Superintendent's Notebook: CEOs spend a day as Portland principals

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Christopher Claudio will take off time from his job as chief executive officer of Winxnet, a Portland-based IT outsourcing and consulting firm, to spend a day as the “principal” of King Middle School.

Claudio is one of 17 leaders of local businesses and nonprofit groups who are participating in the Portland Public Schools’ second annual Principal for a Day program during the week of April 28.

The CEOs will experience first-hand what happens during a typical school day. They will share with principals their insights about managing change in a complex institution, motivating employees to achieve their best and setting benchmarks to measure a company’s success.

“The appeal for me is to find areas where I as a local business executive with a rapidly growing company can provide tools and resources to help my community,” said Claudio. “I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of the solution in making our schools great.”

The district partnered with the Portland Regional Chamber to launch the Principal for a Day program last year. It proved more successful than we ever could have imagined.

Business leaders joined our principals on daily activities that ranged from helping students with writing to setting goals with staff members, screening English language learners and giving a motivational talk to high school juniors about doing their best on the SATs.

Both the CEOs and the principals gave the program rave reviews.

“Many of the issues that schools face are the same ones we face in business,” said Vicki Gordon, Unum vice president, after her day at Casco Bay High School. “… There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the business community in terms of filling some of the gaps in the school’s ability to move its programs forward.”

Lyseth Elementary School Principal Lenore Williams said that the executives who visited her school from Apothecary by Design Pharmacy and the John T. Gorman Foundation “were very interested in hearing about our successes and challenges and seemed genuinely concerned about how we are working to improve student achievement while our resources continue to dwindle.”

Today’s students will be tomorrow’s workers, job creators and civic leaders. Business executives recognize the importance of preparing Portland students for college, careers and citizenship – and they understand that it takes the entire community to make that happen.

Last year’s Principal for a Day program helped forge ongoing relationships between local businesses and several of our schools. That has resulted in companies sending volunteers to work with students, providing internships and supporting the district in other ways.

This year’s participants come from a wide array of businesses, colleges and nonprofits: Bernstein Shur, Cianbro, cPort Credit Union, EnviroLogix, Key Private Bank, L.L. Bean, Maine Red Claws, Maine Credit Union League, MEMIC, Portland Downtown District, Portland Press Herald, Southern Maine Community College, Springborn Staffing, Winxnet, United Way of Greater Portland and the University of Southern Maine.

You can learn more about the Principal for a Day program by watching my interview with Chris Hall, the chamber’s CEO, on my new web show, “Let’s Talk Portland!” ( Then, join the discussion about connections between the Portland Public Schools and local businesses at

I also want to encourage you to attend the second annual Portland Public Schools Student Showcase at Portland’s First Friday Art Walk on May 2. Students will present art, music, dance, exhibits and interactive displays at several downtown locations. You can find the schedule at

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