WMTW Channel 8 video covering Addressing the Opportunity Gap campaign

Channel 8 WMTW interviews the Foundation for Portland Public Schools’ Executive Director Andi Weisman Summers while covering the launch of the Addressing the Opportunity Gap campaign. The campaign aims to help accelerate and expand the Portland Public Schools District’s equity work.


Portland Press Herald article on Addressing the Opportunity Gap

Read Michael Kelly’s article about our new campaign Addressing the Opportunity Gap. The Foundation for Public Schools launched the campaign to help accelerate and expand our school district’s equity work. Superintendent Xavier Botana is quoted in the article: “Portland voters are generous supporters of our schools. But we still have many unmet needs. In this particular moment in our city, state and country, it is clear that we must do more than what we’re doing to close the opportunity gaps and I am hopeful that Portlanders will rally to this campaign.”

You can read the full article here. 

New Campaign Seeks Community Support for Equity Work in Portland Schools

On July 13, the Foundation for Portland Public Schools (FPPS) launched a new community campaign called Addressing the Opportunity Gap 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.

In recent months, both the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have heightened community awareness of decades old inequities in the way that schools are funded, structured, and run. “In conversations with parents, community members, and business owners, I have heard that people are looking for ways to address systemic racism and oppression locally,” said FPPS Executive Director Andrea Weisman Summers. “The initial response to the campaign has shown this is true. We’ve been thrilled with the level of interest and donations in the first two days of sharing it with our community.”

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. One local business owner, who prefers to remain anonymous, has pledged a substantial donation. In coordinating his support he said, “This is the best opportunity I’ve ever seen for the community in general to support something so significant. I have always believed that Portlanders would step up when provided the chance to make a difference.”

Xavier Botana, Superintendent of the Portland Public Schools said, “Portland voters are generous supporters of our schools.  But, we still have many unmet needs. The Foundation was created to leverage the energy and passion of our community to targeted and specific unmet needs.  In this particular moment in our City, State, and Country, it is clear that we must do more than what we’re doing to close the opportunity gaps and I am hopeful that Portlanders will rally to this campaign.”

To learn more or to donate to the Addressing the Opportunity Gap campaign, click here.

Families In Crisis Fund Receives $12,000 from United Way of Greater Portland

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools is pleased to announce it has received funding to help provide financial stability to vulnerable Portland students and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. A $12,000 Greater Portland COVID-19 Community Relief Fund grant from United Way of Greater Portland (UWGP) will be used to support the Portland Public Schools Families in Crisis Fund.

These funds exist to provide emergency food, housing, utility payments, uncovered medical expenses and other pandemic-related support to Portland Public Schools students and families. “It is nearly impossible for students to focus on academics when there is not enough food, no electricity or heat at home, or housing is unstable,” said Andi Summers, Executive Director of the Foundation for Portland Public Schools. “The Families in Crisis Fund was created to quickly address these types of urgent needs of Portland’s families to provide the stability that students need to engage in school. There have always been families in Portland that have struggled with homelessness or inability to pay bills. However, the needs have grown exponentially in the last four months. We are tremendously grateful for the United Way’s support.”

UWGP volunteers have now made three rounds of rapid funding decisions for a range of organizations on the front lines meeting emergency needs for those affected by the pandemic. “Our schools are responding to the unprecedented needs in the community at this time,” said Liz Cotter Schlax, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Portland. “We are incredibly grateful for the many donors who have contributed to the fund, making it possible for us to quickly and effectively help some of our youngest neighbors who are most impacted by COVID-19.”

About United Way of Greater Portland
For over 90 years, United Way of Greater Portland has served and strengthened Greater Portland by mobilizing the caring power of our community. Today, UWGP is uniting individuals and organizations around the community’s shared vision, Thrive2027, three 10-year goals to improve education, financial stability, and health for every person in Greater Portland. United, with community partners, we build sustainable solutions that achieve long-term results and help our community thrive. We encourage everyone to be part of the change. To give, volunteer, advocate, or learn more, visit unitedwaygp.org.

Congratulations to our three online raffle winners!

Thank you to all who donated to the Thank a Teacher campaign, benefiting our Fall Teacher Grants Program!

Those who donated in the month of May were automatically entered to win one of three raffle prizes:

Congratulations to our three raffle winners:’

  • Joanne Gates
  • Rosemary Lenehan
  • Melissa Knoll

And thank you to our sponsors for their continued support!


FPPS June News

Like all of you, we have a lot on our minds. We are saddened and angry about the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, as well as the many others who have died before and since. The health, financial, and emotional burdens of the coronavirus make this even more difficult and complex. At the same time, we are grateful for the heightened focus on the deep and persistent racism in our society. It must be recognized and addressed. Here at the Foundation, we are motivated to increase our efforts to support innovation and equity in the Portland Schools.

The Foundation’s work is aligned to the Portland Promise, our school district’s comprehensive plan. The four pillars of that plan are equity, achievement, whole student, and people. We’d like to share a brief story about our impact in each of these four areas.

Achievement – Too many students have struggled to connect with remote learning this spring. Even with the district’s decision to focus the last two weeks of the school year on students who are not on track, the need for additional summer and year round support is larger than ever. FPPS secured a $20,000 grant from Unum, a long time supporter of the Portland Schools, to pay for teachers, ed techs, and home Internet access to expand the extended learning program this summer. We are pursuing additional funding from a range of sources to continue this work in the fall.

