May 7, 2021         
Dear Portland Public Schools families, staff and community members,
Two weeks in, the full rollout of our Spring Reopening plan remains successful.  We are hopeful that, with everyone’s continued vigilance and support, we will be able to stay the course through the end of this school year.
We are using these next weeks as important learning opportunities as we look ahead to bringing students back to five days of in-person instruction next year.  We are engaging with our school leaders and their leadership teams to determine what is working well and what needs improvement and will bring those lessons into our work designing school operations for the 2021-2022 school year.  
Superintendents from across the state are urging that the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) and the Centers for Disease Control act quickly to provide the guidance needed to be able to plan effectively for next fall.  The COVID-19 pandemic has required school districts to change and adapt, but as our understanding of what has worked in schools across the country grows, we need the necessary guidance that will allow our schools to safely reopen and serve all of our students in person.
MDOE updated its color-coded county rating system today, May 7. The positive news is that Cumberland County remains “green” and about half of eligible Mainers are now vaccinated. However, young people are still getting hit the hardest by COVID and their vaccination rate lags far behind that of older people. 
Our high schools are working hard to encourage vaccinations among students 16 and older. Casco Bay High School nurse Becky Bell arranged for students who happened to be getting vaccinated all at the same time at the Portland Expo this week to explain to the media why they decided to “get the shot” when some of their other peers are hesitant. Here’s a link to one of the numerous news stories on that event. Portland High School nurse Sarah Thompson is working on developing a COVID Vaccine Committee with students interested in helping to educate and promote vaccination among their peers. And Deering High School nurse Lizzie Nalli has put up a “Crushing COVID” bulletin board at the school, on which students and staff who get vaccinated can proudly add their names. Kudos to these dedicated members of our amazing nursing team!
PPS continues to offer vaccines for staff and for students 18-years-old and older through our partnership with Greater Portland Health. In addition, we are pleased that Portland Adult Education was chosen as a site for a small “pop-up” vaccination  clinic,  to be held next week for its students and PAE community members. Thank you to PAE leaders for their work to make this clinic possible. This clinic is almost full, but there are plenty of other vaccine opportunities. Please see our health and safety update for the latest vaccine clinic information.
The FDA may authorize the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds next week. Anticipating that, state health officials are authorizing vaccine providers to work directly with schools to vaccinate youth, including at special clinics for them and their families. This may include hosting school-based clinics, special hours at large clinics for youth, drive-through clinics so parents can give consent on the spot, and other targeted efforts to vaccinate young people against COVID-19. We’ll keep everyone posted as we learn more. 
Families, please make sure that everyone in your household who is eligible gets vaccinated as soon as possible. The more students and staff who get vaccinated in our school community, the safer we all will be both now and in the fall. And of course, students and staff need to continue to follow our health and safety protocols: wearing masks, observing physical distancing, and not coming to school if they have any symptoms. Let’s all work together to keep our Spring Reopening on track and safely prepare for a full return to school this fall.

Xavier Botana, Superintendent

The City Council held a first reading and public hearing on the Board of Public Education’s FY22 school budget on Monday, May 3 – and heard from nearly three dozen city residents strongly urging the council to support the budget in full as recommended by the Board, in order to advance equity. Watch a YouTube video of that May 3 budget discussion and public hearing.
The Council's Finance Committee voted last week to require the Portland Board of Public Education to reduce its proposed $5.3 million increase in the budget by $1.5 million and only one resident during the public hearing voiced support for the reduction. The Council, which sets the bottom line of the school budget, will continue the public hearing on May 10, when it is also slated to vote on the budget. The school budget goes to voters on June 8. Here’s a Portland Press Herald story about the May 3 public hearing. View the Board’s recommended budget on the Budget Development page on the district’s website.


As we plan for the start of the 2021-2022 school year this fall, we are proposing adjustments in school start and end times that build off the schedule changes that we made this year and begin to move our secondary schools to later start times. Click here for more information.


This link has the latest information on travel guidelines, distancing, use of masks, vaccinations, cleaning, and COVID-19 testing. 

