Dorothy Black Nathan DiSalvo
Noah Charpentier Olivia Handy
Justin Coe Jason Jagoda
Hallee Corley Veronica Kandro
Thomas Currier Nathan Lavoy
Grace Darby Justin Renk
Lila Deloronde Bryce Wiekrykas
|Superintendent of Schools||
Portland Band Preparing for the BIG E Parade
Dorothy Black Nathan DiSalvo
Noah Charpentier Olivia Handy
Justin Coe Jason Jagoda
Hallee Corley Veronica Kandro
Thomas Currier Nathan Lavoy
Grace Darby Justin Renk
Lila Deloronde Bryce Wiekrykas
A busy month of January has come to a close. Most importantly, the Board of Education has unanimously adopted my recommended 4.46 % increase budget for the 2020-2021 school year. Members spent multiple meetings combing over the details while posing many probing questions as they deliberated together. As defined in Connecticut General Statute 10-222, this proposed education budget represents an “itemized estimate of expenses” for operating our schools in the coming year. This is the largest request to the town during my six-year tenure as your superintendent of schools, but clearly the most consequential. Over five year, our Town-approved budgets are as list below:
As we move into a new decade of teaching and learning in our school district, and as we transition to a new superintendent of schools, this budget sustains previous critical priorities including funding for ongoing curricular updates in all teaching and learning areas and Chrome book replacements for our highly successful one-to one technology initiative in grades five through twelve. Perhaps more importantly, this budget also represents an investment in enhanced programming for our students with special education needs, including the establishment of district-based therapeutic programming for students with severe behavioral and social/emotional needs at the elementary level. As promised, this budget restores both the grade five teaching position at Brownstone Intermediate School and the sixth section of both kindergarten and grade one at Valley View School. As you recall, these positions were eliminated as we faced budget challenges in our previous two budget cycles.
This budget introduces funding for a .5FTE English Language Learner (ELL) teacher in an effort to provide program enhancements and explicit instruction for our expanding population of children whose primary language is other than English. In addition, I am budgeting for much-needed paraprofessionals support at all our schools for our growing population of students who require more one-to one academic and behavioral support as identified in their IEPs and to address the specialized needs of our students attending one of our newer district special education programs.
While we have reduced our technology personnel in the current FY 19-20 budget, this proposed budget continues our investment in technology and addresses the recommendations outlined in our technology plan and technology replacement cycle approved by the Board of Education last year. More specifically, we are continuing our efforts to replace our long-outdated servers and WIFI access points at both Brownstone Intermediate and Gildersleeve School and we are replacing desktop computers in our computer labs for secondary programming that require such devices.
As in the past, we will continue to budget for necessary maintenance projects in all our schools such as ongoing HVAC repairs and numerous maintenance and service contracts. More significantly, this budget contains funding for a comprehensive facilities and assessment report as endorsed by the Board at our December meeting.
As I complete my tenure as your Superintendent of Schools in June of 2020 and now complete my final budget process, I will continue to request funding initiatives that are required by the Connecticut State Department of Education. Additionally, I will strive to fund the outstanding programs currently in place throughout our schools. Finally, as I have throughout my duration in Portland, I will continue my long-standing effort to look to the future with an eye on investing in programming for students with exceptional needs that require specialized programming and services. Meeting these growing needs must remain a priority!
Monday, January 6, 2020
Dear Parents and Community:
Tomorrow, Tuesday, January 7, 2020, the Portland Board of Education will begin their new school budget deliberation process. Board members have been given a copy of The Superintendent’s Proposed 2020-2021 Budget. Deliberations and discussions will begin tomorrow evening and continue on January 14th, January 16th and January 21st. All of our meetings are at 7:00 PM in the PHS library.
I urge you to participate in the process and to remain engaged with this important process through Town Referendum. If you would like me to meet with you or with any community or neighborhood group about what is proposed, please reach out to me. I am happy to share what has been proposed and ultimately approved by the Board of Education as we prepare to go to the Board of Selectmen in March and April and to Town Referendum on Monday, May 11, 2020.
On Tuesday, December 10, 2019, two Portland High School seniors were honored at the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents’ annual awards ceremony. Caden Charpentier and Olivia Runte were selected by Portland Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Philip B. O’Reilly for their leadership at PHS, academic achievement and service to others in the community. They were invited, along with their parents, to a luncheon awards ceremony at the Saybrook Point Inn where they were joined by Dr. O’Reilly and PHS principal, Kathryn Lawson.
Caden Charpentier is a scholastic and athletic leader at PHS. As a member of the varsity soccer and basketball teams, Caden leads the teams in defensive skills and school pride. Academically, he is a member of the National Honor Society and has been recognized for Academic Excellence in English and Civics. He is an incredibly compassionate young man who volunteers his time with Unified Sports, supporting all athletes, and to the Class Act Club, promoting good sportsmanship. In his free time, Caden tutors elementary school students, referees recreational youth soccer and works as an umpire for Little League baseball.
