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.
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!