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Portland Schools Foundation director will resign in March

Cynthia Guyer to step down after 10 years

Portland Schools Foundation executive director Cynthia Guyer will resign from the organization in March after 10 years at the helm, she announced Friday.

Guyer, who joined the founding board of directors as a parent leader, has served as executive director since its inception in January 1996.

The foundation's board of directors will begin a national search for her replacement in the next 30 days.

Foundation spokesman Tripp Somerville said he expects a seamless transition to a new director, who is lated to be hired in March. He said Guyer, 52, plans to take time off from working and 'recharge her batteries.'

He said she wants to spend more time with her ninth grader at Grant High School, with her husband away for a year on assignment in Washington, D.C., and an older daughter away at college.

He said Guyer is also confident the school district is moving in the right direction and feels comfortable stepping down at this point.

'With the levy on the ballot, the last piece is coming into place to bring stability into district,' he said. 'It's a natural transition point. … She came into this thinking in a 10-year time frame. … She'll take time off, figure out what the next thing is.'

Somerville said Guyer has been pleased with the leadership of Superintendent Vicki Phillips, whom she helped to recruit.

Guyer has also led the foundation to secure major grants from the Carnegie Corporation as well as $9 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Meter Memorial Trust to reform low-performing high schools.

Over the past decade, the foundation has helped bring a total of $360 million to Portland Public Schools, not counting the $180 million levy voters will consider on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The foundation has also garned national attention for its advocacy over the past decade.

'Cynthia is known throughout the country for her stellar advocacy of excellent public education for all children, especially low-income children and children of color,' said Wendy Puriefoy, President of the Public Education Network, a national education advocacy group. 'The Portland Schools Foundation is a national leader because it has figured out better than anyone how to marshal parents and communities to strengthen public education.'

The foundation began in the midst of a school funding crisis after the passage of Measure 5. They rallied the community to take part in the 30,000-person 'march for our schools' through downtown in 1996, and more recently, helped lobby for the Multnomah County Income Tax and against the repeal of that tax.

Many in the community say the foundation's support has been critical to the district's, although some critics think the process that the foundation uses to distribute its grants to schools in inequitable.

For more information on the foundation, see www.thinkschools.org.

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