Fri, Nov 28, 2014 ●
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Superintendent's Notebook: Learning the lay of the land in Portland

Opinion

Superintendent's Notebook: Learning the lay of the land in Portland

During the past several months, I have begun to familiarize myself with the greater Portland area. I was first impressed with the exquisite natural beauty of the Maine coast. While on a ferry cruise, I was captivated by the stunning panoramic view of the rugged Atlantic coast, dotted with lighthouses, wharves, fishing boats and Maine’s many islands.

My visits to local businesses and historic sites afforded me the opportunity to experience the warm and friendly spirit of the residents. Upon sampling the wonderful Maine cuisine, I am now fully prepared to substitute my Philly cheesesteaks for your delicious lobster rolls and enjoying breakfast at Marcy’s Diner. I have been forewarned to avoid at all costs heading south toward the York toll booth on summer, Sunday afternoons and to expect snow anytime after September. Although Portland reminds me of other places I have visited, there truly is no other place like it.

Our community has much to teach me about the Portland Public Schools: what’s working and what needs to be improved. That’s why I am scheduling several "Listening and Learning" sessions, round-table discussions, and town hall meetings in upcoming weeks. Stay tuned for details. I hope you will participate.

As I take over the leadership of Maine’s largest school district, I have a few, overarching goals:

First, I want our schools to help struggling students reach proficiency in core academic areas faster and more completely.

Second, I want our schools to provide opportunities for successful students to be challenged to meet higher standards.

Finally, in these recessionary times, I want to ensure that all of our school resources are spent as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Do you know the most important factor in learning? It is not a child’s race, first language or socioeconomic status. Rather, it is classroom instruction.

Therefore, I will devote much of my time to ensuring that our district’s many talented and dedicated teachers and our non-instructional staff (from bus drivers to school secretaries and psychologists) have the support they need to create successful learning environments for all of our students. I will work with principals to lead and manage change so that our schools keep moving forward.

We need the entire community involved to make a successful school system. That includes businesses; nonprofit organizations; political leaders at the local, state and federal levels; area colleges and universities; faith-based organizations and, above all else, the residents of Portland.

Whether or not you are a parent of a Portland Public Schools student, we invite you to share your time, energy and effort to improve our schools. You are a valuable resource for our children and the betterment of our community. You can find out about volunteer opportunities at www2.portlandschools.org/support-our-schools.

I look forward to sharing with you in the months ahead the ways that we can work together to create a shared vision of academic success for all students.