Luiza Vumpa is the PHS Step Up Award Scholarship Winner!

The Step Up Award Provides Financial Assistance to Portland High School Multilingual Student in the Make It Happen! Program

Luzia Vumpa is the 2022 recipient of the Portland High School Step Up Award, now in its 5th year. The Step Up Award provides funding for students in the Make It Happen! program who would otherwise have to forego school-year extracurricular opportunities in order to work after school and/or on weekends. Luzia, a rising junior at Portland High School, will receive $1,250 per semester until graduation for her last two years of high school.

A small awards ceremony took place at Portland High School on Thursday, May 19. Award creators Bill and Ann Weber; Portland High School Principal Sheila Jepson; and Make It Happen! staff members Danielle Wong and Tim Cronin spoke at the event.

The Step Up Award is the creation of Ann and Bill Weber, parents of two PHS graduates, who state: “We know kids are more motivated to come to school because of extracurricular activities. The opportunity to work as a team or lead a group effort is invaluable to growth and developing leadership skills which can often lead to better grades. Many kids aren’t able to take full advantage of extracurricular activities because of family responsibilities or the need to supplement the family income. The Step Up Award allows deserving kids a chance to grow and mature and become more productive citizens through involvement with athletic or co-curricular activities.”

Make It Happen! is a nationally recognized college readiness program designed for multilingual high school students. Students who attend Portland’s three high schools work closely with site coordinators, volunteers, and community partners to build competitive academic, civic, professional, and personal profiles for college admission and learn how to navigate and access financial aid. In addition, Make it Happen! students are encouraged to take challenging classes, improve their standardized test scores, engage in leadership activities, community service, and career readiness opportunities.

“The Portland community is very fortunate to have such a wonderful program as Make It Happen! In keeping with the last four years, we had three other fantastic applicants, and they all are deserving of praise. Their life stories are remarkable and their optimism in the future is inspirational,” added Bill Weber.

Luzia Vumpa was selected for the award for her strong academic performance, passion for working with children, and wide range of interests and activities. Luzia was born in Angola and spent her childhood there, as well as in South Africa and Namibia. In 2017, she moved with her family to the United States. During her time at Portland High School, she has played tennis, started a book club, participated in art club, and had an internship at the Boys & Girls club. This summer, she’ll be a camp counselor at Center Day Camp in Windham. Her ambitions include admission to the National Honor Society while at Portland High School, going to college, and finding a career path that will benefit children around the world.

The Portland Public Schools is Creating a Mobile Makerspace with Local and National Support

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools (FPPS) is thrilled to announce that the Les Paul Foundation is the latest group to support the creation of a Portland Public Schools Mobile Makerspace. The makerspace will provide hands-on science, technology, arts, engineering, and mathematics (STEAM) programming to Portland elementary school students, starting this summer. A makerspace is a collaborative setting for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high-tech to no-tech tools. The Portland Public Schools Mobile Makerspace will ensure that every elementary school student in Portland will have access to STEAM designing, engineering, problem-solving, and building experiences.

“Our goal with the Makerspace is to provide every PreK-5 student in Portland access to this mobile lab,” explains Brooke Teller, the Portland Public Schools STEM Coordinator. “With ten elementary schools, the ability to outfit ten makerspaces is financially unattainable. A mobile trailer that carries equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and more will eliminate the need for any one school to outfit a full, high-tech lab. All of the planned curriculum will be aligned to the Science and Engineering Practices of the Next Generation Science Standards.”

Andrea Weisman Summers, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Portland Public Schools, said, “Today, STEM education is more important than ever. Jobs in STEM fields are growing much faster than the rate of all jobs and pay better as well. I believe that engaging experiences like the engineering and design challenges that will happen in the makerspace can be the hook that helps students enjoy school and see themselves as builders, designers, and capable users of technology. I am hopeful that this can also be a step to addressing disproportionate representation of women and people of color in STEM careers.”

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools is raising the funds needed to create and staff the Mobile Makerspace in its pilot year. In addition to the Les Paul Foundation, the initiative is funded to date by the Brick & Beam Society of the United Way, the Irving Foundation, Unum, Greenbacker Group LLC, the Lennox Foundation, the Maine Space Grant Consortium, and the Perloff Family Foundations.

