In an unconventional move Tuesday, Feb. 8, the Portland Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a contract extension for its superintendent that hinges on improved outcomes for students of color.
Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero will make $322,354 in base salary, a 3% cost of living adjustment each year, and a $2,000 monthly retirement annuity that increases to $3,000 by 2023. Guerrero is also eligible to earn additional retirement benefits—up to $75,000 more each year—if PPS raises the number of third-grade students from historically underserved races and ethnicities who test at or above grade level in English Language Arts on the annual statewide Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC.) The performance retirement bonus allows for an added $25,000 each for three metrics:
• Increased proficiency by three percentage points or more in English Language Arts among third grade Black/African American students;
• At least a three percentage point increase in for all historically underserved races and ethnicities in English Language Arts; and
• Increased math proficiency for fifth-graders from historically underserved groups.
The employment contract is retroactive to July 2021 and extends to 2024.
Guerrero has been tasked with a heavy lift since coming on board in 2017. He not only runs the state's largest district, he's been charged with fixing systemic inequities in an urban district with deep economic divides and notable education gaps among students of color.
The latest statewide SBAC assessment data shows less than 17% of Black third-graders in PPS were proficient in English Language Arts and roughly 9% of Black fifth-graders were proficient in mathematics in 2018-19. Across the board, students from underserved groups in PPS performed lower on statewide assessments than their white and Asian peers.
While the district has been vocal about its struggle and efforts to close achievement gaps, a recent report from the Oregonian/OregonLive found outcomes for students of color in the district have been poor for years, with a lack of curriculum implementation partly to blame.
Still, PPS elected leaders agreed Guerrero is the right person to help the district improve.
"Superintendent Guerrero has my full support and confidence that he's the right leader to continue this important work of ensuring our school district becomes the best in the nation because of the work we are doing to address systemic inequities on behalf of Black, Native, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander and immigrant students," school board Chair Michelle DePass said.
PPS board members Amy Kohnstamm and Julia Brim-Edwards noted PPS was floundering when Guerrero took the helm in 2017. The year prior, the district discovered lead in the water pipes at several campuses, prompting the early retirement of former Superintendent Carole Smith and a bond measure to replace pipes in school buildings.
"When he showed up at our doorstep, we were in disarray as a district," Kohnstamm said. "We did not have the right people in the right places in the central office. We did not have a standards-aligned curriculum. We did not have a strong system of professional development. We did not have all kinds of things. …There was just not a lot of traction where we needed it."
Kohnstamm said she's proud of the trajectory PPS is on now.
"What I heard this evening in your supportive statements is a mandate and I heard a willingness to partner in making what might be difficult decisions and tradeoffs, because I do think we share audacious goals," Guerrero told the board.
Guerrero isn't the only one getting a raise.
The board also voted to approve spending up to $2.64 million in the 2022-23 budget to increase salary scales and offer a 3% cost of living adjustment for PPS academic administrators, which includes principals.
Sharon Reese, human resource manager for PPS, said the district has had trouble retaining good principals due in large part to a lack of competitive pay and advancement opportunities.
"We need to make some adjustments to be competitive in the market," Reese said. "We have issues with salary compression that limit career development options."
She said it currently takes PPS administrators 10 years to reach the top of the salary structure.
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