Current Board of Public Education Chair Emily Figdor has decided not to accept the nomination to chair the Board again in the coming year. Instead, Figdor said she will support at-large Board member Sarah Lentz for the position and District 1 member Abusana “Micky” Bondo for vice chair when the Board formally votes for new leadership at its Inauguration ceremony today, Monday, Dec. 5.
At a caucus on Nov. 15, the Portland Board of Public Education informally voted to approve Figdor, the Board’s District 2 representative, as chair for the coming year and Lentz as vice chair. Both Lentz and Figdor said they would accept the nominations, but Figdor cited “mixed feelings” because she had expected that current Board Vice Chair Adam Burk would become chair. However, Burk lost his reelection bid on Nov. 8, and Figdor said that to help the Board move forward, she would accept the nomination.
However, Figdor has now decided not to take on the role of chair. In the past, Board chairs have served just one or two years, and Figdor said she realized it would be too much for her and her family to hold the demanding, time-consuming position for a third consecutive term. Instead, she’ll put her support behind Lentz and Bondo.
“I never intended to chair the school board for a third year, but when Adam Burk lost his election in November, we had to scramble, as Adam was slated to become the chair. I told my colleagues I'd be willing to do it, but the more the reality sunk in, the more I realized that it's just too demanding to sustain for a third year on top of my full-time job and parenting my two girls,” Figdor said. “From her first days on the school board, Sarah rolled up her sleeves and dove right into the work. Sarah and Micky will be a great leadership team for the district, and I’m so excited and optimistic for them to take on these new roles. I’ll support the new leadership team every step of the way as a very engaged Board member.”
Lentz was first elected this past June to fill an unexpired term for an at-large seat and then was reelected Nov. 8 to a new three-year term. Her fellow Board members are now expected to nominate her as chair at today’s inauguration.
Lentz, a PPS parent, brings with her over 15 years of nonprofit leadership experience, as well as a lifelong dedication to social justice and racial equity. “As a parent and community member, I have seen the incredible strengths of our district in action, and I could not be more proud to accept this nomination to lead with Micky Bondo to support our district moving forward,” Lentz said. “I also am incredibly grateful for everything Chair Figdor has contributed, and I look forward to continuing to work with her as a member of the Board.”
Lentz currently serves on the Board’s Policy and Curriculum Committee, Appointments Committee, Public Affairs Committee and the Superintendent Search Committee. The Board is in the process of seeking a new superintendent to replace Xavier Botana, who will step down at the end of this school year.
The Board is also expected to nominate Bondo, serving her second term as the District 1 representative on the Board, for the position of vice chair. Micky was first elected in 2018 and was the first Congolese American elected to public office in Maine. In addition to her background in biochemistry, Micky is also a past PPS parent and currently leads a local nonprofit, In Her Presence, which focuses on helping immigrant women succeed in Maine. “It will be an honor to serve as a vice chair of the Board and work with Sarah Lentz as a chair to advance the value of our public education,” Micky said.
Bondo is also a member of the Superintendent Search Committee. In addition, she chairs the Board’s Public Affairs Committee and serves on its Policy and Curriculum Committee and Appointments Committee.
To be sworn in at the 4 p.m. ceremony in room 200 of Casco Bay High School will be newly elected Board member Julianne Opperman, who bested Burk for the District 3 seat, as well as Lentz and at-large member Ben Grant. Grant won election this past June to fill an unexpired term and then was reelected Nov. 8 to a new three-year term.
Also sworn in will be five student representatives to the Board: Jo Ellis, representing Casco Bay High School; Yonuela Francisco, representing Portland Adult Education; Caden Hemond, representing Portland High School; Dany McLaughlin, representing the Portland Arts & Technology High School (PATHS); and Natalie Santiago, representing Deering High School.
The ceremony will be a hybrid event. The public is invited to attend in person or virtually via Zoom.
WHAT: Portland Board of Public Education holds an Inauguration Ceremony to elect a chair and vice chair and inaugurate newly elected members
WHEN/WHERE: Monday, Dec. 5, room 200 at Casco Bay High School. The hybrid ceremony can be attended in person or virtually via Zoom. The Zoom link is: HTTPS://US06WEB.ZOOM.US/J/95716748991? PWD=TZB2TGQWAVRDDFJASWXLVNIRR2LZDZ09
WEBINAR ID: 957 1674 8991
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. 51 percent of the district’s students are white and 49 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.