The plan is to have the mobile makerspace operating by July to be able to be used by students in summer school.

Join us for Spring for Teachers!

You’re Invited!

What: A benefit for our Teacher Grants Program
When: Wednesday, May 11 at 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Where: Bunker Brewing Co, indoors and outdoors
17 Westfield St Unit D, Portland
 Tickets: Available on Eventbrite

Buy raffle tickets for a L.L.Bean camping gear package through Eventbrite or at the door.

Please join us and spread the word!

Thank you to our Sponsors!

Gold Sponsor: J.B. Brown & Sons Gold Sponsor: Nellie Mae Education Foundation
Silver Sponsor: Bangor Saving Bank Silver Sponsor: Coffee by Design
Silver Sponsor: Northeast Bank Silver Sponsor: Town & Country Federal Credit Union
Copper Sponsor: Camp Alsing Copper Sponsor: Capozza Floor Covering Center
Copper Sponsor: Clark Insurance Copper Sponsor: Machais Savings Bank

PPS Creating Wabanaki Studies Film Series

As part of its work to develop the first comprehensive Wabanaki Studies curriculum in the state of Maine, the Portland Public Schools (PPS) is creating a documentary film series to serve as a central text for each grade level. The district is exploring ways to share this resource with schools around the state.  

When PPS established equity as a central goal, the district decided to start by helping students deepen their understanding of their own community and place.  The Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, and Abenaki tribes have stewarded the land we now call Maine for thousands of years. A team of PPS teachers has been working with tribal advisors, students, parents, and community partners to build a preK-12 Wabanaki studies curriculum since 2017. This team decided a film would be the best way to bring the voices of Indigenous people in Maine directly into classrooms and center their experiences.

Bridgid Seqoniw Neptune, a citizen of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, former PPS parent, and consultant to the Wabanaki studies curriculum development, described the collaboration as follows, “PPS is leading the state in this [Wabanaki curriculum development] work. They have, and continue to, center Indigenous voices and perspectives, which has earned them confidence and buy-in from community leaders, Elders, and young people.”

The PPS curriculum team is planning  one or more short videos for each grade-level unit of study. This documentary series will unfold over the years of a child’s education. Each segment will  include a combination of interviews and other footage such as clips of seasonal activities that demonstrate contemporary land use and stewardship practices occurring within Wabanaki communities today. Examples will include maple sugaring, elvering, sweet grass collecting, blueberry harvesting, hunting, and basketmaking.  These examples will connect with interviews and will also be accompanied by a short instructional video for teachers to view before launching the units.


“The film will amplify Wabanaki voices, perspectives, and knowledge for our students,” said Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Melea Nalli. “While we are proud of the curriculum work we are doing, we also recognize that it has taken us far too long to meet the requirements outlined in the 2001 law obligating all schools in Maine to teach Wabanaki Studies. Because this type of resource development and long-term partnership is not replicable in smaller districts, we are excited to explore ways to share what we are creating.”

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools (FPPS) is raising the funds needed to create the film. The project is funded to date by a $100,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, along with many smaller grants and donations. Other key supporters include the Maine Audubon, Hudson Foundation, Portside Real Estate Group, Martin’s Point Health Care, Maine Community Foundation, the Portland Public Schools, and several individual donors.

May 11: Spring for Teachers 2022

Save the date for Spring for Teachers!


What: A benefit for our Teacher Grants Program
When: Wednesday, May 11 at 5:30 pm
Where: Bunker Brewing Coindoors and outdoors


Tickets and additional information coming soon!

PPS Food Fund Grants are open!

School staff, community organizations, and/or community members can apply for funding for school-based projects that build food security for PPS students and their families.

Our partner, Food Fuels Learning, provides Food Fund Grants for organizations or projects that work to build immediate or long-term food security for PPS students and families.

To learn more or apply for PPS Food Fund grants to address food insecurity for Portland students and their families, visit the Food Fuels Learning website.

Release of Application February 3, 2022
Application Due Date March 4, 2022
Application Review March 7, 2022 – March 17, 2022
Grantees Announced March 24, 2022
Grants Distributed Week of March 28th, 2022
Grant Reporting Due November 4, 2022 & March 31, 2023
Please note: the next application deadline is March 4, 2022 at 5:00pm.

