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Superintendent Letter - October 28, 2022

Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,

It’s almost November, a month when we turn the national spotlight on public education. American Education Week, which runs from Nov. 13  to Nov. 19, highlights the importance of providing every child in America with a quality public education. This is a good opportunity  to reflect on how we can best achieve that at the Portland Public Schools.

Please keep that in mind as we approach Election Day on Nov. 8. Portland residents are voting on candidates for three seats up for election on the Portland Board of Public Education. Learn who is on the ballot in this newsletter.

Voters also are being asked to approve Question 5, a change recommended by the city’s Charter Commission that would give the Board of Public Education the authority to set the bottom line of the school budget before sending it to voters for a final say. The Board and I support  Question 5 because it would greatly benefit public education in Portland.

You can read my reasons for voting “yes” on Question 5 in an op-ed I wrote in the Portland Press Herald titled: “‘Yes’ on Question 5 will let our school board do its job” and in my October column in The Forecaster, headlined “School Board will be good fiscal stewards of school budget.”  And on Oct. 26, the district held a Parent University Zoom session to give our community a chance to hear panelists voice both the pro and con perspectives on Question 5. A recording of this will be posted on our website next week.

Portland residents can vote absentee or in person. Click HERE for more information about voting on the City Clerk’s website.

Also coming up, on Nov. 16, is Education Support Professionals Day, a time to honor a range of essential employees who play a vital role in our students’ success. Among these key employees are our educational technicians. I’m pleased to report that the Board on Oct. 18 approved a three-year contract with our ed techs that recognizes the important work they perform through increased pay and other provisions, and that allows us to be competitive with neighboring districts. Learn more in this newsletter.

We are deeply grateful to all our ed techs – and we need more of them! That is why we will be holding a hiring fair for ed techs next Friday, Nov. 4, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. here at Central Office at 353 Cumberland Avenue

We will continue to hold monthly hiring fairs that focus on areas of employment need. We have a number of vacancies due to the labor shortages across the region and country that make fully staffing all school districts, including ours, a challenge this year.

The Nov. 4 hiring fair is also for substitute teachers. Substitute Educators Day is Nov. 18. We are always thankful for these employees, and especially so this year – and we need more subs! To attract these critical staff, we have increased substitute wages on an interim basis for this school year.  The daily pay rate for our long-term substitutes is $238; dedicated subs will get $175; state-certified substitutes will be paid $150; and bachelors-degree substitutes will receive $145.  Substitutes with lesser credentials will see an increase in their pay to $95 per day.

Whether you can be a substitute or a volunteer – or if you’re interested in the permanent positions we have open – we need everyone who can to support our community’s schools. To volunteer, please use the volunteer application form to apply. For substitute or permanent employment opportunities, come to our monthly hiring fairs or go to our Human Resources page to learn more and apply. Please help support public education in Portland!

The Board also has launched the process to search for a new superintendent to replace me when I step down at the end of this school year. On Oct. 18, the Board finalized the appointment of a complete slate of public members of the Superintendent Search Committee, bringing the total to eight to ensure that a representative from Portland Adult Education was included. The 13-member committee, which includes five Board members, held its first meeting on Oct. 24 and will meet next on Nov. 3. Read on in this newsletter to learn who’s on the committee and get more details.

Yesterday, Oct. 27, was World Occupational Therapy Day, so I’ll take this opportunity to give a huge shout out to our school occupational therapists. We are grateful to them for all that they do to help our students master the skills they need to be more successful in school and their daily lives.

I’ll close by noting that November is Native American Heritage Month, when we celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories of our nation’s Indigenous people and acknowledge their important contributions. Maine’s original inhabitants are known collectively as the Wabanaki or "People of the Dawnland,” and we are honored to have Wabanaki students and families as a part of our PPS community today. As a district, we are committed to making the past, present, and future of Wabanaki peoples visible in our schools and classrooms.


Xavier Botana, Superintendent