Jill Powers Kirk
Oregon Business Council
Jill Powers Kirk is vice president for the Oregon Business Council, and past chair of the Oregon State Board of Education. She knows a thing or two about employers and education, and what makes our community stronger. Jill spent 18 years at Tektronix, where she held executive positions in human resources and community affairs, and where she served as the executive director of the Tektronix Foundation. "Education was always important to my family," said Jill. "It was a more personal thing."
All that changed in the 1990's when Jill was required to play a key role in the downsizing of Tektronix employees. As the company struggled, thousands of employees were let go and it became apparent many of them weren't prepared for the next phase of their careers. "My private feelings about education suddenly became very public," said Jill. "Too many people did not have the skills they needed to find another job, and some of them had a very difficult time."
Her passion for education and helping others lead her to get involved in many different civic and non-profit organizations, and ultimately led to a position on the Board of Education. Under her leadership, the Board of Education won national recognition for groundbreaking policies, including the option to award students' credit for proficiency, the linkage of high school achievement standards with university entry requirements, utilization of online student assessment, and development of personalized education plans for every student.
As a member of the Quality Education Commission and the Oregon Council for Knowledge and Economic Development, Jill has been a leader in developing policies to improve education budgeting, accountability, and student performance.
"The education model needs to be fixed," said Jill. "We have to think it so important, that we are willing to do whatever it takes to challenge the status quo."
Many employers know a quality educational system is central to the success of Oregon's economy, and in fact, education was on top of the agenda at the most recent Oregon Leadership Summit attended by over 1,000 business leaders. Employers discussed ways to get involved in supporting schools across the state. Leaders like Allan Alley, CEO of Pixelworks, and politicos such as Governor Kulongoski and Senators Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden all spoke eloquently about the importance of an educated work force to Oregon's future, and how everyone has a role to play in helping students succeed.
Jill knows this well, and she deeply believes that when we fail our students we are not just talking about how they will face economic poverty. "Children who grow up without a love of reading, are being denied emotional and spiritual nourishment," said Jill. "That's poverty too, and it is unacceptable. We really need to love all our children, like they are all our children."