• PPS Statement on Secretary of State's Office Follow-up Recommendations to 2019 Audit

    Joint Statement from Amy Kohnstamm, Chair of the PPS School Board Audit Committee, and Jonathan Garcia, PPS Chief of Staff, on the Secretary of State’s Office follow-up recommendations to 2019 audit:

    Today, the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office released a set of follow-up recommendations from its 2019 audit to Portland Public Schools (PPS) and the PPS Board of Education.

    We appreciate the Oregon Audits Division for sharing its thoughts on the issues facing PPS. We agree: PPS still has substantial work to do to improve results for Black, Indigenous and Students of Color (BIPOC). The School Board and Senior Leadership of PPS–the majority of whom are people of color–strive every day to undo these unacceptable realities. We are motivated to create a more positive counter narrative, precisely because the historical record in American public education is so dismal for students of color. This has been our senior leadership team’s commitment from day one at PPS.

    Despite the significant impacts of the global pandemic, which disrupted school operations and exacerbated the racial inequalities in our society, PPS made significant progress on 13 of the 15 recommendations made by the Secretary of State’s Office in 2019, having fully implemented the additional two. We appreciate today’s report acknowledging the challenges of the pandemic and the significant progress that has been made.

    This includes significant progress to:

      • Improve support for high-poverty schools, adding training, student and family supports, and additional staff including counselors and assistant principals.
      • Prioritize decision making through a racial equity lens, evidenced by an increased investment in instructional staff development at schools serving a large number of students of color.
      • Develop a multi-year strategic plan, improved budget transparency, and improved purchasing card management and contract management.

    Since 2019, PPS has worked with the state auditors, providing regular updates on progress. Our work on the issues identified predate this audit, and continues under the leadership of Superintendent Guerrero and the School Board. Complex and deeply entrenched racist systems will take strategic and deliberate action to dismantle, guided by our unapologetic and relentless commitment to lifting up positive learning experiences for our BIPOC students. PPS will be guided by our community’s vision for our graduates, striving to make school a joyful and rich learning environment for every student.

    Lastly, we remain undeterred. Secretary Fagan’s statement is right, this work is deeply personal for us, too. Superintendent Guerrero, Chair DePass and the majority of our PPS senior leadership have dedicated their entire careers to lifting up the experience of Black and Brown students, in part because they, too, went through an American education system that was not designed for them to succeed.

    We look forward to the progress ahead and, as our School Board Chair and Vice Chair shared last month, "We invite the critics and supporters among us to join this effort.”