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PPS Fills Variety of Key Positions

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PPS Fills Variety of Key Positions
Posted on 08/17/2021
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Nine new administrative staff members were introduced to the Portland Board of Public Education at its Aug. 17 meeting. Some are new to the district and others are taking on new roles.

Among those introduced were Lincoln Middle School Interim Principal Robyn Bailey and Lincoln Interim Assistant Principal Kathie Marquis-Girard. Ms. Bailey has been Lincoln’s assistant principal, but is stepping into the principal’s role on an interim basis for the 2021-2022 school year. Ms. Marquis-Girard, a retired Portland High School assistant principal, will serve as interim assistant principal for the coming school year.  A permanent principal will be selected prior to the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

Also introduced were Jane Armstrong, Assistant Director of Language Development for English Learner Programming; Kate Brogan, the district’s new ombudsperson; Maureen Fox, Special Education/Multilingual Coordinator; Courtney Graffius, Technology Integration Coordinator; Julia Hazel, Director of BIPOC Career Pathways and Leadership Development; Priya Natarajan, High School Math Instructional Coach; and Katie West, Outdoor Learning Coordinator.

“I welcome all nine to their new roles,” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “The People goal in our Portland Promise, our strategic plan, commits us to attracting the best and the brightest – and I believe we have accomplished that in the selection of these staff members for these important positions. I am proud of the quality of the people that we have identified for these key roles. In addition to their knowledge and skills, many are homegrown talent and all have deep roots in the Portland Public Schools community.”

More about each of these new staff members is below:

Jane Armstrong – Assistant Director of Language Development for EL Programming: Ms. Armstrong has extensive experience as an English language educator. Since 2020, she has been the district EL specialist. In that role, she defined and supported EL curriculum, assessment and instruction, on-boarded and oriented new EL staff, designed professional development in new and innovative ways, observed and gave feedback to colleagues and developed systems and structures to advise and implement Portland’s Lau Plan.
Ms. Armstrong first joined the Portland Public Schools in 2000 as an EL teacher at King Middle School. Her other professional experience includes being an academic consultant, a coordinator of the district’s Make It Happen! program, and an EL teacher at Lincoln Middle School.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and women’s studies from Wake Forest University; a graduate diploma in women’s studies and cultural relations from the University of Adelaide in Australia; and a master’s degree in teaching and learning from the University of Southern Maine.
Ms. Armstrong looks forward to continuing last year’s work with teachers, building leaders and the Academic team to systematically deliver EL instruction through collaborative models and practices.

Robyn Bailey – Interim Principal of Lincoln Middle School: Ms. Bailey joined PPS in 1998 as an educational technician at Lincoln and has been there ever since, becoming a teacher,  assistant principal and now interim principal.
She began working at Lincoln after earning a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and education from St. Anselm and the University of Southern Maine. While working at Lincoln, she enrolled in ETEP, earning a master’s degree in teaching and learning literacy from USM. In 2013, she completed her ELL endorsement and transferred those skills into consulting and instructional leadership for the district and its Multilingual & Multicultural Center.  After varied leadership roles, Bailey successfully completed her certificate of advanced study in educational leadership through USM in 2017.
Ms. Bailey became Lincoln’s assistant principal in 2018, where her accomplishments have included leading an effective intervention strategy to reduce student chronic absences. She is stepping into the role of interim principal to replace Principal Suellyn Santiago, who is leaving to become Chief Academic Officer in the Brunswick Schools. Ms. Bailey will hold the post for the new school year, giving the district time to fill the job on a permanent basis.
As interim principal, Ms. Bailey looks forward to continuing to move the instructional work forward while further building on her connection to the LMS community, staff and its students. This opportunity will allow for shared growth in all areas of the school.
Ms. Bailey also is the parent of a senior at Portland High School and an eighth-grader at Lyman Moore Middle School.

