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Board Chooses Chair, Vice Chair at Caucus

At its Nov. 15 meeting, the Portland Board of Public Education held a caucus to take an informal vote to select new leaders for the coming year. The Board unanimously chose current Board Chair Emily Figdor to lead the Board again and chose at-large Board member Sarah Lentz to be Vice Chair.

The Board will take a formal vote on those appointments at its Inauguration ceremony, to be held on Monday, Dec. 5, at 4 p.m. in room 200 at Casco Bay High School.

At the caucus, District 1 Board member Micky Bondo nominated Figdor to be chair again for the coming year. Bondo noted that the Board is in the process of selecting a new superintendent to replace Xavier Botana, who will step down at the end of this 2022-2023 school year. “It’s very important to keep the same leadership for the transition,” Bondo said.

Figdor is co-chair of the Superintendent Search Committee. This would be the third year in a row for her to serve as Board chair.

“Thank you for your confidence in me,” said Figdor, who represents District 2. She admitted to having “mixed feelings” about taking on the role again because she had anticipated that District 3 Board representative Adam Burk, the Board’s current vice chair, would become chair for the coming year. However, Burk lost their reelection bid on Nov. 8 and voters chose Julianne Opperman to fill that seat.

“But we must move forward, and it’s an absolutely critical year for the Board as we select a new superintendent and then transition to that new superintendent,” Figdor said. “I know I can provide steady leadership for the Board through the selection process and transition.”

She said her other priorities as chair would be for the Board and district to continue to do the “very hard work to become an anti-racist school district and in doing so truly provide an equitable education to students who have long been marginalized in our community and society at large.”

Figdor also said she wants to ensure that the district’s Finance Department and internal systems “meet the highest standards.” In addition, although the proposal for a City Charter change to give the Board autonomy over the school budget didn’t succeed at the polls, Figdor said, “I believe we have an opportunity to work with the mayor, City Council, and city staff to better structure the school budget process within the existing Charter.”

Figdor noted that the Board established the position of vice chair earlier this year. “I’m so optimistic about sharing the leadership and co-leading with Board member Lentz,” Figdor said.

Lentz was nominated by District 4 Board member Aura Russell-Bedder, who described Lentz as “a strong communicator and collaborator” who has shown leadership as a member of the Superintendent Search Committee. “The work she does is with a strong equity lens,” Russell-Bedder said.

Lentz was first elected to the Board this past June to fill an unexpired term, and was reelected Nov. 8 to a new three-year term. Lentz said she believes that the community wants Portland’s public schools to be successful and stressed the importance of listening to the community.