The Portland Public Schools puts out a weekly COVID advisory each Friday. It includes the number of positive cases associated with our schools during the past week and any outbreak declarations or building closures as a result. Staff, families and staff at impacted schools are immediately notified of positive cases and closings, but the weekly advisory is an effort to keep the broader PPS community informed. The advisory typically is posted at the end of the day on Fridays in the District Spotlight section of the district's homepage. Here’s the link to the May 7th update
MANA and Maine DHHS are offering free transportation services for Covid related needs such as testing, vaccine, and quarantine/isolation shelters. Please share with your networks. 

Flyers and translations: English, FrenchKinyarwandaLingala, Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili

Class of 2021 Commencement Ceremonies Set for June 2, 3

The Portland Public Schools’ three high schools – Portland, Deering and Casco Bay – will hold in-person commencement ceremonies on June 2 and 3 for the approximately 500 graduating seniors in the Class of 2021. To accommodate all their students and guests, while complying with state health and safety guidelines for large gatherings, Deering and Portland will hold outdoor ceremonies. The ceremony for Casco Bay High School, which has fewer students, will be at Merrill Auditorium. The graduation ceremony schedule is as follows:
  • 147th  Deering High School Graduation: Wednesday, June 2, 11 a.m., Memorial Field (Rain date, Friday, June 4, 11 a.m., Memorial Field)
  • 200th Portland High School Graduation: Thursday, June 3, 11 a.m., Fitzpatrick Stadium (Rain date, Friday, June 4, 1:30 p.m., Fitzpatrick Stadium)
  • 13th Casco Bay High School Graduation: Thursday, June 3, 6 p.m., Merrill Auditorium
Learn more details
The Deering Players present “A Night of Sherlock Holmes”
Deering Drama’s (The Deering Players') presentation of “A Night of Sherlock Holmes” from this fall/winter is now available on YouTube!

“We are very Deering Proud of our DHS Drama Club students and their perseverance, teamwork and talent,” said said Michael Daly, Deering co-curricular director/athletic director. “Deering Drama was one of a very few high school drama clubs in Maine or in the nation to offer a virtual show this year. We also are very proud of our advisors. Our new drama co-advisors, Joshua Chard and Emily Serway, are exceptional and also led our students in performing one-act plays this spring as well.”
A Night of Sherlock Holmes 


Noelle Chmelecki, a first grade teacher at Presumpscot Elementary School, was among the PPS teachers awarded a 2020 Equity & Innovation Teacher Grant from the Foundation for Portland Public Schools. Noelle’s grant enabled her to diversify her classroom library. “The books are amazing! I get so excited when it’s time to read one aloud,” Noelle said. 

The FPPS Fall Equity and Innovation Grants Program is designed to support teacher-led classroom innovations that enhance learning experiences for students in the Portland Public Schools in response to the Portland Promise, the district’s strategic plan. The program recognizes, rewards and supports teachers’ work to inspire students and improve learning outcomes.

Jake Giessman To Be New Deering AP

Jake Giessman has been selected as the new assistant principal at Deering High School. His new role officially begins July 1. Jake, who holds a doctorate in educational leadership, will be stepping into the role held by Interim Assistant Principal Jim Moses, who is retiring. The Board of Public Education approved Jake’s appointment at its May 4 meeting. 
Jake has been interim principal of the PPS Remote Academy since January of this year, moving from his position as assistant principal at Lyman Moore Middle School. He joined Moore as assistant principal in 2015. His previous experience includes being director of a gifted and talented program and coordinator of summer school programs at a school district in Columbia, Mo.; head of school at the Academy Hill School in Springfield, Mass.; and a teacher in Connecticut. In addition to his doctorate, received from Johns Hopkins University, Jake holds a specialist degree in educational leadership from the University of Missouri, a master’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Montana, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Harvard University. Read more.
District Has New Transportation Director

Joel Thoits is the Portland Public Schools’ new director of transportation. Joel began his new role on April 26. He is replacing outgoing director Eric Wood, who is leaving the post at the end of May.

Joel most recently has been the district’s operations manager but began with the district in 2012 as a bus driver. “Joel was selected from a competitive field of applicants based on his deep understanding of the department’s work and his long term commitment to the district,” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. 

Botana thanked Eric Wood for his service. “Eric has done an amazing job leading the department for the past two years,” Botana said. “He leaves us to move back to his home in the Midwest, but will be overlapping with Joel through the end of the month to help with the transition.  We wish Eric the best in his future endeavors.”


