PORTLAND — Sheila Jepson was recently appointed the permanent principal at Portland High School, following nearly seven months as the school’s interim leader.
Jepson joined the Portland School Department in fall 2006 as an assistant principal at Deering High School. In January 2015 she went to the central office as the district’s academic coordinator.
She was appointed interim principal at Portland High School last August and Superintendent Xavier Botana gave her the permanent post in February. Deborah Migneault was the prior principal, and served in the post for five years before retiring in June 2016.
“I am fortunate to be a building leader in the Portland Public Schools,” Jepson said this week. “This is my 11th year in the district (and) I learn something every day from being with the students and staff at PHS.”
Botana said he began discussions first with Jepson, then Portland High’s leadership team and the entire faculty in January. From there he “determined that Sheila was the right person to lead the school into the future.”
“(She’s) an experienced principal, having previously served as principal (at Bonny Eagle High School),” Botana said. “She is a Portlander and is committed to the school and community for the long haul.”
He added that “as an existing employee, Sheila knows the district and has strong, established relationships with the other high school principals, which strengthens their ability to work as a team.”
Botana also said that in her first four months as interim principal Jepson did “a tremendous job building the faculty and staff’s confidence” in terms of implementing new proficiency-based learning requirements, marketing Portland High and “engaging both students and community in the school’s work.”
In remarks made to the School Board regarding her permanent appointment, Jepson said, “Our school is a vibrant and very busy place and I am ever-impressed with our staff and students. I look forward to continuing our work, to getting to know more of our families and welcoming students to our school.”
Jepson grew up in northern Maine, the daughter of a potato farmer, and is a graduate of Caribou High School. She also has degrees from the University of Maine at Farmington and Plymouth State University. She was initially a special education teacher before becoming an administrator.
She joined the staff at Bonny Eagle High in 1986 as a classroom teacher, eventually becoming assistant principal and principal for the large, rural school. In addition, prior to joining the Portland Schools full time, Jepson directed the district’s summer learning program for three years.
“There are many wonderful things happening at PHS,” Jepson said this week, adding it’s “our students that make our school great.” She also lauded the “involvement of our staff in working with students both during school and after.”
What makes Portland High special, she said, is that students and staff work together to make things happen. She also said being in the heart of Portland’s downtown affords many unique opportunities for students.
Portland High is often called the most diverse high school in Maine, and Jepson said while that presents challenges, “I value the diversity in our school and how welcoming our school is.”
“It’s important to me that all of our students feel welcome at our school and are able to access a rigorous curriculum,” she said. “A challenge is assuring that we are integrating all of our students into all of our programs.”
After 31 years in education, Jepson said schools have changed significantly, particularly in terms of integrating new technologies into the classroom.
“Technology has significantly changed the way we do school today. There is so much that is instantaneously available to students that our teaching (often) becomes as much about how to best decipher what it is that we see on social media (and the) internet,” she said.
In addition, with rapid changes in society and the job market, Jepson said school leaders must understand that “students today have very different needs and requirements than they did 20 years ago.”
What hasn’t changed, she said, is the desire of every educator “to see students be successful. We all want to see our students go on to do good things; that remains a (key) focus for us.”
Portland High School.