PORTLAND — When the School Board hired Xavier Botana three years ago to lead the city’s schools, members said they were looking for steady leadership.
That’s apparently what they got.
The board recently renewed Botana’s contract for another three years. The new contract runs through June 30, 2022, at the same annual salary of $148,000.
Botana, 56, started the job in July 2016 and is the first superintendent in recent years to receive a contract extension. The two superintendents who preceded him both left after their initial three-year contracts were completed.
Under his new contract, Botana must provide one-year notice, rather than 90 days, if he wishes to leave. But he will also receive a one-year severance package, instead of six months, if he’s asked to resign.
“I love my work in Portland,” Botana said this week. “I have enjoyed every aspect of the job.”
He said what he most appreciates about city schools is their diversity. The district is often called the most diverse in Maine.
He said students and staff “learn more, are more creative and innovative and more socially engaged when they learn in diverse communities. And we are fortunate to have that be our everyday reality here in Portland.”
In a School Department press release, outgoing School Board Chairwoman Anna Trevorrow praised Botana for the development and implementation of the district’s new strategic plan, called the Portland Promise, and said “we look forward to continuing to work toward its goals under his leadership.”
Overall, Trevorrow said, the board has been “very pleased with the superintendent’s performance” and said the School Board spent several months evaluating the job he was doing.
“From day one, I have been honored to serve the Portland Public Schools,” Botana said. “My experience from my first day has been that Portland has a deep commitment to public education, a strong belief in the value of diversity and an equity ethic that match my own values to a T.”
“I am grateful to the board for its … confidence in my ability to continue to improve as a superintendent and make contributions toward our common goals,” he added.
Botana was born in Cuba and his family emigrated to the U.S. during the Castro regime. His first job in education was as an English language learner teacher. Before coming to Portland, he was associate superintendent of the Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana.
Of the work he’s accomplished since his arrival, Botana said he’s most proud of the Portland Promise, which “establishes four ambitious goals and outlines the strategies that we believe will help us achieve them.”
How to best implement a universal pre-kindergarten program is also a high priority for Botana and the School Board going forward.
In addition, he said the School Department is being proactive in “articulating the challenges we face and enlisting stakeholders to work together to face those challenges,” which includes the new fiscal year budget.
“Working with the people in our schools has been the highlight, (as) I knew it would,” Botana said. “I think we (also) have the most amazing students and seeing them grow and thrive is inspiring and reminds me of the importance of public education to our future as a city and global community.”
“I knew that there was a close alignment of my values with those of the Portland community,” he said, and “as I’ve gotten to know Portland better, I have become increasingly convinced of that.”
Xavier Botana, superintendent of the Portland Public Schools, has a contract for at least another three years.