May 2015 Elections: Portland Public Schools, Zone 3 and 7

///May 2015 Elections: Portland Public Schools, Zone 3 and 7

May 2015 Elections: Portland Public Schools, Zone 3 and 7

(Photo: From left to right: Amy Kohnstamm, Bobbie Regan, and Mike Rosen)

Civic Engagement is central to APANO’s mission of ensuring that Asian and Pacific Islanders are fully engaged in the political process, and have opportunities to vote in elections. In order to inform and educate our members about the May 19th special election, we have reached out to candidates who are primarily running for seats on local school boards and institutions of higher education. We will be posting candidate responses (from only those who have responded) on a daily basis.

Candidates have been asked the following questions to engage more directly with constituents, and for voters to be more familiar with their vision and policies. We are giving equal opportunity to all major candidates in the race.

 

 

Portland Public Schools- Zone 3

Amy Kohnstamm and Bobbie Regan

1. How are you qualified to represent the interests and concerns of diverse communities of color, immigrants and refugees?

Kohnstamm- As a parent of three kids attending PPS, a leader of the Portland Schools Foundation / All Hands Raised and Open Meadow alternative schools, and a community activist, I have seen the impact of racial and social inequality on the educational opportunities for Portland students. I am deeply troubled that we are not providing the education that will help students overcome the disadvantages of inequality and this is a primary reason I am running. We cannot continue to have some schools in the district excel, while others are mired in failure. I am running to restore leadership and vision on the school board, beginning with a commitment to an excellent school in every neighborhood. Through my service on the board of Open Meadow, I know that we can make a difference in the lives of students who come from diverse backgrounds and have faced real challenges in the conventional education setting. Applying these proven strategies more broadly across the District with the resources and dedication to see them properly implemented is a key part of why I am running.

Regan- As a Portland Public School Board Member, I have a long record of votes and actions supporting racial equity and immigrant and refugee communities.  I’ve also worked closely with APANO and Executive Director Joseph Santos-Lyons as a member of the City Club’s Friday Forum Committee, where our focus is racial equity/racial justice.

At PPS, I am proud of the work we have done to lay the foundation to close the opportunity gap for our students.  My track record includes passing the PPS Racial Education Equity Policy; setting aside 8% of our budget annually to provide more funds to schools with large numbers of high poverty and historically underserved students; investing nearly $2 million on a multi-year professional development strategy involving Courageous Conversations Around Race to better ensure cultural awareness in our teaching and leadership ranks; and partnering with culturally-specific organizations to better support parent and family engagement.

2. What policies and practices do you support that ensure all Asian and Pacific Islanders can be meaningfully engaged in the decision-making of the institution(s) you would represent if elected?

Kohnstamm- It deeply troubles me that all too often in Portland, communities of color and other historically underserved communities are only engaged regarding policies that will have a direct effect on them after a course of action has been determined. Our parents, families, and community organizations are the most valuable resources we have in developing policy about what we want for our students. As part of my commitment to equity, I plan to put in place on-going opportunities to engage with parents of color and Portland’s communities of color before major decisions.

Regan- Intentionally reaching out to and including parents, families, and community organizations representing culturally-specific groups in our school and district decisions is one of the most important things we can do to support students, including Asian and Pacific Islanders.

Because of this outreach and work, I am honored to have earned the support of diverse community leaders including APANO’s Executive Director Joseph Santos-Lyons, former State Senator Avel Gordly, former School Board member Martin Gonzales, Governor Barbara Roberts, and parent leaders across the city.

3. Oregon currently graduates half of it’s English Language Learners, who make up 10% of the state’s K-12 student population. What policies will you support to ensure that students–including ones who identify as English Language Learner, have access to quality education and career-readiness programs after graduation?

Kohnstamm- Some of our populations of Asian sub-groups are most deeply entrenched in poverty with the greatest challenges for learning English. I would look to strengthen partnerships with IRCO and others to reach our Nepali, Burmese and other students with culturally specific academic supports.

