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PPS leaders tackle race at 'Courageous' summit

Many use own professional development funds


For the second year in a row, Portland Public Schools sent nearly 100 teachers, principals and administrators halfway across the country to talk about race.

Last week, they attended and presented lectures at the 5th annual Summit on Courageous Conversations in St. Louis, the nationwide gathering of school leaders who subscribe to the equity trainings created by Bay Area consultant Glenn Singleton.

The aim of the “Beyond Diversity” trainings is to recognize systematic racism and the way it plays out in student achievement, discipline and other factors.

PPS adopted Courageous Conversations in 2007 and rolled it out first to administrators, then teachers, then schools starting last year. The contracts with Singleton’s Pacific Educational Group have come in at about $1.2 million, and PPS has built its own seven-person Office of Equity to reduce contract costs and start leading its own work.

For last year’s summit, a delegation of 93 PPS teachers, principals and administrators traveled to San Antonio, Texas, for five days; the Tribune requested the cost of that trip but hadn’t received an answer by deadline.

District spokesman Robb Cowie, who just returned from this year’s summit, says a majority of PPS participants this year and last year used funds from their professional development allowances.

“When Portland sends a number of people to Courageous Conversations, it’s a testament to the number of people who are seeing such value in that work that they want to get more intensive exposure,” he says.

PPS staff led seven of the 48 sessions this year.

Many of the same players came to the table. Metropolitan Learning Center Principal Macarre Traynham, who happens to be the subject of a recent Level 3 complaint filed by parents, co-led a presentation titled “Shhhh! You Know When There’s Too Many Of Us Together, White Folks Get Suspicious!”

The session discussed how PPS created and implemented “affinity groups that allow administrators of color to professionally develop through sharing stories/experiences, seeking guidance and assistance, and raising concerns.”

Co-leading the session were PPS Athletic Director Marshall Haskins and Jefferson High Vice Principal Ricky Allen.

Also representing MLC was a group of seven teachers who gave a talk called “Doing the Hokey Pokey: Identifying, Understanding and Working With the Challenges of Facilitating Courageous Conversations with White Peers.”

Their session shared stories “of success and impasse from the past four years of facilitating Courageous Conversations in their primarily white K-12 school.”

In other sessions, PPS leaders spoke about race in special education, family and community empowerment, culturally relevant teaching at Irvington School, and de-centering whiteness in school discipline.