Equity – The Foundation manages several funds that directly support school-based programs. The Step Up Award Program at Portland High School is one such fund that directly reduces opportunity gaps for students at PHS. The award is the creation of Ann and Bill Weber, parents of two PHS graduates, to provide funding for students in the Make It Happen! Program to participate in extracurricular activities. The student recipients are multilingual youth who would otherwise have to forego school-year extracurricular opportunities in order to work after school and/or on weekends. This year, Farhia Gedow and Don Dilamini are the recipients of the Step Up Award. The funds they receive will give Farhia and Don the opportunity to engage more fully in their education via clubs, internships, and/or sports, rather than work after school.

Whole Student – This pillar of the Portland Promise includes promoting mental and physical wellness of our students—considering their lives beyond traditional academics. We know that it is not possible to focus on learning if you are hungry. The PPS Food Fund has grown exponentially during the last three months. FPPS has raised almost $40,000 since mid March via donations and grants to address food insecurity for our students and families. In partnership with the Food Fuels Learning Network, this fund has allowed school social workers to deliver culturally appropriate food to families in need, provided tents for PPS Food Services distribution sites, restocked school based food pantries, and more. You have awed us with your generosity in this area. Thank you!

People – Our spring Thank a Teacher campaign raised money for Equity and Innovation Teacher Grants. This FPPS program grants teachers up to $1,000 for equity, innovation, or enrichment in their classrooms. It is aligned with Portland Promise’s focus on supporting and retaining a talented and diverse staff in our schools. Teachers will need the ability to innovate and respond to new needs more than ever this fall. We are planning to distribute $50,000 this year, thanks to your donations, a range of local corporate sponsors, and a $20,000 grant from the Lennox Foundation.

Other News
Benchmark Real Estate is holding their annual Portland Kids Duathlon to benefit FPPS virtually this year. Held between July 26 and August 8, it’s a chance for children of any age to get outside, get exercise, and contribute to FPPS. Please check it out and share with other families!

Congratulations Step Up Award Winners!

The Foundation for Portland Public Schools on May 27 announced the latest Portland High School students chosen to receive the Step Up Award, now in its third 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.

This year, Farhia Gedow and Don Dilamini are the recipients of the Step Up Award. Farhia, a rising junior at Portland High School, will receive $1,250 per semester until graduation. New to the program this year is an additional, one-time scholarship to a rising senior, which was awarded to Don Dilamini.

An awards ceremony took place remotely on May 27. Portland Mayor Kate Snyder; Portland Public School Superintendent Xavier Botana; award creators Bill and Ann Weber; Foundation for Portland Public Schools Executive Director Andi Weisman Summers; Portland High School Principal Sheila Jepson; and Make It Happen! staff members Danielle Wong and Tim Cronin spoke at the event.

Make It Happen! is a college readiness program designed for high school English language learner 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.

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 and 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. We are especially pleased to recognize additional contributions from the community that will allow us to award a second senior this year who has demonstrated a strong interest in community involvement.”

Eight students applied for the award. Farhia Gedow, who moved to the United States from Kenya in 2010, was selected for her academic prowess and commitment to excellence in all of her endeavors. She dreams of attending Bowdoin to major in biology and going on to become a physician. Don Dilamini, who moved to Portland from South Africa in 2018, also excels academically and has been involved in a range of volunteer work, sports, and clubs. Don is extremely driven and plans to pursue a degree in engineering.

“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.”

For more information about this award or FPPS, visit https://www.foundationforpps.org/ and/or contact FPPS Executive Director Andi Weisman Summers at 207-400-1151 or asummers@foundationforpps.org.


Thank a Teacher!

Join us and Thank a Teacher! We are taking our cancelled annual fundraising event Spring For Teachers online and to the community to show our gratitude, and raise support for our Teacher Grants program.

School staff in Portland (teachers as well as ed techs, librarians, social workers, food services staff, maintenance crews, principals, and others) are going above and beyond in this era of distance learning. Read more

Welcome our new Executive Director, Andrea (Andi) Weisman Summers

Andi comes to us from the Great Schools Partnership where she was Co-Director of Coaching. Great Schools Partnership is a national non-profit that supports public school improvement and innovation. Prior to that, she worked as a bilingual immigration advocate at the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) for over six years. Andi’s other career experience  includes working as a teacher for ten years in Maine, Costa Rica, and Peru. She’s been a Portland resident for over 20 years, and her daughter has attended Portland Public Schools since kindergarten.

Andi’s background and experience make her uniquely qualified to lead us during this challenging time and beyond. Andi is connecting remotely with our team to ensure she gets up to speed quickly and thoroughly. We are proud to have her at the helm. Please feel free to reach out to her directly if you have any questions, ideas, or would like to say hello: asummers@foundationforpps.org

Spring for Teachers 2020: Postponed

UPDATE: Spring for Teachers 2020 POSTPONED Like so many other organizations in our community, we are postponing our “Spring for Teachers 2020” fundraiser.  No specific new date has been scheduled at this time. We are taking our direction from the City of Portland and the CDC to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Tickets to […]