The start of the new year and the upcoming budget make this a good time to give you an update on where we are in the process of developing our strategic plan. This five-year plan will help ensure that we continue to offer the quality education all Portland students deserve.

We’ve been actively engaged in this planning process since this past summer. First, a wide variety of Portland Public Schools stakeholders provided feedback on our district’s strengths and challenges via a survey, listening sessions and interviews. Also, we partnered with Attuned – a national leader in supporting school districts with strategic planning – to create a summary of our key strengths and challenges based on the stakeholder input, performance data review, site visits and instructional artifacts. Next, PPS leaders worked to identify five priorities to respond to these key challenges and opportunities, along with other challenges identified through our analysis.

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

Those five priorities are:

• Equity (keeping equity at the center)

• Achievement (enhancing academic excellence and equity)

• Whole student (cultivating inclusivity and belonging)


• People (developing staff, leaders and organizational culture)

• Systems (streamlining operations for equity, efficiency and accountability)

We have developed a draft set of initiatives that are aligned to each priority, and are in the process of prioritizing and sequencing multi-year initiatives to pursue our priorities.

This month and next, we’re holding focus groups to get their insight on these initiatives, and we’re also asking the general community for feedback through an online survey at

The next phase of our process is ensuring that our 2024-25 budget is aligned to and supports the work of the strategic plan. This budget will be particularly challenging, because we face a significant financial cliff from the end of about $9 million in federal COVID relief funds and a potential decrease in state funding as a result of rising property valuations in Portland. We also will have additional expenses due to inflation and the rising costs of goods and salaries.

Please mark your calendars for the Board of Public Education’s hybrid meeting on Feb. 6, when we’ll hold a budget public forum to get your input as the budget process gets underway.


I’ll conclude my column for this cold month of January with heartwarming news about some amazing student-led public service initiatives. These initiatives are funded by Painting for a Purpose, a local nonprofit that raises money to fund service-learning projects by PPS students who want to make a difference. Students can receive grants of up to $500.

The wide variety of projects Painting for a Purpose has funded so far this school year include “Culture Houses” at King Middle School. This project will highlight the culturally diverse student body and also provide beautiful, functional homes for birds on campus. Students will have an opportunity to construct and decorate the bird “Culture Houses” with scenes that represent the wide range of cultural backgrounds at King.

Also funded was the “Give Them the Boot” project led by students at the Portland Arts and Technology High School. The students are building an inventory of new, high-quality work boots for students who cannot afford their own safety boots for trade classes.

At the elementary level, students in teacher Leigh Quigley’s fourth grade class won funding for a “Poetry and Photography” project that entails writing poetry and working with a photographer to depict the faces of the student body and express that everyone belongs and is important.

Read more about these and other student-led projects on our website at

I wish everyone a happy and productive 2024.

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