Did you know that Portland Public Schools recently received a School of the Year award for environmental learning? Or that two Casco Bay High School students won highly competitive 2024 Maine Literary Awards? Or that one of our custodians is an accomplished artist whose duck painting took the top prize in Maine’s 2024 Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Art Contest?

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

We’re proud of all the many accomplishments of PPS students, staff and the district during the 2023-2024 school year. As we end the year, I want to highlight a few recent accolades you may not be aware of.

For example, in May, the Maine Environmental Education Association recognized Portland Public Schools as School of the Year for helping students develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues. Because this work is district-wide, led by our Environmental Literacy Coordinator Katie West, the award went to the entire district instead of just one school.

Also in May, Portland Public Schools received a District of Distinction Gold Level award at the Northeast Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Leadership Forum for the district’s PBIS implementation efforts. PBIS is an evidence-based framework for supporting students’ behavioral, academic, social, emotional and mental health. Joanna Frankel and Chris Reiger, our elementary and secondary directors of culture and climate, respectively, and Jessie McCallum, social emotional learning coach at Reiche Community School, presented our district’s PBIS work at the forum.

Two Casco Bay High School students are winners in the youth competition of the 2024 Maine Literary Awards administered by the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. Ninth-grader Avery Olson won the youth fiction category with “Memories.” Sophie Kilbrith, an 11th grader, won the youth nonfiction award for “Nobody’s Perfect, But Some Like It That Way.” Also, their English teacher, Rebecca Turkewitz, was a finalist in the adult fiction category for her book titled “Here in the Night.”

Julia Marquardt-Luesma, a Casco Bay High School senior in the commercial art program at the Portland Arts and Technology High School, recently won the gold medal in the State Pin Design Competition at the 2024 Maine SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Conference. SkillsUSA is a national career and technical education organization. The pin, featuring a lobster and buoy, will be proudly worn by the Maine student delegation at the SkillsUSA national conference in Atlanta later this month.


Recent accomplishments of Portland Public Schools staff include that of Michael Loring, lead custodian at Presumpscot Elementary School, who won Maine’s 2024 Migratory Waterfowl Stamp Art Contest. Loring’s painting of a harlequin duck was chosen from among 13 entries. This is his second win in the annual contest. Duck stamps are collectors’ items that raise funds to manage and conserve waterfowl in Maine.

In May, Deering High School Administrative Secretary Liana Littig won a Recognizing Inspiring School Employees Award for the extraordinary contributions she has made to students, her school and community. The RISE Award, which was passed by Congress in 2019, honors classified employees in the education workforce who provide exemplary service. Littig, who is proficient in Portuguese and Spanish, is particularly helpful in supporting Deering’s multilingual families. She will be one of two Maine 2024 RISE Award state honorees to represent Maine for consideration for the national RISE Award.

Also in May, PPS Educational Technician Jennifer Cooper won the Maine Education Association’s 2024 Joan McGovern Education Support Professional Award. Cooper, president of the union representing our ed techs, was recognized for her outstanding accomplishments and significant contributions to public education. Cooper now is Maine’s nominee for the National Education Support Professional.

Congratulations to these staff and students for finishing this school year with well-earned distinction.

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