Superintendent’s Notebook: Inviting all Portland Visitors to Parent U — The Forecaster

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As a teacher and father, I know that being a parent is a challenge and a pleasure. It is fantastic to see our children develop, learn and recognize their potential. Nevertheless, it’s challenging to understand how best to direct them in that process.

That’s especially true now, in the time of the smartphone when a lot are experiencing increasing amounts of anxiety and of our youth are hyper-connected, but might struggle with contact skills.

The Portland Public Schools is starting off 2018 to aid parents in helping their children succeed both academically and in life. Parent U is intended to attract caregivers and parents to learn from each other and experts. Through events and free classes that are fun, interactive, and educational, we will focus on trending issues that are important to households.

For instance, in Parent U’s kickoff event on Saturday, Jan. 27, from 1-4 p.m. at Ocean Avenue Elementary School, Columbia University Professor Amy Stuart Wells will speak about the way to create truly integrated public schools that prepare our children for life in the present global society. Portland schools are uniquely positioned to achieve this. I encourage you to come and discuss with Wells and your friends and neighbors.

Future sessions will concentrate on such subjects as how parents can simulate a positive, “development mindset” to assist their children persevere when college becomes hard. Other classes will research how to use artwork to go over sensitive topics and discuss how to increase women — and healthy and resilient boys.

I intend to direct a lunchtime book discussion group in March about increasing “iGen” children, based on Jean Twenge’s novel by that title. As we parents and educators know, texting and social media often take up a major portion of their own lives, and they have contact with friends and loved ones. Twenge indicates that this affects this creation that the rest of us should understand. That is the objective of this discussion group, and I look forward to studying together with all my fellow Portlanders.

Check our Parent U site — — about dates and other particulars on this particular session and others that we are offering.

There’ll be no grades or evaluations at Parent U, and caregivers and parents may attend few, or as many, sessions as they like. Child care and refreshments will be given, and interpretation services are available upon request.

We are deeply grateful for helping fund Parent U, to generous donors. The Maine Community Foundation, People of Color Fund has provided a $7,500 grant; and the Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust has given us $3,000 with this particular project.

We will also be looking to our network partners and our parents to supply knowledge and their experience on specific subjects.

Parent U is a part of our key plans for fulfilling your Portland Promise, our Complete Strategy.

Parents are partners in helping students succeed. Research demonstrates that parents can boost their child’s academic success by being active in their children’s school and community. We want to offer all our families and find out together how to help all of our children succeed.

Parent U ties into our “Equity” goal plan of raising parent participation in our schools. As part of that goal, we strive to reduce gaps in opportunity and achievement between our students and students who don’t possess the exact advantages — due to such variables.

This past year will be the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. It is an amazing time to realize the battle to achieve equity in society remains in these areas as instruction and social justice, and to recall his life and legacy. Throughout Parent U and other initiatives, the Portland Public Schools is trying to come closer to attaining equity in our colleges.

Xavier Botana is currently superintendent of the Portland Public Schools. He can be reached at