June 9, 2023
Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
June is a month when there’s a lot going on at the Portland Public Schools, and we’d like to take this opportunity to fill you in.
First, June is graduation month, and we’ve had the honor this past week to participate in commencement ceremonies at all three of our high schools. It has been a rewarding experience because graduating our students prepared and empowered to pursue their goals and achieve their dreams is the primary goal of the Portland Public Schools – and we’ve clearly achieved that with the Class of 2023. This class had many challenges to overcome, including learning interruptions due to COVID in their freshman and sophomore years, but they ended up graduating with so many impressive accomplishments in academics, athletics, the arts and community service. Read more about each ceremony in this newsletter.
Our graduates didn’t do it alone. We are so grateful to all our high school leaders, faculty and staff for their hard work and dedication in helping these students achieve. Thank you also to parents and guardians and their other supporters who had students’ backs all along the way. We hope that the Class of 2023 takes the learning, relationships and perspective they’ve gained at the Portland Public Schools to make their mark upon the world. We can’t wait to see what they accomplish next. Congratulations, graduates!
Additionally, June is the time each year when we hold a ceremony honoring our retirees – and we did that on June 6. It is always a bittersweet occasion because we miss the incredible colleagues who retire each year but at the same time we are very happy for them as they embark on this next chapter of their lives. This year we recognized more than 40 individuals who have given a combined total of nearly 1,000 years of dedication and service to the Portland Public Schools. Read on in this newsletter to learn who retired and watch a video of the ceremony. We are so grateful to all our retirees for all they have contributed and we wish them the best!
June also is school budget month. The City Council unanimously approved our $143.8 million school budget for the 2023-2024 school year last month. Now it’s up to Portland voters, who will be asked to validate the budget at the polls next Tuesday, June 13.
This budget is a fair and responsible one at a time of daunting fiscal challenges. It reinvests in core operations such as finance and human resources, while also investing in student-facing staff to support all of our students, including our many newly arrived multi-language learners. Within this budget, we’ve also done our best to anticipate and plan for the FY25 budget, when the district will no longer have access to federal COVID money and will likely face decreased funding from the state level. This budget does all that while simultaneously being mindful of the tax burden on Portland residents in a year when inflation is higher than most can remember. Please don’t forget to vote! You’ll find complete voting information on the city’s website.
June also is Pride Month and the Portland Public Schools will be continuing a tradition it began in 2015 of having a "float" in the Pride Portland parade – a yellow school bus. As a welcoming, inclusive school district, we proudly affirm and stand with our LGBTQ+ students, staff and families. This year Pride events are on Saturday, June 17. The parade kicks off at 1 p.m. and the entire PPS community is welcome to participate! Students, staff, Board of Public Education members and families and other community supporters can all come and march with PPS in the parade or ride in the bus. You also can help decorate the bus if you arrive around noon at our staging area on a side street off Monument Square. Learn more in this newsletter, and we hope to see many of you there!
June additionally is a very busy time for our Board of Public Education as it finalizes its work at the end of the school year before it takes a hiatus for the month of July. Among key actions, the Board on June 6 approved leadership changes at four of our schools, effective July 1: Dr. Jake Giessman will be principal of Deering High School; Alyson Dame will be Deering assistant principal; Priya Natarajan will be assistant principal of Casco Bay High School; Amy Marx will be King Middle School principal; and Terry Young will be principal of Talbot Community School. We’re excited to have this strong slate of leaders in the place for the 2023-2024 school year. Learn more details on our website.
The Board also discussed an adjustment to the 2023-2024 school year calendar that it will be voting on at its next meeting on June 20. Currently, the calendar calls for students to return to school on Tuesday, Sept. 5, but the proposed change is to have students start school on Wednesday, Sept. 6 instead. That day will be a full day of school, not an early release day. The change would enable us to use Tuesday, Sept. 5, as a day to shore up on safety training for all staff that would include responding to an active shooter situation, threat assessment and crisis prevention intervention. Teachers already will be returning to school on Aug. 28 for professional development days but this extra day is needed for this crucial safety training.
Finally, last but certainly not least, the Board voted unanimously on June 6 to appoint Dr. Ryan Scallon as the new superintendent of the Portland Public Schools. His official start date is July 1, but Board Chair Lentz said Dr. Scallon would next be in Portland from June 23 to June 27. She said the Board is hoping to create at least one community event while he is here so more members of the community can meet him and start to know his strengths. Learn more about Dr. Scallon HERE.
As you know, neither of us applied for the superintendency. Melea has decided to conclude her service to our district at the end of this month after seven years. Aaron will be continuing on in a new role of deputy superintendent, supporting the new superintendent.
This is our last regular Staff & Community Newsletter before school ends, and we’d like to take this opportunity to say that we are proud to have had the opportunity to serve the district as co-superintendents over the past six months. It has been a challenging time of great transition, but our goals were to provide stable leadership for our wonderful school district, communicate frequently and openly with staff, students, families, the Board and our community, ensure the successful passage of the FY24 school budget and keep our important work towards equity and our other Portland Promise goals on course. It has not been easy, but we’re satisfied that we have largely accomplished what we set out to do.
We’re also excited to welcome Dr. Scallon and feel confident that he brings the skills, knowledge and mindset to make our great school district even better.
Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend, Interim Co-Superintendents