Pam Knowles For Portland Schools

Les AuCoin

As a former U.S. congressman who worked with a long line of local Portland leaders, I support Pam Knowles for the Portland School Board. Having known her and watched her leadership for three decades, I believe that she alone in this race will do the job we need for children, teachers and parents.

You don't have to take my word alone when I say that Pam has the experience, personal skills, and imagination to help elevate the Portland schools. She is also endorsed by former Gov. Barbara Roberts, Portland Mayor Vera Katz, retired State Supreme Court Justice Betty Robers, and a long string of other leaders who have devoted their lives to Oregon's future.

Pam's candidacy has also just about cornered the market in local editorial opinion, with endorsements by The Oregonian, Willamette Week and the Portland Tribune. Other supporters include the Service Employees Union (SEIU Local 503) and Multnomah Youth Commission.

Why has Pam won such support, and earned your vote? She has worked for families and children for over 30 years, beginning as a high school social studies teacher and a founding member and the Chair of the Oregon Child Care Commission, where she successfully lobbied for parental and family leave as well as statewide childcare resource and referral. She was also president of the Buckman Elementary PTA, and led the charge developing an Arts Education Plan for Portland Public Schools and was a founder of Davinci Arts Middle School.

Most recently Pam has brought more resources to Portland's schools through her work on the Right Brain Initiative, bringing more arts into the schools, and the Nike School Innovation Fund, funding summer kindergarten academies for at risk students and principal professional development. Pam is on the Mayor and County Chair’s Education Strategic Task Force, which is focusing on cutting the 42% drop out rate in half--half!-- by 2011.

The Oregonian editorial board put it well: "Pam Knowles would make the Portland School Board more effective, focused and gutsy." It pinpoints Pam as the most qualified candidate in the race. Willamette Week notes that Pam is "knowledgeable about schools and dedicated to making them better...[and] the more appropriate successor to Hennings.”

I would put it this way: every once in a while, a true gem of a leader comes along who raises the level of play of all with whom they come into contact. Pam Knowles that kind of person. Attorney, activist, mom, and public citizen, she will bring to the schools a keen mind, vast background and a winning personality to pull people together to achieve high educational goals.

Which is exactly what Portland's kids deserve. Now.

  • Cafe Today (unverified)

    Geeze, I didn't realize she was the second coming...

    Come on now, you might argue that she'd be better than Bailey (I would disagree, but you could argue), but "true gem of a leader"? "She alone in this race will do the job"?

    Let's be honest. This is a matchup of two strong candidates, neither of whom is a clear choice over the other.

    Stand for Children and the Portland teachers think Scott Bailey's the guy; the newspapers like Knowles. Tough call, but her PBA affiliation loses it for me.

  • (Show?)

    I wish we could have both Pam and Scott on the school board. We are suffering from an embarassment of riches in their talents. This is an incredibly difficult choice. Instead of the "lesser of two evils" we have to choose the "better of two goods".

  • Scott J (unverified)

    How does she, or anyone else propose to cut the dropout rate?

    What is the number one suggestion to accomplish this?

  • PPS mom (unverified)

    Scott addresses this on his website in a few ways - He was part of a team in the Vancouver School District (where he works as an economist) that developed a high school curriculum to connect kids to real world goals, which helps keep them in school. Currently, PPS focuses on preparation for a four year college, which leaves a lot of kids out and doesn't provide them a relevant goal to work towards. He believes that every school should have some kind of technical program (and unfortunately, this takes money, so that is another piece). He also supports a couple of initiatives that PPS, in partnership with several other organizations, that identify kids in 6th & 9th grade that are floundering and at risk of dropping out, and provides them with extra support and services to get them up to speed, and engaged. It starts on a limited basis (1500 kids) this summer. Also, the suspension and expulsion rates for kids of color are very high. This in effect pushes kids out of school. He supports professional development for staff to address this issue and change it. These are a few of the things that can ease the dropout rate.

  • Rob B. (unverified)

    Good points, Les!

  • Brad C. (unverified)

    Re: Cafe Today's comment

    She also has SEIU, Governor Barbara Roberts, Vera Katz and lots more.

    More than the newspapers

  • Zarwen (unverified)

    John Calhoun wrote:

    "We are suffering from an embarassment of riches in their talents."

    The same could be said of the candidates in Zone 4. Too bad Zone 6 suffers no such embarassment.

  • (Show?)

    I am supporting Scott, who I have been aware of for years as on of those people fighting in the trenches for Portland schools forever and a day. But I agree with John about the embarrassment of riches. I am impressed with Pam's campaign and the quality of people supporting her, and I too wish we could have them both. (And I hate to be on the opposite side of Les!)

