Getting Back On Track

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.  - Nelson Mandela

Welcome back to school!

After a summer filled with so much uncertainty and tragedy, in our district and across the country, we need to get back on track.  As educators we know there aren’t quick fixes to our societal ills, but done right, education is the foundation for a just and equitable society.


We have something concrete that we can do in the next 83 days to actually improve the lives of every Oregonian—pass Measure 97, the Better Oregon initiative.  Measure 97 will provide our schools with sorely needed resources.   Because right now, our students deserve so much more than they’re getting.

Initially, I was excited about the Better Oregon campaign because I wanted our students to have smaller class sizes, more electives, and new CTE opportunities. But after a summer of senseless murders and fear-mongering politicians, I think there is something much more fundamental at stake.

Our schools need to be able to teach future generations to be great citizens and live side by side respectfully.  In addition to more music and world languages, this requires mental health, counseling and social services available for our students and families.  We cannot begin to heal the divide without a fully-funded public education system.  Measure 97 would actually provide our schools with the resources needed to effectuate what Thomas Jefferson knew to be true:  "If the condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated, as we fondly hope and believe, education is to be the chief instrument in effecting it."

This is why I am asking each of you, from now until November 8th, to get involved in the greatest opportunity to advance public education in our careers—passing the Better Oregon initiative, Measure 97. You’ll learn more about the campaign and how you can help in the coming weeks, but as you start your school year and meet your students you should feel proud of what you’re about to do for them, and for all of us. Thank you in advance. 


This summer Portland residents witnessed what educators have been saying for years, that our district lacks transparency and operates without a clear chain of command. You know firsthand what a struggle it’s been to make sure our contract is followed when it comes to key issues like workload, student discipline, and educator evaluations. And now PPS mismanagement has left many of us questioning the safety of our buildings.

PAT is working with our school board and the interim superintendent to get PPS back on track. 

We will demand that educators are involved in the selection of our next superintendent, and that policies are not created at the top and pushed down on us, but created with us - the educators who actually know our students by name. 

Carole Smith’s departure has left many educators wondering what will happen to our district's focus on equity. We’ll continue to push the District to examine more than just personal biases, including how the District’s structures and systems leave so many students with fewer opportunities than others. We also need professional development and curriculum that meets the needs of our diverse learners. This is why I’m so excited about our new PAT task force on racial equity, which will be reaching out to educators of color to help move this forward.

This is going to be an important year for us. Working together we can make sure our schools have the funding and leadership that students, staff and the community deserve. As we start this new school year, let's remember why we educate.

Let’s use education to change the world.

In Solidarity,

Suzanne Cohen