After a nationwide pool of 47 applicants was winnowed down to two strong finalists, the Portland Board of Public Education now is expected to confirm one of the two – Dr. Ryan Scallon – to be the new superintendent of the Portland Public Schools. Scallon, who currently is an assistant superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia, holds a doctorate degree in education.
The Board is slated to vote on Scallon’s appointment at its Tuesday, June 6, business meeting.
“Over the course of the last six months, the Board has engaged in a rigorous and equitable hiring process that incorporated community participation and feedback at every step. The search produced two finalists, each with an unapologetic commitment to equity along with extensive experience building sustainable systems and operations. Both of our finalists exceeded our expectations and the decision was not an easy one to make," said Board Chair Sarah Lentz. “We are excited to welcome Dr. Scallon and his family to our district. He brings with him deep experience recruiting and retaining racially diverse staff and implementing equitable policies. We believe his leadership will continue to unify our district and move it forward.”
Scallon said, “My wife, kids and I are excited to join a district that has a vision for academic excellence for all students. As a former principal and teacher, I know that the school is the unit of change in a district. I look forward to partnering with the Board, staff, teachers, students and families to achieve this vision together.”
The official start date of Scallon’s four-year contract will be July 1. His annual salary will be $200,000.
Scallon holds a business degree from the Wharton School business school, but was drawn to teaching after an experience teaching world economics to a class of sixth-graders in West Philadelphia during his first year in college. He saw firsthand that not all students have the same opportunities or school-based experiences he had growing up in Wisconsin, and has devoted his career working to reduce such opportunity gaps.
Scallon went on to earn a master’s degree in education in school administration from the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in education from Temple University in May 2020. He has experience as a teacher, school principal and district administrator, working in diverse urban schools in Philadelphia, New York and Boston.
After graduating with his business degree, Scallon was a middle school math teacher while earning his teaching credentials at night. He taught middle and high school math in Philadelphia and then Milwaukee. After completing the principal certification program at the University of Pennsylvania, Scallon was selected by New Leaders, a nationally recognized program for principal development, as one of 101 Resident Principals nationwide for a year-long residency designed to develop outstanding principals to lead high-achieving, urban schools. Over the next two years, he worked as a resident principal and then assistant principal at one of the highest performing, non-special-admit high schools in New York City.
Recognizing his organizational and academic leadership, the NYC Department of Education selected Scallon to lead a struggling expeditionary learning high school in the South Bronx. Over the next three school years, Scallon led a school that was approximately one-third multilingual learners and one-third students receiving specialized services. Working with the students, families, and staff, Scallon strategically implemented a bilingual program, new academic expectations and aligned supports for teachers. As a result, academic achievement, as measured by the rigorous New York State Regents’ exams, improved by double digits in all tested subjects.
For the last thirteen years, Scallon has served in a number of leadership roles in schools and central offices in Philadelphia and Boston. These roles include deputy chief of new schools, chief academic officer, and assistant superintendent. During that time, Scallon was fortunate to lead a number of teams that were each able to improve academic and social-emotional outcomes for students. Now, as the assistant superintendent for innovation and opportunity, Scallon partners with families, external partners, school leaders, central office departments, and school staff to offer a range of innovative and progressive schools for students from competency based to work based.
Scallon is married to a former teacher who is now director of a pre-service residency program for teachers and has three children.
The Board created a Superintendent Search Committee last fall after Superintendent Xavier Botana announced that he planned to retire this June after seven years on the job. Botana resigned early, in December, and was replaced by then assistant superintendents Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend. They have led the district as interim co-superintendents since January and Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed, who had been co-principal of Deering High School, has served as interim assistant superintendent.
Neither Nalli nor Townsend applied for the superintendency. Nalli announced in May that she plans to step down at the end of June after seven years with the district. Townsend, who was hired as assistant superintendent for school management in 2019, will continue with the district as deputy superintendent in a restructuring of district leadership that will begin in July under the new superintendent. Dr. Ahmed will also transition to a new role as the executive director of secondary schools, and the district is recruiting for an executive director of elementary schools.
“I welcome Dr. Scallon and am excited to support him as he takes over the role of superintendent,” Townsend said. “The past months have been a time of transition for the district, but I believe Dr. Scallon’s skills and expertise will put us on a steady course so that we can continue to make progress toward realizing our Portland Promise goals.”
The Search Committee, made up of eight community members from a variety of stakeholder groups and four Board members, vetted candidates and made recommendations to the Board at every stage of the process. The committee was aided in the superintendent search by Alma Advisory Group, a professional search firm whose work aligns with the central equity goal of the Portland Promise, the district’s strategic plan.
Since January, Alma helped lead a transparent search process guided by equitable input from the Portland community that included community surveys, community gatherings, and interviews and focus groups with teachers, students, principals, staff, union leaders and community partners. That input helped inform the job profile and competencies required of a new superintendent.
Interviews with the two finalists named in the middle of May – Scallon and Eric Moore, a senior advisor to the superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools – were made public. Staff, students, families and other community members had the opportunity to provide feedback on the candidates to the Board, which helped inform the final decision.
The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 49.8 percent of the district’s students are white and 50.2 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.