• Board report: Proclamation recognizes National Arab American Heritage Month

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     Arab American Heritage Month poster

    Courtesy of arabamerica.com

    April is National Arab American Heritage Month, and Portland Public Schools has joined the recognition of the important contributions by Arab Americans.

    At its April 9 meeting, the Board of Education issued a proclamation recognizing the month in PPS. The proclamation noted that "for over a century, Arab Americans have been making valuable contributions to virtually every aspect of American society: in science, medicine, law, business, education, technology, government, military service, culture."

    It also noted that Vic Atiyeh, who when he served as the 32nd governor of the state of Oregon, from 1979 to 1987, became the country's first Arab American governor.

    Although there are several definitions of Arab American, the Arab American Institute – a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 1985 to “nurture and encourage the direct participation of Arab Americans in political and civic life in the United States,” offers this definition:

    “We are a diverse community of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants, three and one-half million strong, who have come from throughout the Arab world. We are Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Jordanians, and Yemenis – from North Africa to Southwest Asia. We are Christians and Muslims.”

    In PPS, 264 students identified as having Arab heritage in registration forms filled out by their parents or guardians. Although language isn’t a determinant of being Arab American, Arabic is a common language for families of Arab descent, and 172 students in PPS come from homes where Arabic is spoken.

    Read the full Board proclamation

    The Board also introduced two policy revisions for first readings at the April 9 meeting:

    Civic use of buildings: The Board introduced amendments to district policy that guides the use of school buildings during non-school hours and days. The amendment adds a waiver process for custodial fees at Title I schools, schools with a majority of historically underserved students, and schools identified for improvement by the district.

    The proposed waiver comes in response to testimony by the Scott Elementary School PTA. The testimony spotlighted the fact that custodial fees can be a hardship for support organizations from Title I schools such as Scott, which can have limited fundraising capabilities.

    The policy was originally written in 1973 and was amended 10 times before undergoing a full rewrite in 2016.

    Read Board materials on the amendment

    Capital asset renewal funds and plans: The Board introduced a revision to the policy that governs how the district can use money gained through an existing construction excise tax (CET). In 2008, the Board approved using CET money for school improvements, and in 2012 passed the Capital Asset Renewal (CAR) Plan that included a provision limiting a portion of CET funds to paying for only ongoing projects.

    The revision removes that limit, allowing the district to use CET money to address deteriorating buildings in older facilities. They include storm water drainage and paving repair at Rieke, foundation and floor settlement at Stephenson, bleacher repairs/replacements across the district, cafeteria floor replacement at Lane, and foundation repair and storm water mitigation at Gray.

    Read Board materials on the revision

    The CUB and capital asset policy revisions are now in a 21-day public comment period. Anyone who would like to offer comment can do so in three ways before 5 p.m. April 30, when the comment period ends: