Be transparent and accountable with changes to district equity work; include family voice

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We are writing as parents and families of PPS students, and concerned community members, to compel you to provide schools and families with a transparent explanation and rationale for budget cuts and changes to the Office of Equity and Partnerships.

Racism in this country has amplified since President Trump took office. Families of color in our community, including our students, feel increased fear and hostility.  

District data show 80% of the district's teachers are white; 45% of PPS enrolled students are children of color.  White people in this country, including white teachers, have a long way to go in skillfully handling conversations and situations related to race and racism with students and families.  Given district demographics, teachers and principals navigate racial experiences daily with their students. 

Yet, it appears that Portland Public Schools is dismantling its Office of Equity and Partnerships, starting with the elimination of its Senior Director and its absence from the district's proposed organizational chart. District leadership has provided little to no information publicly about the proposed new "Equity 2.0."  According to a district spokesperson, Superintendent Gurrero views his role as "Chief Equity Officer."  He has not, however, removed other department Chiefs and subsumed their roles, too.  

As parents and families of PPS students this causes us great concern. Moving forward without a clear plan is unacceptable. We see the value when teachers work to create multicultural, inclusive learning environments.  We see the damage when they don't.  We know students of color who experience racism from students, parents, and staff.  Sometimes it's unintentional. Sometimes it's egregious.  In either case, the harm stops students from learning.  It poisons the entire classroom and school climate. 

The teams at PPS’ Office of Equity and Partnerships help school staff and families with issues that impact our students every day and can impact their lives for years to come. If district leadership doesn’t value this work, then what equity work does it value?

In light of the budget cuts and changes to the Office of Equity and Partnerships, we call upon you to immediately provide schools and families with a detailed and transparent explanation of “Equity 2.0.”  We demand to know how this plan was created and why, what it is intended to accomplish, and how it will address problems that district leadership has determined were troubling PPS's equity work.  

We want to know who will be responsible for the day-to-day implementation and oversight of "Equity 2.0" and what resources will be devoted to it.  We want to understand how it will build on the racial equity focus under PPS's investment in Courageous Conversations and Beyond Diversity model, a racial equity approach used in other school districts across the country including St. Paul, MN; Evanston, IL; and Topeka, KS to name a few.  

Most importantly, we demand to know how the district will engage students and families, particularly those of color, to provide on-going input, leadership and guidance in the district’s racial equity work.

 

-Meg Johnson, Alameda Elementary School

-Kamelah Adams, Irvington Elementary School PTA VP of Racial Equity & Inclusion

-Angela Uherbelau, Irvington Elementary School

-Sharon Jimenz Meyers, Alameda Elementary, Beaumont Middle School

-Andrea O'Donnell, Alameda Elementary School, Beaumont Middle School

-Kimmy Scarpine, Alameda Elementary School, Beaumont Middle School, Grant High School

-Christine Svetkovich, Beach Elementary



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