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Another departure hits Portland Public's communications team

SCREENSHOT: KOIN.COM - Portland Public Schools district spokeswoman Christine Miles is resigning Friday. Portland Public Schools will lose another member of its communications team as Senior Public Affairs Manager and media spokeswoman Christine Miles serves her last day tomorrow, July 15.

The district has been under enormous strain after revelations in late spring of lead in its water supply sparked numerous media stories. Two top officials have been put on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Miles said when that controversy hit, she delayed her resignation to help with the communications strategy.

“I can’t leave in a crisis,” she said.

The sudden departures leaves just two out of six of the top officials left in the Department of Public Affairs and Communications, according to a 2015-16 organization chart.

Head of the department and another regular figure in local schools coverage, Jon Isaacs left at the end of April and the district has yet to hire a replacement. That work was put on hold during the lead crisis after the district didn't get the kind of applicants it was seeking.

Senior Manager of Internal and Family Communications Erin Barnett is also leaving the district for Oregon Health & Science University next Friday.

"She got a great job offer from OHSU,” said Director of Government Relations Courtney Westling. "We clearly have talented people who are getting great opportunities.”

Communications Manager Larry Bingham also left recently for a communications job at the Oregon Health Authority.

Westling was hired last fall, replacing lobbyist David Williams. Westling will fill in until a media relations specialist can be found, but she says she doesn't mind the extra work.

"I feel like it’s a really great opportunity to continue to be a voice for the district,” she said. Rosie Fiallo, who worked under Barnett, will also fill in as needed as a spokeswoman.

Miles has worked at the district for four years, with a background in communications offices in state government and the city of Portland. In the late-1990s and early 2000s Miles was a TV reporter with KGW-TV and KOIN 6 News, according to her LinkedIn profile.

She didn’t feel her departure merited a news story.

“I just don’t think I’m a story,” she said, but added: “I loved working for (Superintendent) Carole (Smith).”

Miles said she has an opportunity to do more work under her own consulting business, which has more flexible hours and location requirements.


Shasta Kearns Moore
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