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Message from Interim Superintendents

Jan. 6, 2023

Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,

As the new Interim Co-Superintendents of the Portland Public Schools, we’d like to take this opportunity to share with you our priorities over the next six months until the Board can hire a superintendent on a permanent basis.

As we stated when the Portland Board of Public Education appointed us on Jan. 3, we accept this interim appointment with mixed feelings, but with full hearts and total commitment to our community and to our colleagues. We want to assure everyone that we will focus on supporting our school and Central Office teams as we respond to the current challenges and continue to center equity in all of our work. We are grateful to have worked under the leadership of Superintendent Xavier Botana and remain committed to following through on his and our community’s shared vision in the Portland Promise, the district’s strategic plan.

As everyone knows, this is an especially challenging moment for our district and community. Fundamentally, trust has been fractured and tensions exist in all sorts of directions. To help rebuild trust, we commit to saying what we mean and meaning what we say, to consistently asking ourselves and each other if our shared decisions are in the best interest of our students, to seeking out diverse perspectives and opinions, especially those that are different than our own, and to operating with cultural humility. 

We plan to work closely with the Board on three key priorities that Board Chair Sarah Lentz outlined in her letter to staff and the community earlier this week: stabilizing payroll operations; beginning to rebuild trust with our staff, students and the community, particularly our BIPOC staff, students and families; and passing the 2023-2024 school budget. 

We will be adding some additional capacity to ensure we can advance these core priorities over the next six months. For example, we will be hiring a project manager to work directly with our Executive Director of Operations, Terry Young, to specifically focus on the transition to outsourcing our payroll operations to ADP Inc. and to ensure that this transition is as smooth and successful as possible. Outsourcing our payroll was part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the  district and several collective bargaining units agreed to in December to correct payroll concerns. 

The district has signed a letter of intent with ADP, an industry leader in payroll and human resources solutions, which the Board ratified Jan. 3. In the next month, ADP will begin working with PPS staff on understanding the transition resources necessary to have a successful implementation. This process is scheduled to begin in earnest this Feb. 1, with a goal of being fully transitioned by August 1, 2023.

We will be assisted in our leadership by Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed, who we are proud to appoint as Interim Assistant Superintendent. Dr. Ahmed will provide leadership around our middle school work and community engagement in addition to maintaining some responsibilities and presence at Deering High School, where he has been co-principal since 2020. Our team of three will move fully into our interim roles as district leaders after Jan. 13, Superintendent Botana’s last day in the office.

As Chair Lentz noted in her letter, success on all these priorities will pave the way for a new superintendent. As you know, a Superintendent Search Committee was formed this fall and work is underway to select a new superintendent by June. Read on in this newsletter to learn more about how the search is proceeding.

We’ll conclude by expressing our deep gratitude to our dedicated PPS staff.  In our previous roles – Melea as Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning and Aaron as Assistant Superintendent of School Management – we have seen how committed all our staff members are and how hard they are working throughout this district. We will strive to make everyone feel seen, valued and heard moving forward.

We’re approaching the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday on Monday, Jan. 16. One of Dr. King’s key precepts was unity: that people must come together if anything is to be accomplished. Working together as a community, we can resolve our current challenges and enable the Portland Public Schools to sharpen its focus on our key mission: creating equitable, successful outcomes for all our students. 


Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend, Interim Co-Superintendents

Staff & Community Newsletter