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.

Rising Tide Leadership Award Provides Summer Leadership Opportunities to High School Students

The Portland Public Schools and the Foundation for Portland Public Schools are thrilled to announce the winners of the 4th annual Rising Tide Leadership Awards. This year, Sophia Kapita, a student at Casco Bay High School, and Jose Lusinga Sasenga, a student at Portland High School, were selected from six outstanding applicants representing all three Portland high schools. 

The Rising Tide Leadership Award was created by educators to honor Linda Ward, a staff member at Portland Public Schools’ Multilingual and Multicultural Center, and to celebrate the life of her son, John Williams Burgess. In honor of Linda Ward’s lifetime of work with immigrant populations and John’s lifetime legacy of scholarship and experiential learning, the award annually provides two immigrant high school students from Portland Public Schools with a range of opportunities to pursue academic and personal interests, strengthen college applications, and develop leadership skills through unique summer program experiences.

Both of this year’s winners are outstanding students engaged in a wide range of extracurricular and civic activities. Sophia, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), hopes to become a doctor and open a hospital some day in the DRC that can serve anyone, regardless of income. She plans to use her Rising Tide award to attend a two week, pre-college program at Duke University in the summer of 2022.

Jose, who immigrated from Angola, is also interested in pursuing a career in medicine. He hopes to either attend a summer program in medicine at Harvard University or the University of San Diego this summer.

The Rising Tide award will cover all costs of these summer programs as well as travel expenses. 

Celebrating Portland Public Schools Teacher Innovations with Equity and Innovation Teacher Grant Awards

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools (FPPS) has just completed its 13th annual teacher grants program cycle. Sixty-six teachers, ed techs, librarians, and others have been awarded grants totaling $51,619. These grants will benefit thousands of students – from preK through Portland Adult Education – in 17 schools across the Portland Public Schools (PPS).

The Equity and Innovation Teachers Grants Program supports PPS staff in their efforts to enrich education, innovate in the classroom, and engage the community. Funded projects are selected based on their potential to inspire students and improve learning outcomes. This year, funding will support a wide range of projects, including expanding and diversifying classroom and school libraries; providing students with supplies, access to visiting artists, and tickets to performances to enhance art and music education; purchasing science and technological equipment; and expanding the range of social and emotional supports available in our schools.

Lisa Page, the FPPS board member who chairs the Teacher Grants committee, said, “This year’s round of proposals demonstrates the resilience, creativity, and dedication of Portland’s educators. Students at every level will feel their effects in all sorts of ways, from updated and expanded book collections to field trips, guest speakers, and special projects. Supporting one teacher enhances the experience of an entire classroom, often for years to come.”

Hannah Guillaume Chimenti, a teacher at Ocean Avenue Elementary School and grant recipient last year, shared her gratitude. “This program is empowering for teachers, students, and schools. Thank you for making it so simple. You are really making a positive impact on education!”

Support for the 2021 Equity and Innovation Teacher Grants Program came from the Cabin Foundation, EnviroLogix (via the Ensign Bickford Foundation), Coffee By Design, Town & Country Federal Credit Union, Saco & Biddeford Savings Charitable Foundation, and many individual contributors.

Supporting PPS Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM)

FPPS is committed to increasing hands-on, rigorous opportunities in STEM for all Portland Public Schools students. It is critical to build interest and confidence in science early. We are working closely with PPS to support STEM curriculum development, purchase texts and supplies, and to create a mobile makerspace that will engage all elementary school students in design, innovation, and engineering.

Our goals include:
– Fostering experimentation and innovation
– Building critical thinking and problem solving skills
– Developing resilience through projects involving multiple attempts, revision, refining designs and failure
– Exposure to new tools, processes, and ways of thinking
– Increased interest in STEM

Please donate to support STEM education!

Thank you Consigli Construction Co. for back to school supplies!

Thank you to Consigli Construction Co. for this thoughtful and generous donation!  25 new backpacks filled with school supplies like markers, colored pencils, notebooks, crayons, erasers, glue sticks, pencils, pencil cases, and child sized masks. Portland Public Schools will to distribute them to students in need as we start the new school year.

