The next board chair of the Portland Public Schools' board will be a familiar face.
Julie Brim-Edwards, a public-affairs executive at Nike, who served on the board from 2001 to 2005, has the votes to be elected to chair tomorrow by her colleagues, according to board member Julie Esparza-Brown and two other sources familiar with the board members' thinking.
Brim-Edwards was reelected to the board in May. In the dozen years since she was on the board, she has been intimately involved in the district. Her name was even floated for the role of interim superintendent last year, though she did not ultimately apply for the job.
The school board's key duty of hiring and supervising the school superintendent has new urgency after the last board's attempt to hire a superintendent ended in a very public belly flop. Donyall Dickey, a school administrator from Atlanta, withdrew from consideration after being announced as the only finalist for the job.
The board chair is generally the key point of contact with the superintendent and staff, meaning she's a first among equals.
During her previous tenure on the board, Brim-Edwards helped recruit superintendent Vicki Phillips, who was responsible for the now controversial decision to combine elementary and middle school into kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools across the eastside — a decision the new superintendent may be charged with undoing.
While Brim-Edwards has a lock on board chair, the fight for the number-two spot on the board—a job known as vice-chair—is more bruising.
The fight over who will become board vice-chair is proving contentious. Rita Moore, a longtime parent activist from North Portland who won election in May, appears to have the votes, according to Julie Esparza-Brown and another source familiar with the board's negotiations.
Esparza-Brown, the first Latina to serve on the PPS board, was seeking to be vice-chair and is criticizing fellow board members for making a decision behind closed doors.
"We need to deliberate in public at a time that is accessible to working community members," Esparza-Brown tells WW. "We are a district proud of our equity work. Thus we need to take the opportunities to place diverse voices in leadership positions, since we bring an entirely an different worldview and perspectives to our work, decisions and commitments. School boards should not be about power and privilege."
Brim-Edwards and Moore did not respond to immediate requests for comment.
"I'm going to nominate Brim-Edwards and Moore as chair and vice chair in our public meeting meeting tomorrow," says board member Mike Rosen. "There was nothing behind the scenes."