Gerald E. Talbot Community School is among four Maine schools that have each been awarded a $50,000 grant to support their “community schools” work, the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) recently announced.
A community school is a public school that is the hub of its neighborhood, uniting families, educators and community partners to promote equity and educational excellence for each and every child, according to the Coalition for Community Schools. It is an approach that strengthens families and community, and is an effective, evidence-based, and equity-driven strategy for school improvement included under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
In addition to Talbot Community School, schools in Biddeford and RSUs 9 and 34 also won grants. At Talbot, the funding will allow the school to better support its after-school enrichment opportunities for students, including a homework diner program, and its Walking School Bus program.
The Gerald E. Talbot Community School, one of the district’s most diverse schools, was formerly called Riverton Elementary School. Its name was changed in 2020 to honor Talbot, a Portland icon who is an educator, author, historian, military veteran, civil and human rights activist, founding president of the Portland branch of the NAACP and the first African American to be elected to Maine’s Legislature and to chair the Maine State Board of Education. The name change included the word “community” instead of “elementary” to emphasize the school's role as the hub of the Riverton neighborhood.
“Congratulations to Talbot Community School for securing this $50,000 grant,” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “It will further enhance the school’s work to serve as the heart of the neighborhood, offering a range of opportunities, supports and services to everyone, ranging from children to adults.”
“We are so excited to receive this grant from the Maine Department of Education because it will allow us to increase staffing for our Beyond the Bell programs so that more students can engage in a variety of activities that support their academic, physical, social, and emotional wellbeing in a safe environment after school,” Talbot Principal Ann Hanna said, “A community school is more than just a name – it is a strategy for organizing the resources of the community to support student success. We’ve all heard of the African proverb: ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ This proverb is the concept behind the community school model.”
Portland State Rep. Michael Brennan, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Education Committee, is a strong advocate of community schools and has promoted the model at the state level.
Julie Smyth, director of MDOE’s Office of School and Student Supports said, “Community School models are receiving so much attention nationally – the Biden administration is committed to adding 25,000 new community schools, which will impact over 300,000 students.”
For more information on the grants and community schools, view this announcement from the MDOE.
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. 51 percent of the district’s students are white and 49 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals