Portland Schools Seek Direction
In Portland Schools a recent consolidation bill has officially been penned into legislature. The bill affects the entire state and will reorganize Maine’s 290 school districts into 80 new ones. Now districts in charge of Portland Schools are looking carefully at the choices set before them. Portland Schools are examining partnerships, mergers, and loopholes under the new law. Costs associated with the restructuring are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Many administrators in the Portland Schools have said that the law is too vague, too unreasonable and that enacting the terms it describes will be extremely difficult.
There are a limited number of Maine school districts that will be able to continue on as they are now. If a school district meets the minimum requirement of 2500 enrolled students then it will be permitted to remain intact. No official numbers yet exist on how many Portland Schools will remain intact. These district rearrangements are being made in response to the need for budget tightening. All districts, whether or not they manage to avoid being merged, must have a plan to cut spending. There has been a statewide cut in funding and the ramifications are being felt everywhere.
To add to the confusion and uncertainty, Portland Schools are experiencing a transition in leadership. The Portland Schools are without a permanent superintendent. And they are still trying to find a suitable recruit as the interim superintendent handles the post. While Portland Schools have been given $2 million to fund arts education at the high school level, the uncertainty over the current bill and new leadership make many nervous. Arts teachers in the Portland Schools have emphasized the importance of the arts on academic success for years in vain, and hope the current funds will be well used.
Amidst the turmoil, Portland Schools experienced some good news relating to an ongoing litigation initiated by the janitors of Portland Schools. In 2002, a suit was filed on behalf of the janitors who had lost their jobs when the district decided to contract workers out of Portland Habilitation Center. Portland Schools made the cuts to adhere to new statewide budgeting constrictions. A possible settlement was announced after years of feuding in the court systems. This is a relief to many in the Portland Schools. The proposed deal will offer compensation to almost 300 of the laid-off janitors through a fund that will also cover the costs of their lawyers and legal counsel. Those affected have the opportunity to return to work for Portland Schools, and about half of those involved in the suit have chosen that option.
Portland Schools face a bumpy road ahead due to the uncertainty that new leadership brings. The success or failure ahead rests in large part on the new administration, and what it does with the current budget.