Ryan Scallon is superintendent of Portland Public Schools. He can be reached at superintendent@portlandschools.org.

As the new superintendent of Portland Public Schools, I’m excited to welcome students back to school. Students in grades 1-12 return Sept. 6, followed by our pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students on Sept. 7. I look forward to our students showing up for day one – but also for every day of the school year. We have a lot to offer at PPS, and I don’t want anyone to miss out.

September is National Attendance Awareness Month. Students who miss two or more days during this crucial first month of school are significantly more likely to be chronically absent for the entire year, putting them at risk for falling behind in reading, failing middle school and dropping out of high school.

By contrast, students who attend regularly are more likely to graduate. That’s because they’re able to fully benefit from all that PPS has to help them succeed.

For example, we have incredible teachers. Five of our current educators are either former Maine Teachers of the Year or Cumberland County Teachers of the year, or both. East End Community School teacher Joshua Chard is the latest to win recognition. He’s the 2023 Cumberland County Teacher of the Year and a semifinalist for 2024 Maine Teacher of the Year. In addition, Portland Adult Education English as a Second Language teacher Shoshana Hoose recently won the Outstanding Teacher Award from the Maine Adult Education Association.

They’re among our many quality teachers providing excellent teaching and learning in such areas as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), humanities and English language arts, and music and the arts.

Examples of innovative STEM teaching and learning this past school year included the launch of our new PPS Mobile Makerspace, a mobile science lab that travels to our elementary schools to provide hands-on STEM learning opportunities for students; seventh-graders at King Middle School participating in an Exploring the Science of Seaweed Farming program, involving real-time data collection and analysis by students growing and studying Maine seaweed; and Portland High School physics students developing research skills through student-led investigations on friction.


Teaching and learning in humanities and English language arts over the past school year included a new third-grade book club at East End Community School that helped students strengthen their literacy skills while enjoying discussing books just like grown-ups do; a Wabanaki Studies unit at Lyman Moore Middle School focusing on residential boarding schools for Indigenous children, in which Moore students learned about colonization, language loss and cultural genocide; and a week-long elective at Casco Bay High School to help students explore teaching as a profession. It was taught by CBHS humanities teacher Matt Bernstein – the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year.

Music opportunities include a PPS High School Orchestra whose public performances include playing twice each year at official U.S. citizenship ceremonies. Our talented student artists enjoy a variety of opportunities to showcase their work, including at the Portland Museum of Art’s special Youth Art Month annual exhibition each March and at the PPS Student Art Show at City Hall each May.

We also offer challenging athletic opportunities – congratulations to the PHS boys’ basketball team making it to the Class AA State Final this spring. We have many co-curricular clubs and activities, including Deering High School’s trivia team, the third-place winner at the Maine State Quiz Bowl Championship in March.

Additionally, we have a nationally-recognized outdoor learning program that creates new opportunities for all students to learn in the natural environment.

I could go on, but my main message is that students need to be in school every day to gain from these opportunities. See you in September – in school.

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