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Longest-Serving PPS Board Member Won't Seek Re-election


Portland Public School board members at a meeting in April 2016. Pam Knowles (far left) has decided not to run for re-election. Chair Tom Koehler (center left) hasn't decided whether to run again. Amy Kohnstamm and Mike Rosen are midway through their terms.

Portland Public School board members at a meeting in April 2016. Pam Knowles (far left) has decided not to run for re-election. Chair Tom Koehler (center left) hasn’t decided whether to run again. Amy Kohnstamm and Mike Rosen are midway through their terms.

Rob Manning/OPB

The longest-serving school board member in Oregon’s largest district will not seek another term. Pam Knowles’ decision is the latest sign of turnover at Portland Public Schools.

Knowles is finishing up her second term with the district. No current board member has served more than half that long. 

In a statement released Thursday night, Knowles points to a voter-approved construction bond, improved graduation rates and an improved teacher contract as highlights of her time in office.

“This is a hard job, but a rewarding one, and among the most important volunteer positions we have in our community,” Knowles said. “I’ve been honored to serve, and I believe it’s been one of the most fulfilling roles I’ve ever had.”

But Knowles suggested that it was frustration with her colleagues that ultimately drove her from office. 
 
“[T]he current dynamics of the Board, the inability of members to stay in a governance role and the overstep of certain Board members who undermine staff, work covertly with the press and intentionally use their position on the Board to advance personal agendas is counterproductive - and has created a divisive environment that preys on fear not trust or collaboration,” Knowles said.

Board member Steve Buel has also indicated he’s not running for re-election. The retired teacher had often disagreed with Knowles over their four years together on the school board.

The current chair, Tom Koehler, is also up for re-election. He hasn’t said whether he plans to run again. He has until the March 16 filing deadline to decide.

The turnover comes as Portland Public Schools likely welcomes Donyall Dickey as new superintendent. Dickey would be a first-time superintendent, possibly serving under a board where no member has more than two years of experience.

At the same election where Portland voters will be filling at least two open school board seats, they’ll also be deciding whether to raise their own taxes to fund Oregon’s largest-ever school bond, worth $790 million.

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