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

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing our schools go from summer quiet to the sounds of classroom setup and now the buzz of students and teachers involved in engaging, joyful and rigorous learning. Thank you to everyone at Portland Public Schools – our food service, IT, transportation, facilities, school and central office teams – for working so hard to ensure a strong start to the school year.

As the essential work of teaching and learning gets underway in our classrooms, our district also is actively engaged in strategic planning efforts to ensure we continue to offer the quality education all Portland students deserve.

As I have shared previously, our strategic plan process this year has three phases: one, listening and learning; two, developing the strategic plan; and three, aligning the budget to the strategic plan.

In partnership with our Board of Public Education, the Foundation for Portland Public Schools, the Portland Chamber of Commerce and many others, I have spent the first three months engaged in a listening and learning tour with the community. Across more than 15 forums, I have heard from over 450 students, staff, community members, business leaders, elected officials and nonprofit partners. Those conversations have left me both excited for the future of our district and challenged to make sure that we have an effective strategic plan to guide our work forward. At the Oct. 3 board meeting, I will provide a high-level overview of the trends from the listen-and-learn phase.

Our strategic plan phase is next. It will be grounded in the listen-and-learn data collected, our district-wide data and surveys community members have completed. Those include surveys from this past school year (e.g., superintendent search) and our current listen-and-learn survey – open until Sept. 22 for everyone in the community to provide input on the work of the district and the upcoming budget.

We are fortunate to partner with Attuned, a national leader in supporting school districts with strategic planning, to assist our process at no cost to the district. At the end of the strategic planning process, we will have outcome-oriented goals for the next five years and a limited number of high-impact strategies to achieve those goals.


However, we won’t achieve our goals if we don’t work collectively as a community. That is why we’re creating a steering committee, made up of Portland Public Schools staff, students and families, as well as nonprofit and business partners, to inform our strategic plan. If you’re interested in being considered as a steering committee member, apply at this link: bit.ly/3LpM9Aw.

We’ll announce the steering committee members at the board’s Oct. 17 meeting. We’ll also seek additional community input on the strategic plan from focus groups in February.

The third phase of our process is ensuring that our budget is aligned to and supports the work of the strategic plan. This will be particularly challenging this year as we anticipate facing a significant financial cliff from the end of federal COVID relief funds and a decreasing percentage of state funding.

I’ll conclude by noting that this is National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), a time to recognize and celebrate Hispanic Americans’ positive influence and contributions to our nation. It’s an opportunity for our schools to promote understanding and appreciation of Hispanic culture. At Deering High School, for example, students watched a video highlighting Hispanic contributions worldwide and Deering High School’s new LatinX Club kicked off its first meeting Sept. 15 in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

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