May 12, 2023
Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
May 12 is the final day of National Teacher Appreciation Week, and we want to again express our gratitude to our stellar Portland Public Schools teachers for all their hard work and dedication in support of students and families.
We also want to give a special shout out to teacher Joshua Chard at East End Community School, who on May 11 was named 2023 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year! That puts him in the running to be the 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year.
We’re proud to say that many of our teachers have been recognized by the Maine Teacher of the Year program within the past decade. Casco Bay High School teacher Matt Bernstein, now the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year, was the 2022 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year. Cindy Soule, a literacy coach at Talbot Community School, was 2020 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year and 2021 Maine Teacher of the Year; Brooke Teller, the district’s STEM coordinator, was the 2017 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year; and Karen MacDonald, a King Middle School teacher, now retired, was the 2014 Maine Teacher of the Year.
Congratulations to all these teachers for their tremendous achievements! They are exemplary of the high quality educators we are so fortunate to have in our district.
We’ll now turn to some other exciting news this week: The Portland Board of Public Education has narrowed down the pool of candidates for the position of superintendent of the Portland Public Schools to two finalists: Eric Moore, currently senior advisor to the superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools, and Dr. Ryan Scallon, who is an assistant superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia. Scallon holds a doctorate degree in education and Moore is on track to earn his doctorate in education later this year.
The finalists will be in Portland next week, on May 17 and 18, for interviews with key stakeholders and to tour the district. Some interviews – those with students, parents and other community members – will be live-streamed and recorded for public viewing and feedback. The Board will consider that feedback in making a final decision on a new superintendent, which it hopes to do by May 30. Click HERE to learn more about these candidates and the process.
Neither of us applied for the superintendency. Melea announced at the Board’s May 2 meeting that, after seven years with the district, the end of this school year is the right time for her to step down. Melea plans to remain engaged in the district as a mom and she’ll be available as a resource to support the district’s leadership transition this summer.
Aaron, who was hired as assistant superintendent for school management in 2019, looks forward to continuing to serve the district and supporting the new superintendent.
We’ll also use this opportunity to encourage everyone to please stay engaged in the FY24 school budget process as two key dates approach. The City Council, which sets the bottom line of the school budget, will vote on the budget this Monday, May 15, to send it to city voters on June 13.
The Council’s Finance Committee voted unanimously in April to recommend our proposed $143.8 million school budget for the 2023-2024 school year to the full City Council.
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.
The budget calls for a 5.7 percent increase in the school portion of the tax rate – in line with inflation. After months of hard work, it also is a significant downward revision from the 15.5 percent increase that was part of the district’s original needs assessment. The budget would raise the overall school tax rate by 40 cents, for a total rate of approximately $7.45 per $1,000 valuation. It would increase the annual tax bill for the median family home in Portland (valued at $375,000) by $150 per year, or $12.50 per month.
There will be an opportunity for public comment at the Council’s 5 p.m. May 15 hybrid meeting, for which you can find agenda and joining information HERE. We encourage members of the PPS community to make their voices heard to ensure that the Portland Public Schools has a budget for the new school year that enables us to continue to prepare and empower all our students for success.
We’ll close with a few more recognitions.
May 12 also is the final day of National Nurses Week. We are so grateful to our school nurses for making sure every day that our students stay healthy and able to learn. This year’s National Nurses Week theme – “You Make a Difference” – aptly describes our PPS school nurses, who are essential to student success. Thank you for all you do!
May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, which has the goal of raising awareness about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists work to improve communication, and May 18 is National Speech Language Pathologist Day. Our deep gratitude goes out to our speech-language pathologists for your essential work with our students who have speech and language challenges to help them succeed in school.
May also is Jewish American Heritage Month. That is a time to pay tribute to the generations of Jewish Americans who helped form the fabric of American history, culture and society. At a time of increasing antisemitism, we want to use this opportunity to recognize and support our Jewish staff, students and families as valued members of the PPS community.
Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend, Interim Co-Superintendents