Steve Buel, the retired teacher who returned to the Portland school board this year after a 32-year absence, has made no secret of his unhappiness since winning election.
At meetings of the seven-member board, Buel has voiced concerns about the lack of discussion and debate; about board members' unwillingness to engage with members of the public during public comments periods; and, at what he says is the board's proclivity for doing business behind closed doors.
On Tuesday, following a sometimes-contentious board meeting Monday evening, Buel expressed his frustration on Facebook.
Here's what he wrote:
HIDING FROM THE LIGHT
Last evening I brought a motion at the board meeting and a majority of the board voted against even hearing what it was. It occurred to me the PPS board and our administration have many different ways in which we try to hide what is happening.
Nelson Mandela has a famous quote which goes, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. “ I think this rings true for us as a board and for the way Superintendent Smith runs her administration. The more we hide things, the more we give permission for other district leaders to hide things. Instead, we need to open up the whole process and address the problems so we can solve them. Right now, we work hard at keeping them in the darkness.
Here are many of the ways we do this:
1) Greg Belisle and Superintendent Smith are only willing to allow items on the agenda they approve. This keeps hidden many of the issues other board members might raise.
2) A majority of the board refuses to allow resolutions to be brought forward which have not been preapproved. Unless it is vetted in the backrooms, it can’t even be voted upon.
3) In negotiations board members are restricted from attending mediation sessions to learn what is going on. Yet the board is in charge of making the final decision.
4) The reports to the board from the negotiation team are sketchy at best and include very little detail. This further keeps some board members ignorant of what is really happening. And knowledge is power.
5) Staff reports to board members and those in general are often written glossing over the issues raised by citizens and reflect instead the “company line”. Hence, it is extremely difficult for a board member to get a good handle on a district issue.
6) The budget is written in a manner which makes it pretty much indecipherable to the average citizen preventing close scrutiny by the public.
7) We stop the district budget committee from getting documents they need to do their work.
Many of our procedures which are used to assess difficulties in the district are weighted in favor of making the district look good as opposed to being fair.
9) Obtaining public records in PPS is astronomically hard and delayed beyond anything which is reasonable.
10) We often use the idea of “community” decision making to mask that we actually made the decision. If we have a community forum on a topic, then this often means we consider the topic resolved.
11) We stall with the response, “We are working on that”.
12) We restrict teachers from teaching then hold them responsible for the outcomes.
13) We blame our response to federal and state mandates on the federal and state mandates instead of on our response to them.
14) We often control the committee structures so they don’t include people who might give us a different perspective (sadly, this can mean teachers in general) or we structure the committee agendas to only include those issues we want to be addressed.
15) We have an administrative culture which rewards loyalty as opposed to initiative and true leadership.
16) We focus on adults as opposed to working on problems which directly impact children in the classroom. The district spends millions on Courageous Conversations while culturally relevant curriculum goes lacking.
17) We say we will work on a problem in the future, but the future never comes.
18) Some administrators will lie by omission and some will just dead out lie.