Staff & Community Newsletter - Nov. 2, 2023
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.
Students gain many positives from being in school – not just academic success but being part of the school community and developing traits like curiosity, creativity and responsibility. In short, being in school can help students feel more empowered and better about themselves.
Families play a key role in making sure students access learning opportunities and understand the importance of attendance to their overall success. Don’t let your student miss out on all we have to offer! Make sure they attend school every day this fall, and throughout the year! Learn more.
The Foundation for Portland Public Schools (FPPS) announced Oct. 31 that it is awarding $64,299 to Portland Public Schools staff members through the FPPS Equity and Innovation Grant program. Seventy-three teachers, ed techs, librarians, and other staff members will receive up to $1,250 each for classroom resources and experiences such as robotics clubs, purchasing math manipulatives, attending concerts, or bringing in guest lecturers. These grants will benefit thousands of students from preK through Portland Adult Education in 16 schools across the district. This year is the 15th year of the Equity and Innovation Grants Program.
All six candidates for mayor of Portland are expected to attend the student-run forum in Lyman Moore Middle School’s cafeteria on Friday, Nov. 3. Mayoral forums have become a Moore tradition. Candidates should expect challenging questions from the kids.
Three Portland Board of Public Education seats are up for election Nov. 7: an at-large seat and the District 4 and District 5 seats. Only the at-large seat is contested on the ballot.
The Maine Department of Education (DOE) has launched a new podcast hosted by Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin featuring conversations with educators, school staff, and students. The podcast launched Oct. 19 with a conversation between Makin and two Portland Public Schools teachers who are Maine Teachers of the Year: Casco Bay High School social studies teacher Matt Bernstein, the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year, and the newly named 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year Joshua Chard, a second- and third-grade looping teacher at East End Community School and Deering High School’s drama director.
An update on the progress that the Portland Public Schools is making on developing and implementing a Wabanaki Studies curriculum and a Local Black History curriculum was presented at the Board of Public Education's Sept. 19 meeting. Both curricula are essential to help students gain an accurate, full and inclusive history of their state and nation. Both curricula also offer opportunities for interdisciplinary learning across all content areas, not just social studies.
The Portland Public Schools mourns the loss of Joshua Seal, a beloved member of the Portland Public Schools community, who died Oct. 25 in the Lewiston shootings. Joshua, 36, who was deaf and the father of four children also part of the PPS community, was director of interpreting services for the Pine Tree Society and a former educational technician at East End Community School.
The Portland Public Schools extends deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mike Gillespie, a beloved longtime district custodian, who passed away Oct. 17 at the age of 68. Mike is fondly remembered by the staff of Central Office, where he worked most recently before retiring last year, for his dedication and service always delivered in a friendly and helpful manner.
The city of Portland is encouraging Portlanders to participate in a blue heart campaign in support of "Love Lewiston Day" on Friday, November 3. Similar to the red hearts that are displayed across the city by the Valentine Bandit on Valentine’s Day, the city is encouraging everyone to place blue hearts on their own windows, doors, and buildings they own to showcase support for the Lewiston community.
Children and teens look to their families, teachers and other school staff to help them grapple with news about violence and war. Please know that the Portland Public Schools has created a “Crisis Resources” page under the “Families” tab on our website that can support you in speaking with children and youth about the tragic events in Lewiston, the war in Israel and Gaza, and other crises in the news. A number of the resources are available in multiple languages.
October was National Principals Month and the Portland Public Schools took that opportunity to shine a spotlight on our principals and also on our lead teachers at Reiche Elementary School, a teacher-led school. All of them are super! We celebrate and appreciate them not only at this time but always.
If you missed it, read Superintendent Ryan Scallon’s October column in The Forecaster newspaper, which provided an update on the strategic planning process:
Twelve Portland High School students attended the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute Fall Forum in Bangor this September, according to PHS ELO Coordinator Andrea Levinsky. The Institute’s program is designed to raise the confidence and aspirations of high school girls by helping them develop the skills required to be leaders in their lives, families, careers, and communities.
