PDX voters, I promised you some juicy school board races. Your ballot for the May 2021 election should be in the mail, so let’s get into all the little details.
Because I am only one human, I’m not covering every possible thing that could be on the ballot if you live in Multnomah County or in Portland. If you write up something about one of the other races, let me know and I’ll add it to this thread.
In the meanwhile, I’m gonna talk about the MESD, PCC, and PPS races, as well as the 26-221 ballot measure in this thread.
First up, the Multnomah Education Service District! @MultnomahESD
is a service district that coordinates activities between the school districts in Multnomah County (Centennial, Corbett, David Douglas, Gresham-Barlow, Parkrose, Portland, Reynolds, and Riverdale).
MESD also directly operates several schools, mostly in Portland. Their budget is ~$70M, with about half that coming from property taxes.
MESD is overseen by seven directors, who are elected to the board for four-year terms. Two directors are elected at-large, while the rest are elected to represent specific zones. Board members aren’t paid for their time.
Currently, MESD is searching for a new superintendent. They’re expected to make their selection towards the end of May, so whoever wins board seats in the May election will be working with a brand new superintendent. https://www.multnomahesd.org/superintendent-search.html
This year, four seats on the MESD board are up for election. Two candidates are running for Position 2, which is one of the at-large seats: Helen Ying (the incumbent) and Leo Morley.
Helen Ying is a retired public school teacher and vice principal. She’s focused on building more culturally inclusive programs and creating greater visibility for MESD. There’s more at on her site at https://www.helenformesd.com/
This testimony from Helen to the state legislature about reviewing MESD policies with a cultural lens, including ending discrimination against job applicants for prior nonviolent criminal offenses, gives insight towards the work Helen has done already. https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2021R1/Downloads/PublicTestimonyDocument/3543
I wasn’t able to find any information on Leo Morley beyond his candidate registration paperwork and voter pamphlet bio, which both note that he’s a landlord and a veteran and that if elected, he’d focus on creating school voucher programs and charter schools.
There are also two candidates for Position 3, which represents Zone 2 (which is, um, a counterintuitive title at best): Mary Botkin (incumbent) and Walt Karnstein.
Mary Botkin is experienced in political arenas. She was the legislative / political director at AFSCME for more than 20 years prior to joining the MESD board. This 2007 article on her work on a bill as a labor lobbyist was particularly interesting https://nwlaborpress.org/2007/03/lobbyist-labor/
Other than occasional mentions of his work as an intellectual property attorney, I couldn’t find much about Walt Karnstein. I’m not going to include any of those links, because none of them really demonstrate any skill or knowledge relevant to MESD’s work.
Next up is the race for Position 4, which represents Zone 4 (which seems like a much more sensible title). The two candidates are Jessica Arzate (incumbent) and Gabriel Braet.
Jessica Arzate’s work at MESD so far has focused around equity and she plans to continue that work by diversifying the educator workforce, using trauma-informed practices and providing mental health support for students.
Jessica works at an education nonprofit and has also worked as a teacher, including as an ESL instructor. You can find more at https://www.votearzate.com/
Gabriel Braet doesn't seem like a good candidate for an MESD seat. His relevant experience includes serving as president of the Southern Oregon University’s College Republicans in 2020 and joining a think tank and a PAC associated with the right wing after graduation last year.
Two candidates are running for Position 1, which represents Zone 5 (and, yep, back to not following any discernible numbering pattern). Those candidates are Amanda Squiemphen-Yazzie and Susie Jones (incumbent).
Y’all may have gotten a preview of my feelings about Amanda Squiemphen-Yazzie’s amazingly inclusive campaign website already, which I still feel is *chef’s kiss* https://twitter.com/thursdayb/status/1383098144427155456
While that’s enough to convince me to vote for Amanda, the rest of you might like to know that Amanda is focused on equity, including campaigning to use a trauma-informed lens, build transparency, and diversify staff. She’s worked in politics previously.
Amanda is also a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, which includes three tribes that lived along the Columbia River prior colonization. You can learn more about Amanda at https://www.amandafororegon.com
Susie Jones is currently an MESD director, as well as a retired high school and community college teacher. She’s campaigning on a platform of fiscal oversight, transparency, equitable education.