L.L. Bean Supports Partnership between PPS and Rippleffect to Bring Middle Schools Students Outdoors

L.L. Bean has donated $22,000 to the Foundation for Portland Public Schools to continue the partnership between Rippleffect and Portland’s three middle schools. This funding allows students to participate in activities including kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, and outdoor team-building activities with their peers, teachers, and Rippleffect staff.
With L.L. Bean’s support, the Portland Public Schools (PPS) has provided outdoor education experiences for all middle school students since 2019. Even before the pandemic, the benefits of this programming were enormous. Now, with transmission of Covid-19 lower outdoors, it is an even more critical aspect of PPS programming.

Foundation for Portland Public Schools Executive Director Andrea Weisman Summers shared, “Democratizing access to nature across socioeconomic, racial, and cultural lines is one of the ways we are supporting the equity focus of the Portland Promise. Exposing students who live in an urban environment to positive interactions with nature helps build a lifelong respect for open spaces, conservation, and natural resources. There’s also research that shows that spending time in nature leads to increased academic achievement, student engagement, and better physical and social-emotional health. We are so grateful to L.L. Bean for their support of this important work.”

Students at King, Lincoln, and Lyman Moore Middle Schools participate in a range of activities with Rippleffect and PPS staff. The experiences are designed not only to expose students to nature and outdoor activities, but also to build community and strengthen the foundation of peer-to-peer and peer- to-adult relationships back at school.
Robyn Bailey, Interim Principal at Lincoln Middle School, said, “The Rippleffect collaboration has been instrumental in helping develop leadership through team building. This relationship has helped Lincoln students find success through outdoor education, shared values, and an opportunity to explore learning outside the classroom walls.”

MPBN Story on $175,000 New Schools Venture Fund grant to diversify teaching staff

New Schools Venture Fund has granted $175,000 to the Portland Public Schools to support educational technicians in their process of becoming certified to teach. This grant is part of the Foundation for Portland Public Schools’ (FPPS) Addressing the Opportunity Gap Campaign, a community campaign to accelerate and deepen the school district’s equity work.

The Portland Public Schools is one of a cohort of organizations that is receiving funding and support from New Schools Venture Fund in 2021 to diversify the PreK-12 education workforce.  Julia Hazel, the PPS Director of BIPOC Career Pathways and Leadership Development, will coordinate this work for the district. The grant also provides opportunities for Ms. Hazel to connect with and learn from other educators and organizations around the country that are launching or growing similar initiatives.

Research shows that increased diversity within schools yields better outcomes for all students. Barbara Stoddard, Executive Director of Human Resources for the district, explained, “Studies have linked diverse teaching staff to increased academic achievement, improved graduation rates, and increased preparation for students to live and work in a diverse, collaborative world.  PPS has had limited success in attracting diverse educators from out of state. This is a major part of why we’ve intensified our focus on ‘growing our own’ by creating additional systems of support and advancement for current students and paraprofessionals to become teachers.”

The Portland Public Schools has experienced profound demographic shifts in the last 30 years. In 1989, fewer than 10% of PPS students identified as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC). By 2010, that percentage had grown to 35%. This school year, 49% of students identify as BIPOC.  Like many districts in the U.S., the demographics of teachers employed by PPS has not kept pace with its student population.

Many ed techs working in the district are immigrants who were teachers before coming to the U.S.  Often, these paraprofessionals need to have foreign transcripts analyzed in order to determine the coursework or other requirements necessary to become fully credentialed in the U.S.  In other cases, working as ed techs has inspired  interest in becoming certified classroom teachers. This grant from the New Schools Venture Fund will provide services such as foreign transcript analysis; payment for additional coursework towards certification beyond what is normally reimbursed by the district; expanded mentoring by PPS teachers, and other supports.

“When I talk to students they often tell me how important it is to them to have a faculty that more closely reflects their experiences and backgrounds,” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “This has been a priority for us as a district for the past five years and while we’ve made gains, we have a great deal more work to do.  I am grateful to the New Schools Venture Fund for their support and partnership in our efforts.”

Creating a Computer Lab at Casco Bay High School

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools is thrilled to announce a grant to create a new computer lab at Casco Bay High School (CBHS). Thanks to generous support from the Gladys Brooks Foundation, CBHS will create a computer lab this winter. Soon, every high school in the district will have a lab equipped with computers powerful enough for computer science coursework such as coding and web design. CBHS also intends to use these more powerful devices for “intensives,” or short courses on game development, songwriting, and documentary filmmaking.

