Portland Teachers Union Names a New President

Key change occurs as Portland School Board starts search for new superintendent.

In the midst of the turmoil at Portland Public Schools, the district's teachers union had a quiet transition to a new president.

Beginning July 1, Suzanne Cohen, 39, took the helm of the Portland Association of Teachers after serving as vice president for a two-year term.

Cohen, a former special-education and middle-school math and science teacher, worked at Peninsula K-8 for a decade before becoming the PAT vice president.

The previous president, Gwen Sullivan, had held her role since 2011.

As she begins her new position, Cohen has an eye on the superintendent search that's just beginning.

Noting she fears a backlash after revelations over management problems at the district, Cohen says she doesn't want a business person to be selected to replace Superintendent Carole Smith.

"The best superintendent for Portland Public Schools will be someone with strong education background who is well versed in managing public schools," she says. "We don't need to go outside education to find someone with these qualifications."

Meanwhile, PPS announced Friday that School Board Chair Tom Koehler has appointed board members Amy Kohnstamm and Julie Esparza Brown to help him find the new superintendent.

Kohnstamm, Esparza Brown and Koehler will first identify a search firm to help in the process. Their recommendations will need board approval.

"The Board is committed to a professional, productive and positive transition process as we transition from one Superintendent to the next," Koehler says in a statement. "Starting the process now will allow that to happen."

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