Lead In The Water

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith Retires

By Rob Manning (OPB)
July 18, 2016 6:21 p.m.

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith has announced she's retiring immediately. That's a lot sooner than her initial plan to retire at the end of the upcoming school year. Her announcement comes just as a 30-day investigation concludes. It shows an overall lack of district procedure to deal with lead in school drinking water.


The school board intends to name an interim superintendent before the start of the school year.

Smith's departure follows continued pressure on her and the PPS school board over lead testing in school water.


“First and foremost, Superintendent Smith prioritized and championed putting equity at the core of the school district’s work. This will be an enduring and lasting legacy,” said school board Chairperson Tom Koehler.

Under Smith’s tenure, PPS passed a $482 million construction bond. Graduation rates improved, particularly among the more vulnerable populations and long under-served demographic groups. And the performance gap between white students and students of color has narrowed.

But parents this year strongly criticized her for having enough oversight of the district, and not acting fast enough to inform parents that lead was present in some school buildings.

Before Monday's announcement of her retirement, Smith had told the district in June that she would step down in 2017. She served as superintendent of Oregon’s largest district for almost a decade — three times the national average for urban school systems.

“This timing gives the Board the opportunity to bring in interim leadership this summer before the beginning of school, as we continue a national search for a permanent Superintendent," Koehler said in a press release.

PPS leaders plan to ask voters to pass another construction bond this fall that would help bring high schools into the 21st century, and deal with many of the persistent maintenance issues that created the current lead crisis.