Superintendent's Notebook: It's always time to appreciate staff

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We just celebrated Mother’s Day, which became a national holiday 101 years ago. Congress initially wasn’t convinced of the necessity for such an observance, but now we can all appreciate the importance of having a special day on which to honor someone who has made such a difference in our lives.

Similarly, as the leader of the Portland Public Schools, I’m glad there are special days and weeks set aside to recognize members of our staff who make such a difference in the lives of our students.

Just this month, for example, we had Teacher Appreciation Week and National Nurses Week. In April, we also marked National Assistant Principals Week and Administrative Professionals Week.

I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the great teachers, nurses, assistant principals and administrative professionals on our staff.

And, even if it’s not their special day or week or month, I’d also like to extend my respect and gratitude to all our other Portland Public Schools’ staff members.

Whatever they do – including transporting students to and from school; teaching them reading, writing, mathematics and so much more; tending to them when they’re hurt or ill; serving them nutritious meals; keeping our schools clean and comfortable; and ensuring that our schools and our district run effectively and efficiently – their role is vital to the success of our district’s students.

Our staff members stand out, as evidenced by the awards and recognitions they receive. To cite just a few:

• Deering High School Spanish and ELL teacher Anne Dixon in April received the University of Southern Maine’s 2015 Russell Award for excellence in teaching. She was praised for going “above and beyond for the good of DHS and students.”

• Nancy McAdam, a food service manager for the district’s middle and high schools, recently won the Manager of the Year Award from the Maine School Nutrition Association for her dedication and ingenuity when it comes to the district’s meal program.

• School nurse Becky Bell was honored by the Portland Board of Public Education for orchestrating Casco Bay High School’s first school wellness fair last fall, which included exhibitors and vendors from around the state. Students and parents actively engaged in the fair and it was so successful that the school plans to repeat it. Bell serves students at CBHS and the Portland Arts and Technology High School and is an active leader in the state association of school nurses.

• Bruce Lane, a bus driver who serves Reiche Community School, also was honored by the School Board this spring for always going “the extra mile – often literally” to help students and families. He has been with the Portland Public Schools for only about a year, but has already made a lasting impression.

• The board also recently recognized educational technician Ruth Howe at Deering High School. She has worked in the Functional Life Skills program there for 18 years and has been an exceptional member of the classroom team. She was praised for her positive attitude, willingness to learn and receive training, and her ability to work with every student, regardless of any difficulty that comes along.

This is just a sampling of the talented and dedicated staff that makes a difference in the lives of our approximately 7,000 students every day. Many of our staff members go above and beyond to ensure our students succeed. They give up their evenings and weekends, they’re proactive in applying for grants and securing school resources, and they continue to educate themselves by participating in professional development.

They are contributing to the future of our society by helping to shape the lives of the next generation. The Portland Public Schools is fortunate to have them. Thank you to all our staff.

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