Alright, that’s MESD sorted for May 2021. Take a deep breath, look at this tiny adorable animal, etc
Portland Community College is next. With an enrollment of over 80k students across 9 locations, @PortlandCC
educates an incredible number of Portlanders. But PCC is on a cusp: the school’s vp is retiring in December and the pres is retiring in June 2022. https://www.opb.org/article/2021/04/16/portland-community-college-leaders-to-retire/
The next PCC board will set the direction for PCC for years to come as they conduct a search for a new president, who will, in turn, handle hiring the next permanent executive vp. Board members are also responsible for approving policies, budgets, and major expenditures for PCC.
Seven members are elected to the PCC board of directors for four-year terms, based on the zones they live in. Five of those seats are up for election in May.
First up, there’s Zone 1, where Laurie J. Cremona Wagner is running unchallenged. The incumbent, Denise Frisbee, isn’t seeking reelection.
Laurie works as an executive at Oracle. She has lots of political connections: She sits on the Oregon Workforce and Talent Development Board,and her spouse is a state senator + former chair of the Lake Oswego school board. More about Laurie is available at https://www.facebook.com/laurieforpcc/
Next is Zone 4, with three candidates. Jim Harper, the incumbent, is running for reelection. He has a long relationship with PCC, where he started as a student, has been on the board off and on since 2005 (including 3 stints as chair), and sits on the PCC Foundation board.
Jim consistently focuses on student success, accessibility, and affordability.
Serin Bussell is campaigning on similar issues, but is talking about some really interesting specific policies: reduce or eliminate tuition costs, provide healthcare for students and staff, improve housing and food security for students.
Serin has worked for multiple state agencies, and seems knowledgeable enough about the nuts and bolts to make some progress on those aims. More on Serin is available at https://serinbussell.com/
While all of these positions are nonpartisan, it’s generally easy to figure out which way an individual candidate leans. For instance, the third candidate for Zone 4 advocates for fascist policies. I don’t feel a need to dig into their materials further; hard pass.
Moving on to the Zone 5 seat, incumbent director Dan Saltzman is running unopposed for reelection. Yep, the same Dan Saltzman who sat five consecutive terms on the city council.
If you want a trip down memory lane, here’s some reporting on his announcement of not seeking reelection to the Portland city council and reflections about Saltzman’s attendance (or lack thereof) https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2017/09/portland_commissioner_dan_salt.html
While Dan is running unchallenged, I think we need to still talk about what his continuing candidacies mean.
He listed occupation as “community volunteer” on candidate registration form, but he comes from familial wealth that included substantial downtown real estate as of 5 years ago https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2015/05/portland_commissioner_dan_salt_13.html
Yes, Dan also has a long connection to PCC, having sat on the board from 1989 to 1999, but that alone is not enough to get me to work up enthusiasm about giving power to someone who is already so thoroughly enfranchised by the system.
The incumbent for Zone 6, Mohamed Alyajouri, is running unopposed. He works as a primary care practice manager at OHSU. He has more information about his campaign at https://www.facebook.com/AlyajouriPCC/
This piece in the Oregonian, where Mohamed reflected on the 29th anniversary of his immigration from Yemen, offers insight into his approaches to both politics and education. https://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/2018/01/the_reawakening_of_our_civic_a.html
The Zone 7 seat is up for grabs — the incumbent isn’t running for reelection. The two candidates up for your consideration are Kristi Wilson and Reiko Williams.
Reiko Williams is currently the principal of Sabin Elementary School. She holds multiple graduate degrees in education policy and leadership, bringing a wealth of subject matter expertise to the table.
Reiko has also taught at PCC, so she has personal knowledge of the institution. One of her key campaign issues is better connecting PCC with Portland’s K-12 programs, something she’s uniquely positioned to work on. More about Reiko’s campaign is at https://reikoforpcc.com/
Kristi Wilson is a PCC alum who works on workforce development for the city of Hillsboro. Perhaps not surprisingly, workforce dev is one of the topics Kristi’s focused on, along with student success, equity, and accessibility. Her campaign site is https://electkristiwilson.com/
Alright, let’s have another cute animal break, since we finished the PCC board races https://twitter.com/OregonZoo/status/1385612987679997952
The last set of races I’m going to cover are the races for the Portland school board @PPSConnect
. 7 directors sit on the board and 3 seats are up for grabs during this election.
