Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
In our recent newsletter messages, we have highlighted some of the amazing teaching and learning ongoing at the Portland Public Schools – in math, science, English language arts and social studies, and in music and the arts. In addition to rigorous academic offerings and challenging athletic opportunities, our schools also offer students a diverse range of co-curricular clubs and activities. In this letter, we turn the spotlight on those.
Co-curriculars play an important role in helping the Portland Public Schools achieve the Whole Student goal in the Portland Promise, our district’s strategic plan. That goal commits the district to advancing a well-rounded educational experience that “builds character, encourages civic participation, stimulates creativity and artistic expression, promotes mental and physical wellness, awakens appreciation of the natural world and fosters global competency.” Co-curriculars can help provide those experiences for students.
Clubs and activities vary at each of our schools but typical offerings at our middle and high schools include Civil Rights Teams, Math Teams, Drama Clubs, Black Student Unions, Girls Who Code clubs, various art and music clubs, and clubs for LGBTQ+ students and allies.
Other clubs appeal to more specialized student interests. For example, Portland High School’s co-curriculars include a Ping Pong club, a Radio Club, a Shakespeare Club, and a Women’s Rights Club; Deering High School has a Debate Team and a Trivia Team, and students can also participate in an Environmental Club and a Fashion & Design Club. Casco Bay High School’s clubs include Mock Trial, Ukulele and Ultimate Frisbee clubs.
King Middle School has a Chess Club and a Dungeons and Dragons Club; Lincoln Middle School also has a Dungeons and Dragons Club, as well as an All-Stars/Homework Club and a Garden Club; and Lyman Moore Middle School’s co-curriculars include an Anime Club, a Lego Robotics Club and an ASL Club. (Click on each school’s name above to see complete lists of their co-curriculars on their websites.)
Students in these clubs often distinguish themselves. For instance, just last weekend, on March 25, the Deering High School Trivia Team took third place at the Maine State Quiz Bowl Championship at Bates College. DHS senior Colby Drabik won third best performer overall.
In another example, Casco Bay High Drama Club members freshman Reme Isgro and junior Amelie Davis Rousseau received commendations for both their writing and directing at a recent One Act Play Festival. Their murder mystery spoof, titled “Murder for Dinner: Slander for Dessert,” also resulted in several all-festival cast awards for their actors.
In addition, Portland High School sophomore William Guerin recently delivered an outstanding performance with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. William, who is the concertmaster of the PPS High School orchestra, and also is the concertmaster of the University of Southern Maine Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra, played side-by-side at the first music stand with PSO's concertmaster Charles Dimmick and also performed a solo duet with Dimmick. Julianne Eberl, PPS music director and conductor of the PPS High School Orchestra, said a PSO violist shared with her “what a superb job William did preparing for the concert and his solo, and how well he played at the performance.”
Congratulations to all these students on these impressive achievements!
In these newsletter messages, we’ve also been updating everyone on our proposed school budget for the 2023-2024 school year. As you may have seen in news reports, our district got some good news earlier this week about additional state education funding that will help ease our daunting budget pressures this year.
We learned this past Tuesday, March 28, that the Maine Department of Education had revised its state education aid calculations for school districts. Our district is among those around the state that will be receiving additional state aid for the FY24 school year.
We are very grateful for the additional resources because we definitely need them. Our FY24 superintendents’ budget proposal that we presented to the Portland Board of Public Education March 14 contains significant cuts in order to achieve our priorities and be responsive to budget pressures and taxpayers.
Our proposed budget of $141.3 million was built on the premise that we would be receiving $2.4 million less in state aid than in FY23. The newly revised funding for Portland is $3.6 million more than we had budgeted.
We will be revisiting our initial recommended budget to determine what needs we may be able to address that we couldn't in the original. We also will review our ESSERF spending plan, and the impact on local taxpayers.
In light of these late-breaking new developments, the Board’s Finance Committee decided not to vote at its March 28 meeting on recommending an FY24 budget to the full Board. Instead, the Finance Committee will meet virtually at 4:30 p.m. this Monday, April 3, to consider revisions to the superintendents’ budget and take a vote at that time.
Just as a reminder, the full Board will vote on April 11 to recommend a budget to the City Council, which approves the bottom line of the school budget. The Council is slated to vote on the school budget on May 15 to send to voters on June 13. You can view a complete budget timeline and budget materials on our website HERE. We’ll continue to keep you updated throughout the budget process.
April begins tomorrow and that month this year has a number of major religious holidays on the calendar: Passover, Good Friday, Easter, and Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan that began March 22. We have asked our schools to please avoid scheduling school events, important curricular-related activities, and exams on these days.
We’ll end by noting that next week, April 3-7, is National Assistant Principals Week, and April 4 is National School Librarians Day.
Our assistant principals are crucial to the functioning of our schools, multitasking each day to support our students, teachers and principals and ensure a positive learning environment. Our school librarians are key educators in our schools who help motivate students to pursue reading and find the resources needed to learn.
We’d like to take this opportunity to recognize all these dedicated professionals for their hard work and commitment to student success. We are so grateful to these amazing educators for everything they do!
Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend, Interim Co-Superintendents