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About Portland observer. (Portland, Or.) 1970-current | View Entire Issue (May 3, 2017)
Volume XLVI • Number 18
See story, page 5
See Local News, page 3
Wednesday • May 3, 2017
Established in 1970
Committed to Cultural Diversity
photo by Z achary S enn /t he p ortland o bSever
Jamila Singleton Munson runs for the Portland School Board to bring more collaborative leadership to the panel and to support equitable policies and procedures that will
decrease disparities between students.
Homegrown educator puts
prescription in campaign
Z achary S enn
t he p ortland o bServer
A homegrown candidate for the Portland School Board
is promoting her experience in education and pledging a
new type of collaborate leadership in a campaign for elec-
tion in the upcoming May 16 vote-by-mail election.
Jamila Singleton Munson, a Grant High School grad-
uate, former teacher, principal, and leader of a nonprofit
organization for future educational leaders, said she wants
to reshape public education in Portland.
No incumbents will stand in this year’s Portland School
Board races which will see the election of three new board
members to the seven-member panel. Munson would be
the only black member if elected to her position.
The school board is responsible for establishing bud-
gets and laying out policies for governing 78 schools serv-
ing more than 49,000 students. In the past year, the district
has been plagued with a scandal involving elevated lead
levels from plumbing in drinking water.
Munson developed her skills as an educator after grad-
uating from the University of Oregon. Her first assign-
ment was serving as a fifth-grade public school teacher in
the South Bronx after being recruited by Teach for Amer-
ica, a nonprofit which seeks to develop future educational
“I spent my time there really striving to build a learn-
ing environment for all kids to be successful,” Munson
told the Portland Observer in an interview. “My intent was
to ensure that they all ended up in high school already
thinking about college.”
Munson says that her desire to decrease disparities be-
tween students in the school system has driven her career.
“My work as an educator has been really focused on
educational equity,” she explained.
After finishing out a two year tenure with Teach for
America, Munson joined the Knowledge is Power Pro-
gram, a nationwide group of pubic charter schools aiming
for higher graduation rates and college readiness.
“I was drawn to the college focus,” Munson said. “I
worked in similar communities, where students have been
historically underserved. I’m proud of that work.”
Under Knowledge is Power, Munson spent seven years
working as a teacher and later as a principal, both in Hous-
ton and Los Angeles.
After coming back to Portland to be closer to family,
Munson said that she became dismayed by the status of
Oregon’s educational system.
I started reading newspaper articles about the low grad-
uation rates, and I started to feel more convicted about
what was happening here,” said Munson, adding, “this is
Munson says that she is running for the board position
because she believes that she can help optimize the way
that board members communicate.
“I want to bring my leadership to the board,” she ex-
plained. “It’s critical for there to be a more collective ori-
entation to board leadership.”
Portland’s school board has been beleaguered by
months of infighting as the district reels from its ongoing
lead crisis, which also spurred a fumbling search for a new
superintendent. The former superintendent, Carole Smith,
stepped down from the position in July following reports
that she mishandled the district’s environmental woes.
“The board is not functioning at the highest level it
can,” said Munson. “That’s impacting the health of the
c ontinued on p age 5