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December 2020 Staff & Community Newsletter

Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
 
When the Portland Board of Public Education holds its annual inauguration ceremony on Monday, Dec. 7, the Board will gain three newcomers: Jeffrey Irish (District 5), Aura Russell-Bedder (District 4) and Yusuf Yusuf (At-large). I look forward to working with these new Board members.
 
I’d also like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to the three Board members who are vacating those seats. Marnie Morrione (District 5), Tim Atkinson (District 4) and Mark Balfantz (At-large) did not seek re-election and are stepping down.
 
Marnie Morrione has served on the Board for 12  years. She has given a huge portion of her life to this service and the entire community is better for that. On a personal level, Marine was my first Board Chair when I started as superintendent in 2016 and she helped ease my transition into Portland. I will forever be grateful for that. Most important, however, is Marnie’s fierce commitment to public education and public service and her deep caring for all of our students, families and staff. I thank her for all she has accomplished. We will miss her on the Board but I have no doubt she’ll continue to stay engaged in our community and schools.  
 
I am also grateful to Tim Atkinson and Mark Balfantz. While their tenure was shorter, they both made significant contributions to the work of the district.  Their selfless service should serve as an inspiration to others who want to give back to our community through elected service.  I am hopeful that they will both remain engaged in ways that make sense to them now and in the future.  
 
Following the inauguration, the Board faces challenging issues, one of them how to budget for the expiration of $10.5 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) that the district received. Unfortunately, that CRF money all has to be spent by Dec. 30 and runs out then. There is no sign at this time that funding will be extended or that we will get new funding in 2021. 
 
We used about two-thirds of the CRF money for urgent one-time COVID-related investments, such as supplies, computers so students could learn remotely and upgrades to our facilities to make them safer for students and staff. About one-third of that money was used to fund additional staffing and services, such as the community partner programming many of our children have been able to access this fall. 
 
The district and the Board are in the process of evaluating what programming we can continue after December. I will present a recommendation to the Board at its meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 8, that will prioritize continued funding  for district staffing needs, such as in-school substitutes, staffing for our Remote Academy, ELL and special education teachers, over the continuation of the community partnerships.  This is a difficult and painful decision, but our current FY21 school budget is already very lean and we will not have the ability in the new year to continue to pay for this programming.
 
The Board will hold a first reading and workshop on the proposal Tuesday night and take a vote on the issue at its Dec. 22 meeting. Here’s a summary of the expenses facing the district.
 
I  will keep you informed as we work to determine how to best meet our students’ and families’ needs with the new financial reality we face as the new year begins.

 
Sincerely,

Xavier Botana, Superintendent
SCHOOL BOARD NEWS
School Board Inauguration Dec. 7
https://zoom.us/j/91911490671?pwd=c1Nsc1pYUW9zWW5qaXNISjhCSU9vdz09

Passcode: 497744

The Portland Board of Public Education will hold a ceremony on Monday, Dec. 7, to inaugurate its newest members. The ceremony will take place virtually, via Zoom, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board also is slated to formally vote to select a member to be Board chair for the coming year. In a nonbinding straw poll on Nov. 17, Board members unanimously chose District 2 member Emily Figdor to be chair. Learn more
PPS NEWS
PPS Weekly COVID Update
To keep everyone in the Portland Public Schools community informed, the district is putting out an update each Friday with the number of positive cases in our schools each week and any building closures. Learn more.
PPS Alerts Community of Fraudulent Fundraising Attempt
The Portland Public Schools wants to alert the community that it has not authorized any outside organization to raise funds for PPS athletics. The district cautions the public or businesses not to make donations to anyone claiming they are raising funds for that purpose. Anyone approached for such a fraudulent fundraising effort on behalf of the Portland Public Schools is advised to contact the district, Portland Police and the consumer protection division of the Maine Attorney General’s office.
Rowe Students Go on Virtual
Camping Trip
On Nov. 23 and 24, students at Amanda C.Rowe Elementary School enjoyed a virtual author visit with Jennifer K. Mann, the author of “The Camping Trip,” a story about a first sleepover under the stars. Participating from her home in Bainbridge Island in Washington state, Ms. Mann read her book to the students and took questions about the story and the artistic process of writing and illustrating a book.
Also part of the visit was Park Ranger Owen Blease, who joined in live from Sebago Lake State Park. He gave the students a virtual tour of the campgrounds, demonstrated how to pack a backpack and how to make s’mores in the outdoors. Kate Cutko from the Bowdoinham Public Library helped to set up the visit and served as host.

