PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Alliance of Black School Educators and World Arts Foundation, Inc., is hosting a Portland Public Schools Board meeting with the intention of renaming the Blanchard Educational Service Center after Dr. Matthew Prophet, who served as superintendent of PPS from 1982 to 1992.
At the time, Black teachers were not highly represented in the areas with the most Black students. During his 10-year tenure as superintendent, Prophet worked to increase the diversity in school staff, including custodial and administrative positions, so that it reflected the students and communities around them.
Lurlene Shamsud-Din, project manager for ORABSE, crossed paths with Dr. Prophet during her career at PPS starting in 1986. “There was a lot of turmoil in terms of how we were going to educate all children,” Shamshud-Din said. “[Prophet] came in and he said, ‘All children can learn and we are going to teach all children.’”
Because of this, Portland’s Black United Front wanted to establish programs to address the achievement gap between Black students and their non-Black counterparts. Together, the Black United Front and ORABSE opened one of the first demonstration schools in Oregon. With help from Prophet, these schools exposed students to technology, the scientific method of inquiry, experiential learning and more.
ORABSE had already been planning a presentation at the PPS board meeting when they heard of Prophet’s passing in June this year. Renee Anderson, treasurer of ORABSE, contacted Kenneth Berry, co-founder of WAFI, as soon as she heard the news.
“I called him and I said, ‘Ken, we have to do something,” Anderson said. “And of course, he said, ‘I was thinking the same thing.’” This was the catalyst to honoring Prophet’s legacy and leadership with a namesake building.
The proposal to rename the Blanchard building will happen on Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. during the meeting in the PPS Board Auditorium at 501 N. Dixon Street.
There will also be a tribute in honor of Prophet’s life and legacy on Oct. 22. You can click here to RSVP.