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Two Finalists for Superintendent of PPS

Following a nationwide search, the Portland Board of Public Education has narrowed the pool of applicants for the position of superintendent of the Portland Public Schools down to two finalists. They are Eric Moore, currently senior advisor to the superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, and Dr. Ryan Scallon, who is an assistant superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia. Scallon holds a doctorate degree in education and Moore is on track to earn his doctorate in education later this year.

“The Board and Superintendent Search Committee are extremely excited to bring these candidates forward to the community,” said Sarah Lentz, Board Chair and also Chair of the Superintendent Search Committee. “While we wish there were more gender diversity, these candidates emerged at the top of our rigorous selection process. We believe their strengths, experiences, and commitment to equity are solid and impressive. Both finalists are an excellent fit for the district."

The national search resulted in 47 applications from candidates aspiring to lead Maine’s largest and most diverse school district. Now that the finalists have been selected, they will be in Portland on May 17 and 18 for interviews and to tour the district. Key stakeholders – including staff, students, members of the Board of Public Education, parents and other community members – will conduct the interviews.

As part of the Board’s and the Superintendent Search Committee’s open and inclusive months-long search process, the interviews with students, parents and community members will be live-streamed on Wednesday, May 17. The student interviews will stream from 4:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. that day and the parent and community member interviews will follow, streaming from 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. that Wednesday. The interviews also will be recorded and available for later viewing until May 20 at midnight. The community is invited to share feedback on the candidates with the Board and Search Committee after viewing the interviews.

The Search Committee, made up of eight community members from a variety of stakeholder groups and four Board members, will review all feedback and meet on May 23 to make a final recommendation to the Board. The Board will take the committee's recommendation under consideration as they make their final decision. The Board hopes to announce its decision by May 30 or as soon as possible. The anticipated start date for the position is July 1.

The Board created the Superintendent Search Committee last fall after Superintendent Xavier Botana announced he planned to retire at the end of June 2023 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 co-superintendents since January.

Neither Nalli nor Townsend applied for the superintendency. Nalli publicly announced at the Board’s May 2 meeting that, after seven years with the district, this is the right time to step down from her position. She will leave at the end of June, although Nalli said she will remain engaged in the district as a parent and will be available as a resource to support the district’s leadership transition this summer.

Townsend, who was hired as assistant superintendent for school management in 2019, said he looks forward to continuing to serve the district and supporting the new superintendent.

To aid in the superintendent search, the Board hired Alma Advisory Group, a professional search firm whose work aligns with the central equity goal of the Portland Promise, the district’s strategic plan. Alma is led by women of color and is a non-traditional firm focused on organizational capacity building and equity and diversity in hiring. Since January, Alma has 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. The community input helped inform the job profile and the competencies required of a new superintendent.

Alma has prepared full biographical summaries of the two finalists. Those are available on our website HERE, as well as photographs and short videos of the candidates. Condensed bios of the candidates are below:

ERIC MOORE: Eric is a passionate advocate for the power of youth, parents, and community voices in driving positive change and creating equitable practices. He firmly believes that engaging diverse perspectives is essential to making decisions that prioritize students and promote equity in our education system. With over thirty years of experience in K-12 education, higher education, and non-profit settings, Eric has a proven track record of turning his visions into reality and working tirelessly for the benefit of all children.

Eric currently serves as the Senior Advisor to the Superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools. During his career in Minneapolis, Eric provided leadership and direction around the district’s strategic and department plans, systemic equity and social and emotional learning including equitable budget practices, school integration, and school improvement efforts. He developed and implemented youth and parent participatory evaluation models (in all 6-12 schools) that inform district and school decision making, K-12 social and emotional programming and measurement, ninth grade on-track systems, data visualization efforts, and out of school time evaluation. His efforts have supported improved literacy rates, graduation rates, racially integrated schools, and increased access to advanced classes, music, after school programming and magnet schools. Previous district work also includes supervising multilingual programming, magnet school programming, social workers, anti-bullying work, school safety and equity professional development.

Eric is grateful for the opportunities to share his experiences and improve his practice with fellow educators. He has presented at district, regional, and national conferences, and his leadership efforts have been featured in numerous publications including Education Week, the New York Times, School Administrator, Children and Youth Services Review, the Century Foundation and Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Eric is also a recent award winner of the CASEL Utne O’Brien award for SEL practice (2021) and the Strategic Data Excellence Award at the Center for Education and Policy Research, Harvard University (2022). His contributions in social and emotional learning and youth, parent and community voice has led to national advisory opportunities for CASEL, Institute for Educational Sciences, the American Institute of Research, and the Aspen Institute.  

Eric earned his BA in English from Langston University (HBCU), his MA at the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and completed his coursework and preliminary examination for his PhD in Organizational Policy and Development in Evaluation Studies at the University of Minnesota. In addition, he completed a two-year data fellowship at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University and is a Ford Foundation Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

In his free time, Eric enjoys spending time with his family, playing golf, reading comic books, playing video games, and following sports. He is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

DR. RYAN SCALLON: Ryan was introduced to teaching in his first year of college when he taught world economics to a class of sixth-grade students in West Philadelphia. Ryan saw firsthand that not all students receive the same opportunities or school-based experiences he had growing up in Wisconsin, and he has spent his career working to change that.

After graduating with a business degree from the Wharton School, Ryan 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, Ryan 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, Ryan 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 Ryan to lead a struggling expeditionary learning high school in the South Bronx. Over the next three school years, Ryan led a school that was approximately one-third multilingual learners and one-third students receiving specialized services. Working with the students, families, and staff, Ryan 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, Ryan 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, Ryan 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, Ryan 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.

Ryan holds a master’s degree in education in school administration from the University of Pennsylvania, and he earned a doctorate in education from Temple University in May 2020.

Ryan is the proud husband of Amy, a former teacher and now director of a pre-service residency program for teachers, and the father of Johnny, a committed soccer goalkeeper, Annalise, the artist, and Francesca, a high energy first-grader.

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.