The Portland Board of Education on Monday named the two finalists for superintendent of schools.

One of the finalists, Xavier Botana, assistant superintendent in the Michigan City, Indiana, school system, met with the public Monday evening at Casco Bay High School. About 6,000 students are enrolled in Botana’s school district.

The other finalist, Teresa A. Lance, assistant superintendent in Colorado Springs, Colorado, will meet the public from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium at King Middle School. The two candidates are fielding questions from the public and those attending can complete a feedback form that will be given to the school board.

More than 30 people attended Monday’s forum. Botana talked about his work record, his personal life and his vision for Portland schools.

Botana, 53, told the audience he was born in Cuba. When he was a young child, his parents put him on a flight to Spain with instructions for a stewardess to make sure he made it safely. Botana said he lived there for two years with his grandparents before being reunited with his parents in the United States after they’d obtained visas.

The mass exodus of unaccompanied Cuban minors during the early 1960s became known as Operation Pedro Pan. It was driven by parents who feared the Cuban government, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, would decide how their children would be educated.

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“I was fortunate to have been living in a time and place where this country was exceptionally welcoming of people from Cuba,” Botana said

He described Portland as a welcoming community and made reference to its immigrant community and the large number of students who speak foreign languages.

One audience member pressed Botana about his professional ambitions, citing the high turnover rate among Portland superintendents.

“I don’t see myself as moving again,” Botana said. “I see myself as being the superintendent here for the next 10 to 15 years.”

“I am looking for a place where I can make a difference and change the lives of thousands of children,” he said.

Each candidate will visit three schools in the district this week. They also will be interviewed by the school board, top administrators, a group of stakeholders and a group of high school students. The board intends to announce its decision by mid-May. The start date for the position is July 1.

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It’s not known what Portland’s new superintendent will be paid. The previous superintendent, Emmanuel Caulk, was paid $137,500 a year when he left the district last June.

Botana and Lance were chosen as finalists from a field of 41 candidates. The school board interviewed six semi-finalists identified in the national search.

Botana, who is fluent in Spanish, has been an associate superintendent for the Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana since 2010. His previous jobs include chief academic officer for the Portland, Oregon, public schools, chief officer of instructional design and assessment for the Chicago Public Schools, administrator for the Illinois State Board of Education, and he has held various other positions in schools in Illinois.

Botana holds a master’s degree in educational administration and has completed some doctoral program coursework, according to the Portland school board.

Lance currently is the school leadership officer – a position equivalent to assistant superintendent – for secondary schools in Colorado Springs. She has held a variety of education positions, including serving as adjunct instructor at Argosy University in Denver, senior turnaround consultant for American Institutes for Research in Illinois and educational specialist for the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Before that, she was a principal and educator at schools in Maryland.

Lance is a candidate for a doctoral degree in educational leadership and has a Master of Science degree in education and public health.

Additional information about the search for a new superintendent is available on the school department’s website.

 


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