Fri, Sep 19, 2014 ●
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Superintendent's Notebook: Community partnerships enrich Portland students’ education

Opinion

Superintendent's Notebook: Community partnerships enrich Portland students’ education

Students attending the Portland Public Schools benefit from drawing on the resources of Maine’s largest city. Local businesses, nonprofits and other groups give generously of their time and money to provide learning opportunities for our students.

The district partners with more than 200 organizations, including law firms, airlines, service clubs, colleges, banks, restaurants, construction companies, media outlets, hotels, theaters, professional sports teams and grocery stores. Some groups send speakers to talk to classes about their work. Others provide in-kind donations or funding. Still others share their expertise. For example:

• The Portland Fire Department is helping to teach a new firefighting class for students at Deering and Portland high schools.

• Cumberland County Federal Credit Union operates a branch inside Lyseth Elementary School open one day a week for students and staff.

• The Maine Landscapers and Nursery Association donated $20,000 in trees, shrubs, other materials and labor to create an outdoor learning space and other improvements at Presumpscot Elementary School last fall.

While I wish I had room to tell you about all of the district’s community partners, I will focus on a few that are having a big impact on our schools.

EnviroLogix, a Portland company that produces diagnostic tests, is helping the district expand science, technology, engineering and math education in order to better prepare students for the workplace of the future.

EnviroLogix’s parent company gave $10,000 this year to support activities such as an annual exposition where Portland students showcase their STEM learning projects, a high school seminar for advanced math and science students and grants for teachers to pursue innovative math and science projects.

The company is arranging for some of its scientists to speak in Portland’s elementary schools. EnviroLogix also is providing opportunities for high school students to job-shadow or intern at the company.

Ferry Beach Ecology School in Saco is continuing its collaboration with Lincoln Middle School to teach students about environmental issues and sustainability.

FBES naturalists join Lincoln students to explore the ecology of Portland’s Baxter Woods. Lincoln seventh graders will spend three days at the Saco school. There, they will compare the ecosystems of marshes, dunes, beaches, tide pools and forests, learn about the constellations and participate in other science activities.

The Ferry Beach Ecology School programs involving Lincoln students cost more than $40,000. FBES staff raised more than $32,000 of that amount.

Lisa Bailey is one of 30 Unum employees who visit Presumpscot Elementary School every month to read children’s books aloud, discuss them with students and participate in related activities.

The program aims to get students excited about reading and to build their literacy skills. Lexmark and Unum have contributed $10,000 to cover the cost of materials, including seven new books for each student to take home.

“I enjoy reading to the kids because it opens up a whole different world to them,” said Bailey. “Books have the ability to transport you, and these kids are so eager to participate and offer so much in the way of interacting and asking questions that I think I'm benefiting more than they are.”

We are very grateful to all of the businesses and organizations that partner with the Portland Public Schools. It takes an entire community to ensure the success of our public schools.

If you would like to find out more about partnerships with the Portland Public Schools, please contact Chanda Turner, the district’s family and community engagement coordinator, at turnec@portlandschools.org.