Virginia LaForte People, Not Politics. Together We Are One District.

"Why am I running for the PPS School Board? The answer is easy. I believe that a strong K-12 public education is the great equalizer and has the power to change the trajectory of young lives. I want to be part of a team - a school board - that believes we can become one of the best school districts in the country."

Portland Public Schools and the media call Virginia La Forte a “Community Leader.” She calls herself a relentless “Student Advocate" with first-hand experience navigating a district in crisis to address environmental hazards, accountability, fiscal responsibility and equity.

She’s both managed and procured millions of dollars for employers and clients in her 20+ years as a professional focusing on strategic planning, client management, budget oversight, and creative development. She’s also proud of the business she co-owns with her husband that ships over a million pounds of produce to food banks across the country every month.

PPS recently tapped Virginia to serve on the critical 2017 Bond Stakeholder Advisory Group (BSAG) - crafting the largest bond in Oregon history - after she spearheaded and led a 3+ year effort to rid PPS schools of dangerous lead-based paint, a potent neurotoxin. "It wasn't a very popular position to take in 2013. It was like pushing a boulder uphill. But, I never give up. That's just who I am. I'm deeply concerned about the educational injustices that affect children across the city," Virginia says. "My husband and I both grew up in neighborhoods that are Title 1 catchment areas. To see the disparities that affect kids in our district and not do something about it is unconscionable.

School board members, both present and past, are endorsing Virginia’s campaign for a seat at the table for the next four years. So is former Governor Barbara Roberts. They know she’s effective and that she believes that only actions, persistence and alliance-building get any real work done. “I knew it was important to secure the support and endorsements of the board members I want to serve with and those that have been there before me,” she says. “We have to work as a team to be successful. When there is no trust on a team, work grinds to a halt. I’ve made my sense of urgency regarding the need to effectively address funding issues clear. We’re ready to get it done.” Virginia's endorsements include current PPS school board members Paul Anthony, Julie Esparza Brown, Amy Kohnstamm and Pamela Knowles. Former PPS school board members endorsing Virginia include Stephen Griffith, Stephen Kofoury (served in Oregon House of Representatives and State Senate), Bill Scott, Carol Turner and Bob Van Brocklin.

Virginia’s work with PPS doesn’t begin or end with lead paint.

She’s been key to identifying and solving for other challenges plaguing the district – fiscal responsibility, lack of accountability and the need to more effectively implement equity goals in the classroom. In 2014, as a PPS parent, Virginia successfully led the effort to centralize a PPS budget for specific special services after discovering that thousands of earmarked dollars were being returned to the general fund. “We have to get the funding and accountability issues right. They affect absolutely everything that happens in the classroom,” Virginia says. “We should be a top-performing school district where every single child reaches his or her full potential. We can’t have another legislative funding failure. We’re out of time.” She was subsequently appointed by her peers to the PPS TAG Advisory Council to help with budget recommendations.

Family

Virginia's husband was one of those kids that was nearly missed by a broken system. "He was a young Hispanic boy on the west side of Chicago who was disengaged at school. His teachers thought he didn't understand the material. They were going to make him repeat fourth grade," she says. "He was just bored. Thanks to one great teacher stepping in at the last minute, he was assessed and accelerated just in time. Holding him back could have ruined his life. There are thousands of kids out there just like him but what happens when a well-intentioned teacher doesn't have the required support staff and measurements for success? Kids and teachers lose. Society loses."

Virginia was tapped by the Oregon Department of Education in the summer of 2016 to participate in a work group to improve the school district complaint process statewide. "It's important for parents, teachers and staff to have an effective pathway to let the district know when the see a problem. They also need to be able to trust that it will be addressed." Recommendations from ODE are expected this spring.

Virginia is also the mom of two elementary school aged children and future Grant High School graduates. She’s chaired record-setting PPS school auctions to fill funding gaps and contribute the PPS Equity Fund, She’s taught pull out Math classes on her lunch breaks and has led book groups for young students. "I feel like I've had my hands in everything," she says.

Some may view Virginia as a PPS critic.

She’s actually a straightforward problem-solver who doesn’t give up. “You cannot look the other way because once you have the knowledge, you are culpable,” she told KATU News in July 2016 after successfully shutting down a lead-contaminated schoolyard for the first time in PPS history. A haz-mat team was on site within days. She feels the same way about funding, accountability, equity and trust in our schools.

When the current bond resolution was adopted by the school board on February 28, 2017 with 100% stabilization of lead-based paint and replacement of lead-contaminated pipes, Virginia testified at the meeting. She told the school board “My goal was always to build understanding and consensus and to lead us to a day like today. I am grateful.”

Getting it done of KGW

Virginia will bring focus, tenacity and a "get it done" attitude to the school board to address inequities for every student and teacher in the district. She's lived in both North and Northeast Portland (not to mention Missoula, Washington D.C. and many years in Chicago) and has seen these disparities first hand for years. When addressing issues like environmental hazards, special services budgets and complaint processes with the district, she has always been clear that ALL SCHOOLS receive the same attention and treatment when solutions are offered.

A vote for Virginia is a vote for a consensus-builder and a problem-solver, not a critical observer. She has a sense of urgency to turn PPS into a top-performing school district. Let’s get started.

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