Guadalupe Guerrero plays the piano in the new Franklin band room. The PPS board believes that Guerrero’s music education and his other experiences make him the most suitable person for the position. Photo by Nathan Wilk.

The new Superintendent of Portland Public Schools, Guadalupe Guerrero, was voted into office on August 11, becoming the official successor to Carole Smith, who resigned in August 2016 amid issues pertaining to lead in the PPS water supply.
The decision, which came mere weeks before the start of the school year, was the result of a meticulous search for an applicant with a specific skill set. “We were looking for a candidate who was student focused, and had experience in large, diverse school districts like ours,” said Board President Julia Brim-Edwards, who also believes that a successful Superintendent should be adaptable and have had diverse educational and career experiences.

Through their screening process, the board found Guerrero, former Deputy Superintendent of San Diego, to be an ideal candidate. Unlike Smith, who had held the same position for several years prior to her selection in 2008, Guerrero has worked in numerous fields, educational and otherwise, including as an administrator, a professional musician, and a waiter, according to a press release from PPS. He majored in music at UCLA, before ultimately pursuing a degree in education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The variety of experience Guerrero acquired throughout his life were major points of interest for Edwards and other board members.


“We have to proceed in student-centered and equity-focused ways.”
–Guadalupe Guerrero

In Boston, the Superintendent assigned Guerrero the task, as principal, of improving a struggling elementary school. In Portland, he hopes to carry on the same sentiment in his work. “It’d be tough being a student today,” he said. “We have to proceed in student-centered and equity-focused ways.” Attributing his love of music to an educational experience, according to the press release, Guerrero also believes that “school should be a place for students to discover their gifts, their talents, [and] their passions.”

Although Guerrero has no prior experience with education in PPS, Edwards believes his past experiences will make up for it. Only hours after his appointment as Superintendent, Guerrero visited the new Franklin building. If all goes as expected, he will serve through the remodeling of Grant, Madison, and Lincoln as well.

The maximum term for a Superintendent is ten years. During her eight years in office, Carole Smith saw Marshall’s closing, the replacement of OAKS tests, and a large number of other changes. If history repeats itself, then Guerrero, too, will oversee similar shifts in Portland education.

Already, Guerrero has seen the reopening of Franklin High School, the moving of Grant High School to Marshall, and other schools prepare for future remodels.