A grant written to the Onion Foundation by Tina Mikkelsen, Rowe School Community Coordinator, secured the funds for the visit. Along with a generous donation from the Hamilton College Class of 1985, each classroom teacher received a copy of the book, as did the school library.
Reiche Teachers Take Courageous Polar Dip
What did some Reiche Community School teachers do over this past holiday weekend? They took a practice "Jump for Courage" into chilly water! Learn more in this Channel 8 TV story about what they hope to demonstrate for students through their actions.

If you want to donate to help them raise funds to buy a book for each Reiche student that has a theme of perseverance and/or overcoming obstacles to reach a goal, go to this DonorsChoose page.
PHS Seniors Create Online
Historical Journal
Three Portland High School seniors who excel in doing original historical research have created a digital journal so that they and other high school students can have a place to publish their historical scholarship.
“Our idea and our current mission is to create an outlet for students wishing to share their hard work and research in a published historical journal, one made specifically for high school students by high school students,” say the three co-founders and editors of The Nor’Easter High School Historical Journal, Lucy Howe, Hannah Prue, and Zoe Bertsch. Learn more about this journal and how student throughout Cumberland County can submit papers.
GIVING
PPS & Wayside Partner to Aid Hungry Families
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Portland Public Schools has been partnering with Wayside Food Programs to deliver free meal boxes each Wednesday to families experiencing food insecurity during the crisis. Many community volunteers are pitching in to make the distribution program work. We are grateful to community volunteers who help deliver fresh food to families. Huge shout our to Community Coordinator Naila Wissa who is coordinating this effort. Learn more. Both WGME and WMTW featured this story. Check out this WMTW-Channel 8 report on the food distribution program: “Portland schools team up with Wayside to feed families” 
Foundation for Portland Public Schools Annual Appeal
COVID-19 has created new needs and highlighted existing issues in our schools. Your gift to the Foundation for Portland Public Schools Annual Appeal makes a real difference in the lives of students and teachers. https://foundationforpps.kindful.com/?campaign=1034861
Please donate https://foundationforpps.kindful.com/?campaign=1034861
to FPPS so that we can continue to make an impact. When the district has a need, the Foundation is there to meet that need, thanks to donors like you. In the last year FPPS has been able to:
  • Give grants to 61 teachers for classroom innovations
  • Accelerate and deepen district equity work to develop culturally relevant curriculum, hire and retain diverse staff, expand professional development and more
  • Address food and housing insecurity for our most vulnerable students and their families so they can focus on learning
  • Expand summer school academic and social-emotional supports
Thank you in advance for your generosity. Your tax-deductible gift is greatly appreciated.
 
FAREWELLS
Farewell to Sue Bradbury

Some of you may remember Sue Bradbury, who passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 13. She worked for the Portland Public Schools for 22 years, including being the executive secretary for former Superintendent Tom Edwards. Sue is fondly remembered for her constant smile and her dedication to the Portland Public Schools. Read more.

Former Superintendent Manny Caulk Remembered

The Portland Public Schools mourns the loss of former Superintendent Emmanuel “Manny” Caulk, who died recently after being on medical leave for a short period of time. He was 49.

Manny led the Portland Public Schools from 2012 to 2015, when he left to become schools superintendent for the Fayette County Public Schools, a 40,000-student school system in Kentucky. At the time of his departure, Portland Board of Public Education member Sarah Thompson, who was then Board Chair, described him as “a transformational superintendent whose dedicated and visionary leadership has led to renewed optimism regarding Maine’s largest and most diverse school district.” She said Manny worked closely with the Board to achieve “a balanced budget, progress on upgrading school facilities, a focus on student achievement, enhanced community outreach, increased parent engagement and new ways to recognize student and staff achievements.”

The district will forever be grateful for Manny’s dedication and service and extends its deepest sympathies to his family. Here is a Dec. 5 news report on Manny’s passing.

