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District backs Scott principal on equity

Scott School drum corps gets new donor to continue meeting


Anyone who thinks their concerns were about equity missed the point entirely, say teachers at Harvey Scott K-8 School in Northeast Portland.

Twenty teachers spoke with the Tribune for three articles that ran in the Nov. 1 Tribune, highlighting their frustrations with Principal Verenice Gutierrez’ leadership in the past three years.

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith responded with a districtwide memo Friday that said the Tribune’s coverage “offers all of us an opportunity to widen and deepen our conversations on equity with each other and the broader community.”

Smith also took the unusual step of attending the teachers’ afternoon staff meeting in person at Scott School on Monday to talk about the district’s equity work. She brought six representatives from the district with her, including three school board members and Regional Administrator Karl Logan, Gutierrez’s direct supervisor.

Teachers told the Tribune afterward that they didn’t believe any of their concerns were being taken seriously.

Gutierrez “has the perfect smokescreen with her equity schtick,” one teacher says. “No one dares call out her monomaniacal power plays for fear of being labeled anti-children of color.”

Developments include:

The drum corps at Scott is continuing, but not with the school’s Run for the Arts money. A donor has stepped in to fund the group, Gutierrez said. Requests for information about the donor have not been returned.

PPS does not yet have an official written criteria for admittance into the drum corps at Scott, but it is in development, according to district spokesman Matt Shelby. He said that in response to the concerns raised recently, Logan began working with Gutierrez about who had access to the drum corps and who didn’t. District leaders will want input on what the criteria are, he says, the bottom line being that “you cannot have any program or class where race or gender is a criteria for admission.”

An ACLU civil rights complaint about the group excluding girls is pending. Schools handle Chuk Barber’s class differently; at Faubion School, it includes girls, boys and all races.

Two PPS security guards have been on Scott’s campus since Friday’s family movie night in case of any potential threats against Gutierrez.

Shelby acknowledges that the districtwide equity work is separate from the concerns teachers raised about the management of their school. Although it’s hard for some to “decouple” the two, “We are definitely aware of those concerns,” he says.