EnviroLogix Donates to Further STEM initiatives and Teacher Innovations

EnviroLogix, a Portland-based diagnostic company, gave two grants totaling $16,000 in late 2020 to the Foundation for Portland Public Schools (FPPS) through the EBI Foundation, their parent organization’s (Ensign-Bickford Industries) charitable fund. With a focus on fostering innovation in the classroom, these grants will enhance learning experiences and support the goals of the district’s strategic plan, the Portland Promise. 

Half of these funds are intended to support FPPS Equity and Innovation Teacher Grants, a program that distributes $50,000 in small grants to Portland Public Schools staff each fall. The other half is designated for the district’s STEM initiatives, including the annual STEM Expo, which is a chance for PPS students to showcase their STEM projects and to see and hear about the STEM work happening at businesses and organizations in Greater Portland. This fall, the 7th annual STEM expo was a virtual event, but still drew hundreds of students and community members in a range of live and pre-recorded sessions online. 

Brooke Teller, the STEM coordinator for the Portland Public Schools, said, “Support from community partners like EnviroLogix helps PPS to inspire students and teachers in STEM education.  Their sponsorship of the PPS STEM EXPO and STEM Teacher grants are examples of how these partnerships translate into concrete experiences for our whole student body.”

EnviroLogix President and CEO Bill Welch said, “EnviroLogix has a long history as a pioneer in our field of diagnostic technology, and we are excited each year to help bring that spirit of applied innovation to the students of Portland Public Schools. An investment in the education and inspiration of future generations is critical both to the growth of our community and to our success as a company.”

EnviroLogix has been a strong supporter of the Portland Public Schools for years. In addition to support for the Teacher Grants program and the STEM Expo, EnviroLogix and the EBI Foundation partnered with the Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) in 2018-19 to co-design and fund the creation of a biotechnology/biomedical laboratory at the school that is used by both students in PATHS’ Health Science Occupations Program as well as students from Casco Bay High School, housed in the same building.

Portland schools get money to diversify staff

Article from The Forecaster, by Micheal Kelly

Portland school officials hope a $10,000 grant from UNUM that the Foundation for Portland Public Schools received last month will help to diversify the district’s staff and complement work underway in the Portland Promise, the district’s goal of rooting out systemic inequalities and attracting and retaining a diverse and talented staff.

“We see this as an effort to accelerate and deepen equity work that is already happening,” said Andi Summers, executive director of The Foundation for Portland Public Schools.

As Portland’s student body has become more diverse, the diversity of those who teach them has lagged behind, something Portland Public Schools Human Resources Director Barbara Stoddard hopes this new funding will help with.

Stoddard said there is not a target in terms of how many educators of color the district is looking to hire through its diversification efforts. The goal, however, is to diversify the workforce at all grade levels.

“We need a diverse staff at every school and every grade level,” Stoddard said.

In 1989, fewer than 10% of Portland students identified as Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC), but by 2010, that percentage had grown to 35%. Currently, 48% of students identify as BIPOC. Since the district began tracking racial demographic data on staff in 2016, the number of employees of color has risen from 6.6% to 10%.

“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,” Superintendent Xavier Botana said. “This has been a priority for us as a district for the past four years and while we’ve made gains, we have a great deal more work to do.”

Over the last few years, Summers said “there has been increasing research that show when children, particularly Black children, see just even one person who is a reflection of what they look like, it makes them feel more comfortable,” which can have “an achievement and graduation rate impact.”

How exactly the money will be spent has not been finalized yet, but Stoddard said it will be used to boost the city’s internal and external human resource. Internally the money may be used to support employee’s course work to obtain certification or licensure testing or for mentoring individuals looking to transition into a new role within the district. The money could also be used for district leaders to travel to out-of-state recruitment events and invite existing staff of color to join to advocate for the Portland School System.

“We feel our existing staff is the best ambassadors for Portland Public Schools,” Stoddard said. “In the past we have not had money for recruitment efforts beyond state borders.”

Summers said some of that out-of-state effort could include recruiting in areas where there are a lot of teachers of color or at historically Black colleges, as well as work to get foreign-trained teachers and educators certified and employed in Maine.

Stoddard said recruiting a more diverse workforce to the state of Maine and Portland will be challenging.

“If we want to attract candidates outside of Maine, we need to share information of who we are, what are our values and about the city,” she said.