Step Up Award Winner: Didon Maombi Heri

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

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools is thrilled to announce Didon Maombi Heri as the latest Portland High School student chosen to receive the Step Up Award, now in its 4th year. The Step Up Award at Portland High School 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. Didon, 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 May 19, 2021. 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 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.

Didon Maombi Heri was selected for her passion and engagement in a wide variety of activities, internships, and leadership positions, as well as her strong academic performance. Didon is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since she’s been in Portland, she has been involved with the Women’s Rights Club, the Inside Medical Club, the Telling Room, Portland Empowered’s Youth Engagement Partners, Upward Bound, Peer Leaders and more. Didon also enjoys photography, swimming, basketball, languages, and movies. She dreams of becoming a cardiovascular surgeon and remaining an activist.

“The Portland Public Schools is very grateful to the Weber family for providing our students with the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, giving them the chance to engage more fully in the educational experiences offered at our schools,” Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana said. “This family’s generosity is a prime example of how individuals and other community partners can truly make a difference in the lives of our students by supporting the Foundation for Portland Public Schools and its goal of improving the opportunities available to PPS students.”

Thank you Eastpoint Christian Church

We’d like to thank Eastpoint Christian Church in South Portland for their unbelievably generous donation to the Families in Crisis Fund. They donated $23,500 from their Easter offering to support PPS students and families who are in homeless situations or who are at risk of becoming homeless. We will use this money to help pay for rent, utilities, and/or medical or other emergency costs for families in these tough situations.

Video: National Award to Portland Public Schools’ Program “Make It Happen!”

The Portland Public Schools, with its Make It Happen! program, was announced as a Grand Prize winner in the National School Boards Association (NSBA) 2021 Magna Awards program. The below video was created to celebrate Make it Happen! and the accomplishments of all the multilingual students participating in the program.


FPPS Food Fund Grants Build Community Food Security

The Portland Public Schools (PPS) Food Fund gives community members the opportunity to invest in projects that build food security for PPS students and their families. Food Fuels Learning (FFL) just completed its fifth round of Food Fund grants which went to five inspiring projects.

  • “Food Brigade,” received $2,500 to assist in serving over 500 food insecure Portland families weekly with fresh, culturally relevant foods through Presente Maine.
  • “Take Home Harvest of the Month,” received $2,500 to provide take-home bags at East End and Rowe Elementary Schools. This effort promotes the Harvest of the Month program and local Maine products at the elementary level, and provides supplementary nutritious food, enrichment, and resources to as many students as possible for the months of April, May, and June 2021.
  • “Greater Portland Family Promise,” received $2,500 to continue providing New Mainer families with Portland schools students with culturally appropriate food boxes as part of their Housing Stabilization Program.
  • “Bring Local Food to Head Start.” received $2,500 to purchase locally grown food from farms that support New American Farmers. They look forward to partnering with Liberation Farms and Cultivating Community to nourish Portland’s youngest students and to teach them about the many benefits to eating Maine grown produce.
  •  “Window Garden,” received $350 to germinate and grow seedlings for the Breathe Program classroom. They will transplant those seedlings to buckets for students to bring home or garden spots around Deering. They will also incorporate science instruction and the importance of gardening and outdoor work as a coping skill for anxiety and depression.

In addition to those awarded funding, Food Fuels Learning provided direct support to all Food Fund applicants through connection to community resources and facilitating network building. This included facilitating introductions with vital service providers such as Cultivating Community for garden consultation. The result was that each requester for funding was able to access resources to address the needs expressed in their proposal.

The PPS Food fund is a collaboration by the Foundation for PPS and Food Fuels Learning (FFL) and is made possible through generous donations by the community. Each contribution will go to a grassroots, school-based project that directly meets the needs of students struggling with food insecurity.

How to Donate:

Checks should be made payable to:
Foundation for Portland Public Schools (or FPPS)
353 Cumberland Avenue Portland, ME 04101
Attn: Jeanine Bischoff
In the memo line, please write:
PPS Food Fund

A secure online contribution can be made at: (Please note – all contributions made online are assessed a fee from the payment processor (Stripe). This will decrease the amount of your gift by about 3 percent.)

For more information, please contact Jim Hanna, Cumberland County Food Security Council,