The Portland Phoenix

School district to host community event to aid superintendent search

Portland High School

The main entrance to Portland High School on Cumberland Avenue. Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana said replacement of Portland and Deering high schools will remain a priority for the School Department after he leaves his post next July. (Portland Phoenix/Jim Neuger)

The Portland Public School district and a search firm will host in-person community events to aid the superintendent search process, on January 30 and 31.

In the next step in the process to find the district’s next superintendent, school officials and Chicago-based search firm Alma Advisory Group invite community members to share input on-site in Portland. The district plans to announce locations and other info soon, according to School Board Chair Sarah Lentz.

Monica Santana Rosen, a founder of Alma who is heading up the search, recommended in a Jan. 3 workshop with the school board that the community should solicit community feedback before posting the job offering. There will also be a virtual community event on Feb. 2. 

“In the situation where you’re in a difficult moment for the district, having the opportunity for people to have their voices heard at this stage and to know how their voices will be used will benefit you greatly in setting up the next leader for success,” she said.

The search firm plans to interview in March with a finalist round set for April. They anticipate that an offer will be accepted by May with a plan in place to induct the new superintendent.

Throughout the search process, the School Board will meet with Alma once a month, while the Superintendent Search Committee, previously selected by the board, will meet with Alma twice a month.

In an interview, Lentz said it’s crucial to go above and beyond in the inclusiveness of the search. 

The district is “trying to do a lot across the community to maintain a consistent cycle of relationship-building,” Lentz said.

Input from the events will be used to shape the job profile and description from what they want to see from the incoming superintendent, according to Sylvia Flowers, day-to-day manager of Alma’s search team.

There will also be interviews and focus groups including teachers, students and staff, along with a community-wide survey, which will be open for about three weeks, Flowers said at the meeting. The survey could be launched in the middle of January, prior to on-site community events.

Until then, Alma representatives said they hope to get the word out to as many people in the community as possible.

The superintendent search process has been underway since August after Superintendent Xavier Botana announced plans to leave his position a year sooner than his contract expires.

Botana resigned last month after issues with the district’s payroll department resulted in some school staffers being paid inconsistently or not at all for months.

The district’s assistant superintendents, Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend, were appointed by the School Board on Jan. 3 to take over as interim co-superintendents until the end of the school year. Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed, a principal at Deering High School, was also selected to fill in as interim assistant superintendent during the transition.

Lentz said that it was too soon to determine whether any of the three interim superintendents would be in the running for the full-time position, but added that one reason the district chose Alma was because of their experience offering internal candidates an equitable and fair hiring process.

The team will move into their interim positions on Jan. 13, after Botana’s last day in the office.


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