Increasing the diversity of staff in the state’s schools is also something the Maine Department of Education is working on. Tamara Ranger, an educator excellence coordinator for the Maine Department of Education, said through the department’s Teach Maine campaign, the Educator Talent Committee is in the early stages of a strategic plan to, in part, recruit, hire and retain educators of color, create more interest among students of colors to become teachers and decrease barriers to becoming educators in this state, and support the current educators of color in the state. The Maine Department of Education does not have a breakdown on the racial demographics of educators in Maine.

“If we can create a supportive system for educators of color in this state, it can be a big selling point for educators of color coming from other states,” Ranger said.

Emily Doughty, the department’s educator effectiveness coordinator, said additionally she and other representatives from the Maine Department of Education joined 40 educators from other New England states on New England Secondary Schools Consortium’s Task Force on Diversifying the Educator Workforce on a report of regional recommendations to increase the racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity of the educator workforce in New England.

Furthermore, in its efforts to combat racism and inequalities in education across the state, the department is conducting an equity audit of its policies and hiring practices, investing in racial equity training for department staff and working to reduce the barriers of state certification for internationally trained teachers, among other things. To that end, as part of the emergency order from Gov. Janet Mills, the department may issue an emergency certification through Sept. 1 to individuals who have a four-year degree, are in a teacher preparation program or who have been similar credentials in other countries. The order also states the department can issue teacher certifications to individuals who are certified to teach in other states or countries, but who are not certified in Maine.

Unum Donates $10,000 to Diversify Teaching Staff in Portland Schools

Unum has donated $10,000 to the Foundation for Portland Public Schools (FPPS) to strengthen efforts to recruit, hire, and retain a more diverse staff within the Portland Public Schools. This grant is part of the Foundation’s Addressing the Opportunity Gap Campaign, a community campaign to accelerate and deepen the school district’s equity work.

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, 48% of students identify as BIPOC. Like many districts in the US, the demographics of teachers employed by PPS has not kept pace with its student population.

Barbara Stoddard, Executive Director of Human Resources for the district, explained,
“Research shows that teachers of color have a substantial positive impact for all students. 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. I appreciate Unum’s support which will allow us to advance the Portland Promise People and Equity goals through targeted, external recruiting efforts and intentional, internal pathways to expand the number of BIPOC educators in the district.”

The Portland Public Schools plans to use these funds to broaden recruitment efforts, but also to explicitly work on the culture and systems that exist within the district to support BIPOC teachers, ensure opportunities for advancement, and strive to retain teachers once they are hired.

“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 four years and while we’ve made gains, we have a great deal more work to do. I am grateful to Unum for their support and partnership in our efforts.”

Unum has been a strong supporter of the Portland Public Schools for many years. In July 2020, The Unum Social Justice Fund was launched to create stronger, more equitable communities by supporting organizations working to end racism, discrimination and bias. This is the first grant that FPPS has received from the Social Justice Fund, on behalf of the Portland Public Schools.

School Board Chair Highlights the Work of FPPS in State of the Schools Address

In his State of the Schools Address, Portland Public School board chair Roberto Rodriguez outlined the difficulties the district has faced since the start of the pandemic.

“If you had told me last November that in 2020, masks, social distancing, and hybrid learning would become words that we used every day, and I would be speaking to you via Zoom in my living room wearing sweatpants, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Rodriguez said.

Over the summer, Rodriguez said the board made a difficult decision to adopt a hybrid plan. He said a challenging part was getting technology devices to nearly 900 students who chose to learn completely remotely.

“It suddenly became our newest and largest school. We initially had problems with technology acquisition and distribution, optimal scheduling of classes, and lapses with communication with families. We have worked to address all of these issues and the remote academy program is running much smoother now,” Rodriguez said.

The district was able to take advantage of outdoor learning and through community partners, was able to secure new supplies to keep students safe.

“All of which joined together to provide 2,000 thermometers and 500 child- size reusable masks.”

Rodriguez said the pandemic is not the only crisis the district is fighting. He said the district is continuing to confront systemic racism.

“Our discipline data shows our non-white students are disciplined more frequently and harshly than their white counterparts. The Portland Public Schools has a great deal of work to do to address these injustices.”

Rodriguez said they are working to hire diverse staff, working on the curriculum to reflect all students, and are working to provide more equity training for staff.

“The Foundation for Portland Public Schools stepped up this year with a new community campaign to raise at least $100,000 to accelerate and expand our school districts equity work,” Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez said he is grateful to families for being flexible during these difficult times and said he looks forward to working with city partners to make sure students get a quality education.

