Southwest Portland school board candidate facing no opposition
Just because Andrew Scott has been handed a pass to a seat on the Portland School Board representing Southwest Portland, doesn't mean he'll phone in his campaign.
Asked how it feels to be running unopposed in Zone One, which includes parts of Sellwood as well as all the schools that feed into Wilson High School, he offered a correction.
"That's a technicality. I'm not actually unopposed. Jeff Sosne will be on the ballot," Scott said.
Sosne, a child psychologist, entered the race but then withdrew.
Even though he'll have no active opposition, Scott, who lives with his wife and two sons in Maplewood, plans an active campaign leading up to the May 21 vote-by-mail election.
"My goal, my plan, honestly, is to run a pretty robust campaign. I'm doing a lot of house parties and trying to get out and talk to as many people as I can. But there may be fewer yard signs than you would see if Jeff hadn't dropped out," he said.
Scott is currently the deputy chief operating officer at Metro, the regional government. Prior to that he was the budget chief for the city of Portland for eight years.
He worked in the Office of Management and Budget in Washington D.C. under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — "Part of a non-partisan career," he said — after earning a graduate degree in Public Policy at Georgetown University.
He's also a product of Portland Public Schools. He attended Capitol Hill Elementary, Markham and Jackson Middle schools and Wilson High School, from which he graduated in 1991. As a junior at Wilson in 1990, he played drums in the legendary Wilson High School Jazz Band, which was better known as the Green Machine. The band took top honors at a national competition sponsored by Down Beat magazine and performed at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum when President George H.W. Bush came to Portland that year.
Scott is running for one of four seats open on the Portland School Board. He's never held elected office before. He says he doesn't see this as the first step of a political career.
"Politics?" he said, laughing. "I'm not really….this is not a stepping stone. If I was interested in a political career this is probably not the right way to go at it. Not from Portland Public Schools. It's hard to make a lot of people happy here."
At the request of the Southwest Community Connection, Scott identified and discussed his top three priorities should he be elected to a four-year term on the school board.
n "Number one, without a doubt, is the achievement gap. Over the last two years as I've watched PPS from a little bit of a distance. It's been frustrating to see that achievement gap between white students and our students of color. We've made different attempts at it, but they haven't made a whole lot of progress. It's kind of a moral crisis. We have to figure out in this city how to really fix that. I really want to focus on that. I think our superintendent is focused on it and he's doing a lot and clearly putting a lot of emphasis on it. As a board we're going to need to hold him accountable."
n "Number two, would be buildings and facilities. This is something I've spent a big chunk of my career in government public service working on: figuring out ways to make sure we're taking care of the assets. That means making sure that we're taking care of our buildings and facilities and that they're safe and that we're leaving them for the next generation in better condition than we found them."
n "Number three, is fiscal sustainability. With what's going on in Salem, it will be interesting to see if there's a large new influx of resources to schools. And even if there is, there probably won't be enough to make up for a couple of decades of under-investment. We need to make sure we invest those resources really wisely. I think that's a place where I have a lot of experience. I was budget director for the city for 10 years and that's what I do now at Metro. I can bring that experience as a board member, just making sure we're asking the right questions."
As for challenges facing the next school board, he spoke about two: the next bond measure sent to voters and redrawing school boundaries.
"In terms of a bond, we've made a few mistakes in terms of overpromising what we can actually deliver. In this environment that really hurts the public trust. I have to ask really hard questions about those things. I have to be really transparent so that the voters who have basically trusted the district with hundreds of millions of dollars to fix the schools over the next 20 to 30 years, feel really good about that and continue to support bond measures because that's the only way we're going to transform the schools," Scott said.
"I think the boundary decisions overall are going to be challenging. But we've got to do a better job of demographically looking out for the future and planning well. People are passionate about this. They should be. I mean you move into a district often because of the school your kids will attend and you don't want them to change schools," he said. "I think honestly, the most important thing is being willing to talk to parents openly about what we're trying to achieve. You're not going to make everyone happy with a boundary decision, but the goal of a really good boundary decision is that everyone has a chance to give their input and everyone understands the rationale for the decisions that are being made."
Former school board member from Southwest Portland reflects on lack of opposition this election.
The last person to serve as Southwest Portland's representative on the Portland School Board for more than one term is Ruth Adkins. She served from 2007 to 2015. Here is her response to an email sent by the Southwest Connection:
Connection: How do you feel about there being only one active candidate for the Zone One position? You faced at least one opponent in each election.
Ruth Adkins: Andrew Scott is terrific and I enthusiastically endorse him. And yes, we do need more folks to step up. I am part of an informal group of former board members called For Our Children's Future that reached out to potential candidates in each zone. Groups like Color PAC and Emerge are so important to help support people of color and women to run. We need to recruit, encourage and support a new generation of parent and community leaders across the district. I'd love to see public financing and spending limits in school board races so that more people are able to participate. Beyond the challenge of fundraising for the campaign, the job itself is brutal. In the end each person has to weigh their own situation with the time required and intense scrutiny that comes with the position.