PPS in bind as Supt search struggles, bond looms

$790 million bond vote on May 16 ballot

Students walk into a Portland public school, January 24, 2017 (KOIN)
Students walk into a Portland public school, January 24, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Less than 2 weeks before voters decide on a new $790 million bond issue, the Portland Public School board is back to square one in their search for a new superintendent.

Their only finalist, Dr. Donyall Dickey, withdrew his application after he and the PPS board realized their expectations weren’t aligned.

Parents Natalie Hval and Sherly Pruett had different reactions to Dickey’s withdrawal.

Dr. Donyall Dickey, the Chief Schools Officer and Chief Academic Officer for Atlanta Public Schools, is a finalist for Portland Public Schools superintendent (Courtesy photo)
Dr. Donyall Dickey, the Chief Schools Officer and Chief Academic Officer for Atlanta Public Schools, is a finalist for Portland Public Schools superintendent (Courtesy photo)

“I was shocked” at Dickey’s withdrawal, Hval said. But Pruett said she was “not surprised that this gentleman decided he would not take this job.”

But they generally feel the same about the Portland school district.

“I don’t trust them to do the right thing,” Pruett told KOIN 6 News. “They don’t work in a very ethical manner.”

Hval added, “There are a lot of reasons to really be distrustful at this point.”

And they agree the Dickey situation is likely to hurt the bond vote.

“I don’t see how it can’t. I think there’s been one issue after the next,” Hval said.

“You can see the problem is much deeper than just the superintendent,” Pruett said. “They just lost a $1 million lawsuit yesterday (Thursday) to discrimination and I’m sure that’s not the only case in the district.”

PPS Board Chair Tom Koehler said Dickey’s resignation from the job he never had was the best course of action for the district and for Dickey.

“It was clear it was not the best fit for Donyall nor us,” Koehler said. But he admitted “the timing is not exactly how we would prefer it.”

Interim Superintendent Bob McKean, who will stay on the job until July 1, said he understands what parents think.

“It’s not about one individual and you want to have the best fit, that would be my response to parents,” McKean said. “I feel like we’ve come some distance. We clearly have some distance to go.”

There is no timeline right now for naming a new superintendent.