You can watch the entire address here on YouTube:


FPPS Awards over $48,000 to Portland Teachers

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools (FPPS) has completed its twelfth annual fall teacher grants program cycle. Sixty-one teachers have been awarded grants totaling $48,595, impacting over 8,000 students at all grade levels in 16 schools across the district.

The Equity and Innovation Teachers Grants Program supports PPS teachers in their efforts to enrich education, innovate in the classroom, and engage the community.  FPPS grant programming recognizes and supports teachers’ work to inspire students and improve learning outcomes. This fall, with students in hybrid and remote learning in the Portland School District, 2020’s funded projects were especially innovative in the ways teachers addressed adapting to educating students during a pandemic. The funding will cover such items and initiatives as kits of materials for students to use at home during remote learning; remote visits from artists, authors, and community activists; community partnerships to start affinity groups for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) middle school students; resources for a mental health bookclub and more.

Mike Bove, the FPPS board member who chairs the Teacher Grants committee, said, “It’s crucial to support our teachers in addressing the challenges of education in such difficult times. We’re moved by their dedication to enhancing and enriching the student experience, both in-person and remotely. This year’s awards represent heartfelt gratitude from FPPS to Portland’s educators.”

Matt Bernstein, a teacher at Casco Bay High School and grant recipient both last year and this year, shared his gratitude. “The FPPS Grants Program is instrumental to my practice. I am extremely grateful for the support and the opportunity to bring in experts and engage students in varied ways of learning. The application process is also user friendly and I appreciate how responsive FPPS is to questions about applications and projects. Thank you for everything!

Support for the 2020 Equity and Innovation Teacher Grants Program came from the Lennox Foundation, Portland Pottery, J.B. Brown & Sons, Clark Insurance, Duckfat, Capozza Tile and Floor Covering Center, Maine Yacht Center, Maine Orthodontics, Green Clean Maine, Benchmark Real Estate, Town and Country Credit Union and many individual contributors.

Spectrum Donation Helps Portland Public Schools Technology Needs

Spectrum donated 25 new laptop computers to Portland Adult Education (PAE) and $2,500 to the Foundation for Portland Public Schools to kick off the academic year while addressing coronavirus related needs of the school district. Spectrum, a key Internet service provider in the state, has been working with the Maine Department of Education and others over the last several months to create solutions allowing students across Maine to access remote learning opportunities.

Students without computers or Internet service at home struggled to remain connected when schools switched to remote learning in the spring. The Portland Public Schools committed nearly half of its coronavirus relief funding from the state to ensure all Pre-K-12 students have a device and Internet access at home for the 2020-21 school year. This is not the case for adult learners in the district, who are not generally full-time students.

Portland’s elementary, middle and high schools opened with a hybrid remote model with Portland Adult Education continuing to teach classes remotely this fall. Many PAE students are economically disadvantaged and do not have computer access at home. These students were challenged during the spring to connect to learning English and necessary job skills through phones or mail. 

The laptops donated by Spectrum will allow the recipients full access to their on-line classes and teachers.

“We are using the laptops donated by Spectrum to provide opportunities for our Job Skills students,” said Anita St. Onge, Executive Director at PAE. “These are students who are working to improve their skills to get a job or advance their careers.”

One recipient of a new laptop is PAE student, Violette Zola, who immigrated to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo. With new immigration laws in effect, Violette is not eligible to apply for a work permit until next year.  In the interim, she has been applying herself as fully as possible to her studies, taking courses to improve her English and learn technology and job skills. “I would like to thank Spectrum so much for this donation,” Violette said. “COVID-19 has put us in a situation where we cannot come together to avoid contamination. The computer has helped me to follow my lessons at home without worry, especially the Microsoft office class. I am very happy to receive this computer which is new and easy to use. I want to become a CNA or a phlebotomist or a medical assistant when I get my work permit. I prefer to work in my field as I worked a long time with people with HIV for different International NGOs in my country.”

“Spectrum is proud to lend its support to Portland Adult Education and the Foundation for Portland Public Schools with the donation of twenty-five new laptops,” said Camille Joseph, GVP, State Government Affairs for Charter Communications. “We continue to support broadband education, training and technology with funding to nonprofit organizations that are interested in providing the necessary tools and training to helping students and communities excel in the digital age.”


