Effective Leadership for our Schools
Julia has spent two decades as a parent leader and activist fighting for school funding at the state and local levels and on initiatives to improve our schools and better support students. She has also created measures and initiatives to hold PPS central office leaders more accountable to students and parents.
Julia grew up on Mt. Tabor in Southeast Portland. She attended Glencoe Elementary and graduated from Washington-Monroe High School. As a PPS parent herself from 1998–2016, Julia participated fully in her kids’ school communities, including 18 years of parent-teacher conferences, PTA and Site Council meetings, volunteering in the classroom, and cheering from the sidelines while her three children played soccer, basketball, football, and baseball.
While Julia’s professional career spans the worlds of business, education, and sports, her volunteer service has focused on her passion for and work on behalf of public schools and students.
From 2001–2005, Julia was elected and served on the Portland Public School Board, where she helped lead the school district at a challenging time in several areas, including:
- Stabilizing district funding following the devastating effects of the recession in the early 2000s.
- Establishing the financial reserve policy, which built the district’s reserves and bolstered PPS’s ability to successfully manage through unstable economic periods.
- Focusing the district’s limited resources on the classroom by prioritizing classroom expenditures during the budget process and establishing the district’s internal performance audit function.
- Setting higher accountability standards by eliminating “golden parachutes” for senior central office administrators by creating a standard contracts policy for senior administrators that limited excessive payouts when senior administrators left PPS.
- Rebuilding community support for PPS.
- Co-designing and building an effective board governance system to accomplish the above, which resulted in a united and cohesive board.
Most significantly, Julia joined with teachers and other parents to lead in the successful community effort in the early 2000s to restore five weeks of school in danger of being lost due to state budget cuts. Portland would have had the shortest school year in the nation; Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” cartoon devoted a week to highlighting PPS’s shortened school year.
Since her school board service, Julia has continued to be a leader and volunteer on PPS’s bond and local option funding campaigns, which primarily support teaching positions in our schools.
As a volunteer community leader, Julia co-founded and built a citywide coalition of high school parents (The Parents Coalition) in 2013 to pressure the board and superintendent to restore a full day of high school instruction for students by adding back teachers to all PPS high schools. The Parents Coalition successfully stopped the destructive practice of shortchanging high school students from a full school day.
As a youth sports advocate and volunteer, Julia also co-founded the PIL Fan Base, a citywide parent coalition to restore funding for trainers, transportation, and coaches in Portland’s high schools. The lack of trainers and transportation created serious health and safety issues for student-athletes and led to inequities across the school district, as not all school communities could fundraise to pay for these basic elements.
Working with PIL Athletic Director Marshall Haskins, Julia and other parents established and helped resource a new and equitable middle school sports program in PPS, which has resulted in thousands of middle school students having an opportunity to participate in sports at their middle schools or K-8s.
While serving on the PPS Board, Julia started the “10 Great Fields” project, a community project to install a new synthetic turf field and premium track at every PPS high school so that student-athletes at all Portland high schools would have high-quality outdoor facilities. Over the past decade, nine tracks and fields have been completed, with the final installation at Franklin High School scheduled for this year.
Julia has worked at Nike for 12 years, currently serving as a senior director. As part of her tenure at Nike, she helped established the Nike School Innovation Fund, which has invested more than $12 million in grants to Portland, Beaverton, and Hillsboro public schools since its inception. PPS has received funding for Early Learning Summer Academies, the Portland Leadership Collaborative to support school teams, grants for each of the high schools’ College and Career Centers, and grant support for high school teams through AVID training.
Other service: Julia currently serves on the Board of Trustees for both Oregon State University and Pacific University.
Julia and her husband Randall Edwards live in SE Portland in Julia’s childhood home.
Previous Board and Community Service (partial list)
- Board member, Oregon School Board Association (elected)
- Commission member, Oregon Child Care Commission (appointed by the Governor)
- Board member, Portland State University Graduate School of Education Advisory Board (appointed)
- Board member, Portland Schools Foundation (nominated)
- Co-founder, H.O.P.E. (Help Out Public Education), a Multnomah County community advocacy coalition that successfully secured funding to maintain the school year and reasonable class sizes; H.O.P.E. won a Spirit of Portland Award from Mayor Vera Katz
- Board member, Pioneer Courthouse Square (nominated)
- Board member, Oregon Education Investment Board (appointed by the Governor, nominated by the Oregon House co-speakers)
- Interim chair, Coalition for School Funding Now! (appointed by coalition members)
- Member, Mt. Tabor Middle School Site Council, Lincoln High School Site Council
- Member, school PTAs
- PIL Hall of Fame
- Hal Hart Parent Volunteer of the Year Award, Lincoln High School