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Portland Public School response to year-end incidents troubles Andrew Scott as he joins School Board

The new school year starts for Andrew Scott of Hayhurst on July 1.

That's when the recently-elected Portland School Board member representing Southwest Portland is sworn in for a four-year term as one of seven volunteers who set policy for the 79-school, 49,000-student Portland Public School District.

One week before the May 21 school board election, Scott was named Chief Operating Officer for Metro, the 800-employee, $500 million regional government for the Portland metropolitan area. Before Metro, Scott was the Budget Director for the city of Portland for eight years.

This will be Scott's first elected office. He ran virtually unopposed and garnered 91.4% of the vote.

In an interview with the Southwest Community Connection, Scott spoke about racially-charged incidents in April and a subsequent student protest in May at Wilson High School and the administration's reaction. It was reported that campus unrest followed a confrontation between white and black students. A protest walk-out took place in May organized by students of color at Wilson.

"These were troubling developments," Scott said. "My son will be a freshman at Wilson in the fall and my nephew, a senior. I talked with him about what happened over the Memorial Day weekend. So I'm aware of the walk-out. One of the key issues is transparency in communication. The district continues to trip over itself sometimes. If you'd just be really open with people about what's happening and the response … From what I've seen, a lot of the frustration from students was that they didn't get the full story about what was happening.

"We need to trust our students and trust our parents and communicate fully with them and then engage with them in terms of solutions," he added. "I think if we do more of that, do a better job at that, it will help the situation."

Before the school year ended, PPS administrators promised to address the situation at Wilson and collaborate with incoming principal Filip Hristic on a plan for next semester. Hristic takes over at Wilson on July 1. He has been principal at Roosevelt High School for the last five years.

"I've met the incoming principal," Scott said. "He seems fantastic, seems like a great guy. He's very focused on restorative justice, racial justice and social issues at the schools."

Scott says transparency from Portland Public Schools administrators will also be essential if they hope to pass a bond measure in November 2020 for a major upgrade of Wilson High School. Voters approved a $790 million school construction bond two years ago, but a recent audit forecast the ultimate cost of that work to be $1 billion.

"I think a long-term capital investment plan is really important, but it relies on voters supporting bond measures," Scott said. "That's why we need to be really transparent with voters about what happened with the 2017 measure and we have to fix it so voters will trust us the next time we go out."

Scott graduated from Wilson High School in 1991. He attended middle school at both Markham and Jackson and elementary school at Capitol Hill School.

The Capitol Hill School Foundation recently ran a fund-raising plea in the SW News seeking to raise $120,000 hire a 4th/5th grade math teacher.

When asked if this campaign is a sign of more to come, by parents who want to offset budget cuts, Scott said, "Well, I hope it's not a sign of the future.

"First of all, Capitol Hill is where I went," he added. "I think there are a lot of community efforts to fund teachers or support services for their kids. That is problematic in a couple of ways. One, I don't think we should expect parents to have to help with finances. We should have enough money coming from the state to meet minimum requirements. Two, there is a real equity piece around this as well. So I hope that kind of fund raising is not in our future."

Bill Gallagher

Editor

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