Essay Project 2021: The Power of Portland Schools
By Emily Hill
The bustling halls and loud calls are a memory we all have from our days in school. We remember the people, the events, the fun, the coming together as one. The Portland community has no shortage of memories like that, people from all over the community come when we have sporting events, the Day of Music, or fundraisers. 4 years ago we brought in a new key figure to our community, our superintendent, Mr. Heath. His story of being welcomed into the schools and community is one you'll want to hear.
The Portland School District has a fascinating history. The first school was built in 1881, “facing Brush Street between Elm and Maple Streets.” (Neese, 83). Neese’s book, talks about how the original school could house all grades except for first and second. Later an additional was built on allowing all children in Portland Public School children to attend there (Neese, 83). The building however was caught on fire on two separate occasions between the years 1905 and 1918. The Portland Schools in recent history have been through many more changes. The schools have been located in many different places over the years. The current middle school was the high school while from 1953 to 1991 until the current high school was built (DeKorte, 12). The history of the school shows how it has evolved in the community.
“Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings. / Not all things are blest, but the / seeds of all things are blest. / The blessing is in the seed.” (Rukeyser). One of Mr. Heath’s beginning’s happened 5 years ago - he became the superintendent of the Portland Public School District. He has taught at many schools and even “serve[ed] a total of 16 years in the U.S. Navy (5 years on active duty and 11 years as a reservist) as both a P-3 Orion Flight Engineer and leadership instructor.” (Heath).
Mr. Heath has now been an essential part of this community for 5 years now. In his position, he has seen many things that have inspired him. In our interview, he said that his most memorable interaction has been with the students. It shows how the Schools can affect just one single person in the community. When talking about the Portland High School’s impact on the community as a whole he believes that the football games are some of the shining moments of the community coming together. The Portland Public School District from these two key examples has an outlasting impact on the community and its individuals.
The bustling halls and loud calls have had an impact on one very important individual in our community, Mr. Heath. The schools are a place for people to gather and create memories. They build and grow our community to become the exceptional school distinct it is today.
DeKorte, Heather. “National Register of Historic Places Registration Form- Portland High School.” Portland High School, National Park Service, 6 Apr. 2016, https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/16000508.pdf.
Heath, William. “Quick Links.” Superintendent - Portland Public Schools, Portland Public Schools, 10 Aug. 2020, https://www.portlandk12.org/Superintendent.
Neese, Mark D. The Portland Area, 1869-1939. Arcadia Pub., 2005.
Rukeyser, Muriel. “Elegy in Joy [Excerpt] by Muriel Rukeyser - Poems | Academy of American Poets.” Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, 2011, https://poets.org/poem/elegy-joy-excerpt
This essay is part of a writing project by students in Chandra Polasek’s ELA class at Portland High School. The project asked students to focus on elements of their own town while getting students engaged with the community. The essays were written with the intention of being published in The Portland Beacon.