Kathleen “Kate” Brogan – Ombudsperson for the Portland Public Schools: Ms. Brogan is an attorney who has devoted her career to helping make Maine a healthier, safer and more equitable place for members of marginalized communities. As ombudsperson, her role will include making sure that student complaints under the district’s newly revised discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment policy are handled fairly.
For the past two years, Ms. Brogan has worked as a consultant advising nonprofit organizations on public policy, communications, and organizational strategy.
Prior to that, she was vice president for public affairs at Maine Family Planning for 13 years, where she advised the organization’s leadership on state and federal law, policy, and politics. She also initiated and led the expansion of Maine Family Planning’s policy agenda to focus on health equity and the experiences of marginalized communities, and she was a key strategic leader in protecting and expanding access to reproductive health care in Maine.
Ms. Brogan said a typical day at Maine Family Planning could include talking with young people and educators about minors’ rights to accessing reproductive and sexual health care, advocating against racist bills in the legislature, and analyzing federal policy proposals.
Ms. Brogan’s other experience includes being legal counsel to the president of the Maine State Senate; special assistant to the president of the University of New Hampshire; executive director of the Maine Department of Labor’s Bureau of Rehabilitation Services; and working in nonprofit administration and private legal practice.
Ms. Brogan is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law and Bowdoin College. She lives in Portland with her two sons, who attend the Portland Public Schools.
In her new role as PPS ombudsperson, she hopes to help all members of the PPS community understand students’ right to be safe at school, and to build the expectation that students’ complaints will be heard, taken seriously, and acted upon. Her goal is that students will leave the Portland Public Schools knowing they don’t have to tolerate discrimination and harassment and knowing how to demand accountability. She also will be involved in preventive work to prevent harassment and discrimination and help the district realize its goal of being a stronger, safer and more inclusive community.

Maureen Fox – Special Education/Multilingual Coordinator: Ms. Fox is an educator with extensive experience in special education and teaching English language learners (ELs). She joined the Portland Public Schools more than 30 years ago and recently served as a district-wide language acquisition specialist and teacher for seven years. In that job, she focused on culturally and linguistically responsive response to intervention (RTI) practices, language and literacy, dual language Learners and ELs with suspected and identified disabilities.
She took leave from that position in 2020 to serve as an ESOL consultant for the Maine Department of Education. In that role, she focused on the development of a guidance manual titled “Identifying and Serving Students who are English Learners with Disabilities: Policy and Resource Guide,” which is designed to support school districts in serving English language learners with disabilities. Her previous experience in the district includes being a special educator, EL teacher, learning strategist and multilingual intake/assessment coordinator.
Ms. Fox holds a master’s degree in special education, learning disabilities, from the University of Southern Maine. She also earned a certificate of advanced study in English as a second language and literacy from USM. Additionally, she has a master’s degree in environmental studies/education from Montclair State University and a bachelor’s degree in American literature and outdoor education from Ramapo College. She is the parent of two Portland High School graduates.
Ms. Fox said, “I am thrilled that this position has been identified and defined, as the education of English learners with disabilities is such a critical equity issue nationwide.”
One of her major goals in her new role is to ensure that EL students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have the appropriate cultural and linguistic supports to fully access the curriculum. Also, she will work toward creating systems throughout the district that help to highlight and implement all aspects of the Lau Plan for ELs.

Courtney Graffius – Technology Integration Coordinator: Ms. Graffius is an experienced technology integrator instructional coach. As the district’s new technology integration coordinator, she will help the district build on innovation and new learning.
She has been a Scarborough Public Schools technology instructional coach for the past nine years. Prior to holding that position, she was an elementary school teacher in Scarborough and other school districts in Maine and New Hampshire.
While still a teacher, Ms. Graffius helped build the technology instructional coach program in the Scarborough schools, working with a wide span of K-12 teachers. A highlight of her work as a technology instructional coach was supporting staff members as they suddenly had to pivot to remote instruction in the spring of 2020, due to COVID-19. She helped them to quickly become adept at using the technology they needed to connect with and teach their students. “It brought me deep satisfaction to work so diligently alongside teachers in support of continuing learning for students,” she said.
Ms. Graffius also is a parent of a currently enrolled student and a graduate of the Portland Public Schools. She has been involved with the Portland Public Schools as a PTO parent, advocate and volunteer for the past six years. Her volunteer work has included conducting training for Rowe and Longfellow elementary school educator teams in the use of Seesaw and being a parent representative at Outdoor Learning meetings.
Ms. Graffius earned a master’s degree in literacy education from the University of Southern Maine and she completed the Teacher Leader, Educational Leadership: Leaders for Tomorrow's Schools program at USM. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Maine.
In her role as the district’s Technology Integration Coordinator, she looks forward to aligning instructional technology with the district’s academic priorities to lead to more equitable outcomes for all students.

