Search for PPS interim superintendent begins

Carole Smith announced she is stepping down immediately on Monday

The Portland Public School Board of Education on July 20, 2016. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After the abrupt departure of Carole Smith, the Board of Education for Portland Public Schools has less than a month to find an interim superintendent.

According to board chair Tom Koehler, they will hire the interim, rather than using a search firm.

The PPS board met on July 20 to spell out exactly what they’re looking for. Smith’s usual seat at the board meeting was empty as members discussed the important qualifications.

The board ultimately adopted the criteria for candidates, voted 6-1 with board member Mike Rosen voting no.

The board says they’re looking for an interim superintendent who is committed to student achievement, community engagement and equity, among other things. They say whoever they chose will also face an uphill battle — restoring trust after a scathing report was released this week, citing a lack of transparency and the fallout from lead and radon found in school buildings across the district.

Rosen voted against the resolution, saying there was no specific mention of the lead and radon issues during Wednesday’s meeting.

“We have serious operational problems,” Rosen said. “They have to be solved immediately, not 9 months down the road.”

Parents and board members weighed in on what they feel is most important for the person filling in as superintendent.

“We deserve good, smart, honest leadership,” PPS parent Mike Southern said.

“I think we’re kind of running around trying to put it together. I don’t think we were really set up for that,” said board member Steve Buel.

“Whomever comes in to this position must have the ability to manage this massive rocking ship without causing it to capsize,” said Belinda Reagan with the Portland Federation of School Professionals.

Read the entire Stoll Berne report

In the months following the discovery of lead in the water at many schools, parents have been calling for Smith to leave the district.

“In the last decade, there has a been a growing unease as PPS leadership has seemed to succumb to whispered conversations and decisions made in cloaked rooms,” Southern said.

The board will accept applications through August 3 and interviews will take place on August 8 and 9. There will be a community meet and greet with finalists on the 10th followed by the final decision on the 11th.

“This is the first big step in a big change,” Rosen said.

The permanent superintendent will be found by a national search firm. That search process will likely take several months, according to Koehler.


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