Lee Fleming has been with Portland Public Schools (PPS) since May 2011. Prior to that, he spent three years as an analyst for the State Procurement Office. During his time there he dealt with MWESB concerns as part of a mandate from the Governor's office. One aspect of that was reporting to the Governor's advocate on MWESB information. Fleming says being involved in the statutes and rules pertaining to public purchasing policy prepared him for what he's doing today.
PPS introduced its Equity in Public Purchasing and Contracting Policy in July. Fleming says the district-wide vision is to be more purposeful about inclusion.
He says PPS wants to ensure it's reaching out to local communities. "Minority-owned firms, women-owned firms, emerging small businesses. Everyone has equal access, equal opportunity to compete for work and opportunities in the district," Fleming says.
Fleming says the goal is to improve the district's history, which he says in the past has admittedly been poor in terms of dealing with minority and small business firms; in fact the new purchasing policy is part of the district's rollout of a larger Racial Equity in Education policy.
At this time, Fleming says it's still in "extreme draft mode" so specific target percentages and goals for minority business inclusion are to be determined. However, when awarding contracts, he says the district provides solicitation documents so there is no guesswork involved for inquiring firms.
Although the policy is in its early stages, Fleming is excited for the possibilities of what the district can do.
"For me, to be part of this work is very rewarding," he says. "I'm exposed to a lot of information that's going to benefit the district as a whole but more importantly our students, who are our future."