PORTLAND — The Portland Board of Education has informally chosen Emily Figdor as its new chairperson for the 2020-2021 school board year.

In a straw poll vote Nov. 17, the school board, including the soon-to-be sworn-in new members, informally voted to nominate Emily Figdor as the group’s new chairperson. A formal vote comes Dec. 7. Contributed / Portland Public Schools

A formal vote to chose a chairperson is scheduled for Dec. 7, when the board will hold an inauguration ceremony for Jeffrey Irish, Aura Russell-Bedder and Yusuf Yusuf, who were elected Nov. 3.

“Emily has years of experience doing work in the community, even before she joined the board, that has prepared her with skills that are transferable to the chairmanship,” board member Anna Trevorrow said in nominating Figdor Nov. 17.

“She is a natural leader and it has become very apparent over these last two years working with her that she puts the collective goals of the board about everything and uses that to lead,” Trevorrow said. “I think she will represent the board very well.”

Board member Sarah Thompson also feels Figdor is right for the role.

“She does her homework and is engaged deeply in the work,” Thompson said.

Figdor, elected to the board in 2018, would replace Roberto Rodriguez, an at-large member since 2016 who has served as chairperson for the last two years. Figdor said she admires Rodriguez and sees him as the board’s “moral compass as we break new ground in creating a just and equitable school district.”

If elected Dec. 7, she said her focus would be to increase communication among board members and also with residents, not just those the board tends to hear from most.

“An active and engaged board and a passionate and involved community together can move mountains,” she said.

Community involvement, she said, “strengthens our decisions and strengthens our actions.”

Prior to joining the board two years ago, Figdor co-chaired the Reiche school PTO group and co-founded Protect Our Neighborhood Schools, a group advocating for voters to pass a $64 million bond in 2017 to renovate the Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche elementary schools.

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