Julia Hazel – Director of BIPOC Career Pathways and Leadership Development: For the past six years, Ms. Hazel has been organizing and supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) educators in the Portland Public Schools, while also working full time as a classroom teacher in the district.
Ms. Hazel brings a wealth of skills and experience to her new role as Director of BIPOC Career Pathways and Leadership Development for the district. She has a total of 16 years of classroom teaching experience. She taught in New York City before joining the Portland Public Schools in 2012, where she has taught at Talbot, Reiche and Rowe elementary schools.
In addition to her classroom work, in 2015 she co-created curriculum for a new district course offering: “Race in the United States: Perspectives for Portland Educators.” Also that year, she became the founding member of a BIPOC educators group that includes more than 90 educators in Maine and more than 70 educators in PPS. Since 2017, Ms. Hazel has been a member and building leader for the PPS’ Equity Leaders Cohort and she is now leading the formal PPS BIPOC affinity group. Most recently, she served as a core member of the research team for the PPS Educators of Color Report, which was released this past spring.
“Portland Schools has been gaining momentum in its commitment to an increasingly comprehensive pursuit of equity, driven by the Portland Promise,” Ms. Hazel said. “Elevating and expanding the presence and visible leadership of our BIPOC staff, retaining our talented BIPOC staff, and recruiting new BIPOC staff together have the potential to be transformative for our district.”
Ms. Hazel holds a master’s degree in teaching from Clark University and a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences, with a minor in education from Mount Holyoke College. She also completed a semester of study in urban education at the Bank Street College of Education in New York City. Ms. Hazel and her partner Jenn and Ms. Hazel’s stepdaughter live in the Riverton neighborhood and her stepdaughter attends Lincoln Middle School.
In her new role, Ms. Hazel will serve as a resource and support to current BIPOC educators, create career advancement pathways and leadership opportunities for educational technicians and teachers, amplify BIPOC excellence and expertise, and foster relationship building and mutual support within the BIPOC community. 

Kathie Marquis-Girard – Interim Assistant Principal of Lincoln Middle School: Ms. Marquis-Girard, who retired in 2019 after more than three decades as an educator, is bringing her extensive skills and expertise back to the Portland Public Schools to serve as Lincoln’s interim assistant principal for the 2021-2022 school year. Ms. Marquis-Girard is stepping into the role previously held by Robyn Bailey, who now will be Lincoln’s interim principal for the new school year.
For many of her years of service, Ms. Marquis-Girard was an educational leader and administrator.
Before retiring, Ms. Marquis-Girard served eight years as assistant principal of Portland High School. She was known for her unflagging dedication and service to students and oversaw such changes as the switch to METRO bus service for the district’s high school students.
She first joined the Portland Public Schools in 1986, serving seven years. She was a food service instructor at the Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS), and then a home economics teacher at King Middle School.
Ms. Marquis-Girard then took on administrative posts. She became assistant director/student services coordinator for Maine Vocational Region 10 in Brunswick. Her other experience includes serving as assistant principal at Falmouth Middle School and assistant principal and principal of Freeport Middle School. She rejoined the Portland Public Schools in 2009 as assistant principal of Lyman Moore Middle School before joining Portland High School in 2011.
Ms. Marquis-Girard holds a master’s degree in exceptionality and a certificate of advanced study in educational leadership from the University of Southern Maine; a bachelor’s degree in home economics education from the University of Maine at Farmington; and an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Southern Maine Community College.

