The Portland school district is working to close the academic gap between affluent and non-affluent students, launching new staff training about understanding various cultures, passing policies that condemn hate speech and support Muslim students and staff, and planning to approve a policy protecting the rights of transgender students.

“We strive every day to give this community – its residents, taxpayers, voters and elected officials alike – a grand sense of pride in its public education system,” Board of Education Chairwoman Anna Trevorrow said Monday in the annual State of the Schools address to the City Council.

“It takes a community to ensure that we meet our commitment of preparing our students to succeed in college and career,” she said. “We are deeply grateful to Portland for being that generous and supportive community.”

Trevorrow said standardized test scores show that students from affluent families score on par with surrounding districts, while students from less-affluent families score lower. More than half the student body qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches, a sign of poverty.

“That’s our call to action; that drives everything that we do,” she said, referring to efforts to improve academic results for all students and close that “equity” gap.

The district, she said, is providing cultural competency training for staff, reviewing academic offerings to ensure all students have access to the same learning opportunities such as advanced placement and gifted and talented programs, and analyzing whether classroom resources are culturally responsive. It also started a new teacher training program with the University of Southern Maine to increase the diversity of teaching staff.

Trevorrow also referred to the recent successful bond campaign to renovate four elementary schools, which she described as a “contentious” issue for the community.

“With Election Day behind us, it is now our duty to honor the voters’ decision and to move forward in a fashion of togetherness,” she said. “I pledge that the district and the school board will be good stewards of these projects and work hand-in-hand with the city and the public to fulfill the will of the voters.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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