'Black kids matter,' chanted KairosPDX supporters at Portland school board meeting
This story has been updated.
At the opening of the Portland Public Schools board meeting Tuesday night, the 100 people in the auditorium on North Dixon Street were joined by an overflow of around 150 more.
Friends and family of the KairosPDX charter school put pressure on the school board not to move them again. The charter school that serves 170 K-5 students, most children of color, is in a PPS building that the district wants back.
Several Kairos supporters asked for a five-year lease on their current space at Humboldt Elementary School. After several impassioned speakers used the public comment process to say how Kairos was doing a good job bridging the black educational attainment gap, they broke into chants of "five years" and "black kids matter" and ended with a chorus of "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
Zalika Gardner, cofounder and education director at KairosPDX, said the good turnout was down to wanting to show the board the healing and transformative work that goes on at the school.
"There's no decision to be made today but we wanted to come for public comment, because were asking for a five-year lease now," Gardner said. Being on a year-to-year lease for two years is taking its toll.
"We know there's nothing close we could get into in nine months, so we're saying invest in us, so we can be rooted in this community," she said. "I think we were listened to. You can't doubt the community supports us, but what that means when they go behind closed doors and make policy decisions remains to be seen."
Gardner said she hopes the board decides based on what is right for the kids. "It's a huge venture to make inroads in a community. People have been experimented on too much, they want to know that something is good for their kids. The fact that we have the black community saying they believe in us is huge."
Kali Thorne-Ladd, executive director of KariosPDX, stood up to stop the chanting and tell people to allow the PPS board meeting to go on uninterrupted. Afterwards she told the Tribune the turnout was good because the black community realizes that with test score three-to-six times higher than at similar schools, it felt criminal to have their school disrupted with a change of location. "I think all these other people know that. The community is tired."
Thorne-Ladd says they will go into negotiations with PPS about the lease this week. "I'm hopeful, because I know Portland can do better. I think the black community has spoken and I hope they listen."
Reporter Shasta Kearns Moore contributed to this report.
UPDATE (8/30/18): The number of students at the school and their grade levels was updated.
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