Local Health Care Organizations Team Up to Donate Thermometers and Masks to Portland Public Schools

Spectrum Healthcare Partners, Martin’s Point Health Care, and InterMed have joined together to provide 2,000 thermometers and 500 child-sized, reusable masks to distribute to Portland Public Schools students. The effort, coordinated by Spectrum Healthcare Partners and the Foundation for Portland Public Schools, is intended to help students and families comply with school health and safety protocols. School nurses and multilingual, multicultural parent community specialists will be distributing the supplies to families in need.

Over the summer, the Maine Department of Education published a framework for reopening schools and returning to in-person instruction for public schools across the state. One of the requirements is symptom screening for all students and staff before coming to school each day. 

Portland’s daily symptom check includes the question, “Do you have a fever (greater than 100.4) or do you feel feverish?” Answering this question accurately is challenging for families without a thermometer, which is the case for many Portland Public Schools (PPS) families. The Portland Public Schools used local funds and statewide Coronavirus Relief Funds to purchase all of the necessary supplies for health and safety in schools. However, they did not have funding or resources to purchase supplies for families to use at home. 

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools, a nonprofit organization that works to address unmet needs of the school district, reached out to community partners to fill this gap. “Greater Portland businesses have a long history of investing in and supporting the Portland Schools. Over the last few months, healthcare organizations, along with many others, have shown their commitment not only to our community’s health, but also to addressing the equity issues in the schools that have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said FPPS Executive Director Andi Summers. “I knew that when Superintendent Botana shared this need that our local healthcare organizations would help.”

Another element of the PPS health and safety plan is the requirement for all adults and students 4 years old and above to wear a mask/face covering on the bus and in school. Students are asked to bring their own masks, so this generous donation of masks will help Portland Public Schools families comply. As Dr. Randy Barr of InterMed said, “When social distancing is not feasible, masks are the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. InterMed is proud to support efforts to reduce future COVID-19 infections in our schools and communities.”

Dr. James Kuhn of Spectrum Healthcare Partners, who helped initiate this collaboration, said “As healthcare providers we are committed to addressing the disparities in the healthcare system. Providing disadvantaged families with some basic tools to keep them safe while their kids go to school is a step in that direction. We are very happy to be able to help these students, and the Portland public schools.”


FPPS is Seeking Up to Three Students to Join the Board of Directors

What is FPPS? The Foundation for Portland Public Schools (FPPS) is a nonprofit organization that raises money to address unmet needs of the Portland Schools and provide opportunities for innovation or enhancement to school programming for teachers and students. Recent campaigns have included:

  • PPS Food Fund – raising money to address food insecurity
  • Addressing the Opportunity Gap – deepening and accelerating equity work in the district
  • Equity and Innovation Teacher Grants – giving grants of up to $1000 for teachers

Details of student board membership

FPPS would like to add student voices to the board and is seeking two or three students to join, beginning in November 2020, as voting members.

This is intended as an opportunity for students to develop new skills including leadership, group decision making, understanding of non-profit organizations, fundraising and more. Students will take part in discussions and votes on how the Foundation should operate, spend its funds, and other decisions about how to support the Portland Public Schools; they will also participate in fundraising activities (training will be provided).

  • Commitment of one school year (November 2020 – June 2021)
  • Six meetings per year, typically on Mondays from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m., with occasional other invitations and meetings
  • Each student board member will have a more experienced board member as an informal Mentor

Qualifications / Application Process


  1. Must be a current 10th, 11th, or 12th grade student in Portland Public schools.
  2. Must meet district eligibility requirements for extracurricular activities.
  3. Applications, including the names and contact information of two references who have been asked in advance, must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m., Thursday, October 8th.
  4. There may be an informal interview or conversation with an FPPS board or staff member prior to selection.
  5. Students will be selected by November 2nd. The first board meeting will be on Monday, November 16th from 5 – 7:00 p.m. Between November 2nd – November 16th, each student will need to find a time to meet with staff and/or board members from FPPS for a brief orientation.

We encourage applicants to visit our website and/or email FPPS Director Andi Summers (asummers@foundationforpps.org) to learn more before applying.

Portland Kids Duathlon raises $8,000 for COVID needs in Portland Public Schools

Organizers of the 2020 virtual Portland Kids Duathlon recently presented $8,000 to Xavier Botana, Portland Superintendent of Schools and Andrea Weisman-Summers, Executive Director for the Foundation for Portland Public Schools. In its third year, the Portland Kids Duathlon, presented by Benchmark Real Estate, has raised a total of $23,000 for the Foundation.

