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High School Design Project Update: Progress and Opportunities for Feedback

Dear Portland Public Schools Community,

We are writing to inform you about the progress of the high school design work that stemmed from a resolution passed by the Portland Board of Public Education last fall. The goal of this work is to develop more consistent programming and opportunities for students across all three high schools in our district. To achieve this goal, a design team was formed, consisting of various stakeholders, including staff, parents, students, community members, high school principals, the director of the Portland Arts and Technology High School, the executive director of Portland Adult Education, and district leaders. 

Over the past several months, the design team has been actively working towards shaping the future of our high schools. They began by reviewing relevant data to gain a clear understanding of our current status and identify areas of improvement. Additionally, they conducted extensive feedback-gathering exercises, including focus groups and surveys, which involved hundreds of stakeholders such as students, alumni, staff, parents, employers, and post-secondary institutions.

The valuable feedback collected from these stakeholders has been instrumental in developing two crucial components: the "Portrait of a Graduate" and the "Portrait of a School." These documents, currently in draft form, will serve as our vision and outline the qualities and skills we aspire to instill in our students, as well as the characteristics of the schools that will help foster their growth. The design team is currently working on finalizing these drafts, and we expect to complete them by July 2023.

We encourage you to review the current drafts, which can be accessed via the following link: Draft Portrait of a Student & School. Your feedback on the current drafts is greatly appreciated, and you can provide it through this Google Form link before June 14, 2023. 

Once the drafts are completed, they will undergo several months of revision in the fall, involving input from various stakeholders. Subsequently, we will move into the high school design phase in late fall/winter of 2023. During this phase, selected members of the design team will visit at least one exemplary high school to learn from their experiences and successes. Our aim will be to explore and create model design frameworks that align with the vision outlined by the Portrait of a Student and Portrait of a School. The core elements that will be considered in the design process include foundational academics (curriculum and assessment), college and career readiness, personal enrichment, and social-emotional well-being. 

In addition to the high school design project, the resolution passed by the Board also mandated the district to apply for the Integrated Consolidated 9-16 Facility Capital Construction Program. The aim of this, as outlined in the resolution, is to construct a new state-of-the-art high school in Portland, which will include Portland High School, Deering High School, Portland Arts & Technology High School, and Portland Adult Education. 

Based on the proposed rule changes to the program, we would be eligible to apply in July 2024. The application criteria state that the new high school should be designed to integrate a career and technical school, the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System, and support industry training programs. To foster collaborative thinking on incorporating post-secondary education and college readiness into our design, members of Southern Maine Community College’s and the University of Southern Maine’s leadership teams have joined our design team. They will actively participate in the coming year to ensure a collaborative and comprehensive approach.

In line with our commitment to transparency, an update on the progress of the high school design project will be presented to the school board on June 20. We encourage you to attend this meeting to stay informed and engaged. Should you have any questions or require further information, please reach out to your principal or contact Pamela Otunnu, Director of Secondary Academic Access and Outcomes, at

We are excited about the potential of this high school design project and its transformative impact on our students' educational journey. Your continued support and dedication are vital as we work to create an exceptional learning environment for all. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to our students and our schools.


Thank you,

Aaron Townsend, Co-Interim Superintendent
Melea Nalli, Co-Interim Superintendent
Pamela Otunnu, Director of Secondary Academic Access and Outcomes