Board poised to appoint school chief

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PORTLAND — The School Board was expected to approve hiring Xavier Botana as the city’s next superintendent of schools on Tuesday.

The board was also slated to discuss a proposed $70 million bond for major renovations at four elementary schools.

The School Board conducted a national search for the superintendent position, which became available when former superintendent Emmanuel Caulk resigned to take over as school chief in Lexington, Kentucky. Following that search, conducted with BWP & Associates in which over 40 people applied, six semi-finalists were named. Botana and Teresa Lance of Colorado Springs were the two finalists.

Botana was not scheduled to be at the meeting, as he had a prior commitment in his district.

Botana, 53, has been an associate superintendent for Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana since 2010. He will start working in Portland July 1. Botana visited the district May 2 and spoke at a community forum at Casco Bay High School. According to a press release from Portland Public Schools, at the forum, Botana cited his family’s experience immigrating to the United States from Cuba as his motivation to work in education.

“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,” School Board Chairwoman Marnie Morrione said in the press release.

According to the release, Botana is interested in coming to Portland because he wanted to “make a difference and change the lives of thousands of
children.”

In addition to being the associate superintendent of Michigan City Area Schools, which serves more than 5,600 students, Botana has been the chief academic officer for Portland Public Schools in Oregon; chief officer of instructional design and assessment for Chicago Public Schools; an assistant principal and department chairman at Morton High School in Cicero, Illinois; and was a bilingual teacher for the Cicero Public Schools and the Palatine Public Schools in Illinois.

Botana began his career in education as a teacher of English as a Second Language before taking leadership positions.

Botana does have ties to Maine, as he and his family come to Sunday River in the winter, and he is involved in a ski program for youth with disabilities.

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

Buildings for Our Future

The board was also scheduled to hold a workshop and public forum on a possible $70 million bond calling for major renovations at Longfellow, Lyseth, Reiche and Presumpscott elementary schools.

Renovations at these schools, as well as the Fred P. Hall Elementary School, were part of a study titled Buildings For Our Future, which looked at various renovation needs at the five elementary schools. The study was done by Oak Point Associates.

In April, voters overwhelmingly supported replacing Hall at a cost of $29.7 million, with all but $1.4 million coming from the state. However, Hall is the only BFOF school to be slated for replacement.

The BFOF study said renovations to the remaining schools would cost $70 million. Hall received state funding because it was placed on the Department of Education’s Major Capital Construction Approved Projects List. The other schools are much farther down on the list, so state aid is less likely. There has been discussion about getting a bond question on the upcoming November ballot, led by a citizen group called Protect Our Neighborhood Schools.

In a press release from the district, Stephanie Hatzenbuehler, chairwoman of the board’s Operations Committee, said operations and the finance committee have been working to identify the “most responsible and efficient way to move forward with these important and necessary projects.”

“It is our top priority to make sure that the children in our city have buildings that are reflective of our community’s commitment to provide the best education possible for our students,” she said.

The board is expected to take a preliminary vote on recommendations to the City Council on June 7, with a final vote expected June 21.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Xavier Botana

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.