Some important context: auditors from the Oregon Department of Education released a major audit of Portland public schools in 2019 that reported an achievement gap of more than 50% between White and Black students https://sos.oregon.gov/audits/Documents/2019-01.pdf
As of a year ago, under many of the school board members running for reelection this year, only 2 of the 15 recommendations auditors made had been implemented https://www.opb.org/news/article/portland-public-schools-audit-1-year-later/
Now that I’ve set the scene, we’re going to talk about the most complicated race on the ballot locally this year: Portland School Board Zone 4. Sit down, strap in, and hold on.
Filing for this race was *ahem* complicated — no one filed to run until late March. The first to file was Margo Logan. Logan is, among other things, a Qanon adherent. That’s a problem, made worse by the fact that Zone 4 represents North Portland.
Brooklyn Sherman, who is probably the candidate who has been preparing their run the longest, filed 2nd. The parents, teachers, and other activists who work on local school board races didn’t put their support behind Sherman, likely because Sherman graduated high school in 2020.
Existing school board members and Democractic activists recruited hard, resulting in multiple filers (including #4 Tammy Correa and #7 Herman Greene). Filers #3, #4, #5, and #6 then dropped out to support Tammy’s run.
Tammy then dropped out to support Herman (possibly due in part to pressure from Herman). Due to the confusion and concerns around Herman’s campaign, write-in candidate Jaime Cale stepped forward, albeit after the filing deadline.
So let’s talk about the individual candidates who are on the ballot and running write-in campaigns, in order of filing.
Margo Logan is a bad candidate for any education-related position: She wants to downsize schools, because, as she literally told the Portland Monthly “It only takes eight weeks to learn how to read.” Logan also doesn’t believe in climate change or pandemics.
Brooklyn Sherman definitely has the most recent experience with learning under the school board’s policies. He graduated from Jefferson High School in 2020 and, as a student, Brooklyn ran multiple clubs, taught elective classes to elementary students, and advocated for peers.
Brooklyn arguably has the clearest campaign platform: he wants to focus on building repairs, improving special education programs, and improving ESL programs. You can learn more about Brooklyn at https://www.shermanforpps.com/
Herman Greene is campaigning on several key issues: improving graduation rates, equity, and building stronger connections to community colleges and skills development programs.
Herman is the pastor at Abundant Life PDX and a community justice advocate. He’s been involved in North Portland schools as a parent. More about Herman is available at http://HermanGreeneforPortland.com
Maybe the most important thing about Herman’s run, however, is that the Portland Association of Teachers has endorsed his candidacy.
When it comes to endorsements in school board races, I feel like the only endorsements that really matter are the local teachers’ union and those of youth activists actually attending the schools a board controls.
Write-in candidate Jaime Cale works at Rosa Parks Elementary School and is a parent, active around issues of equity (including around pandemic equity). More about Jaime is available at http://CaleConnectingPDX.com
So, who should you vote for in this complicated situation? I struggled on this one.
In a fair race, a recent student who has been making a difference for his peers and wants to go on working to improve the system seems like an ideal candidate, as does a parent activist with a consistent track record of speaking out on equity questions.
But write-in campaigns don’t tend to go well in Portland; in this race, write-in votes are only tallied if the total number of write-in votes is larger than the number of votes for the leading candidate on the ballot.
Portlanders also have a history of badmouthing write-in candidates, especially women of color. And given how many parents, activists, and politicians jumped to make sure older candidates ran, there seems to be too much ageism in play to give young candidates a fair chance here.
Personally, I’m going to rely on PAT’s endorsement to guide my decision making here — it’s a clear signal that at least some of the people directly impacted by the Portland school board’s decisions will be heard.
But this is definitely one of those races that makes me wish our various local governments would implement ranked choice voting.
Zone 5 is, thankfully, more straightforward with just two candidates running: Gary Hollands and Daniel Rodgers.
Gary is PAT’s pick for the seat. He’s previously served on the MESD board, as well as serving as the executive director of the Albina Sports Program. Gary also has entrepreneurial experience through founding the Interstate Trucking Academy and running an investment company.
