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Board To Vote on Xavier Botana as New Portland Superintendent

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Board To Vote on Xavier Botana as New Portland Superintendent
Posted on 05/23/2016
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Following a nationwide search, the Portland Board of Public Education will vote on Xavier Botana, currently an associate superintendent in Indiana, to become the next superintendent of the Portland Public Schools, Maine’s largest and most diverse school system. The board is scheduled to vote on hiring Mr. Botana at a meeting set for Tuesday, May 24, at Presumpscot Elementary School.

The board’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the gymnasium of the school, located at 69 Presumpscot St.

The start date for the superintendent position is July 1.

“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,” said School Board Chair Marnie Morrione.

Mr. Botana, 53, has served as Associate Superintendent of the Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana since 2010, and was one of two finalists for the superintendent position, for which 41 people initially applied. The board hired BWP & Associates, a national consulting firm, to help with the superintendent search. The firm conducted a community survey and held meetings with staff, parents, community members and the School Board; compiled a report of its findings and characteristics desired for Portland’s new superintendent; and also assisted in narrowing down the number of applicants to six semi-finalists and then the two finalists.

On May 2, Mr. Botana visited the Portland Public Schools for an extensive “Day in the District” that included school tours to Longfellow Elementary School, Lincoln Middle School, and Deering High School. Additionally, Mr. Botana was interviewed by district administrators, community partners, higher education leaders, union leaders, municipal leaders, and high school students. A public forum at Casco Bay High School attracted more than 40 parents, students, and staff. Forum attendees were invited to submit written feedback that was reviewed by the School Board. 

At the public forum, Mr. Botana cited his family’s experience immigrating to the United States from Cuba as motivation for his work in education. Growing up bilingual in Spanish, he began his educational career as an ESL teacher and worked his way up to leadership roles centered on instructional strategy, curriculum alignment, and professional development. Mr. Botana was attracted to Portland for the opportunity to “make a difference and change the lives of thousands of children,” and sees the community as a welcoming place to make a permanent home with his family.

Members of the Superintendent Search Committee, Marnie Morrione and Jenna Vendil, conducted an extensive site visit to the Michigan City Area Schools. They interviewed board members, principals, union leaders, parents, and community partners, who shared examples of Mr. Botana’s work as an innovative school leader. They learned about how Mr. Botana navigated budget development, curriculum alignment, and parent engagement. They came away greatly impressed with his accomplishments.

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.

Examples that make the diverse, 6,000-student Michigan City Area Schools district stand out are its two state-of-the-art elementary magnet schools in STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) and in visual and performing arts; its theme-based middle schools in STEM and Environmental Science; and its high school with diverse program offerings including strong honors, AP, and early college programs, and credit recovery programs for at-risk students. The district also has an adult education program and a regional career and technical school that has recently expanded its programs and has nearly doubled its enrollment in the past five years.

Mr. Botana’s engagement with parents and the community led to collaborative partnerships to renew local pride in the schools. Following the closure of two schools, Mr. Botana brought community organizations to “repurpose” the closed facilities to ensure those neighborhoods remain vibrant for families. A former elementary school now serves as the site for Head Start’s early childhood program. A middle school was repurposed into a youth center that includes the Boys and Girls Club, a community theater program, and a juvenile detention alternative program for at-risk youth. 

Marnie Morrione said Mr. 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,” she said. She said Botana has ties to Maine – he comes each winter to Sunday River, where he’s involved in a ski program for youngsters with special needs – and he has told the board he would like to make the state his home.

Mr. Botana has held a variety of educational roles prior to his current position. He has been Chief Academic Officer for the Portland, Oregon Public schools; Chief Officer of Instructional Design and Assessment for the Chicago Public Schools; Division Administrator for the Illinois State Board of Education; Assistant Director for the Bensenville New American School Project in Bensenville, Ill.; Assistant Principal/Department Chair at Morton High School, Cicero, Ill.; Coordinator of the Illinois Alliance of Essential Schools, Chicago; and a Bilingual/ESL Teacher for the Cicero Public Schools and the Palatine Public Schools in Illinois. Mr. Botana holds a Master’s degree in Educational Administration and has completed some doctoral program coursework.