Dear Portland Public Schools Families and Staff,

Welcome to the first day of the 2016-17 school year!

It is wonderful to see our community come together to help get ready for our students every year.  Thank you to all the volunteers who participated in Project Community Care day on Saturday.

We are excited to introduce Robert McKean, PhD who will serve as the Interim Superintendent this year while the Board of Education conducts a nation-wide search for a permanent superintendent.  Bob brings extensive experience as a manager and educator.  He retired in 2010 from the Centennial School District in East Portland/Gresham where he was the Superintendent for seven years.  Prior to Centennial, he was a teacher, principal and administrator in Montana.  Bob’s leadership, communication skills and commitment to accountability and transparency is exactly the type of leadership we need for this school year as we search for a permanent Superintendent to lead our district to the next level

We wanted to share with you some of the exciting work that has been happening around the district:

  • Students at Roosevelt High School will be entering several brand new buildings that are a phase 1of the 2012 School Improvement Bond modernization of Roosevelt.   New spaces that will open this year include general education classrooms, a two-court main gymnasium, an auxiliary gym, several career technical education (CTE) classrooms and new community program spaces.   See pictures and learn more information here.
  • The new Ockley Green Middle School opened its doors this morning, returning a middle school to the Jefferson cluster for the first time in ten years.  Ockley Green, along with Beach, Chief Joseph, Peninsula and Woodlawn schools were reconfigured this summer from K-8 schools to feed into the new Ockley Green Middle School.  The school administration has spent the summer listening and getting to know the community, as well as planning and preparing based on those conversations.
  • This summer, seven more schools received improvements and upgrades as part of the 2012 School Improvement Bond.  Abernethy K-5 (new seismically strengthened roof and some building level seismic strengthening), Cesar Chavez K-8 (science classroom improvements and accessibility improvements including a phased elevator project that begins in the summer of 2016 with expected completion by the end of 2017), Cleveland High School (new seismically strengthened roof and accessibility improvements), Jefferson High School (some building level seismic strengthening and ADA improvements), Metropolitan Learning Center K-12 ( some building level seismic strengthening, accessibility improvements and science classroom improvements), Sellwood M.S. (new seismically strengthened roof science classroom improvements and ADA improvements), and Scott K-8 (science classroom improvements and accessibility improvements including a phased elevator project that begins in the summer of 2016 with expected completion by the end of 2017).   Thank you to all of Portland’s voters for making this possible through the bond program.

This summer, you have been receiving weekly updates on the PPS environmental health and safety work.  Those updates and other resources and information are available on our Healthy Schools website.  We are currently re-evaluating and establishing clear protocols around all our environmental safety issues.  Here are some of the updates on water:

  • This summer, we did district-wide lead water testing on every cold water outlet in every PPS building.  Those results are posted here.
  • Everyone in the district will have safe, clean water every day. As we start the school year, all drinking fountains remain covered or have been made inoperable.          There are clean water dispensers in every building.
  • The Student Representative for the Board of Education, Aliemah Bradley, helped create this video to explain the water procedures to students.

A short, middle and long term strategy for best delivering clean water and other safety to the district is being developed for discussion and action by the Board.   This work will be used to help develop the best bond package for the voters in May.

This is an exciting time for PPS. We have thousands of students entering school for the first time and others entering their last year before transitioning to post-secondary education or careers.

We have a lot to be proud of and optimistic about this year. We have amazing teachers and school staff who have dedicated their careers to public service and extraordinary leaders at our schools inspiring innovation and excellence with every student that walks through our doors.

This is a big year for our school community.  Hiring a new superintendent, preparing the right bond package to go to the voters, rebuilding and reorganizing our management structure, and continuing the roll out of successful educational programs that deliver great education to our kids are on the short list!

The Board and staff are focused on making it a very successful year. Our commitment is to the 48,000 students and to the taxpayers to do the best we can.

We know – especially in education, it takes a community effort to be successful and are looking forward to working with all of you.

Have a great first day!
Tom Koehler
Chair, Portland Public Schools Board of Education

Yousef Awwad
Acting Chief Executive Officer