PORTLAND – Holding teachers accountable is a necessary part of professional development, the city’s new superintendent said Wednesday at Reiche Elementary School.

Emmanuel Caulk shared his thoughts at the first of seven “Listening & Learning” sessions scheduled in September and October throughout Portland schools.

Caulk, who asked to be called “Manny,” said he also believes that people should try every day “to be better than you were.”

“I believe in leadership and accountability,” Caulk said. “No one has higher expectations of me than myself.”

About 20 parents, teachers and community members attended the informal meeting at the West End neighborhood school.

Caulk, 40, grew up in public housing in Wilmington, Del. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Delaware and a law degree from Widener University School of Law in Delaware. He is working on a doctorate from National Louis University in Chicago.

For the last three years, Caulk was an assistant superintendent in Philadelphia, overseeing 36 public schools with 16,000 students, more than twice the 7,000 students in Portland.

Before that, he was an assistant superintendent of 15 public high schools in East Baton Rouge, La., and a leadership coach and administrator in Chicago public schools.

Caulk’s three-year contract in Portland provides a $137,500 annual salary and offers 5 percent merit pay increases in the second and third years if he meets certain goals for improving “teaching, learning and student outcomes.”

On Wednesday, several people urged Caulk to seek ways to increase educational success in Portland’s immigrant community, for both school-age children and their parents, especially those who speak little English. Students at Reiche speak more than 20 languages.

“There has to be a way of connecting the two — nourishing the parents and nourishing the students,” said Alfred Jacob, a Sudanese immigrant who is a community specialist in the school district’s multilingual program.

Susan Lieberman, whose children attend Hall Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools, pointed out the need to ensure that all students across the district have effective teachers.

Tim Wilson, retired director of the Seeds of Peace International Camp in Otisfield, encouraged Caulk to form partnerships with other agencies that work with Portland’s immigrant community, including Maine Medical Center and the University of Southern Maine.

Wilson also suggested that Caulk should reach out to students to find out what’s working in the district and what should be improved.

Caulk said he plans to hold round-table discussions and town meetings with various groups in the district, including students and citizens who may not have kids in the schools but have talents to share.

Caulk said he wants to learn what’s working and what’s valued in the district — what he called Portland’s “points of pride” — before making decisions. He also wants to foster an atmosphere that promotes personalized learning, teacher flexibility and entrepreneurial education.

“I’d love to see our schools be as great as our city,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]