As we approach the final two week of school, I wish to extend my thanks to the voters of Portland for the continued support of the Portland Public Schools!! The recent outpouring of support for our schools and the acknowledgement of the work we do for Portland’s children has been a spirited boost for all of us in the school system this week. The budget referendum now has passed (by a very large plurality), and I am ready to resume our planning and preparation for the coming school year. I want all to be assured that the district’s leadership team will continue to carefully manage the hard earned tax dollars that are used to support teaching and learning in this great town. Thank you for your continuous support.
As we close out the school year, the Connecticut State Department of Education requires each school district to submit information and data that are used for reports called Performance and Profile reports. Click this link to view previous year’s reports from Portland and other school districts: http://edsight.ct.gov/SASPortal/main.do.
As part of these reports, each school district provides three narratives. The first narrative addresses school improvement and parent outreach efforts; the second narrative documents efforts to reduce racial, ethnic and economic isolation; and the third narrative describes the approach to ensuring the equitable allocation of resources. This afternoon, Portland submitted the narratives for our 2018-19 Performance and Profile report. I have cut and pasted the narrative directions (provided by the Connecticut State Department of Education) and each narrative that we have submitted in the space below and would greatly appreciate your feedback or input on what has been written:
(Connecticut general statute requires at a minimum that school district’s describe efforts and activities in the following areas:
- improving special education programs and services for students with disabilities
- truancy prevention
- engaging families in student learning including:
- Efforts to build staff skills to partner effectively with all families;
- Efforts to engage parents in the planning and improvement of school programs, and
- Activities undertaken to support parents in working at home with their children on learning activities.)
To start the 2018-19 school year, the Portland Public Schools upgraded an existing program and implemented a new program that enhanced the quality of special education services. At Valley View Elementary School, the district added a full-time teacher to the Applied Behavioral Analysis lab. At Portland High School, the district implemented a new therapeutic day program that involves collaboration between the Portland Public Schools and the Wheeler Clinic. Both of these programs enhanced the district’s ability to support students with unique social and emotional learning needs. These programs complement a vast array of support services that enable students with disabilities to meet with success in the least restrictive environment.
The district actively monitors student attendance data and intervenes immediately when patterns of absences suggest a student in on track to miss more than four school days in a month or ten school days in a school year. Schools counselors, administrators, and social workers in each school use the district’s SRBI process to design support plans that promote student attendance. Parents are actively engaged in the process and provided resources and support to promote student attendance. Each school has an active school climate committee that strives to create a positive school climate that is inviting and supportive of all students. One new feature of school climate programming involves the use of restorative practices designed to repair relationships that have been damaged. Restorative practices have begun to replace traditional exclusionary practices such as in-school and out-of-school suspension. The restorative approach has reduced the amount of exclusions from the regular classroom environment, and has promoted the creation of a learning climate that values and promotes positive and healthy relationships.
Each school in the Portland Public Schools provides opportunities for parents to participate in the life of the district through parent teacher organizations, booster clubs, and committees that invite parents to participate in school improvement and school climate initiatives. Parents also serve on hiring committees and have an active role supporting all school improvement initiatives. Parents are kept informed of school events through weekly communications from each building principal. Teachers regularly communicate with parents and keep parents apprised of student performance. This year, a standards-based report card was introduced at Valley View Elementary School and Brownstone Elementary School. The standards-based report cards provide detailed insight into students’ academic skills. A handbook that accompanies each report card offers parents tips and suggestions for how they can support the continuum of instruction that extends from the classroom into the home.
EFFORTS TO REDUCE RACIAL, ETHNIC AND ECONOMIC ISOLATION
(This description should include counts of the students and teachers involved. Describe the progress made over the past three years. Report on:
- Interdistrict magnet schools, charter schools, Open Choice, student exchange programs, and minority educator recruitment.
- Programs and projects designed to reduce racial, ethnic and economic isolation. These may be inter-or intradistrict programs and projects, interdistrict school building projects, technology-based distance learning, or intradistrict magnet schools.
- Inter-or intradistrict choice programs whose purpose is to reduce racial, ethnic and economic isolation. Do not include vocational agriculture programs or students attending schools in the Connecticut Technical High School System.
- Other experiences or activities designed to increase student awareness of the diversity of individuals and cultures.)
During the 2018-19 school year, the Portland Public Schools designed a teacher recruitment and retention plan. A key component of the plan is the recruitment of minority teachers. As part of this effort, the Portland Public Schools partnered with TEACH Connecticut. TEACH Connecticut is a platform designed to guide and inform individuals who aspire to become a Connecticut public school teacher. Portland is a featured community on the TEACH Connecticut platform. Representatives from Portland also participated in a regional minority teacher recruitment fair hosted by the Capitol Region Education Council. Candidates from the minority teacher recruitment fair were prioritized in the teacher selection process. Portland was also awarded a grant to support minority teacher recruitment efforts.
Efforts to expose Portland students to racial, ethnic, and economic diversity are prevalent throughout the district’s academic program. Social justice is a central tenant of academic programming throughout the social studies and English Language Arts curriculum. In social studies, essential questions that articulate themes associated with the struggle for civil rights and challenge associated with injustice and inequity guide inquiry-based discussions during which students are invited to identify the challenges of inequity and injustice, and take informed action to address the inequities and injustice. Through the district’s Readers Workshop program, students are engaged in units designed around the concept of social justice. During these social justice units, students engage in book clubs and independent reading of fiction and non-fiction text that capture the multi-layered causes and outcomes of inequity and injustice.
EQUITABLE ALLOCATION OF RESOURCES AMONG DISTRICT SCHOOLS INSTRUCTIONS
(Describe the process used to allocate district resources in order to ensure that student needs are addressed and that each school receives an equitable share.)
The Portland Public Schools ensures the equitable allocation of resources among district schools through a collaborative budget development process that engages a wide variety of community stakeholders. Each school receives a baseline per pupil expenditure that ensures funds are distributed equitably. Each school and department is also provided the opportunity to advocate for funding to support school improvement initiatives. District leaders, building principals, team leaders, and curriculum specialists work collaboratively to prioritize resources and maximize the benefit of district funds. The funding priorities are then vetted by the Portland Board of Education, and ultimately are subject to community approval through the referendum process.
In addition to the regular budgeting process, supplemental funding through the Perkins Grant, Gildersleeve Wheeler Grant, Ryan Fund, and other grant opportunities are pursued annually. For example, this year, Gildersleeve Grant Funding was used to support the purchase of fiction and non-fiction texts in grades 6-8 to support Readers Workshop programming.