Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero announces departure

By Natalie Pate (OPB)
PORTLAND, Ore. Dec. 11, 2023 7:48 p.m. Updated: Dec. 12, 2023 9:04 p.m.

Guerrero said it’s the best time to “pass the baton.” His last day will be Feb. 16.

FILE: Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero  speaks at a press conference at the PPS district headquarters in Portland, Ore., Nov. 1, 2023. Guerrero has announced he will not seek another contract extension with the district.

FILE: Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero speaks at a press conference at the PPS district headquarters in Portland, Ore., Nov. 1, 2023. Guerrero has announced he will not seek another contract extension with the district.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero is stepping down.


Guerrero told the PPS school board Monday that he would not seek a third contract extension after more than six years leading Oregon’s largest school district. His resignation comes just after the district’s first-ever teachers strike, which lasted for more than three weeks.

“I am immensely proud of my team’s contribution to our school district’s 170-year history,” Guerrero said in a statement. “I want to thank every educator, principal, central office staff, community partner, and family for supporting our mission to make PPS a better experience for every student.”

Guerrero’s last day as superintendent will be Feb. 16.

Guerrero was the first Latino superintendent of PPS. He has 30 years of experience in public education. According to the district, he served for ten years in the Boston Public Schools and for another decade in the San Francisco Unified School District, including as a paraprofessional, bilingual teacher, principal and various central office leadership roles.

He holds two master’s degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a bachelor’s from the University of California, Los Angeles, district officials wrote in a Monday news release.

According to district officials, Guerrero spoke with the board chair, Gary Hollands, in person Monday about his resignation. He then called each board member and sent them each his letter of resignation. In his letter, Guerrero said he plans to use this pause in his professional career to “focus on [his] health, reengage with family, take a long road trip, and return to producing and performing rock music.”

Board leadership issued a statement about Guerrero’s resignation. During his tenure, they said Guerrero has, among other things, contributed especially to helping improve arts education and opportunities for students of color.

“Our graduation rates are up, we’ve greatly expanded our career and technical education offerings, and he has forged a new partnership with the University of Oregon’s Balmer Institute that will support generations of PPS students for decades to come,” board leaders wrote.

Guerrero is leaving after having just helped broker a three-year contract with its teachers — a deal that will require significant budget cuts in the spring. PPS projections expect they will need to cut about $130 million over the next three years.

Though some supporters of the strike called for Guerrero’s resignation during rallies and at public school board meetings, his decision to leave in February means he’s departing just after the start of the short legislative session and before the district’s budget is approved for next school year.


In a statement sent to news reporters and district families, Guerrero said: “I believe PPS is a better school system, and with a capacity of talent that has grown over the years, right now is the best time to step down and pass the baton.”

PPS leaders react to resignation

Board member Michelle DePass told OPB she would have preferred to extend Guerrero’s contract for another year to get through the budget season. She worries about the impacts on kids and families, especially after the disruptions they experienced from COVID-19 school closures and the teachers strike.

“Our kids need stability now more than ever; we need to put them first during this organizational transition,” she said. “No more finger-pointing, no more grandstanding. It’s time for our PPS community and leadership to come together so our students come out stronger on the other side of this.”

Still, she emphasized how thankful she is for the superintendent’s years of service to the community. DePass said she understands why Guerrero is leaving and that he’s doing so on his own terms. She and fellow board member Julia Brim-Edwards said most superintendents in major public school systems only stay for about three years. Guerrero stayed for more than twice that.

“I’m hoping the community will conduct itself accordingly through this transition,” DePass said. “It’s very easy to point at a single person in leadership to blame for outcomes and lose sight of the fact that the board, too, is district leadership. The faults of the district are on all of us.”

Brim-Edwards oversaw the recruitment effort that eventually led to the district hiring Guerrero in 2017. She said the district was in rough shape at the time. The district had just undergone a failed superintendent recruitment before she was brought on.

“There had been three interim superintendents, many of the senior staff had left, the board was fairly dysfunctional …,” she listed as examples. “[Guerrero] came in at a very challenging time, and we’re in a much better place right now.”

Though others may be concerned, Brim-Edwards is not worried about recruiting superintendent candidates and heading into the budget season.

“With the foundation that’s been built, I believe we’ll have an excellent opportunity to recruit a strong, highly qualified, student-focused superintendent,” she told OPB. And since a deal has been reached with the district’s largest union, Brim-Edwards seems optimistic that further bargaining conversations with PPS’ classified unions still finalizing their contracts and the spring budget decisions will go smoothly.

President of the Portland Association of Teachers, Angela Bonilla, was not available for an interview Monday because of meetings with PPS management regarding the teachers’ new contract. But she emailed the union’s statement regarding the news:

“PAT recognizes the hard work done by Superintendent Guerrero this past month to reach a settlement with our union. Our sincere hope is that he takes the lessons he has learned from our educators, fellow union[s], families, communities and city to wherever he lands next. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

The school board is expected to meet in the coming days to identify an interim leader and begin the search process for a new superintendent.