This is a powerful step in addressing the opportunity gaps that our students face. The new lab will guarantee full access to all students, rather than relying on students to bring their own devices or using Chromebooks, which meet the needs of most courses but not advanced STEM curriculum.

PPS selected by Barr Foundation to expand educator diversity in the district

Barr Foundation, TNTP (The New Teacher Project) offer funding, support to help schools address large diversity gap between students, staff

In the Portland Maine public schools, 49 percent of the 6,534 students identify as people of color, while about 11 percent of staff do. With new funding and dedicated support to increase educator diversity within their ranks, school administrators hope to shift those numbers significantly.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to take a more data-informed look at our current state, how we got here and the best next steps for continuing to accelerate our diversity staffing work,” says Barbara Stoddard, the Executive Director of Human Resources for the Portland Public Schools. “The research is clear that all students benefit from staff who look like them. Responding to this call to action is critical to the success of our BIPOC students and is critical to the retention and engagement of our BIPOC staff.”

Portland Public Schools is one of eight educational communities that were selected to take part in the new “Driving Toward Diversity in the Educator Workforce” program to examine how they can better attract and retain more diverse teachers to match growing diverse student bodies. Other grantees selected for the eight-month program are school systems in Stamford, CT, Winooski, VT, and several in Massachusetts including Salem, Fitchburg, Lowell, Western Massachusetts, along with a charter school in Boston and the Excel Academy Charter Schools in East Boston and Chelsea which are expanding to Rhode Island.

To build that pipeline of teachers of color while retaining those who are already in the workforce, the Barr Foundation offered support through TNTP (The New Teacher Project) and grants of up to $25,000 to help the selected districts analyze current talent systems, practices, and system needs while also taking input from students, teachers, school leaders, families, and the broader community through June 2022.

“Diversifying the workforce has been a goal and priority for educators and families for decades,” said Leah Hamilton, Director of Education for the Barr Foundation. “Why aren’t we making more progress? We are eager to learn from the partnership with TNTP and local school systems to understand the unique local challenges and what can make a difference. We will work with school districts across New England to analyze the problem and find more solutions that they can put into place. We hope this will help move the needle toward more action, more change, and better results for both students and teachers.”

Education research finds that students of color who learn from teachers of color are more likely to complete high school, go onto college, face fewer suspensions and disciplinary action, and be referred to gifted and talented programs, according to education research that points to the importance of having a diverse workforce that identifies with its students.

But, in too many states and school districts educators don’t reflect the racial makeup of the students they serve. About 53 percent of students in the U.S. identify as people of color while 80 percent of teachers are white and 40 percent of public school districts do not have a single teacher of color, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. New England wrestles with the same imbalances in its schools.

“We have over 20 years of experience working with school districts and educators to close achievement gaps, improve classroom instruction, and develop talented, diverse teaching staffs,” said Arlene Sukran, Vice President of Northeast TNTP. “We hope this new effort will go a long way in making much-needed improvements for both students and teachers. It’s exciting to be part of the solution.”

According to TNTP’s The Opportunity Myth: What Students Can Show Us About How School is Letting Them Down – and How to Fix It report, high expectations of teachers of color can be a game changer for students of color. “In classrooms where students were mostly Black or Latinx, 66 percent of teachers who were the same race or ethnicity as the majority of their students had high expectations compared to just 35 percent for teachers who were a different race or ethnicity,” the report says. Those higher expectations correlated to more learning for their students as well.

The problem is complex. Teacher certification processes pose barriers. Implicit bias in recruiting, hiring, and managing can interfere. College and university programs preparing teachers lack diversity in their student bodies and have a range of outcomes in supporting their students of color to succeed in the licensure process. School cultures fail to support teachers of color to build long-term careers in the profession.

For the “Driving Toward Diversity in the Educator Workforce” work, grantees will take part in planning sessions with TNTP to do a talent landscape analysis, collecting data to understand how the school system is attracting diverse teachers and its recruiting and retention process. Grantees will gain an understanding of their current strengths and opportunities for focus, and TNTP will offer recommendations.