Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
The shootings in Lewiston are so sad and devastating that they cannot be appropriately addressed in a letter. My hope is that everyone in our community has had the opportunity to check-in on their loved ones, hug their kids, and take a breath.
Maine is a small state and the Portland Public Schools lost a community member in last week’s events. I would like to express my deep sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Joshua Seal, a member of Maine's Deaf community, an ASL interpreter, a former educational technician at East End Community School and also a PPS parent. Joshua, who died in the Oct. 25 shootings, was a much loved member of the PPS family.
The violence in Lewiston and the on-going conflict in Israel and Gaza result in our students regularly facing scary news. In the Portland Public Schools, we continue to focus on ensuring a safe, welcoming environment for all students. This includes social-emotional learning in morning meetings, the building of community in advisory/crew, and the availability of social workers and guidance counselors. It also includes robust extracurriculars, sports, and elective opportunities that not only allow students to explore their talents and interests but also foster their social, emotional, cooperation and leadership skills.
For our staff, we encourage them to also take care of themselves. We have an Employee Assistance Program that provides benefits such as three free counseling sessions per year. In addition, leaders have been checking in with staff, as we know that we will not have great schools for students if we do not support the staff in our schools.
Families, I also want to again offer you resources that can support you in speaking with your students about the events in Lewiston, the war in Israel and Gaza, and other crises in the news. We have created a “Crisis Resources” page under the “Families” tab on our website that you also reach directly by clicking HERE.
I hope you find the resources there, a number of which are translated into multiple languages, to be helpful in guiding you in talking with your children and teens after something frightening or violent happens.