Superintendent's Notebook: Celebrating Portland's high school graduates

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Graduation season is one of the high points in my year.

During the past month, I congratulated each of the nearly 1,000 students who graduated from our district’s high schools – Casco Bay, Deering, Portland, Portland Arts and Technology – and Portland Adult Education.

Many students overcame challenges on their path to graduation. Along with their academic achievement, they’ve learned important lessons about perseverance.

I wish I could tell you all of their stories. Since I cannot, I will use this space to highlight one graduate from each of the schools.

Adrianna Dibiase was an honors student at both Casco Bay High School and PATHS, where she participated in the Culinary Concepts program. A leader in the kitchen, she served as PATHS captain in the Pro Start Hot Food Competition for the past two years, and led her team to a third-place finish this year.

Adrianna is a member of the National Technical Honor Society and she works part time in the kitchen at Park Danforth. She plans to continue her culinary education in college next fall.

Zachary Duperry is Deering’s valedictorian. He is a National Merit finalist and was selected as a U.S. Senate Youth Program delegate.

Zachary served as the Senior Senate class president, the Key Club president, the Outdoors Club co-president, a member of the varsity soccer team and as an algebra tutor. He will attend Bowdoin College.

Liban Hassan started Portland High in English Language Learner 1 classes. He advanced to college English, graduating in just three years.

This year, Liban helped English beginners as a teacher’s aide. Described by the Portland High staff as “incredibly bright and morally strong,” he is living by himself, seeking asylum and wants to bring his younger siblings here once he gets citizenship. He is the James Angelo Scholarship recipient, which gives him free tuition to Southern Maine Community College.

Ava Koenigsberg was one of Casco Bay’s two, top-ranking seniors and a National Merit finalist. She excelled in the school’s most demanding courses while working 15 to 25 hours a week at a local grocer.

Ava served as captain of the tennis team, tutored other students, played on the soccer, swim and ultimate Frisbee teams and interned with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. She will attend the University of Virginia.

Kamal Karimi, 38, earned his first diploma in Iran. After confronting imprisonment and torture for his beliefs, he became a refugee and arrived in the United States in 2010.

Kamal began earning his second high school diploma at Portland Adult Education in 2011. He made rapid progress in school. He recently began working at Jill McGowan, Inc., where he utilizes his skills as a tailor.

Congratulations to all of the members of the class of 2014. We are proud of you and we wish you well as you pursue college and careers.

Summer reading

As summer vacations approach, I want to pass along a book suggestion: “Deeper Learning: How Eight Innovative Public Schools Are Transforming Education in the Twenty-First Century,” by Monica R. Martinez and Dennis McGrath. Hot off the press, this book features two Portland public schools – Casco Bay and King Middle School – as national models.

We will discuss “Deeper Learning” at the next meeting of the Superintendent’s Book Club in the early fall. The date and time will be announced on the district’s website.

Sidebar Elements

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk writes this column monthly. He can be reached at Read his blog at