PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It was a contentious school board meeting Tuesday evening as Portland Public Schools students, teachers and parents fought for a middle school teacher to keep his job after he was placed on paid administrative leave in 2022.
On Tuesday, the PPS Board of Education voted on whether to keep or dismiss Harriet Tubman Middle School social studies teacher Bryan Chu.
“You’re not saving us. You’re taking away teachers that we need. Back from my speech before, to take away Mr. Chu is to take away opportunities away from students,” one student said during the meeting.
A teacher for 15 years in PPS, Chu was placed on paid administrative leave from his position since April 2022 after the district cited Chu’s teaching and grading practices, as well as behavior with board members during meetings, among other things.
“The district’s case is full of holes and the harder you look, the more holes that you’ll see,” Noah Barish, an attorney representing Chu, said. “And the more holes that you see, the more convinced you will be there is some other motive at work for the district to be rid of Mr. Chu.”
Over the years, Chu has been an activist and spoken out against racism. Speaking with KOIN 6 before the meeting, Chu called the district toxic and further called on concerns of racism within.
“You don’t realize how toxic PPS is until you’re actually out of it. I feel bad for all of the teachers that are still in it,” said Chu. “I just want to be clear that it’s not about my job. I’m not the one that’s on trial, the district actually is. I’m going to say it right here for the record, it doesn’t matter how they vote, once again, they’re going to show us who they really are.”
Board members appeared to remain divided.
“I did not find all of the alleged misconduct would rise to a level that would result in dismissal,” school board member Patte Sullivan said at one point.
“Grades were not based on demonstrated student work in which there weren’t lesson plans, a whole host of things that were not happening in the classroom,” school board member Julia Brim-Edwards added.
Even with those speaking on behalf to keep Chu, ultimately, the board voted to dismiss him 5-1, with Sullivan serving as the only no, and member Eddie Wang abstaining. The decision was immediately met with shouts from the crowd and cheers in support of Chu, as many chanted, “We got Chu.”
KOIN 6 spoke with district officials at the meeting but they “declined to comment on personnel matters.”