Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana resigned to the School Board Friday afternoon in an executive session. The Board accepted his resignation, effective January 31, 2023 or whenever an interim superintendent is appointed.
Botana was set to step down from his position at the end of this school year, a year earlier than his contract was set to expire. He cited the district’s ongoing payroll issues as a factor — a result of “a complex payroll system, and an internet system outage in November that exacerbated problems,” according to the press release.
“While I have worked tirelessly to find solutions and we reached an agreement with the [Portland Education] Association regarding next steps to ensure that all staff are paid accurately and on time, I think it is the district’s best interest that I step aside and allow new leadership to bring closure to these matters,” Botana said.
School Board Chair Sarah Lentz thanked Botana for his almost seven years of service.
“I ran for School Board and have my son in the Portland Public Schools because of the incredible work that I have seen Xavier and this district do over the course of his tenure” said School Board Chair Sarah Lentz. “Under his leadership, Portland has deeply focused on creating equitable policies and redistributing resources so that all of our students can reach their full potential. He has challenged us all to focus on equity and has been a powerful advocate for this work.”
Botana said he will remain available for consultation to support the transition as requested by the interim superintendent or Chair Lentz through June 30, 2023.
“I am committed to assisting the Board as it sees appropriate in the transition,” he said.
As of Monday, Lentz didn’t know when an interim superintendent would be selected, though the board is thinking through “several possibilities,” she told the Phoenix.
Lentz delivered the annual State of the Schools address at the city council meeting Monday night, affirming that the district’s hope is to hire a new superintendent by May. The search committee hired the Illinois-based firm Alma Advisory Group to steer that process, and Lentz plans to begin meeting with them this week to begin planning focus groups and community gatherings.
She acknowledged the district’s ongoing tasks, to rectify ongoing payroll struggles for staff and continue striving for equity in the schools.
“Looking ahead, we as a board and district have a lot of work to do as we continue to center equity and our other ‘Portland Promise’ goals,” Lentz said.
Botana was hired by the district in 2016, and was key to implementing the “Portland Promise,” an initiative approved in 2017 to serve as a blueprint to guide student learning in a way that is equitable for all students. As part of that initiative, Botana helped to secure more funding for services for students experiencing opportunity gaps, increase staff diversity to more closely match the diversity in the student body and worked to give voice and place to traditionally underrepresented members of the community.
Prior to taking the job in Portland, he worked as an associate superintendent in Indiana and as a teacher and administrator in Chicago.
In a Friday message to staff, Botana wrote, “I believe that the district can and will rise to the challenge of the current moment and will return to stability and effectiveness, and it will be stronger for having overcome this particular challenge.”
A joint statement from the presidents of the school district’s unions, representing teachers, ed-techs and BASE employees, touched on rebuilding the stability and trust in the district.
“Over time, what was a payroll crisis, grew into an even larger crisis of faith. Moving forward, in a sincere spirit of collaboration, we turn toward restoring trust between the staff, the school board and district leadership,” the statement read.
The school board was expected to meet again on Tuesday, Dec. 20 after the Phoenix went to print, and on Tuesday, Jan. 3.