  • Aaron V. (unverified)

    Portland Business Alliance chief operating officer and general counsel Pam Knowles for school board? No thanks.

    I don't want a member of that pernicious shadow government in power.

  • Steve Buel (unverified)

    My concern with Pam Knowles is whether she realizes many of the major problems facing Portland schools are pretty much created by the inequities within the system. When I look at the people supporting her I don't see people who have led on this issue. It is not the mayor's committee on education who are going to make the schools work -- it is the school district itself. As long as the district and the "educational leaders" in the city refuse to address the inequties in the system in a meaningful way we will have a huge undereducated segment of young people in Portland. And we will continue to not only have the massive dropout problem, but also way too many kids who are focussed on gangs, drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, and crime. Hence, Portland remains in a service economy not a knowledge economy. Carole Smith is doing some things, though not enough, and the question is whether Scott or Knowles understand how important this issue is to Portland. We have gone long enough with people leading our schools and our city who don't "get it".

  • Joe Hill (unverified)

    To have the head of the Portland Business Alliance as a member of the Board of Education is a non-starter for me. The project of education is simply separate from the project of business, and the two are far too entangled already both in public policy and in the public imagination.

    But an even larger question is this one: the business community has been, in both overt positive ways and by silently standing by, complicit in the racist "school choice" policy that has seen schools in largely "white" neighborhoods gain students, programs, and dollars at the expense of schools in more ethnically diverse neighborhoods. By now this is scandalously obvious, and yet Ms. Knowles seems to substantially stand by this policy.

    Doesn't this alone disqualify her from any serious consideration as a progressive voice on the subject of education in Portland?

    The endorsements do not impress me. Tell me what Ms. Knowles will do, on a practical level, to make sure that students at Madison, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Marshall High Schools have the equal opportunity at their schools to take EVERY COURSE that the students at Lincoln, Cleveland, Wilson, etc. do. Until this is the case, equity is simply a word used to bamboozle us po' folks.

    EVERY COURSE. No exceptions. Nobody gets Mandarin until everyone does. Strong, vibrant, neighborhood schools for all of us.

    As Brecht sang: "Everything or nothing All of us or none!"

  • Les AuCoin (unverified)

    My, my. Such vituperation! I think these blogging supporters of Pam's opponent ought to take a Valium. They'd have us think that Pam's affiliation with the Portland Business Alliance neuters the backing she's received from some of the most prominent liberal elected officials in the state--people who know what it's like to live in the arena and have laid it on the line for Oregon? Please!

    This brings up another thing I like about Pam. She's not into trash-talking her opponent.

  • Les AuCoin (unverified)

    . . . Leaders like Betty Roberts, a Pam Knowles supporter, who is lionized elsewhere here in Blue Oregon.

  • Joe Hill (unverified)

    Mr. AuCoin, with all respect to your contribution, I wonder if you might address the specific criticisms rather than simply label them as vituperation and advise us to take a Valium.

    Some of the folks here agree with you.

    Some don't, but see it as a close call.

    Others, like myself, see Ms. Knowles affliation with the Portland Business Alliance as problematic on a board of education.

    Others, including myself, would like to know if Ms. Knowles will commit herself to ending the "school choice" policy that has so seriously disadvantaged Portland's ethnically diverse schools.

    Now, these seem to me to be serious, legitimate issues. Might you, Ms. Knowles, or another of Ms. Knowles' supporters address them?

  • Joe Hill (unverified)

    . . . and, for the record, I am not in particular a supporter of Pam's opponent, and I hope to gain the same information from Mr. Bailey about his commitment to equity through ending the "school choice" system. Sorry if there was some confusion about that. The questions are genuine, not a hit job.

  • Steve Buel (unverified)

    Mr. Aucoin, unbelievable retort from someone with your background and experience. I am running myself and not in Pam's race and didn't decide in that race until a short time ago. Not everyone is motivated by political motives, in fact, there are a lot of people working on lobbying for an equitable school system in Portland who are motivated by trying to help kids from lower income neighborhoods in Portland get a decent education. We would love for someone of your stature to get on board in that endeavor. Your comments seem like just another example of the attempt to marginalize the supporters of real equity within Portland's schools. Why you might ask would you and others do that? Simple -- there are only so many resources to go around and if they are shared equally then there is a real fear that some upper income neighborhoods will lose some they have garnered through their "enhanced" political control.

    P.S. I think it would be good to have a solid business person on the school board. But Mr. Hills comments about the major business leaders in Portland -- as well as the major education leaders, such a Stand for Children who support Bailey -- being complicit by inaction in not helping straighten out the educational messes in lower income neighborhood schools is accurate. People who have really paid attention get this.

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