June is Pride month, and I’m very proud that the Portland Public Schools was a part of the Pride Portland parade again this year.
Saturday, June 17, marked the third year in a row that our district has been an official entrant in the parade, with our students, staff and families either riding in one of our signature yellow school buses or marching alongside it. As I and other members of the Portland Public Schools family marched down Congress Street with our big bus, we were met with enthusiastic applause and cheering from the crowds lining the sidewalks along the parade route. That’s very fitting because our participation in this annual event that celebrates inclusion, diversity and unity is certainly something to cheer about.
The Portland Public Schools is the state’s largest and most diverse school district. Our participation in the parade helps send an important message to our students, staff, families and the Portland community that our district works to foster harmony and understanding – and that we welcome and value everyone in the Portland Public Schools.
According to its website, Pride Portland is “a celebration of Portland, Maine’s LGBTQIA – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, ally/asexual – community” each June.
To further ensure that the Portland Public Schools is a place of safety and respect for all members of this community, the School Department is working on developing a policy regarding the rights of transgender staff and students. We hope to have the policy in place by the start of the new school year.
We recently wrapped up graduations at our high schools and Portland Adult Education. Our ultimate goal as a district is to ensure that all of our students graduate prepared and empowered for the next step in their life.
Over the past few weeks, I felt very proud as I watched more than 500 students walk – and sometimes dance, do wheelies and definitely strut – across the stage to the cheers of their loved ones.
Graduation is very rewarding, but our students would not get there without our faculty and staff. We’re proud of our staff for all they do to ensure student success.
Graduating students from high school is only one part of the wonderful work happening in Portland Public Schools. None of what we do would happen without the support of our Portland community. Thank you to Portland voters for investing in education by approving our 2017-2018 budget on June 13.
The budget voters approved represents a modest 1.4 percent increase in spending and will allow Portland Public Schools to continue the level of services to our students that Portland residents and our students deserve and expect. We are proud of the Portland community’s consistent support for our schools.
The last day of the school year for students is June 22. However, we are back to school immediately. Our summer school programs will begin June 26 and go through mid-August.
As part of our summer efforts, the Portland Public Schools and Opportunity Alliance will be operating summer meal sites across the city of Portland. Many of our approximately 6,800 Portland Public Schools students qualify for free or reduced price school lunch based on family income. Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation.
Most sites will begin operations on June 26 and continue through mid-August. Meals and times will be posted at sites and will be distributed prior to the end of school.
Another summer opportunity is “I Love Reading in Portland: Pedal Through the Pages,” a partnership between the Portland Public Schools and the Portland Public Library. Children throughout the community are encouraged to read about and explore Portland this summer. The program will run for eight weeks, and sign-up at the library begins the week of June 18.
As I wrap up my first year at the Portland Public Schools, I would like to thank our community for your support of our school system. I have felt welcome, supported and blessed to have the opportunity to work in this wonderful community.
Xavier Botana is superintendent of the Portland Public Schools. He can be reached at email@example.com.