July 16th, 2010 | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Schools

PPS Won't Release Proposed Central-Office Budget Cuts, Says They're Not Public

Mayor Sam Adams thanks Portland School Board for suspending the redesign

Superintendent Carole Smith announced this afternoon that Portland Public Schools won't have to make as many cuts next year as the district had feared. That's thanks to the promise of new federal funding, which the district says will save many of its previously imperiled teaching jobs.

Now instead of $19 million in cuts, PPS must make $13 million in reductions next year -- 52 positions in the departments for special education and English as a second language, plus another 62 full-time teaching jobs elsewhere in the district. But many questions remain.

Under the latest plans, the superintendent still says she will cut 25 positions from the district's central office. The School Board is set to consider that recommendation at its meeting Monday night, July 19.

But PPS has not answered one central question about those central-office jobs: Which ones will the district cut? Is the district eliminating the person who updates its Facebook page? Or the person who tries to ensure compliance with federal civil-rights laws for kids? The secretary who keeps the financial offices running? Or one of the five projects managers in the district's facilities department? A curriculum specialist? Or a vacant position? A mail clerk? Or one or more of the district's four deputy superintendents?

One can easily see that these choices represent huge questions for the delivery of public education in Portland. Today, however, Portland Public Schools decided the public doesn't need to know the answers to these questions until it's too late to do anything about it.

In response to a public records request from WW that asked for the job titles, departments and salaries of the 25 central-office positions, Jollee Patterson, the school district's general counsel, said no way.

"Release of this specific information at this point, before a final decision has been made and before the individuals who could be impacted have even been notified, would be severely disruptive to the organization and personally damaging to those individuals, and would certainly prevent frank discourse in the future," she wrote. "In addition, this information is protected under the personal privacy exemption, given the severe impact on employees were they to read in the press that their jobs were potentially being eliminated, before that final decision was made and before they could be informed of such in a respectful manner by the district."
 
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