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Portland Principal Wins $100,000 Grant for School

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Portland Principal Wins $100,000 Grant for School
Posted on 09/30/2014

Casco Bay High School Principal Derek Pierce has won the Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s 3rd Annual Larry O’Toole Award. He’ll receive a $100,000 grant for his school, which will be used to further student learning. The win marks the first time a Maine principal or school organization has won the award, for which there is one nominee from each New England state.

“It was a great honor to be nominated alongside transformational New England educators, students and organizations. Over the last three weeks, the depth and breadth of the passion shown by our students, staff, parents, alumni and community partners has been awesome,” Pierce said. “I am also tremendously grateful for all of the support our school has received from Portland and Maine and the entire country. It is a great tribute to the excellent work our students and staff have done in our first decade.” Portland Public Schools' Casco Bay High School (CBHS) was founded in 2005.

The winner was selected by online popular vote. Pierce was the top vote getter with more than 6,000 votes, about twice as many as the second highest vote getter received. Voting opened Sept. 9 and closed at noon EST on Sept. 30.

The Larry O’Toole Award is bestowed each year on a school leader or organization exhibiting great leadership through innovation in moving student-centered learning approaches forward in New England.

It is given by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF), a private foundation focused on school transformation in New England. NMEF is an advocate for student-centered learning approaches – learning that is personalized, engaging, competency-based and happens anytime and anywhere.

Pierce said, “Thank you, Nellie Mae Foundation, for focusing so much attention on student-centered learning and for recognizing Casco Bay's contribution to this important work. We promise to use these funds to advance student-centered learning for our students and for the region.”

Pierce said CBHS is in the midst of a three-year expansion from 280 to 400 students. “Winning this award would allow us to narrow the gap between our vision for student-centered learning and our daily practice,” he said.


- $50,000 will be allocated to scholarships that ensure that all CBHS students, regardless of family income, can take part in annual learning expeditions

- $25,000 will be dedicated to supplies and equipment for a nascent “Maker Lab” so CBHS students would have more opportunity to explore, design, invent, experiment and create

- $15,000 will be reserved for micro-grants to students for projects that address local needs

- $10,000 will be used for hosting visiting educators and for leading student-centered learning workshops

“Derek Pierce is an inspirational leader who exemplifies the students-first approach we value here in Portland,” said Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk. “Mr. Pierce is an excellent representative of the great schools and leadership we have here in Portland.”

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan added, “Congratulations to Casco Bay High School's Derek Pierce for becoming the first Maine principal to win this leadership award. It underscores Maine's position as a great state with great public education."