Our Letter to PPS
March 5, 2021

Dear Superintendent Guerrero, Dr. Cuellar, Dr. Bird, Ms. Lindholm, Dr. Simpson, Ms. Ledezma, and members of the PPS School Board,

We, members of Padres Unidos de Rigler / PTA, on behalf of the Rigler Elementary School community, write to you with concern about the selection process for the next principal of Rigler Elementary School. While we appreciate the ritual invitation for us to weigh in on “What qualities we would like in a principal?,” we have attended these meetings almost annually since 2014. Much of this feels all too familiar.  Yet there is one major difference this time around. This is the first hiring process since the 2019 Secretary of State audit of PPS, which dedicated a full page to Rigler and the problem of “change saturation.” The current selection process is futile if PPS does not address the more fundamental and urgent question: What structural changes are needed so a new principal has a chance to succeed and stay for at least 5 years? 

For anyone unfamiliar with our community: 

• Rigler is PPS’s flagship dual language immersion (DLI) school with 300+ K-5 students. We are also a Title I school with 90% students from underserved populations. 

• Rigler has had seven full/interim principals since 2013; the constant turnover has had devastating effects, both for students and staff.  One principal was so destabilizing that there was a mass staff exodus.

• Rigler had high staff turnover in the recent past: 28 teachers left between 2015-2017 and many more had left between 2013-15. Just four people on staff have worked at Rigler since 2013. Staffing has stabilized over the past three years, and we now have a very strong team of educators. However, these gains are constantly threatened by the lack of consistent and stable leadership.

• Rigler teachers and parents share concerns about inadequate middle school readiness. Stable leadership can measurably improve academic opportunities and preparation for our children, providing a strong foundation for healthy, successful lives.

We have concluded that the turnover problem at the administrative level is less about the individuals who have filled this role and more about the system constraints in which they operate. Most of our principals have been strong and even excellent. This year, we’ve had two exceptional principals. We understand Directora Myrna Muñoz’s resignation to be the result of a systemic lack of material and professional resources and support. Systemic failures have  become doubly evident in the recent decision by Interim Principal Keyla Santiago to not apply for the permanent principal position. Each time a principal leaves, it becomes even more clear that the position is not designed for success. 

In order to ensure the success of the next principal of Rigler, we demand that the following measures be taken:

The Assistant Principal position must be fully funded by PPS. It is currently partially funded by our equity funds which should be available for other uses. The partial funding of this position is evidence of PPS’s failure to fully support the administration of Rigler as well as inadequate support for Rigler’s equity opportunities. 

The Community Agent position, currently vacant, must be fully funded by PPS. This is an essential role in our school, and the failure of PPS to fund this position has left the administration undersupported.

PPS must apply a cap to the many hours that the District requires Rigler’s  principal to be away from the school to meet District and Title I obligations.

PPS must provide compensation that is commensurate with the additional demands and time that make the role of principal at Rigler exponentially more challenging than the same position at a different school. PPS must recognize the significant advocacy work that is required of the principal to support teachers, staff, and families of a Title I school with a majority immigrant population. Failing to do so leaves the principal overextended and unable to sustain the position. 

PPS must explain publicly, both on paper and in a presentation to the community, how the District has implemented the Secretary of State’s audit recommendation 19 at Title I schools. We have had two principals since June of 2019 when PPS agreed to have implemented measures “providing incentives and additional support, particularly at high-poverty schools” to retain effective principals (pages 52 and 81 of 98).  

District failure to sufficiently support Rigler administrators is not an issue that goes away by hiring a new principal - however experienced and exceptional they may be. This problem reflects a pattern of deep racial and socioeconomic inequity that has long affected Rigler and other Title I schools. We demand that Portland Public Schools take the 2019 Audit Report recommendations seriously. We do this in hope that administrative stability will lead to greater educational opportunities and success for our children and that systemic changes will benefit the greater community and district at large. 

As the only all DLI elementary school in the district, Rigler is exceptional and unique. We have committed teachers and strong family leadership. We look forward to working together with PPS and our new principal to create a more just, equitable, and sustainable present and future for our schools. 

Saludos,
Padres Unidos de Rigler (Rigler PTA)

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” - Maya Angelou

For questions or more information, contact:
Padres Unidos officers at RiglerInfo@gmail.com
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Rigler braces for another principal turnover (8th principal in 9 years).

We invite community members to write PPS about the destabilizing effects of principal turnover on the Rigler community.
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