Former Charter School Principal Running for Portland School Board

Jamila Singleton Munson has a slew of endorsements in her run for the May 16 election.

A former charter school principal is running for school board in Portland in the 16 May election.

Jamila Singleton Munson, who led KIPP Spirit College Prep in Houston from 2008 through 2010, wants to join the Portland Public Schools' board.

Her former employer is part of the national nonprofit KIPP Charter Schools, which has a reputation for successfully educating low-income minority students.

But the press release announcing her candidacy and her website make no mention of those credentials, nor of her recent position as chief of staff for Teach for America, an organization that places previously untrained teachers from elite colleges in low-income public and charter schools.

She continues to work for Teach for America on teacher training, according to her LinkedIn profile.

"Most Portlanders are not familiar with those organizations," says Jake Weigler, a spokesman for the campaign, who sent out the release. "Our campaign is focused on telling people about Munson's track record of working to improve outcomes for students and that is a record she is proud to run on."

The campaign website mentions that she began her career as a Teach for America teacher in New York, but does not mention her current role at the organization.

Munson is the third candidate for Zone 4, which covers North Portland and parts of Northeast. The Board members represent a region of the city, but are elected citywide.

Munson's resume demonstrates she's part of the country's education-reform movement that generally supports school choice and charter schools as well as the use of test scores to measure acceptability for schools. Teachers unions generally oppose those approaches.

Munson's got strong local connections—she graduated from Grant High in 1997—but charter school connection may be a stumbling block in Portland, where resistance to standardized testing runs high and where charter schools have not gained wide acceptance.

But Munson has secured a notable and lengthy list of endorsements including current school board members Pam Knowles and Amy Kohnstamm, both of whom have clashed repeatedly with the current Zone 4 incumbent Steve Buel. Munson also has the endorsements of former Portland Mayor Sam Adams and former State Sen. Avel Gordly.

"We need smart, capable leaders at the Portland School Board to help us improve achievement and forge partnerships with the community," Gordly said in a statement. "I am excited that Munson is running for the Board. She has the skills, experience, and style we need working for us."

Munson faces Buel as well as the longtime education advocate Rita Moore. Buel was endorsed by the Portland Association of Teachers in his previous run for the board, and Moore won the union's backing in a earlier failed run for the board.


Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.