Sylvie Montello, community coordinator for Lyseth, Ocean Avenue and Reiche elementary schools, wrote a grant proposal for the Berlin City Auto Group’s “Drive for Education” grant program on behalf of Lyseth Elementary School art teacher Ellen Handelman. They were awarded $2,000 to purchase a plexiglass art display to showcase student artwork, such as students’ recent butterfly project.
Sydney Williams, extended learning opportunities (ELO) coordinator at Deering High School, shared the following information about an opportunity students had last month to explore careers in construction:
Ivan Sabau, a teacher in Lyseth Elementary School’s Spanish immersion program, became The Week Junior’s Teacher of the Week this past July after being nominated by a student for that honor in that publication for young people.
Joshua Chard, a veteran teacher at East End Community School, has been selected as the 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year. The announcement took place at a ceremony at the school on Oct. 11, where Chard was honored by state education officials, fellow educators and students.
This fall, Megan McDonough, first-grade classroom teacher at Reiche Elementary School, posed for a picture with Reiche students as they accepted school supplies donated by The Enclave of Scarborough, a senior living center. Every year, Enclave holds a fundraiser for Reiche School. They have an antique car show with music, food and the admission price is school supplies for Reiche.
PPS IN THE PRESS
By day they work as teachers. By night they’re crafting characters and stories to engage readers of all ages as published authors.
Nick Fuller Googins, a fourth grade teacher at CK Burns School in Saco, and Rebecca Turkewitz , a 10th grade English teacher at Casco Bay High School in Portland, are inspiring students to think outside of the four walls of their schools and investigate a world only they can create through writing.
Maine Educator sat down with the authors to learn more about how they incorporate their expertise as writers into their world as educators, sharing ideas on how all educators can help support their students in the classroom.
Voters will only decide the winner of one of three Portland school board seats on the Nov. 7 city ballot; the other two are uncontested.
Two candidates are vying for an at-large seat while the District 3 and 4 seats have only one registered candidate each.
Usira Ali, 23, and Austin Sims, 37, are competing for the at-large seat currently held by Yusuf Yusuf, who has been on the board since 2021 and is not running for another term.
It’s 7:15 a.m. on a school day, and 5-year-old Juneau Yunitz steps out the front door and walks to a bright orange electric bike with a two-seat bench mounted on the back. He pulls a helmet out of the black milk crate attached to the front of the bike and struggles to fit it over the hood of his brown fluffy sweatshirt. He doesn’t want help, though. Rather than driving them to school, Juneau’s parents transport Juneau and his 7-year-old brother, Gus, on an e-bike, which the family has nicknamed “the radmobile.”
Every year at Casco Bay High School in Portland, Maine, teachers stage a model car race as the culminating event for an integrated math and physics project that helps students connect to content in a hands-on way. Teams of students design, test, and tinker with several car designs before the big day in an attempt to build the fastest—and the slowest—model cars. And on race day, an atmosphere of competition and celebration builds excitement for their demonstrations of learning. Only one team wins, but everyone walks away with a better grasp on higher-level STEM concepts.
EVENTS & OPPORTUNITIES
The Maine Department of Education Student Cabinet is again accepting applications from around the state for 2023/2024. The Student Cabinet is a group of students that meet regularly with the Maine DOE and each other to discuss educational opportunities, improvements, and policy. It would be wonderful to have Portland Public Schools students as representatives! Learn more and apply by Nov. 15, 2023!
The Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine (CMTM) has a new outdoor exhibit titled Ckuwaponahkiyik Atkuhkakonol: Wabanaki Storytelling Through Art and Traditions.
This exhibit pays homage to the enduring traditions of the Wabanaki people, whose cultural legacy has thrived in the region now known as Maine for over 12,000 years.
Dear educators and families,
Please see this message from the National Museum of the American Indian:
“Between Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month, November is brimming with opportunities for teaching and learning about Native America. Giving thanks is a longstanding and central tradition among most Native communities that is still practiced today. Share more about Native peoples’ vibrant, ongoing traditions of giving thanks with the museum’s teaching poster American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving. Learn more about the museum’s programs for educators, and register today!”
The Maine Geospatial Institute of the University of Maine System will host a K-12 educator workshop on November 15, 2023. Educators of any discipline who would like to learn easy ways to use mapping tools to enhance classroom (and outside the classroom!) teaching are invited.