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

While I want to jump right into an update on our strategic planning process, my head and heart are still processing the devastation of the shootings in Lewiston. I hope everyone in our community has had the opportunity to check in on their loved ones, hug their kids and take a breath.

The Portland Public Schools lost a community member in the tragedy. I would like to express my deep sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Joshua Seal, a member of Maine’s Deaf community, a former educational technician at East End Community School and also a PPS parent. Joshua, who died in the Oct. 25 shootings, was a much loved member of the PPS family.

This month, we launched our strategic planning process with a Strategic Plan Steering Committee – a diverse, citywide group of stakeholders that includes a student, alumnus, religious leader, parents, nonprofit leaders, educators, school and district leaders, and members of our Board of Public Education. Over the next four months, this group will come together to identify five-year goals and identify priorities and initiatives that the district will deliver on to achieve the goals.

As members of our district draft the strategic plan and the steering committee provides guidance and input, there also will be opportunities for community members to continue to provide input. In January and February, we will hold focus groups across the city. These groups will help us refine the strategic plan and lead to a final plan reviewed with the board in March, at the same time we present the superintendent’s budget.

November is a time for the Portland Public Schools to celebrate. On Nov. 4, the Portland High School boys’ cross country team won the state title for the first time in 45 years, when the Bulldogs held off Scarborough in the Class A state championship meet. Then, on Nov. 7, the Deering High School boys’ soccer team won the Class A South boys’ soccer championship game. It was the first time the Rams played in a regional final match since 1999. Next, this past Saturday, the Portland High football team won the Class A North football championship. The Bulldogs now will face Thornton Academy in the state championship game on Nov. 18 at Fitzpatrick Stadium. I am tremendously proud of all that the Bulldogs and Rams have accomplished.

November is National Family Literacy Month, an opportunity for families to read and learn together. Find some resources for schools and families as we celebrate this month at readwritethink.org.

November also is a time of parent-teacher conferences – an opportunity for parents and teachers to discuss students’ academic development, how teachers and schools are supporting them and how parents can support them at home.

Thank you to everyone involved in these conferences, ranging from teachers to parents. Special thanks goes to our Multilingual Center staff for their vital role in making sure all families are able to have productive and understandable meetings with their students’ teachers. In our district, 43% of our students come from a family that speaks a language other than English at home, so many parent-teacher conferences require interpreters. The work puts many demands on our language access staff, but they love to see multilingual families connect and be able to understand how their students are doing and how to support them.

Nov. 7 was Election Day. Welcome to District 5 representative Sarah Brydon, reelected to another term on our school board, as well as new District 4 board member Fatuma Noor and new at-large member Usira Ali. The inauguration ceremony will be at 5 p.m. Dec. 5 at Casco Bay High School.

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