I believe an infusion of resources alone cannot solve the opportunity or achievement gap, but equitable access to sufficient resources is a critical ingredient to raising performance at underperforming schools and among English language learners. I will be a zealous advocate for school funding, as I have been for the last decade. At the same time, we need policies that provide the support to those students to increase achievement, including better access to mentoring and supplemental instruction, early intervention strategies to assist low-performing students, keeping all of our students integrated in their classrooms with targeted English instruction, and culturally responsive teachers and administrators. I will invest in instruction focused on results that respects culture and leads to rapid language proficiency as the foundation for ongoing academic success, and invest in teacher training in methodologies that we know get results for kids.

Regan- We must ensure that the state provides greater levels of funding for emerging bilingual students and that those resources specifically support ELL students.  Oregon’s ELL students need more support in their neighborhood schools, at the school district and from the State.  I support House Bill 3499, a priority for APANO, to provide $12.5 million in improvements for ELL students, and to bring needed urgency and focus to ELL programs.

We must offer all students a rigorous curriculum, have exceedingly high expectations and mentor supports, assist first-generation college students both with the cost and the transition from high school to college, and provide more exposure to career opportunities.

I am a strong proponent and have voted to support the expansion of dual language immersion programs in Portland schools.  Research shows these programs are a proven way to assist emerging bilingual students in retaining their native language and learning English.  Most recently, I voted to support the start of the Vietnamese dual language immersion program, providing critical new supports to students in our third largest language group.  I have been the Board lead on every local teacher levy since 2003 to lower class sizes and offer more individualized attention to students.

4. Access to quality, affordable, and culturally competent health care ensures Oregonians are able to thrive and contribute. Please explain the policies you will support to increase access to care, and address health disparities, specifically for immigrants and refugees.

Kohnstamm- Children must arrive at the classroom healthy and nourished if they are to take full advantage of the educational opportunities available. I am heartened by recent reforms to expand health care access to the entire population, and children and young adults in particular. But there is more work to be done, both in educating culturally diverse populations about the health care resources available and providing services in accessible, culturally sensitive ways. I support the work of school-based health clinics, wraparound services like those provided through the SUN schools, and other methods to ensure children arrive in the classroom ready to learn.

In addition, I recognize that I will not have all the answers on these questions. As I stated earlier, it is my commitment to bring communities of color and other marginalized communities such as those represented by APANO into conversations early so that there can be shared ownership in developing policies that will best address the needs of Portland families.

Regan- Students learn best when they come to school healthy, ready to learn, and have important family and cultural supports in place.  I support APANO’s advocacy on behalf of increasing health care access for Asian and Pacific Islander students and families and to achieve equitable healthcare for all, focusing on immigrants and workers.  Many families in Portland have inconsistent access to culturally competent care and reproductive health services.   This disproportionately affects Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

Portland Public Schools provides healthy, nutritious breakfast and lunch services to low-income students.  In partnership with Multnomah County, we also have health clinics in several of our high schools and some of our middle schools to provide needed and accessible services to students and families.  Next year, we expect to increase mental health services as well, ensuring a full time counselor in every elementary, K-8 and middle school.  Last year, we reduced the counselor to student ratio in our high schools and I have advocated for us to add a full time social worker to our high school staff to ensure adequate supports to our students with information and access to wrap-around services.

5. What policies relevant to your institution(s) do you support that strengthen economic opportunity and jobs for all communities in Oregon?

Kohnstamm- The first step to strengthen economic opportunity and job opportunities for our students is to raise our district wide graduation rate, and eliminate the persistent achievement gap. Our district has been failing for too many years and every year we see students fall through the cracks with little opportunity to get ahead. I believe that it is the responsibility of our school board to bring back the urgency and fix this problem by focusing on what we know works. The surrounding school districts have found better success in increasing their graduation rates with various strategic interventions and I am eager to bring that discipline and focus to Portland Public Schools. I am also a strong supporter of reinvesting in Career and Technical training as early as middle school so every student has the opportunity to get hands-on job skills experience. Every student should have access to resources to graduate high school with a clear direction, whether that be a college, apprenticeship, or entering the workforce.

