Wynde barely survived a challenge by an unknown with very little campaign money. How can that be interpreted as anything but a resounding repudiation of the policies Phillips and the Portland Schools Foundation-picked board members have been pushing for the past few years?

    Too many otherwise progressive-minded people have been fooled by their song and dance about “tough choices” and “accountability”, but there is a strong movement against neoliberal, market-based school reform. The local branch of this movement was spearheaded by Ruth Adkins. If you don’t see her victory (and Michelle Shultz’s near miss on Wynde) as a repudiation of Phillips and her ilk, I invite you to take a closer look.

  4. Steve (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

    Hey Himself,

    Funny thing is you did the exact same thing the school board did. You are using the web to market your beliefs and thoughts. So what differentiates you in your approach from the neoliberals as you put it here?

    The core of this post is that Vicki Phillips tried. Even if it is a market based approach, she tried. All you do is attack this form of thought instead of repudiating it. Where is your proof, where are your statistics? Wait, are you trying to use your blog about a web based survey as proof?

    I wonder what makes the Beaverton, Gresham-Barlow, Hillsboro and other districts grow as they do and why Portland is shrinking? Simple demographics… Phillips did the thing no parent or other superintendent wanted to do and that was close schools. Facts are facts, and when your schools attendance is dwindling beyond the point of viability you close them.

    I think the one thing you are so bitter about is the new approach proposed by the Gates foundation and that Phillips decided to be somewhat of a shill for it. Good or bad it was something new to get grades up. Do you yell equally at Vera Katz for her gigantic CIM/CAM blunder? I hope you do.

  5. Himself (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 4:11 pm

    Steve, A public school system acting like a corporation is what I criticize. Using a marketing technique in the guise of soliciting community input is duplicitous at best. A private citizen using the Web for political discussion is democracy in action. I certainly hope you can see the difference, and were just being sarcastic.

    But you bring up a good point: Phillips was good at what she did. Unfortunately, what she did was harmful to neighborhood schools and was in the service of a nefarious agenda.

    It’s not just about closing schools, and it’s not just about demographics.

    You are correct, I’m bitter that the Portland Schools Foundation, Gates and Broad have crammed their hackneyed “reform” philosophy (a philosophy widely rued by actual educators) down the throats of Portland families.

    Phillips got a pass from so many because she carefully managed her image (cf. her outsized PR budget — where’s “accountability” where we really need it?) and always spoke in code about her agenda. If you support that agenda, good for you, but please let’s speak directly about what it is: creeping privatization of our public schools.

    It’s disingenuous to pretend it was anything but that.

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