Several PPS board members remain undecided on future
Shanice Clarke, program coordinator for the Pan-African Commons Student Center at Portland State University, is the first candidate to file for any of the four seats open on the Portland school board.
Clark is running for the seat held by Paul Anthony, who has said he will seek re-election to his post representing inner eastside Portland. So far, the other three incumbents whose terms are up, Amy Kohnstamm, Mike Rosen and board Vice Chair Julie Esparza Brown, have not signaled if they will seek re-election.
The filing period started Feb. 11, but candidates have until March 21 to enter the race.
Ballots for the May 21 election get mailed to voters on May 1.
"There's still a lot of really good work I can do for the kids and the schools," Anthony said. "A lot of the problems I ran to try to solve are a little better, but nothing is completely solved yet."
He said his biggest campaign issue will be addressing the "grossly inequitable programming" in schools in different parts of the city.
If Clark is elected, she would be the only African-American on the board, which oversees a school district that is 20 percent black or mixed-race. At 26 years old, she'll also be the youngest school board member. Her campaign website describes her as "an educator, an advocate, and a progressive community organizer who proudly calls Portland home — I care deeply about our students, families and education professionals."
Her candidate filing lists no experience in government.
Kohnstamm, Rosen and Esparza Brown said in recent interviews they remain undecided.
Rosen, who represents Southeast Portland, said he wants to be "deliberative" in making a decision that is a "big commitment."
In 2015, Kohnstamm beat out incumbent Bobbie Regan in a tightly contested race to represent Northwest Portland. Donors sank over $200,000 into that race. This year, Kohnstamm said she is taking her time to consider running again.
"I have been in conversation with people around the city encouraging good candidates to run in each the zones," she wrote in an email to the Tribune. "This is a time of critical transformation for PPS, under the leadership of our new superintendent, and I think it's incredibly important to have an effective board to help lead the work. I believe we are making progress but there is still a long way to go to truly have the school system our kids deserve."
Esparza Brown, who represents Southwest Portland, said she's "still on the fence."
"We've come a long ways, and there's really good work happening, and I certainly want to see that continue, with or without me," she said. "It's good to be part of the changes happening now."
Esparza Brown may face a well-known challenger. Former board member Steve Buel, whose term ended in 2017, recently moved into her district and told Willamette Week he may run for the seat.
One political consultant who asked not to be identified said multiple people are considering running against Anthony. "It's his personal style that upsets people," they said.
The same consultant said Kohnstamm could easily be persuaded not to run if a good candidate were to surface for her position.
The district recently was slammed in an audit by the Secretary of State's Audits Division. Another political consultant called the volunteer positions on the Portland school board "one of the most difficult jobs in Oregon politics."
There also are three seats up for grabs on the board of Multnomah Education Service District, three for Portland Community College, four for David Douglas School District, two for Parkrose, and three seats for Riverdale.
Teresa Carson also contributed to this story.