Pious Ali leads efforts to bridge gaps with immigrant parents in Portland schools

Portland parent Micky Bondo was surprised when she went to parent-teacher conferences and didn’t see her friends and neighbors from the immigrant community.

“I didn’t see the diversity of the parents. I thought: What’s going on? Am I the only one?” said Bondo, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who moved here from Atlanta in 2009. “So I went to different parents in my own community and asked them, ‘Why didn’t I see you at the parent-teacher conference at your child’s school?’ ”

The answer, she found, was that they didn’t feel connected to the school, and didn’t know how to bridge the gap.

Now a years-long effort by immigrant parents to organize and communicate their concerns to school district officials is taking a critical step forward after the Portland School Board voted to form an ad hoc committee to review district policies in order to remove barriers that have left some immigrant families feeling alienated. A “Parents Manifesto” created by the families will be used as a guide for the committee, which will be formed in the next few weeks.

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