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Three new faces join Portland Public Schools with mission of improving outcomes for students of color

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Eilidh Lowery is sworn in to the Portland Public Schools board Tuesday, July 2 by Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson.The Portland Public Schools board was re-shaped Tuesday, when three new board members were sworn in for their first terms in office.

"This is not an easy gig," Portland Public Schools board chair Rita Moore warned her incoming colleagues Tuesday, July 2. "Being on the school board is an honor and a privilege and it's a heavy responsibility."

But, Moore noted, "this is a critically important role. How the school district goes will, in many ways determine how the city evolves over time."

Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson — who is noted for recently having a new high school in North Clackamas School District named after her — helped swear in new board members Tuesday.

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN  - Michelle DePass gives a brief speech after being sworn in to the PPS board July 2.Echoing top priorities for PPS, each of the incoming members touched on Portland's need to create a better environment and better academic outcomes for minority students.

Michelle DePass, who works in the city of Portland's Housing Bureau, said she was eager to start doing the work ahead, of "putting the good of the many over the good of the few, and believing we can, and should, do better."

Andrew Scott, deputy chief operating officer for Metro, reflected on goals he campaigned on, saying he was committed to "closing the student achievement gap between white kids and students of color," and "building up the public's trust."

For Eilidh Lowery, it was a "group of passionate women who know the world isn't as it should be," that motivated her to run for the school board.

Amy Kohnstamm, who was sworn in for her second term on the board Tuesday, after being re-elected in May, also was named board chair that evening, following a unanimous vote.

"I believe this is the most important institution in our city," Kohnstamm said of the PPS board. "When we get things right and make improvements for our nearly 50,000 students in terms of equalizing opportunities and improving the programs that are available to them, that's a huge contribution to our city, to our state, to our community."PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Andrew Scott touches on the work ahead for the Portland Public Schools board after being sworn in for his first term July 2.

"I'm tremendously excited to work with this new cohort of board members," Kohnstamm said. She was the only incumbent who ran in the May election.

Aside from four elected members starting new terms, the PPS board also gained a new student representative, Maxine Latterell.

Board leadership changes

Kohnstamm will chair the PPS board and Julia Brim-Edwards will serve as vice chair, after unanimous approval.

Moore opened Tuesday's meeting as chair, but noted she planned to pass the torch, and wouldn't seek nomination to continue in that role.

"Having been in board leadership for two years, I was gonna step back," Moore said, adding, "I believe in circulation of leadership."

DePass quickly nominated Kohnstamm and Brim-Edwards for chair and vice chair as a slate, but Moore clarified that the nominations needed to be made separately.

Kohnstamm followed up by immediately nominating Brim-Edwards as vice chair.

"I think that you're going to be a really strong, student-focused leader," Brim-Edwards told Kohnstamm before voting, later telling Kohnstamm, "I'm looking forward to working in leadership with you."

"Right back atcha," Kohnstamm replied.

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