He’s focused on issues of equity, career training, and diversifying staff. On that last point, it’s worth noting that Gary is married to the PPS director of diversity and workforce development. More information is at https://www.garyhollands.com/
Daniel Rodgers is a physician at the Portland Clinic, with minimal information online not related to his medical practice https://www.theportlandclinic.com/doctor/dan-rodgers/
The Zone 6 race is another one that’s not quite so simple. There are three candidates — Julia Brim-Edwards, Matthew (Max) Margolis, and Libby Glynn. PAT is explicitly not endorsing anyone in this race. https://www.pdxteachers.org/pps_school_board_endorsements
If that seems like a pointed move in the face of Julia’s run as an incumbent, well, yes, it is. Julia’s running for her second consecutive term, third term overall.
There have been a lot of questions about process and decision making under her lead including some work with the new secretary of state and the 2019 audit I mentioned earlier. https://www.opb.org/news/article/portland-school-board-member-ends-voluntary-work-secretary-of-state/
Julia also has connections to a lot of power that give me pause about what constituencies she’ll prioritize: Julia works as Nike’s Global Senior Director for the Government & Public Affairs (including heading a PAC for Nike)...
sits on the board of trustees of both Oregon State University and Pacific University, and is married to a state legislator (formerly a state treasurer). That’s a lot of power concentrated in one place.
Matthew (Max) Margolis formerly worked in youth drug prevention and in crime prevention, when his child was born, he became a full-time dad and a reading tutor.
While Max is focused on important issues like addressing the achievement chasm, improving the PPS website, and implementing a continuous improvement plan, he’s written op eds that imply he hasn’t internalized key community safety concepts (including one on the Red House).
The third candidate on the ballot is Libby Glynn, the co-president of the PTA at Bridger School. She’s campaigning on improving equity. Libby’s website has more information https://libbyglynn.com/
Without an endorsement to guide me, I’m struggling with this race. I know I don’t want to vote for the incumbent or someone who may struggle with equity, which leaves one option, I guess.
Okay, I know that the Portland school board races are a lot, but we’re done with them! Another relaxing animal, a ballot issue, and then this thread will be done. https://twitter.com/OregonZoo/status/1384258505108983812
Measure 26-221 is a ballot measure to renew Multnomah County’s five-year levy to fund the Oregon Historical Society’s library, museum, and educational programs.
Measure 26-221 also funds the Gresham Historical Society, the Troutdale Historical Society, the Crown Point Country Historical Society, and the Fairview-Rockwood-Wilkes Historical Society.
The levy is five cents per $1,000 of assessed value (about $10 per year for the owners of a house worth $200K) and covers about a third of OHS’s operating budget, while the rest comes from admissions, grants and private donations.
In return, Multnomah County residents get free admission to OHS (visitors otherwise pay between $5 and $10. It’s worth nothing that OHS is a private museum, not publicly owned.
An independent citizens committee appointed by the Multnomah County Chair does provide some public oversight.
The current OHS strategic plan prioritizes equity (both in changing the institution and in showing equitable perspectives on the Oregon experience), fostering evidence-based and transparent processes, building community connections...
but doesn’t really cover some key underlying work, like OHS’ need to develop a more diverse board. https://www.ohs.org/about-us/strategic-plan.cfm
The League of Women Voters of Portland created a nonpartisan report on the measure that goes more in depth https://lwvpdx.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Measure-26-221-Five-year-OHS-Levy.pdf
That’s everything I wanted to cover for this election. I know this is a monster thread, so have another cute animal to reward yourself for getting this far. https://twitter.com/OregonZoo/status/1386703913756217344
If you found this thread helpful in voting or better understanding PDX's educational politics, please donate to this GoFundMe covering the costs of testing the chemicals Portland police officers use on members of our community. This is vital research! https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-us-study-chemical-weapon-impact-in-portland
If you want to read even more about these topics, here are some links worth reading: Multnomah County Election Division’s landing page for the May 2021 election: https://multco.us/elections/may-18-2021-special-election
The Portland Association of Teachers’ endorsements for the May 2021 school board election: https://www.pdxteachers.org/pps_school_board_endorsements
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.