People, Not Politics.
Together We Are One District.
“Why am I running for the PPS School Board? The answer is easy. I know that a strong K-12 public education is the great equalizer and has the power to change the trajectory of young lives. I believe that I can be part of a team that creates a plan to remake PPS into one of the best school districts in the country. We can’t meet high expectations if we don’t have them.”
Portland Public Schools, parents and the media have called Virginia a “Community Leader.” She calls herself a relentless “Student Advocate” with first-hand experience navigating a district in crisis to address environmental hazards, accountability, fiscal responsibility and equity issues. She’s both managed and procured millions of dollars for employers and clients in her 20+ years as a professional focusing on strategic planning, client management, budget oversight, and creative development.
“I’m deeply concerned about the educational injustices that affect children across the city,” Virginia says. “My husband and I both when to Title 1 elementary schools. By perpetuating inequities that exist across our schools – sometimes unknowingly – we are supporting a system where kids in neighborhoods like the ones we grew up in don’t reach their full potential. We’re also teaching others that this system is ‘okay.’ It’s not.”
Some may view Virginia as a PPS critic. She’s actually a straightforward problem-solver who doesn’t give up.
“You cannot look the other way because once you have the knowledge, you are culpable,” Virginia told KATU News in July 2016 after successfully shutting down a lead-contaminated schoolyard for the first time in PPS history. A hazmat team was on site within days. She feels the same way about funding, accountability, equity and trust in our schools.
PPS asked Virginia to serve on the critical 2017 Bond Stakeholder Advisory Group (BSAG) to help craft the largest bond in Oregon history. It’s another stop on a journey that started over three years ago when she first discovered that lead dust was coating the neighborhood school grounds . “I’ve been beating the ‘lead drum’ for years. Lead-based paint is an extremely potent neurotoxin. But, advocating for it’s removal in all schools wasn’t a very popular position to take in 2013. It was like pushing a boulder uphill,” she says. “I became tired of the false choice parents are given – teachers or safety. We need both so I didn’t – and won’t – give up.”
When the current bond resolution was adopted by the school board on February 28, 2017 with 100% stabilization of lead-based paint and replacement of lead-contaminated pipes, Virginia testified at the meeting. She told the board “My goal was always to build understanding and consensus and to lead us to a day like today. I am grateful.”
School board members, both present and past, are endorsing Virginia’s campaign for a seat at the table for the next four years. So is Governor Barbara Roberts.
They know she’s effective and that she believes that only actions, persistence and alliance-building get any real work done. “I knew it was important to secure the support and endorsements of the board members I want to serve with and those that have been there before me,” she says. “We have to work as a team to be successful. When there is no trust on a team, work grinds to a halt. I’ve made my sense of urgency regarding the need to effectively address vision, policy, accountability and equity issues clear. We’re on the same page and ready to work together.”
Virginia’s endorsements include:
- Governor Barbara Roberts
- PPS Board Member Paul Anthony
- PPS Board Member Julie Esparza Brown
- PPS Board Member Pam Knowles
- PPS Board Member Amy Kohnstamm
- PPS Board Member Mike Rosen
- Stephen Griffith – For Our Children’s Future, Former PPS Board Member
- Stephen Kafoury – Attorney, served in Oregon House of Representatives and State Senate
- Bill Scott – For Our Children’s Future, Co Chair Multnomah County SUN Service System and former PPS Board Member
- Carol Turner – For Our Children’s Future, Former PPS Board Member and Education Advocate for the Office of Mayor Vera Katz
- Bob Van Brocklin – For Our Children’s Future, Managing Partner, Stoel Rives
Virginia’s work with PPS doesn’t begin or end with lead paint.
Virginia has been key to identifying and solving for other challenges plaguing the district – fiscal responsibility, lack of accountability and lack of transparency. In 2014, as a PPS parent, Virginia successfully led the effort to centralize the PPS TAG budget after discovering that thousands of earmarked dollars were being returned to the general fund. “We have to get the funding and accountability issues right. They affect absolutely everything that happens in the classroom,” Virginia says. “We should be a top-performing school district where every single child reaches his or her full potential. We can’t be fiscally irresponsible and have another legislative funding failure. We’re out of time.” She acted as the her school TAG laison and was then appointed by her peers to the PPS TAG Advisory Council to help with budget and curriculum recommendations.
“It’s important for parents, teachers and staff to have an effective pathway to let the district know when they see a problem.”
Virginia also feels strongly about a clear complaint process. She was invited to participate in the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) work group to improve the school district complaint process statewide in the summer of 2016. Recommendations from the ODE are expected this spring.
Virginia will bring focus, tenacity and her “let’s get it done” attitude to the school board to address inequities for every student and teacher in the district.
Virginia has co chaired record-setting PPS school auctions to fill funding gaps and contribute to the PPS Equity Fund. She’s taught pull out Math classes on her lunch breaks and has led book groups for young students. “I feel like I’ve had my hands in everything,” she says. “It’s given me a great deal of perspective.”
When addressing issues like environmental hazards, special services budgets and complaint processes with the district, Virginia has always been clear that ALL SCHOOLS receive the same attention and treatment when solutions are offered. A vote for Virginia is a vote for a consensus-builder and a problem-solver, not a critical observer. She has a sense of urgency to turn PPS into a top-performing school district. Let’s get started.