Carole Smith has served as superintendent of Portland Public Schools since October 2007. PPS, with more than 49,000 students, is the largest school district in Oregon.
As one of the district’s longest serving superintendents, Smith has led efforts to support more effective teaching in PPS classrooms and build stronger partnerships with higher education, community organizations, and other public and private partners.
She led a successful facility planning and community engagement process that resulted in Portland voters approving an eight-year, $482 million school construction bond in November 2012, with 66 percent support. Smith has placed equity at the center of school district priorities in an effort to erase race-based disparities in student outcomes. To do this, Smith has focused on transforming the culture of our schools and district.Under her leadership, PPS has implemented ongoing professional development for all employees to analyze and address how personal attitudes about race impact instruction, district practices and policy making. To change practices, she oversaw the crafting of the PPS Racial Educational Equity Policy, an Equity in Public Purchasing & Contracting policy and an Affirmative Action Policy – all approved unanimously by the school board.
During her tenure, PPS schools have produced significant gains in student achievement while narrowing the academic opportunity gap between white students and students of color, including gains in early literacy, middle grade math and reading, and the number of students who are on track to graduate in high school. PPS’ graduation rate has also increased by 21 percentage points since 2008-09 and the gap between white students and students of color has narrowed and, in over half of PPS high schools, closed altogether. The PPS graduation rate is at its highest by any state measure in at least 15 years.
Smith’s ambitious goals for the district include ensuring that every student is reading at grade level by the end of third grade, accelerating improvement of the district’s graduation rate, and reducing by 50 percent the exclusionary discipline rates overall and the disparity in discipline rates between students of color and white students.
Smith has received a number of national and regional awards for her outstanding leadership, including; the Racial Equity Leadership Award from Pacific Educational Group, a national consulting organization that provides professional development for schools and school districts around racial consciousness and equity; the Leading by Example Excellence in Education Award, from the Oregon Chapter of the Northwest Accreditation Council and AdvancED; the Robert Phillips Regional Diversity Award from the Northwest Public Employees Diversity Conference; the Tom Ruhl Ally of OALA (Oregon Association of Latino Administrators) Award; the Business Journal Women of Influence Orchid Award; and the Oregon Congress of Parents and Teachers Advocate for Children Award.
Superintendent Smith brings more than 38 years of experience in education. From 1982 to 2005, she was executive director of Open Meadow Schools in Portland, an accredited, nonprofit education program for middle and high school students that is affiliated with PPS. Under her leadership, the organization grew to become a national model for alternative education serving both struggling and gifted students who haven’t thrived in traditional settings.
In 2005, Superintendent Smith was recruited to Portland Public Schools to lead the Office of Educational Options, then assumed interim leadership of the Office of Student, Family and School Support. She was promoted to chief of staff for Superintendent Vicki Phillips in 2006 and was selected by the Portland School Board to replace Phillips upon her departure.
In addition to her longtime work on behalf of Portland’s students, Superintendent Smith is a product herself of local schools. She attended elementary, junior high and high school in the Portland metropolitan area.