Mike Rosen, Cleveland parent, running for school board


Clarion photo Portland Tribune photo

Mike Rosen in the Cleveland library

Mike Rosen is an expert in cleaning up the largest messes humanity has made.  With a doctorate in environmental sciences from the Oregon Graduate Center, now part of OHSU, Rosen spent years managing environmental cleanups for Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality, including the response to the Portland Harbor Superfund site.  After fifteen years leading PTAs, Site Councils, and parent activist groups, Rosen has decided to bring his cleanup skills to the Portland School Board.

Four seats on the Portland School Board that are up for election this spring.  As of press time, Rosen is the only candidate to declare for the Zone 7 seat which is currently held by Greg Belisle.  Belisle announced Feb. 10 that he would not seek reelection.

Rosen first got involved in education policy when his older child started at Llewellyn Elementary in Sellwood-Moreland.  At first Rosen simply volunteered in his children’s classrooms, but soon became involved in legislative attempts to increase education funding.  Eventually, Rosen found himself serving as the chapter president for Stand for Children.  “It’s just been stuff forever,” Rosen said, describing the laundry list of his activism.

At a house party and fundraiser held Feb. 15, (full disclosure: it was hosted by my parents) Rosen displayed an easy knowledge of the issues facing Portland’s public schools.  He connected to his audience, which included teachers and administrators from around the district, a former school board member, parents and a small handful of Cleveland students.

Most recently, Rosen co-founded the Portland Parent’s Coalition, the group that demanded that Portland high schools offer the minimum number of classroom hours required by state law.  “At the time, about 20 percent of students were taking a full school day,” Rosen said. “Now it’s closer to 50 percent.”  After the Portland Parents Coalition filed a complaint with state, Rosen says the state discovered the use of 8 period school days and free periods to save money statewide.

This particular advocacy project may make Rosen unpopular with the Cleveland student body, but Rosen says he is also unhappy with the way PPS adjusted the schedule to meet the state requirements.  “We contend that there is plenty of money to hire more teachers, plenty of money to add more schooldays,” Rosen says.

Expanding on his position on the class hours issue, Rosen launched into a detailed description of the way the school district sets it’s budget. Rosen also explained how he’d fix it: “Their revenue model is based on a recessionary economy, so now that the economy has recovered, they haven’t made any adjustments for increased tax revenues, lower pension costs, lower healthcare costs…”  Because of these out of date revenue projections, Rosen says PPS has discovered an extra $50 million this school year alone.  That money, about a tenth of the districts entire budget, has simply been put into the district’s rainy day fund.  Taking that money out of the bank and putting it into the schools has been a major issue for Rosen, who says that the money is there to fund stronger public schools in our city.

Rosen also spoke knowledgeably about issues that have been rocking both the district and education in general.  He called the recent 30 percent raise given to Carole Smith “tone deaf,” and spent a full 5 minutes discussing the pros and cons of standardized testing.  Ultimately, he said, we have to get it right.  “It’s really important to listen to teachers and address their concerns as they arise in the classroom,” he said, and emphasized successful implementation of the new Common Core tests as key to alleviating anxiety in the community.

“He’s always impressed me with being very funny and articulate and compelling,” said Kevin Downing, a Cleveland parent, explaining his support for Rosen, adding,  “I think those are really important characteristics.”