For four years it has been my privilege to represent you on the Portland School Board. When I ran, my priorities were to decrease the high school dropout rate, narrow the achievement gap, increase accountability for teacher performance and equalize opportunities for all children across the district. There has been progress in each of these areas but much more needs to be done. That’s why I am seeking your support for a second term.
Portland loves its public schools. We understand that quality public schools are the heart of every neighborhood and the foundation for a great community. I have worked hard to support initiatives that will make our schools stronger and our students more successful:
- The graduation rate is now at 63%, nine points higher than when I was elected. Over the past two years Roosevelt and Madison have both experienced double digit increases in their graduation rates, and of the students who started in a PPS neighborhood comprehensive or focus high school, 78 % earned a regular diploma in four years. Although the numbers are moving in the right direction this is not enough. Similarly, the achievement gap is narrowing with the largest gap, 30% between white and Hispanic students, narrowing to 19%. We still have significant work to do to make sure every child is achieving, and graduating from our schools.
- A new teacher evaluation system has been initiated and is helping administrators and teachers communicate about how performance can be improved so that students succeed.
- The district completed high school system redesign providing for equitable course offerings across the district for all of our students. We consolidated our high schools to 7 comprehensive high schools and two focus schools - Benson with a focus on Career Technical Education and Jefferson with a middle college program in partnership with PCC. Both of these programs are growing and showing success with our students. And, as noted above the graduation rate at our comprehensive and focus high schools is at 78% for students who started high school in PPS.
- The community passed a local option levy to increase local funding and a new capital bond as the start of a 30 year program to that will revitalize all of our schools. Thank you!
Looking ahead, there are some significant challenges and opportunities. Improving the quality of public education will require focus on doing things differently, not continuing business as usual.
- Funding for schools (70% of which is controlled by the State Legislature) is not adequate. The Governor’s proposed education budget of $6.1 billion still leaves PPS at least $65 million short for a status quo budget. The Ways and Means co-chairs budget of $6.55 billion with an additional $200K from PERS reform is better but still dependant on PERS reform and the courts upholding the legislative changes. As a legislative liason for the Board, I will be lobbying our legislators to increase that amount to at least $6.75 million which provides a hold steady budget for PPS and and avoids cuts again this year.
- The contract with the Portland Association of Teachers expires this year. It is important to use the renewal of the contract as an opportunity to provide more flexibility to match the right teacher with the right classroom assignment, retain the most qualified teachers in times of layoff and flexibility to adjust the schedule and calendar to meet the needs of students.
- In 2013, PPS will begin implementing the bond that was passed in November, to renovate three of our high schools and create a new school on the Faubion site in partnership with Corcordia University and its School of Education. I am a member of the bond oversight committee, and along with the citizen members will closely review the progress we are making and ensure that bond money is spent wisely and according to bond requirements.
- There are still disparities between schools. Most of these are in lower income neighborhoods. This needs to change. I support providing strong comprehensive programs that include music, languages, library and physical education in every school. The Board will continue to examine the viability of all schools to achieve maximum benefits for all children.
- I also support our Educational Equity Policy, and continuing the District's work on Courageous Conversations. With 50% of our students being children of color, it is important to increase our cultural competence to ensure the success of all students.
There are many other issues that come before the school board each year. If there is something that you would like to discuss with me please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I believe that our schools are a reflection of our community, and provide the best opportunity for our future. Our graduates need to be well prepared for their next step whether it is career or college. Who they are and what they will become is important to us, as they will be the ones leading our country and our world in the future.
Pam Knowles for Great Schools 3655 NE Merges Portland, Oregon 97212 503-334-7668