The Leadership We Need for PPS

In the next few months, PPS will have a new superintendent and could have as many as three new school board members. Given these big changes in our District, it’s an important time for us to reflect on our values and work to ensure our future leaders are prepared to deliver the schools Portland students deserve. We also have to make sure they are ready to lead the fight for great public schools for all Oregonians. 


So far, our involvement in the superintendent search has been productive. We pushed the board to open up the process, and with the announcement of the finalist, Dr. Donyall Dickey, there will be time for public vetting. 

We will be reaching out to educators in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Atlanta to learn more about Dr. Dickey. During the interview, I was impressed with Dr. Dickey’s clarity and vision for teaching and learning. Now we need to confirm that his track record matches the vision of educational leadership he spelled out during the interview process.

Make no mistake, regardless of who our next superintendent or school board members are, the threat to our public schools is immediate and real. In an era of Betsy DeVos, a secretary of education who does not value public schools, we need leaders who are prepared not only to say they support public schools, but are ready to actively fight for them

It’s hard to predict what we will need to do to preserve Portland’s public schools. It may mean refusing federal dollars, or actively fighting against vouchers and other privatization measures. At the state level, we need fierce advocates for additional funding. The failure of Measure 97 spells cuts for PPS unless our future leaders stand up for our schools. As long as corporations aren’t paying their fair share, our students will suffer.

Our priority has always been clear: we need administrators who trust educators. We need someone at the head of PPS who understands that the people on the front lines are the ones who know what our students need to succeed. 

Furthermore, our leaders must have union values and support collective bargaining. Several federal policies on the horizon are a threat to our union and we need leaders who understand the role of collective bargaining in protecting our students’ learning conditions. Portland Public Schools must be led by people who will make our schools safe and healthy. They must understand educational issues, paying extra attention to equity issues affecting our diverse populations and addressing the impact of poverty in the classroom.

With so much upheaval in our District over the past year, I’m excited to see what a strong superintendent and school board could do to secure the future of Portland Public Schools.

In Solidarity,

Suzanne Cohen
PAT President