Regan- Via the PPS Racial Education Equity Policy that was passed during my time on the School Board, we have set ambitious goals to hire and retain minority and bilingual teachers and staff.  Through our contract negotiations, we’re out in the market earlier in the hiring process and we’ve greatly expanded how and where we recruit teachers to ensure a more diverse workforce.  We’ve recently passed an Affirmative Action policy and we’ve also set an aspirational goal in our capital facilities bond work around hiring minority, women and small business contractors, trying to ensure these groups have more access to family-wage jobs.

Portland Public Schools is one of the largest employers in the city and state.  Nearly 85% of families in Portland send their children to Portland Public Schools. Parents of students deserve the same shot at economic opportunities and jobs at PPS as others.  With my support and with the passage of intentional policies in this area, PPS is moving towards having a much more inclusive and intentional focus on expanding opportunities for all communities in Oregon.  This will lift up families and lift up students and it’s the right thing to do.

 

Portland Public Schools- Zone 7

Mike Rosen

1. How are you qualified to represent the interests and concerns of diverse communities of color, immigrants and refugees?  

I don’t believe I will be qualified until I spend more time with the community.  I will say that in my job with the City of Portland, through work with Polo Catalani as part of the Community Watershed Stewardship Program, I think I’ve learned some about the complexities and diversity in this community, in aggregate, and some strategies for initiating meaningful discussion.  As a school board member I expect to bring our board meetings into the community and create other opportunities to get to know one another and build trust.

2. What policies and practices do you support that ensure all Asian and Pacific Islanders can be meaningfully engaged in the decision-making of the institution(s) you would represent if elected?

Policies would include requiring that meetings be planned around culturally specific community needs, beyond providing translation services.  I would like to learn the best ways to communicate ideas and obtain feedback. I would like to learn more about community values and expectations regarding public education.  Including past and current experiences that have shaped community perceptions.  To start, the Board needs to bring routine meetings into the community.

3. Oregon currently graduates half of it’s English Language Learners, who make up 10% of the state’s K-12 student population. What policies will you support to ensure that students–including ones who identify as English Language Learner, have access to quality education and career-readiness programs after graduation?

I first want to make sure English Language Learners have access to a quality K-12 education, and second, make sure they graduate, at much higher rates, career, technical education, or college ready.  I think during the early grades we need to develop the kind of programming that keeps kids engaged and in school, allows us to accurately track performance, and identify additional support needed to help students succeed.  When they reach high school they need to have the skills to ensure timely graduation and that allow them to develop and support post graduation options.  No student should begin or end high school thinking barriers exist to going on to college, career technical education, or gainful employment.

4. Access to quality, affordable, and culturally competent health care ensures Oregonians are able to thrive and contribute. Please explain the policies you will support to increase access to care, and address health disparities, specifically for immigrants and refugees.

I know that access to quality and sustained health care is critical to learning and thriving.  City, county, and state governments must work together to maximize opportunities for all community members to receive treatment by making resources available and adapting treatment methods to address cultural expectations and needs.

5. What policies relevant to your institution(s) do you support that strengthen economic opportunity and jobs for all communities in Oregon?  

During the repair and rebuilding of schools we need to increase the opportunities for minority contractors to present winning bids.  This may be through better incorporation of equity measures in the bidding process, mentorship programs, and sub-contracting options that provide on the job training and capacity building.  We also need to better utilize community based organizations, through contracting, to provide culturally specific services needed by the district to help engage our new community members.

 

Read all of our candidate responses here!

By | 2016-11-18T23:23:41+00:00 May 7th, 2015|Elections, News & Events|