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Superintendent Letter - August 24, 2023

Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,

We are truly in the countdown to the start of the school year. As of Friday, there will be 12 calendar days until most students return to school on Wednesday, September 6, (pre-K and kindergarten start on Thursday, September 7). It is hard to believe that we are almost there! As someone who has spent the majority of my time in Portland without most of our students in buildings, I am excited to see classrooms filled and students engaged.

At this time, everyone in the District is busy preparing to make sure that students have a great start to the school year. This includes sharing and updating bus routes, ordering food, professional development for leaders and teachers and a final cleaning of buildings. I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to thank all of our staff and especially our operational staff. These individuals are often the unsung heroes of the District. Without them, we would not be ready for our students.

Recently, one of our teachers, Joshua Chard, a 2nd/3rd grade teacher at East End Elementary School, was announced as a finalist for 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year. With Mr. Chard, the Portland Public Schools now has five current educators who are either former Maine Teachers of the Year or Cumberland County Teachers of the year, or both. We are fortunate to have such fantastic educators and programs in our district.

To benefit from these educators and programs, I want to encourage you to prioritize student attendance at the start of the school year. September is National Attendance Awareness month. Students who miss two or more days during this crucial first month of school are significantly more likely to be chronically absent for the entire year. By contrast, students who attend regularly are more likely to graduate. That’s because they’re able to fully benefit from all that PPS has to help them succeed. And good attendance habits are best developed at the start of the school year.

Thank you to the more than 400 community members that participated in Listen and Learn sessions in July and August. These conversations have provided invaluable feedback as I begin to understand the district and our future work. Please keep an eye out for a community survey at the beginning of the school year. This Listen and Learn Survey will be combined with other survey data you have shared (e.g. superintendent search, parent surveys) and help inform the themes and trends that will be shared publicly at our Board of Public Education meeting in October.

Here’s  to a great first day, week and school year!