PATHS will be hosting their Landscape and Gardening Spring Plant Sale on May 8th, 2021, from 10 AM to 2 PM. The Plant Sale will take place outdoors at PATHS, and masks and physical distancing will be required. To learn more about what will be available or to pre-order your plants, click here

The International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE), whose mission is to encourage, inspire and support today’s educators, has named East End Community School a 2021 Model School for the school's relentless focus on student outcomes in an unprecedented year. East End Community School recognized opportunities for growth, collectively established a vision, and systematically worked together to take action. Learn more here. 

Portland High School senior Mireille Tona has been named 2021 Maine State Youth of the Year for the Boys & Girls Clubs. “Many congratulations to Mireille!” said PHS school counselor Marisa Emerson. Now that Mireille has won the state title, Emerson said, “she will now go on to compete at the Northeast regional level. If she wins that, she will be in the competition for the National Youth of the Year!”

Earlier this year, Mireille was selected as the 2021 Youth of the Year by the Boys & Girls Clubs Portland Clubhouse. That recognition celebrated Mireille’s exceptional achievements as a Club member and also put her in the running to compete for the state, regional and national Youth of the Year titles. Read more about about Mireille in a May 4 article in The Forecaster. 
Click here for resources and events to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month. 

The Maine Department of Education (MDOE) celebrated Maine’s outstanding educators this week, May 3 – 7. Learn more on how the state celebrated its rockstar educators and school staff here! MDOE also shared a letter that U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona, a former public school teacher, sent to the nation’s teachers during Teacher Appreciation week. Read the letter here.
Between preparing healthy meals for America’s students, adhering to strict nutrition standards, navigating student food allergies, and offering service with a smile, school nutrition professionals are true heroes! School Lunch Hero Day, Friday, May 7, provides you with the perfect opportunity to recognize the hardworking professionals in your school cafeterias. Learn more here

On Tuesday, May 4, some students from Casco Bay High School getting vaccinated against COVID-19 at the Portland Expo talked to the media to explain why they’ve decided to “get the shot” when others their age have shown some vaccine hesitancy. Becky Bell, RN, school nurse at CBHS and PATHS, also spoke about the importance of vaccines for students and other young people.

Those 16 and older are eligible to get vaccinated and state health officials are calling for more young people to do so. Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah has been stressing in media briefings that COVID is now spreading rapidly among younger people – whose vaccination rate lags behind that of older Mainers. Two Maine residents in their 20s recently died from COVID. In addition to potentially serious health risks, the virus carries other downsides, Shah warned. “If you get COVID, you may have to be out from work for a long period of time, away from school for a long period of time, away from your friends, away from your family for a long period of time,” he said. “If you’re on the younger side … and unsure about getting a vaccine, I’m here to tell you: You should get the shot.”

A number of media outlets covered the event with the CBHS students on Tuesday, including Maine Public, the Portland Press Herald, and Channel 13 WGME TV.

PPS, in partnership with Wayside Food Programs, is providing supplemental food boxes and items to families experiencing food insecurity. The program started at the height of the pandemic last March, 2020 and will continue through this summer:
June 16th - August 18th on Wednesdays from 1:00 - 3:00 PM.
Volunteers come to Wayside Food Programs during those hours for pick up and deliver to 5-10 families on an established weekly route in the greater Portland area. Please consider this volunteer opportunity with PPS and Wayside. Find the Volunteer Application here.
Thinking about Education Starting
at Birth

Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Starting at Zero is a film that explores the power of investing in high-quality early childhood education so that all children and families have the opportunity to thrive and attain the American Dream. What’s the status of early childhood education in Portland and in Maine? Why is birth-to-5 education critical in the development of children? How can families bring their voice in developing quality early childhood education programs?

A panel of experts and practitioners will discuss these questions and other questions from the audience. Please see the instructions below to access the film:
  • Click HERE to be taken to a brief Mailchimp form that you must complete and submit.
  • This will lead to a page on the website. 
    • There, enter the password that is provided after completing the form.
  • The page will load with the video player and instructions for an optimal viewing experience.
  • We have been told that by the time of our screening the narrative will be subtitled in Spanish, Portuguese, and French languages
This event is co-sponsored by Starting Strong and Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. 

Please click the link below to join the webinar:

Event flyer: AcholiArabic, English, French, PortugueseSomali, Spanish, Vietnamese

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