Olivia Runte is academically among the top of the senior class and is President of the Student Senate, where she leads her peers to help make PHS a better place. Olivia is one of the student representatives to the Portland Board of Education and represents student interests. Olivia is the recipient of the Yale Book Award, the Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Humanities and Social Sciences Award from the University of Rochester, and PHS awards for Academic Excellence in Anatomy and Physiology and advanced Chemistry. She attended Girls State and was the PHS nominee for the Governor’s Scholar award.
I recently read the December 12th article published in the CT Examiner entitled, Few Rules, Little Oversight for 11 Million Open Choice Program. I was astonished by two assertions raised in this article: First, the suggestion that funding used to supplement limited resources that support teaching and learning is a "slush fund" and not subjected to rigorous accounting procedures and oversight is entirely inaccurate. Second, the suggestion that a program designed to reduce the racial, ethnic, and economic isolation in Connecticut Public Schools is not having a positive influence on student learning is misguided and does not reflect the reality that I know. The perceptions set forth by CT Examiner reporter Julia Werth in this exposé are simply wrong, and anyone who frequents our schools, attends our Board of Education meetings, reviews student data, examines audit reports, or meets with teachers and principals would see and hear of the unmistakable successes that feature the actual story about Open Choice in Portland and undoubtedly throughout the Hartford region.
The Sheff v. O'Neill decision set forth by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1996, upheld the opinion that educational opportunity was fundamentally impaired by racial and economic isolation in our state. Equity of opportunity drove the creation of our Open Choice districts more than two decades ago, and it drives the collective efforts of so many engaged in our schools today. As the sitting superintendent of schools in Portland, I can attest to the reality that operationalizing this court decision and subsequent legislation is demanding, fraught with plenty of inherent challenges and sinister detractors. However, I am moved daily by the unmistakable truth embodied in the painstaking work, driving passion, and tireless commitment of Portland educators who make the Open Choice Program a success for all our students.
The actual story that must be reported, one based on fact, is our success. Program success can be found at our annual Honors Society induction ceremony, our ongoing musical and theatre productions, three seasons of sporting events, and ultimately on the graduation dais each year. This success is embodied in our teachers, who read literature and attend countless hours of in-service so that they can learn more about the teaching and learning needs of a more diverse student body and to better understand such complex issues as implicit bias and trauma informed instruction. That success is personified in the compassionate work of our staff who travel the extra mile to visit sick children and grieving families or the efforts of our middle school principal who traveled to Hartford one day a week last summer to meet incoming students and families as intensive efforts to build strong relationships with our Hartford parents continue. It is unmistakable in our desire to enhance our curriculum by making learning real and culturally relevant for our students. For instance, we welcomed Deacon Arthur Miller to our high school both last year and this year to meet with English classes so that he could share his unique perspective of the1955 Emmett Till murder case, the ramifications for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and the case’s enduring influence in today’s era. It is unwavering in our determination to support all students by running after school homework clubs staffed numerous afternoons each week. It is typified in our willingness and commitment to provide transportation to and from events such as school-wide dances, concerts, plays and student Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meetings. Our success is uniquely expressed in the efforts of our teachers who provide endless interventions and constant progress monitoring in both math and reading so that we can be sure that all our students are experiencing at least one year’s academic growth each year. Finally, and most extraordinarily, our accomplishments, while difficult to measure, can be found in the strong relationships that are formed between our students and their teachers and counselors as they navigate the many social and emotional challenges that are inherent in our world today. These successes, both in and out of the classroom exemplify the real Open Choice story.
The argument that there is no oversight of these funds is erroneous and misinformed. Annually, a State Single Audit is required for the Town of Portland due to the Town’s spending of state financial assistance. Since June of 2013, the Open Choice Program has met the criteria for it to be selected for programmatic testing by our independent auditors. Portland’s independent auditors have given our Open Choice program an “unmodified ‘clean’ opinion on compliance” with “no deficiencies or material weaknesses” as reported in the last six years’ public state single audit annual reports. Furthermore, a review of public budget documents, and Board of Education minutes, would support my assertion that everything we do is public and every public Open Choice dollar we spend is directed toward the academic, social and emotional needs of all our students, both Portland and Hartford residents! Our Open Choice money is not a “slush fund” for superintendents but a much-needed resource that district leaders and Boards of Education direct toward the greatest areas of need. In fact, at a recent Portland BOE meeting in November, BOE members directed Open Choice funds toward the funding of a special education tutor and at our December meeting unanimously approved Open Choice funds for a halftime certified English language learner (ELL) teacher.
Martin Luther King once remarked, "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." Throwing proverbial bombs on the well-intentioned work of thousands of Connecticut educators is senseless, as we are the impassioned souls “walking the talk” and trying to make a real difference for our communities and for our state. Our next steps must not come from those looking from the outside in; those who are making public judgments grounded in resentment and distortions of the truth that totally mislead the public. The real work occurs inside each of our school districts as we strive to provide an open and inclusive learning environment for all our students, those who reside locally and those who reside in Hartford. Helping our communities embrace the ideals that set the framework of the Open Choice Program must continue. Truly embedding diverse perspectives across all aspects of teaching and learning so that we can do our part to close the ever-present achievement gap in our state must also endure. This is what ultimately drives our work in Portland and this is how we direct our Open Choice funding year after year. I appeal to the greater public to continue to support us in this noble pursuit and I urge those critically targeting our work to look more closely at our efforts and our results.
