There is much debate about the creation of a charter school in Portland. Quite simply, Maine already has a charter school for students interested in focusing on math and science. It’s in Limestone.

The implications for Portland public school stakeholders has not been fully considered in this conversation. So, consider this:

Portland High School teaches literacy to students ranging from newcomers (with no literacy in any language) to Advanced Placement Language and Composition. Folks who draw conclusions based solely on SAT results acquired from the Maine state government website misunderstand the successes and challenges we who work at PHS embrace every day.

For nearly 40 percent of our population at PHS, English is the second, third, fourth or fifth language. Even the small percentage of immigrant students who are well educated in their native language struggle to bubble the answer key for the SATs, Maine’s primary measure of high school-age student performance.

A large percentage of this population works hard, learns how to manage the system to their benefit, does well in college-level classes, performs poorly on SATs, but ultimately succeeds in college and life.

Forty-five countries are represented at PHS; we are our own United Nations. We are tolerant, respectful, and we celebrate our differences.

What Dr. Katherine Merseth (“Time to get behind Baxter Academy of Technology and Science,” March 13), Dennis Caron (letter to the editor, March 10) and many other vocal proponents of a charter school in Portland fail to recognize is what isn’t measured by SATs.

About 10 percent of our students in grades nine through 12 participate in our most-advanced math program. These are accelerated students who complete Calculus BC by grade 12 and are going to the most selective colleges in the country.

Offering the highest achieving students from PHS — who often come from the most affluent families — their own local math and science charter school does nothing to address the challenge of how to help an “underperforming high school.”

Our goal cannot be to homogenize students by ability level, creating yet another school for the elite, and leave learning other important values of citizenship and humanity behind — important values that elude many affluent schools in southern Maine.

The irony is that when Greely High School alumni were surveyed (during my employment there from 1999 to 2004) about their preparation for life after high school, they highlighted the need for more exposure to diverse cultures. The surveys revealed that students were not prepared to study and work within highly diverse environments.

Students who graduate from PHS go anywhere in the world and feel comfortable. This preparation is what we currently provide. Because of the breadth of our population and because of the expectations set by teachers, counselors, administrators and other students, PHS teaches kids an intercultural competence that is undervalued locally, but in such demand worldwide.

Admittedly, we can do better. Portland and Deering high schools are undergoing a transformation.

A recent Pathways to Success grant will allow us to articulate pathways for students based on their career goals.

Guidance offices at both high schools have been reorganized, and with the help of Jobs for Maine Graduates we will mobilize students into work-based learning environments. This is important work that will require the entire community to participate.

Merseth should read the research of her colleagues at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “Pathways To Prosperity,” for insight into how to improve student performance. That would be more productive than criticizing our school based only on a narrow set of data, then recklessly recommending stripping students and funding from a 192-year-old institution.

If Caron and others who are critical would volunteer time helping out students with job shadowing, internships or by becoming a mentor, they would see what is working well here at PHS.

Then perhaps they would not find it necessary to undermine the hard work going on all around here at Portland High.

Doug Drew of Portland is guidance director at Portland High School and the parent of two PHS students.