In new role, Marley touts ‘three R’s’ at East End School

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PORTLAND — The three R’s in 21st-century education are rigor, relevance and relationships, said Boyd Marley, the new principal at East End Community School.

Marley was named the permanent principal at the school at the Feb. 27 School Board meeting.

He’d been serving as the interim principal since the beginning of the school year and said East End is “a hidden gem” among Portland’s schools. “This is a very vibrant school and very desirable school to lead,” Marley said.

Xavier Botana, superintendent of the Portland Public Schools, said Marley “emerged as the top candidate following a rigorous selection process, … (which) included input from EECS staff, parents and district leaders.”

Marley is also “uniquely positioned to continue the EECS tradition of strong leadership for teaching and learning in a diverse school community that enjoys strong support from families and community partners,” Botana said.

He said Marley is “a people person first and foremost (and) has shown himself to be a caring and capable administrator who is devoted to the success of EECS students and staff. His appointment will allow EECS to continue on its positive trajectory.”

In an interview, Marley said one of the most important parts of his job is to “focus on building relationships” and encouraging a school culture where there’s “parent and student engagement.”

“I pride myself on being very present for the kids and parents,” he added. “I make sure to greet the kids every morning and if someone’s been absent, I let them know they were missed. Just the gesture of welcome is important.”

He and Assistant Principal Kelly Thornhill also try to make it a point to visit every classroom in the building at least once a day.

In addition to building relationships both inside and outside of East End School, Marley said his other responsibility as the principal is to be an educational leader.

To that end, he works toward improving the practices of instruction and making sure that students receive a foundation in the fundamentals, particularly literacy, before leaving East End School.

Even so, Marley said, “we have to meet basic needs before kids can learn. If you’re hungry or homeless, you can’t concentrate and engage in learning.”

And while all of Portland’s schools are amongst the most diverse in the state, East End School provides even more challenges, with students from 28 different countries who speak more than 20 languages. Ninety percent of the school population qualifies for free lunch.

In addition, among its enrollment of about 400 students, 200 are English language learners and 34 percent are new Mainers. And, Marley said, among the school population there’s a lot of coming and going throughout the school year.

But all of that doesn’t daunt Marley, who said, “I feel honored to be named the principal here. It was so important to me and I don’t take for granted the full faith and confidence the East End (community) has in me.”

Marley lives in South Portland, where his 9-year-old daughter attends Brown Elementary School. He was the assistant principal at East End School for the past four years and prior to that worked in special education.

Marley has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine as well as a master’s degree in education from the University of New England.

After news of his appointment as the permanent head of school began to spread, Marley started getting notes of congratulation and encouragement from his students. The notes that now adorn his office door say things like, “you are the best principal because you make everyone happy.”

Another note reads: “You will be the best principal ever. You always go around the school and say ‘Hi’ to classes and teachers.”

Some of the programs at East End School that connect students with the community include the walking school bus and the community garden across the street. East End also offers a before school program called Rise and Shine.

With Rise and Shine, Marley said, students can participate in a number of activities from a Zumba class to playing chess to computer coding or learning to play the violin.

He said what makes Rise and Shine work is, students can choose their own activity and it also helps them start the school day with a positive attitude.

“Here our focus is really on the whole student (and) a people-first philosophy that focuses on the tenants of kindness and respect and that fosters an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusiveness,” Marley said.

“We want a safe and happy learning environment where we (reflect) the values and (educational) hopes of our students and their parents.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Boyd Marley is the new permanent principal at Portland’s East End Community School. Here he shows off the letters of congratulation he’s received from students.

Boyd Marley, principal at East End Community School, reads to some second-grade students on Friday, which was National Read Across America Day.