At its Oct. 11 meeting, the Portland Board of Public Education voted unanimously to pass a high school alignment resolution, which commits the district to taking a closer look at ensuring consistent programming and opportunities for students across all three high schools. The Board also voted to appoint seven community members to the Superintendent Search Committee and agreed to consider at its Oct. 18 meeting the appointment of an eighth member representing Portland Adult Education.
High School Alignment Resolution
This high school alignment resolution dovetails with a plan to change the district’s new high school preference process that the Board approved Sept. 20.
A change in the high school choice process became necessary because enrollment fluctuations between Deering and Portland high schools have sometimes been very high, leading to an unequal distribution of resources (such as staff and course offerings) between PHS and DHS. The schools also have ended up having significant variance in their student composition, with PHS being less diverse than the district.
With the new preference process, most students are expected to continue to be able to attend their preferred school, but some will not because the plan is to limit the difference in enrollment between Deering and Portland to about 30 students and reduce demographic disparity between the schools.
Board members and administrators stressed that they realize that the new process addresses a symptom and not the underlying issues of why students choose the high schools that they do. To take a closer look at those underlying issues at our comprehensive high schools, the Board approved the high school alignment resolution. The goal of the resolution is ensuring consistent programming and opportunities for students across all three high schools, and alignment of different elements and aspects of the schools such as schedules, transitions for ninth-graders, school-wide systems and supports, special education programming, and services for students who are English language learners (ELLs).
The Board also voted to add language to the resolution directing the superintendent to pursue all opportunities for state funding to address the large capital needs of our high schools. Those opportunities include applying to the state to build a new consolidated state-of-the-art high school for our district that includes Portland and Deering high schools, PATHS and Portland Adult Education.
The resolution charges the Board’s Policy and Curriculum Committee – whose meetings are open to the public – with overseeing the work being done to better align our high schools. That committee is tasked with delivering a report to the Board by the end of this academic year with elements and timelines for this alignment work. That will bring visibility, accountability and enduring importance to this work.
Superintendent Search Committee Community Member Appointments
In other business at its Oct. 11 meeting, the Board approved the appointment of a slate of seven community representatives to serve on the Superintendent Search Committee and also add an eighth member who will represent Portland Adult Education. The Board is expected to vote on a proposed candidate to fill that additional position at its Oct. 18 meeting.
The Board voted in September to create the Search Committee to assist in conducting the search for the next superintendent. Xavier Botana has announced he will be leaving his position as Portland Public Schools superintendent at the end of this 2022-2023 school year. The Board’s goal is to hire a new superintendent by May 14, 2023, to allow for a smooth transition for his replacement, who’ll start on July 1, 2023.
Wanting to reflect its commitment to community engagement and transparency, the Board determined that the Search Committee would include not only five Board members but also seven community members to lead the selection process.
The Board’s Appointments Committee launched a recruitment questionnaire in early September, which was open through Oct. 3. It yielded a total of 55 community applicants. The Appointments Committee reviewed those applications on Oct. 7 and developed a slate of candidates that the Board approved Oct. 11. The seven new community members of the Superintendent Search Committee are:
- Alissa Bourque, director of the district’s pre-kindergarten programs.
- Kerrie Dowdy, teacher and president of the Portland Education Association
- Manar Eltahir, senior at Deering High School and president of the DHS Black Student Union
- Joseph Inabanza, a 2021 graduate of Casco Bay High School and a former Portland Board of Public Education student representative
- Betsy Paz-Gyimesi, a family engagement specialist in the district’s Multilingual and Multicultural Center serving the district’s Latinx students and families
- Barbara Stoddard, executive director of Human Resources for the past eight years. She is stepping down from the role in November but will serve on the committee as a Portland resident and the parent of two PPS graduates.
- Matthew Winch, a PPS parent who serves on the Buildings for our Future District Advisory Building Committee
In the course of reviewing and deliberating on the membership of the Search Committee, the Appointment Committee realized it was missing an important perspective in the original resolution, which was a clear connection and understanding of the critical position of Portland Adult Education in our school system.
The committee came to this realization toward the end of the deliberations, when it had already completed its vetting. It noted that it had several candidates with PAE connections who were runners-up for the original list of seven recommended candidates.
Rather than exclude someone from the original list, the Appointments Committee decided to bring a revised resolution to the Board on Oct. 11 to expand the membership of the Search Committee by one additional community member – for a total of eight community members – with one being a person with a connection to PAE. The revised resolution was approved by the Board and the committee plans to bring the name of a proposed candidate who would represent PAE to the Board’s next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18.