Portland Public Schools Board Hiring Outside Law Firm to Investigate Interim Superintendent Yousef Awwad

Awwad is to be investigated for personal behavior that may violate district policy.

Interim Superintendent Bob McKean and Yousef Awwad, chief financial officer, discussing McKean's recommendation that PPS hold off on opening Tubman and Roseway Heights as middle schools.

The Portland Public Schools board is hiring an outside law firm to investigate the district's interim superintendent, Yousef Awwad, for allegations including that he had a personal relationship with a female subordinate, sources tell WW.

That proposed investigation results from a personnel complaint filed against Awwad, a source familiar with the matter tells WW. It is not yet clear what the complaint alleges, but it deals with allegations that Awwad's personal behavior  with the subordinate may have violated district policy.

A similar complaint filed this spring was referred to then-interim Superintendent Bob McKean.

"My understanding is the superintendent had looked at it and said it was fine," says former school board member Steve Buel.

McKean, who is no longer working for the district, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

PPS spokesman David Northfield referred questions to the school board.

Board chair Julia Brim-Edwards declined comment, saying the board discusses personnel matters in executive session, which are not open to the public. "As a board chair, I take complaints filed with the board seriously," she says. "I will not be commenting on personnel issues or complaints that may be before the board."

Awwad has been considered a rare bright spot in the midst of the chaos that has engulfed PPS. He helped run the district this last year after former superintendent Carole Smith abruptly resigned in the wake of a lead scandal.

PPS policy surrounding workplace relationships is complicated, but requires that in some cases supervisors disclose relationships with subordinates.

Despite the earlier personnel complaint, the previous school board felt confident enough in Awwad to place him in charge of the district after McKean's contract expired and until a permanent superintendent could take over. (On Aug. 11, PPS announced its pick for that job: Guadalupe Guerrero, a deputy superintendent in San Francisco.)

Awwad denies any wrongdoing.

"To my knowledge I have not violated any district policies now or in the past," Awwad emailed WW on Aug 9.

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