Philip B, O’Reilly, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools, Portland
Happy Portland Fair Weekend!
With the summer behind us, the school year is now in full swing.
During our first few weeks of school, teachers in all departments, worked diligently to better understand our students’ learning “next steps.” As you may well know, this process involves reviewing student performance on assessments from last year, including previous grades, performance on standardized assessments, a review of cumulative folders, and feedback from teachers and administrators who worked with the students last year. The process also involves administering in-class assessments. We are mindful of the need to limit assessments for our students and for several years now, endeavored to only use assessments that help us learn more about our students. Toward that end, we have created a Pre-k12 assessment calendar that clearly outlines our assessments at each grade level. The Portland Assessment calendar is a working document and annually we make changes to those assessments we do administer as we learn more about what is both practical and beneficial for instructional planning. As a matter of fact, this year, we are implementing a new screening tool for all students in grades K-8 called the aimswebPlus. This new assessment screens and monitors the reading skills of K-8 student and is administered to our older students via chrome books. To learn more about aimswebPlus, please click – aimswebPlus or reach out to your child’s building principal. The results from all of our baseline assessment will help us plan class instruction and adjust our curriculum to better meet the learning needs of each student.
In addition to our baseline assessments, we have also received reports for each student in grades 4-9 from the Connecticut State Department of Education. The reports provide feedback to students and parents on each student’s performance on the Smarter Balanced assessment that was administered in grades 3-8. Parents and students will begin receiving these reports this week. Our high school students in grades 9-11 took the PSAT last year. Those reports and personalized learning inventories aligned to the reports are available online from the College Board and Kahn Academy. Our seniors can also view their performance on the SAT in Naviance, and through the College Board. Parents or students of high school and middle school students who would like assistance interpreting the results from the Smarter Balanced assessment, the PSAT, or the SAT are welcome to contact the counselors at Portland High School and Portland Middle School. Parents and students at Gildersleeve Elementary School and Browntone Intermediate School who would like assistance interpreting the results of the Smarter Balanced assessment are welcome to contact teachers or the building principals.
Recently, the Portland Board of Education adopted the 2019-20 Portland District Teaching and Learning Priorities. Please see these on my main page. 2019-2020 Teaching and Learning Priorities
Over the coming weeks and months, parents and community stakeholders will be invited to participate in the process of selecting the next Superintendent of the Portland Public Schools, and in the development of a PreK-12 Vision of the Graduate. Please keep an eye out for notices from me regarding opportunities to contribute your ideas, suggestions, and insights into this important long range planning process.
This week, Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Tuesday evening and continues through the day on Wednesday. This is the holiest of days in the Jewish religion and is a time of solemn repentance. To all those recognizing this day, I extend my warmest wishes for an easy fast. Good Yuntif.
Philip O’Reilly, Ed.D
Superintendent, Portland Public Schools
Many thanks to the members of the Hemlock Grange #182 0f Portland who today made their annual visit to Gildersleeve School in order to deliver a gift dictionary to all grade three students. THANK YOU Hemlock GRANGE # 182 MEMBERS!
The Portland Board of Education includes two non-voting student representatives who serve in an advisory capacity to represent the interests of students in the Portland Public Schools, particularly Portland High School. These student board members represent their peers by communicating student opinions to the BOE and reporting Board deliberations and actions to the student body through the Student Senate.
I am delighted that Olivia Runte (2020) and Justin Renk (2021) are serving this important role during the 2019-2020 school year. Olivia and Justin are wonderful student advocates and their leadership skills on the BOE are quite evident!
In response to the potential increase in Eastern Equine Encephalitis disease carrying mosquitoes, Portland Public Schools is joining many other school districts in the region in limiting outdoor activities after dusk. The following precautions will be in place as of Wednesday, September 18, 2019 and will remain until the first hard frost.
In addition, our students were scheduled to attend a field trip to Hammonassett Beach State Park tomorrow. Out of an abundance of caution, we are going to postpone the field trip until October 30th due to guidelines recently released by the Connecticut Department of Public Health. The language in the letter states, “The DPH advises against unnecessary trips into mosquito breeding grounds and marshes as the mosquitoes that transmit the EEE virus are associated with freshwater swamps and are most active at dusk and dawn.”
While no other field trips are being rescheduled at this time, future action may be necessary depending on weather conditions such as a hard frost in our region.
Chatham Health District is recommending that residents take the following steps to prevent diseases transmitted by mosquitos:
Thank you for understanding our response to the guidance from the Connecticut Department of Health.
Superintendent Philip O'Reilly invites parents, students, and community members to comment.