STAFF & STUDENT RECOGNITIONS
CBHS Senior Wins QuestBridge Scholarship!

Casco Bay High School senior Margarida Celestino has been named a QuestBridge 2020 Match Scholarship Recipient. As a result, she will receive a full, four-year scholarship to Colgate University. Learn more about this outstanding student and this scholarship, designed to help high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds to be able to afford an education at a top college or university. Read more.
Longfellow, Lyseth Students
Win PFP Grants!
Painting for a Purpose (PFP) is a group of artists who paint whimsical wooden items, such as lobsters, birds and fish. They sell these items to raise money for a philanthropy fund for service learning projects led by Portland Public Schools students who want to make a difference. Students receive up to $500 to put their ideas into action. Learn about grants given out recently to Longfellow and Lyseth students. Read more
PAE Gets $40k Grant from Bank of America

Friends of Portland Adult Education announced on Dec. 1 the receipt of a $40,000 economic resiliency grant from Bank of America. The grant will help more than 1,000 students taking academic and job training classes at Portland Adult Education this fall to transition to online classes. Learn more.
PPS Educators Win Outdoor Learning Mini-Grants
Portland Public Schools teachers are among educators statewide who received Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA) mini-grants to teachers to support outdoor learning. The grant program allowed teachers to apply for up to $1,500 to fund their outdoor learning projects. At PPS, the grants will be used in ways that include buying wheelchair skis and an adapted sled to allow Functional Life Skills students to be outdoors and enabling teachers to partner with Maine Audubon and Cultivating Community to enhance outdoor learning. Learn more.
Enjoy the PATHS Autumn Virtual Concert!
PATHS Music students recently released their first virtual concert of the school year! Learn more & listen to the PATHS Autumn EP Extravaganza.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS
AND STAFF
Student Learning Opportunity: Thomas Cup Competition for High School Students
It has been a tough year for many students and Thomas College (and partnering sponsors) want to help by providing a fun and engaging opportunity for students that can be done from the safety of their own homes. The 6th Annual Thomas Cup will include several chances to participate from December 7, 2020 through January 30, 2021. It will feature five (5) FREE virtual competitions where students will engage in coding, innovation, esports, robotics, crime scene investigation, and cyber defense. Learn more.
Computer Science Education Week
Starts Dec. 7
Monday Dec. 7 kicks off the start of Computer Science Education Week, 2020! Join the computer science community in celebrating computer science in education. Whether you’re new to the world of computer science or have been involved since its inception, you’ll find many interesting events and activities that are ongoing throughout the week. Check out information, events and activities for teachers and parents.
Wellness and Resilience Event for Educators
Please join Educate Maine and the organizations of the Maine STEM Collaborative in a day dedicated to building and celebrating wellness and resilience among our hard-working educators statewide. This event is FREE and open to any educator in Maine -- whether classroom or informal. We anticipate several follow-on events in the spring of 2021 to continue building resilience and community.
WHEN:  Saturday, December 12; 10:00-4:00 (with breaks!)
WHERE: Online (but filled with offline moments for reflection)
WHO: Facilitated by the Partnerships in Education and Resilience (PEAR) group at Harvard
Details and link to registration can be found here.
Questions? Contact Jamaal Williams at PEAR: jwilliams@pearinc.org
Boys to Men Hosting Training Sessions
Join Maine Boys to Men for a free, CEU-certified training opportunity for Maine educators, coaches, and youth-serving adults! Read more.
FOR PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS
High School Choice 
Session for 8th Grade Families

Monday, December 21, 2020 
5:30-7:00 p.m.

 

https://zoom.us/j/99690015701pwd=T1VUZFdRd2RRZnBNTFc5QWluK3BBZz09 Passcode: 335502

Or iPhone one-tap : US: +13126266799,,99690015701# or +16465588656,,99690015701#
Or Telephone: Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 558 8656 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 9128 or +1 253 215 8782

Webinar ID: 996 9001 5701

Interpreters will be available at the event!
PPS IN THE NEWS

As winter looms, outdoor schools face tough decisions. The New York Times, Nov. 20, 2020
 
SMCC welding program provides immigrants with new skills. A Partnership between Portland Adult Ed and SMCC.  The Forecaster, Nov. 18, 2020

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