Portland Public School District Superintendent Xavier Botana’s announcement that he is leaving his post a year earlier than expected comes at a time of significant administrative turnover.

Botana had previously said he would leave at the end of the 2023-24 school year, but announced at the school board meeting Tuesday night that he plans to move his departure up by a year and leave in June.

“The past two years have been incredibly challenging for all of us,” he said at the meeting. “As the leader of this organization, I have been humbled by your commitment and dedication as well as that of our amazing Portland public schools people, and by the resilience of our students and the patience and grace of our families and larger community.

“At the same time,” he continued, “I have been overwhelmed by the weight of every decision that has had to be made. I look forward to not having to make those types of decisions in the next chapter of my life.”

Xavier Botana, superintendent of schools in Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer, file

Botana is not the only person who has recently said goodbye to the district or soon plans to. At least 11 administrators including principals, assistant principals and human resources and operations staff left their positions or the district after the 2021-22 school year or plan to depart in the upcoming school year. Also, the school board last year saw three school board members leave their posts, and three new ones came on this summer. All three new members – Sarah Lentz, Ben Grant and Sarah Brydon – said they wanted to join the school board at least in part to ensure a transparent process for hiring a new superintendent, which they expected to do next year.

“It is important that we have a strong process for hiring the next superintendent,” said Brydon during her run to represent District 5. “We want to cast a wide net, have a thoughtful approach and make sure we are listening to the community, gathering feedback and incorporating it into the search process. It is important that we find someone that will help serve the community in a meaningful way for a meaningful length of time.”


Botana did not say what he might do after leaving and declined to be interviewed Wednesday. In the upcoming school year he hopes to continue working to achieve the Portland Promise and help the district recover from the pandemic, he said at Tuesday night’s meeting. Portland Promise is the district’s mission under Botana of preparing and empowering every student to be successful academically, socially and emotionally by holding all students to high standards and hiring and retaining a diverse workforce, among other things.

The announcement gives the school board less than a year to find someone to take the helm of the state’s largest school district, but board Chair Emily Figdor said she’s not worried about the timeline, adding that the last three superintendents were all hired in less than a year.

Figdor said it will be hard to see Botana go but that she supports his decision.

“He’s been an exceptional leader and has put our district on a very clear path in terms of our Portland Promise and what we need to do so that every child in Portland gets the education they deserve,” she said. “However these last few years have been very hard with COVID among everything else and I know it’s the best decision for him.”

The board is already coming up with its timeline and process for hiring a new superintendent, said Figdor. Details will be shared at the board’s next meeting on Aug. 11, she said, with community engagement a centerpiece of the plan.

“For me it’s really important that the community has a very robust role in helping to select the new superintendent,” said Figdor. “Not just at the tail end of the process or just in surveys at the beginning of the process but really working side by side with the school board to help find the right candidate for our district and our community.”

However, Figdor also said the board knows what it’s looking for.

“We have a clear mission,” she said, referring to the Portland Promise. “We’re not looking for a superintendent to find us a new mission. We’re looking for a superintendent who has the skills and vision and experience to help us continue implementing the Portland Promise.”

Editor’s note: This story was changed at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 4 to correct the status of departing administrators.

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