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🕵️ Why Portland Public Schools owes us an answer
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🕵️ Why Portland Public Schools owes us an answer

If you’re a Bridgeliner member, thank you! If you’re not yet, we hope you enjoy this free preview of our members-only newsletter, and we invite you to join us for $1 by signing up with the discount code PREVIEW.

What Portland is talking about

The crisis at Arleta Elementary School burst into public view last year when a third-grade student ingested cocaine at school that they’d received from an older classmate.

That story went viral, and Diana Kruger was removed as principal less than two months later.

But a 42-page document that we got our hands on this week shows that the cocaine debacle was just the tip of the iceberg.

For weeks leading up to that, Arleta teachers and staff were complaining to PPS officials about a hostile, chaotic work environment under Kruger’s leadership.

Here are a few of the highlights lowlights:

  • “I have heard Mrs. Kruger make casual jokes about race. Specifically, I have heard her say ‘I love having a black secretary because it makes people uncomfortable.'”
  • “Diana is great at forming friendships and speaking ‘education speak’ to people. Unfortunately, she is completely incapable of doing her job. The first day of school, no students [in] 3rd grade [or above] knew where they were supposed to go.”
  • “I watched the training video in late October about harassment and retaliation in the workplace and throughout it felt like it was describing my experience.”

Now we want to be extra clear: These are allegations, and Kruger’s side of the story might be very different.

(We reached out to Kruger by email yesterday to ask for an interview, and she replied: “I have never seen this document that you refer to…. I am forwarding your email to the PPS Communication Department to address your questions.”)

All that said, the allegations we’ve seen don’t look good for Kruger — and the fact that she’s married to a former police captain who built public shrines to Nazi soldiers doesn’t seem like a great sign, either.

So what can we do about it? 

That’s a tough question for us, TBH, because the threat of a sham defamation lawsuit is always in the back of our minds, even if the facts are on our side. (Here’s one reason why.)

But this much is clear: Portland Public Schools at least owes its students, parents, and teachers an explanation for why Diana Kruger deserves a leadership position in the district.

Here’s where PPS could start:

  • Who made the decision to hire Kruger, and why? PPS public information officer Karen Werstein told us that “the job was posted, Diana applied, and the supervisor of that program selected Diana.” OK, but why? And what did that supervisor know about the allegations made against Kruger when they hired her?
  • Did Kruger get a pay raise? It’s not the most important question, but the idea that someone could lose their job as principal and end up getting a pay bump is… kinda outrageous. Thankfully, salary information for public employees is a public record, and Werstein says she’ll get it to us.
  • What is Kruger doing in this new role? We asked Werstein about rumors that Kruger is now working on the district’s anti-racist curriculum, and she denied it. “[Diana], like our teachers and the team that develops all school curriculum, uses equity and teaching for tolerance standards to ensure all of our curricula is anti-racist.” So, what is her role then? And where are these rumors coming from?

If you agree that PPS leadership owes answers to these Qs, we’d ask that you sign and share this petition to help us get the district’s attention.

And if you appreciate our work as an independent watchdog, we’d ask you to become a Bridgeliner member today to support it.

It’s only $1 for the first month if you use the discount code PREVIEW— and in addition to making our work possible, your membership will get you access to all the latest updates on this story as our sleuthing unfolds. 🕵️

P.S. A couple process notes: 

  • We interviewed three former and current Arleta employees for this story, and we’re now reaching out to others. If you know anyone else with firsthand knowledge, we’d love to hear from them, too.
  • We’ve decided not to publish the full list of teacher and staff complaints until we can figure out what needs to be redacted to protect people’s privacy and shield any teachers and staff from retaliation.
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Today’s Portland life hacks

😎 Take a class with a buddy. Portland Underground Graduate School will give you and another person 25% off courses if you sign up together. For the freelancer: Our friend Michael Jonas is teaching a class on contracts and business for creatives.

🔔 Get hitched safely. If you’re one of the brave souls planning a wedding right now, check out this wedding policy template that will help you make the right calls as the big day gets closer.

👵 Donate a fan. This heat is a lot to handle, especially for elderly. Donate a fan to Meals on Wheels to help out a local senior citizen in need.

✏️ Help with back to school. Friends of the Children is making sure every kid has access to school supplies now that we know access to the classroom could be limited. Order from their school supplies wish list to help out.

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Events

Things to do

Today

📖 Hear a book talk about life on Mars (Online)

🎸 Watch an outdoor concert on a river (St. Helens)

🗣️ Get a history lesson about Oregon's first Black pioneers (Online)

Tomorrow

📚 Join a chat with "A Kids Book About" publisher Jelani Memory (Online)

🏀 Watch the Blazers kick off their bubble season (Multiple locations)

🙋 Test your "Hamilton" trivia knowledge (Online)

🍻 Drink a butterbeer for Harry Potter's birthday - through Sunday (NE Portland)

Saturday

👣 Meet up for a march to Peninsula Park (NE Portland)

🎊 Get help planning your wedding (Online)

🍿 Watch "Shrek" at a pop-up outdoor theater (Vancouver)

One more thing...

The federal officers deployed downtown are finally packing up this week, and a gas-masked Mary Poppins impersonator is sending them home with a message for the president. 😂

That’s all for today. We’ll see you next time.

— Bridgeliner

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