Priya Natarajan – High School Math Instructional Coach: Ms. Natarajan is an award-winning math teacher and teacher leader with extensive teaching experience.
She joined the Portland Public Schools almost two decades ago, first working at Deering High School before becoming math teacher at Casco Bay High School, where she has worked since 2014. She also served as an adjunct math lecturer at the University of Southern Maine for six years.
Prior to her work at PPS, Ms. Natarajan was a founding teacher of mathematics, writing, and music theory at the Boston Arts Academy in the Boston Public Schools for four years.
In 2019, Ms. Natarajan won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in the mathematics category, winning a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.
In more than 24 years of high school teaching, Ms. Natarajan has taught all four grade levels and every type of math course, from pre-algebra to AP calculus. She also received her ELL endorsement a decade ago and has taught ELL math. In addition, she is experienced in integrating math with other disciplines and has been the STEM endorsement coordinator for CBHS for the last few years, supporting a wide range of students in pursuing this important graduation endorsement.
She and her husband are also parents of a Casco Bay High School senior who also is a graduate of King Middle School and (the former) Hall Elementary School.
Ms. Natarajan believes the relationships and trust she has built over time in PPS high school buildings will aid in her new role as math instructional coach. “Coaching requires trust and reciprocity and I believe that my peers will affirm that I am a supportive and humble colleague who gives good feedback that they can use and who willingly accepts feedback myself,” she said.
Ms. Natarajan holds a master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Ohio University Honors College. She completed both her English language learners endorsement and the Leadership for Tomorrow’s Schools program at the University of Southern Maine. She also was a master’s in science candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In her new role, she is excited to work with all three high schools to implement the district’s math instructional vision and to support teachers in achieving their instructional goals.

Katherine “Katie” West – Outdoor Learning Coordinator: Ms. West is an experienced and passionate proponent of outdoor education. In her new role, she is eager to help the Portland Public Schools build on the nationally recognized outdoor learning program the district has developed over the past year during the pandemic.
Ms. West, who joined the district last year, has been teaching in the field and in the classroom for the last 24 years. Her experience includes working with youth in settings ranging from wilderness sailing trips, independent private schools, a youth detention center, a day treatment program, and in urban schools.  In all of these settings, her focus has remained on integrating experiential learning within the core curriculum.
This past school year, she was an art teacher at Lyseth Elementary School. In that role, she won a Maine Environmental Education Association grant to help fund an outdoor learning library as a resource for educators and to create an outdoor art project celebrating an incredible year of the school’s students learning outside. She also created a Gear Lending Library for Outdoor Learning at Lyseth, using a grant from the Foundation for Portland Public Schools, as well as funding from Painting for a Purpose, to purchase gear and supplies needed for outdoor learning.
Prior to joining PPS, Ms. West has held a variety of roles at schools and organizations that include the REAL School in Brunswick, Waynflete School, the PORT Teen Center and the Chewonki Foundation.
She is passionate about using outdoor learning to connect students to the context of their immediate environment, the world at large, and ultimately back to themselves. She’s a mom to two teenagers who love to forage and explore the natural world with her.
Ms. West earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental education and creative arts in learning from Lesley University and holds a Masters’ degree in fine arts, integrated arts, and education from the University of Montana's Creative Pulse Program, where she currently serves as adjunct faculty.
She looks forward to integrating outdoor learning into the Portland Public Schools’ vision and helping to create equitable access to these experiences for all students.

Pictured clockwise from top right are Maureen Fox, Special Education/Multilingual Coordinator; Priya Natarajan, High School Math Instructional Coach; Robyn Bailey, LMS Interim Principal; Kathie Marquis-Girard, LMS Interim Assistant Principal; Katie West, Outdoor Learning Coordinator; Julia Hazel, Director of BIPOC Career Pathways and Leadership Development; and Courtney Graffius, Technology Integration Coordinator.
Courtney Graffius Maureen Fox Julia Hazel Priya Natarajan Katie West Robyn Bailey Kathie Marquis-Girard

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with 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 60 languages. 52 percent of the district’s students are white and 48 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.