The Portland Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved having the district’s two assistant superintendents take on the role of co-superintendents from Jan. 14 until a permanent superintendent is chosen.

The board’s move follows Xavier Botana’s resignation in December.

Melea Nalli Photo courtesy of Portland Public Schools

“As we assume these interim roles, we are prepared to support our school and central office teams as we respond to the current challenges and continue to center equity in all of our work,” Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend said in a joint statement to the board before their appointments.

Nalli, currently the assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, has worked for the district since 2016, first as a strategic plan consultant and then in her current role as assistant superintendent. She holds a master’s degree in education leadership and has been working in the field for over two decades.

Aaron Townsend Photo courtesy of Portland Public Schools

Townsend, assistant superintendent for school management, has been with the district since 2019. He holds a bachelor’s degree in education policy and a master’s in school leadership. He has been working in education for 27 years.

The district is to pay Nalli and Townsend monthly stipends for their work as co-superintendents. Nalli will receive a $1,775 per month stipend in addition to her $142,000 salary and Townsend a $1,675 stipend on top of his $134,000 salary.


The district is working to allocate some of Nalli and Townsend’s current responsibilities to other staff to ensure their priority can be covering all the superintendent duties, school board Chair Sarah Lentz said, but the two will maintain responsibility for some of the tasks required of their current jobs.

Because Nalli and Townsend’s moves will leave the assistant superintendent positions understaffed, Abdullahi Ahmed, presently co-principal at Deering High School, is to become assistant superintendent in addition to maintaining some responsibilities at Deering.

Ahmed is a 20-year veteran of the Portland school district, teaching science and Arabic before becoming a principal. Ahmed is a certified teacher, has a master’s in the science of education, a doctorate in educational leadership and speaks four languages.

Abdullahi Ahmed Photo courtesy of Portland Public Schools

The shift in leadership roles follows Botana’s early resignation. Botana was scheduled to leave his post in June but resigned amid the district’s payroll crisis that has resulted in hundreds of employees being paid incorrectly, late or not at all, and has left some burdened with interest, fees and debt. His resignation takes effect Jan. 13.

A new superintendent is scheduled to be chosen by June at the latest, at which point Nalli and Townsend are to step down from their co-superintendent posts. When asked if they were hoping to be considered for the role in a permanent capacity, both said they are focused on the transition and other immediate priorities.

Nalli and Townsend said in their statement that they accept their appointments with mixed feelings but a dedication to transparently serve the district.

“As we step into this interim role, we do so with a commitment to say what we mean and mean what we say, to consistently ask ourselves and each other if our shared decisions are in the best interest of our students, to seek out diverse perspectives and opinions, especially those that are different than our own, and to operate with cultural humility,” they said.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story