A Cuban immigrant who has worked in school systems in Indiana, Illinois and Oregon is poised to become the next school superintendent in Maine’s largest city.

Portland school board members will vote Tuesday on their top choice for superintendent, 53-year-old Xavier Botana, now an associate superintendent in the Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana.

“Based on Mr. Botana’s experience, credentials and the transformative work he has accomplished in a district similar to our own, we believe there is much he can bring to our school system that can make it even better,” board Chairwoman Marnie Morrione said in a written statement Monday.

The board will vote on a contract to hire Botana at its regular meeting Tuesday, which begins at 7 p.m. at Presumpscot Elementary School.

He would begin July 1 and succeed acting superintendent Jeanne Crocker. She stepped into the role last August, after then-Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk took a new job as superintendent of schools in Lexington, Kentucky. Caulk was paid $137,500 a year when he left the district last June.


Botana is being offered a three-year contract that would pay him an annual base salary of $148,000. He also would receive up to $10,000 for relocation expenses.

Terms of Botana’s employment agreement, which are attached to the School Board’s May 24 agenda package, state that his employment would begin July 1, 2016, and end June 30, 2019.

Unless his contract is renewed, it would automatically terminate on June 30, 2019.

If Botana leaves Portland before his contract expires, he will be required to reimburse the school department for moving expenses, pro-rated based on the number of years served.

Botana has been associate superintendent of Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana since 2010. About 6,000 students are enrolled in the district.

Portland has about 7,000 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Nearly one-third of its students do not speak English as their first language. More than 50 languages are spoken in Portland schools. The district operates 10 elementary schools, three middle schools and four high schools.

Before moving to Indiana, Botana served for about a year as chief academic officer for the Portland, Oregon, public schools, then returned to the Chicago area for family reasons.

Before that, he was chief officer of instructional design and assessment for the Chicago Public Schools, an administrator for the Illinois State Board of Education, and held various other positions in schools in Illinois.

Botana holds a master’s degree in educational administration and has completed some doctoral program course work.

He was one of two finalists for the Portland position, out of an initial pool of 41 candidates. The other finalist, Teresa A. Lance, is assistant superintendent in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Morrione and fellow board member Jenna Vendil visited the Michigan City Area Schools recently to talk to school community members, including union leaders, principals, parents and board members.

“They came away greatly impressed with his accomplishments,” a district statement said. “Mr. Botana was a critical part in transforming a school district that grappled with a significant budget deficit and declining enrollment to an innovative district that offers unique educational options to meet all student needs.”

Morrione and Vendil said Botana’s “engagement with parents and the community led to collaborative partnerships to renew local pride in the schools.”

For instance, Botana played a role in repurposing a former middle school into a youth center that now includes a Boys & Girls Club, a community theater program and a juvenile detention alternative program for at-risk youth. A former elementary school that had to be closed has been converted into a site for Head Start’s early childhood program.

Morrione said Botana has all the characteristics that families, district employees, the school board and the Portland community have said they wanted in a superintendent.

“We are most fortunate to have found such a leader who meets and exceeds our needs,” Morrione said in the statement.

During a community forum held this month, Botana addressed one of the community’s greatest concerns – reassuring the audience that if he were to become Portland’s superintendent, he did not plan to move again, and would like to be superintendent for “10 to 15 years.”

Botana would be the sixth superintendent for the system within nine years. The Portland school district has had a string of superintendents since 2007, when a $2 million deficit crisis led to the resignation of then-Superintendent Mary Jo Connor. She was succeeded by Jeanne Whynot-Vickers until 2009, James Morse from 2009 to 2012, Caulk from 2012 to 2015, and Crocker for the past year.


Botana has an interesting family history. At the forum he talked about his own immigrant past, noting Portland’s large number of immigrant students. One in four Portland students, or 25 percent, is an English language learner.

Botana said he was born in Cuba and as a young child was put on a flight to Spain with instructions for a stewardess to make sure he made it safely. Botana said he lived in Spain with his grandparents for two years 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.

At the forum, Botana also talked about his yearly visits to a special camp in Maine, something that Morrione mentions in the school board’s statement.

Morrione said that each winter Botana travels to Sunday River ski resort in Newry, where he is involved in a ski program for youngsters with special needs.

The program, called “Camp No Limits,” is the only camp in the country for young people with limb loss and their families. There are 10 Camp No Limits programs nationwide.

Botana could not be reached for comment Monday evening, but in a March 2015 story by the Portland Press Herald, Botana said he liked the camp because it allowed him to attend support groups where family members share stories and advice. His son, David, has attended the camp for several years.

“It gives people an opportunity to meet other parents that are facing the same kind of challenges,” Botana said. “There’s a lot of tips around how do you do school, how do you do bullying?”

Earlier this month, Portland voters approved a $103.6 million education budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.