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Leader Wins Black Excellence Award

Julia Hazel, the Portland Public Schools director of BIPOC career pathways and leadership development, is among 10 recipients of the 2023 Maine Black Excellence Awards, presented by The Third Place on Aug. 13. Hazel received the Compass Career Award, which recognizes an individual who has accomplished a standout achievement in their workplace or sector. 

The Third Place is an organizational collaborative and coworking space for entrepreneurs, community builders, and professionals of African descent statewide. The Third Place Maine Black Excellence Awards recognize individuals and institutions from across the state who are integral in creating an equitable quality of place for Black Mainers. These awards are designed to showcase the talents, commitment, and resolve of those doing critical work in support of Black social and cultural infrastructure in Maine.

In informing Hazel that she had been selected as this year’s winner of the Compass Career Award, Adilah Muhammad, executive director of The Third Place, wrote that the award is designed to recognize individuals who “use their professional position as an opportunity for intersectional change and awareness. They don’t shy away from amplifying the voices of those who are historically excluded in their field or sector and are working towards systems change.”

Muhammad said Hazel’s work reflects that. “We believe that your work with the Portland Public Schools and your efforts to organize BIPOC Educators around the state make you well-deserving of this recognition,” Muhammad said. “The Third Place appreciates all of the hard work and dedication you have put into improving the quality of life for Black Mainers.”

At the Portland Public Schools, Hazel serves as a resource and support to current BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) educators, creates career advancement pathways and leadership opportunities for educational technicians and teachers, amplifies BIPOC excellence and expertise, and fosters relationship building and mutual support within the BIPOC community. 

“Congratulations to Julia Hazel for receiving this well-deserved acknowledgement of her exemplary work,” said Superintendent Ryan Scallon. “As part of the central equity goal of the Portland Promise, our district is committed to ensuring that our staff is reflective of our diverse student body. Julia’s work to help attract, support and retain educators of color for the Portland Public Schools is vital to this effort.”

Hazel has been organizing and supporting BIPOC educators in the Portland Public Schools for the past eight years, not only in her current role but as a former classroom teacher. She has a total of 16 years of classroom teaching experience. She taught in New York City before joining the Portland Public Schools in 2012, where she has taught at Talbot, Reiche and Rowe elementary schools.

In addition to her classroom work, in 2015 Hazel co-created curriculum for a new district course offering: “Race in the United States: Perspectives for Portland Educators.” Also that year, she became the founding member of a BIPOC educators group that includes more than 90 educators in Maine and more than 70 educators in PPS. Since 2017, Ms. Hazel has been a member and building leader for the PPS’ Equity Leaders Cohort and she is now leading the formal PPS BIPOC affinity group. Most recently, she served as a core member of the research team for the PPS Educators of Color Report, released in 2021. Last September, Hazel was among four Portland Public Schools educators to receive the 2022 Education for the Common Good Award from the Bowdoin College Education Department for their work to transform conditions for the district’s educators of color.

Hazel holds a master’s degree in teaching from Clark University and a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences, with a minor in education, from Mount Holyoke College. She also completed a semester of study in urban education at the Bank Street College of Education in New York City.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 49.8 percent of the district’s students are white and 50.2 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.