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Meeting in North Portland Wednesday evening will let public ask about recent scathing state audit

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Secretary of State Dennis Richardson's staff will hold a public town hall to discuss a scathing audit of Portland Public Schools at PCC-Cascade in North Portland.Portland Public Schools officials may have hoped they could stop talking about a scathing state audit released last month.

But after investing a year of his auditors' time scrutinizing the district's spending and management, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson appears to have other ideas.

On Wednesday evening, auditors from Richardson's office will host a meeting at the Portland Community College Cascade campus in North Portland to take questions from the public about TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Secretary of State Dennis Richardson's staff will hold a public town hall to discuss a scathing audit of Portland Public Schools at PCC-Cascade in North Portland. the district misspends, neglects oversight and doesn't do enough to support schools with high numbers of students of color from low-income families.

When it was released, PPS officials contended the audit was unfair and did not take into account progress made over the past year. They also contended it was politically motivated, driven by Richardson, a Republican.

"We understand that this audit of PPS was a specific political request by the Secretary of State," said the district's Jan. 3 response to the audit.

Now the public will get to talk to the auditors directly and judge for themselves.

Audit reflected Richardson focus

The meeting reflects Richardson's more activist style that he promised when running for office.

The audit also speaks to a deep commitment among his top staff in making change at Portland Public Schools.

Last year, Richardson's chief of staff, Debra Royal, brought up the Portland school district during a reporter's interview of Richardson's second-in-command, Leslie Cummings, about the outsized role Cummings has taken on while Richardson fights brain cancer. Royal cited the Portland school district as an example of how Cummings, who is actively involved in overseeing the audits unit, fights for voices that have not been heard. Both officials appeared to become emotional.

But the two said their focus on Portland schools is driven by compassion for students, not politics.

"We talk a lot about the kids in the public school system especially in Portland," Royal said. "Sometimes we get a little emotional about those kids, and I'm going to get a little bit emotional right now. They need to have advocates for them."

Speak out

The Oregon Secretary of State's office will host a meeting to discuss an audit of Portland Public Schools.

Where: Portland Community College, Cascade Campus, Room 104, Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building, 5514 N. Albina Ave.

When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20.


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