On the fast track

The Portland Public Schools Board of Education office has released notice and agendas for two meetings next week, including a Thursday meeting with one item on the agenda: “Resolution to Appoint Zone 4 Board Director.”

The process, approved earlier this summer, was intentionally left open-ended. But this agenda would appear to indicate the board is ready to appoint one of the five applicants.

With equity as the defining crisis of the current board, an idealist would hope they will appoint the only candidate with direct experience, not to mention the courage and conviction to actually come to the table with practical, immediate solutions: Steve Buel.

No, Buel wouldn’t make the existing board’s life any easier. In fact, you can bet he would make them pretty uncomfortable at times. But they weren’t elected to a social club. The gross inequities in our district simply aren’t being solved by the board’s tack of politely ignoring them, or of speaking in generalities and proposing only baby steps.

Current board members seem mortified of anybody who speaks boldly of the elephant in the room, so you can pretty well rule out Buel.

Safer money is on the appointment of Martin Gonzalez, who is believed to favor “school choice” as an escape valve for poor and minority students. (Never mind that the district’s transfer and school funding policies have actually trapped disproportionate numbers of poor and minority students in second-tier schools with dramatically less opportunity and “choice” than white, middle class students get in their neighborhoods.)

Gonzalez may challenge the board on their policies regarding English language learners, but he does not appear likely to rock their boat with regard to the transfer policy. Plus, he satisfies their rumored desire for a “black or Hispanic male.”

The Oregonian interviewed the candidates this week, and will likely run an endorsement soon. They have been historically hostile to Buel, so it will be interesting to see who they go with (I’m betting on Gonzalez, for the same reasons listed above).

Of course, I’m happy to be proven wrong. Maybe — just maybe — there are four board members who are ready to actually do something bold, and can see the wisdom of appointing a passionate firebrand like Buel to help them really address the equity crisis.

Or maybe they’ll just keep kicking this problem down the road.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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