While many kids and adult races cancelled in 2020, Race Director Amy Landry chose to move forward. “More than ever, the schools needed the funds, the kids needed something to look forward to, the families needed a sense of normalcy, and everyone needed to continue habits to keep us as healthy as possible,” she said. “Our sponsors stuck with us and we were thrilled with the outpouring of support from our athletes and families despite moving to virtual.” She said she was pleased that even in a pandemic, the race raised 80% of what it did at last year’s live event and had 92 virtual participants.

According to Weisman-Summers, this year’s funds will be used to support students and educators with COVID related needs. “These include things like innovation grants to educators, extra academic support for students, providing no cost meals to supplement the federal free lunch and breakfast program, and urgent support to families in crisis,” she said.

Superintendent Xavier Botana said, “Thank you to Benchmark Real Estate for your commitment to Portland kids. The Portland Kids Duathlon is a wonderful event that benefits kids in two ways: It gives them a fun opportunity to participate in multisport racing, and the race’s proceeds are generously donated each year to benefit students in the Portland Public Schools. This contribution to the Foundation will help ensure that our students and their families don’t go hungry or become homeless, and that they get the academic support and innovative teaching that can help them succeed.”

Additionally, Hammond Lumber, CycleMania and Benchmark donated equipment for the East End Community School Bike Club. When Landry learned the club was in need of a place to store and protect their bikes and equipment, she reached out to race sponsor Hammond Lumber who agreed to donate a large, new shed. CycleMania donated a new bike and Benchmark donated a helmet and bike lock to go with it. Dan Nogar, Dean of Students at the school and bike club coordinator, said he’s always looking for donated bikes, helmets, and locks as many of his students come from families unable to purchase them.

“The donations to the East End Community School’s bike club will help encourage students to take up that healthy sport – and maybe participate in future Duathlons,” said Botana. Landry said she plans to give a number of free spots to the 2021 race to bike club members and offered to run duathlon training sessions for the bike club next spring.

The race is presented by Benchmark Real Estate, owned by Landry and her husband Tom. The company donates all race proceeds to the Foundation for Portland Public Schools, which provides philanthropic support to the city’s school district.

Martin’s Point Health Care Donates to the Addressing the Opportunity Gap Campaign

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools (FPPS) is pleased to announce it has received a donation from Martin’s Point Health Care to the Foundation’s Addressing the Opportunity Gap campaign. Martin’s Point Health Care joins the John T. Gorman Foundation, Crystal Reporting Solutions, and dozens of individuals in the greater Portland area in supporting this work. The campaign has now raised over half of the funds needed to meet the initial goal

Martin’s Point Health Care’s Vice President of Marketing and Community Engagement, Steve Amendo, stated, ’“We are committing to expanding our focus to establish sustained, supportive relationships with community organizations and efforts whose work specifically promotes racial equity and justice. We see these as necessary elements of a truly healthy society and are excited about consciously adding this to the work we already do as people caring for people.”

The Addressing the Opportunity Gap campaign’s goal is to raise money for systemic equity work in the Portland Public Schools (PPS). The PPS strategic plan, the Portland Promise, calls for rooting out systemic and ongoing inequities in the city’s schools. The district has been focused on equity work for many years, but is calling on community members and local businesses to deepen and accelerate these efforts in a challenging budget year.

The specific objectives that the schools are seeking to fund include additional supports for English language learners that were initially intended to be in the local budget but were ultimately cut due to fiscal constraints; work to decolonize the curriculum, including developing Wabanaki and Africana studies materials for all three high schools; professional development for staff; and the creation of a pilot program to mentor a small group of multilingual, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) social work interns who better represent the racial and language diversity in Portland. PPS is the largest and most diverse school district in Maine, with 47 percent BIPOC students and over 60 languages spoken at home.

Although a public campaign to create this type of change in schools is unusual, the district budget has many unmet needs, and it’s challenging to reallocate funds for systemic change work. FPPS Executive Director Andrea Summers shared, “The Foundation for Portland Public Schools was created to leverage community support for our schools. This donation from Martin’s Point Health Care, as well as all of the other community support of this campaign, will enable the schools to accelerate and deepen their equity work and ultimately demonstrate how critical these efforts are for our schools.”