Natasha Butler: Principal at Harriet Tubman

Principal Natasha Butler in front of the new Harriet Tubman Middle School
Principal Natasha Butler in front of the new Harriet Tubman Middle School. Photo: Danny Peterson

Principal Natasha Butler has big plans for Harriet Tubman Middle School and Eliot neighborhood. As the school reopens to students for the 2018 school year, Principal Butler looks to enlist the entire neighborhood in support of diverse populations and thriving communities for students. Principal Butler’s own roots in Eliot run deep, and she is committed to continuing to welcome people of color in our neighborhood. Growing up, Ms. Butler’s father ran a business near the intersection of Graham Street and Williams Avenue and lived on Graham. Although the neighborhood demographics have changed over the years, Principal Butler wants Harriet Tubman Middle School to be a powerhouse for students of color and students from underrepresented communities.

Going beyond Eliot, Portland Public School District is exploring a preference policy. This policy enables students from families that have been displaced from Albina to request attendance at a school in the area. Harriet Tubman Middle School would be a participating school. Welcoming students of displaced families back to the neighborhood is an opportunity for Eliot to continue to embrace diverse communities and help provide a strong foundation for Harriet Tubman students.

Environment matters for growing students, and so does the air quality. One hurdle facing Harriet Tubman Middle School is its proximity to Interstate 5. Like the rest of Eliot neighborhood, the air quality is vulnerable to degradation from vehicles passing through. The school has addressed indoor air quality with a state-of-the art HVAC system. Although School board members expressed concern about reopening the school due to the air quality, it’s important to know that Tubman hasn’t been empty for the past two years. Faubion Elementary School leased Tubman while its new school was under construction. Furthermore, air quality concerns plague other schools in the Portland Public Schools District. Principal Butler sees air quality concerns as an issue that the school district needs to tackle across multiple sites and not to single out Tubman school. As Portland residents, we should consider taking actions that decrease air pollution in our city overall.

Harriet Tubman’s reopening holds significance for the entire neighborhood. Because the school is located in Eliot, Principal Butler expects the neighbors (even those without students enrolled at the school) to participate in the school community. If you’re interested in tutoring students, hosting a small group of students at your workplace, or connecting students to scholarship opportunities, feel free to stop by. The school day will run from 9:15 am to 3:45 pm. Keep an eye out for information about the Grand Opening on August 27th, the first day of the school year.

By Monique Gaskins