Principal Palmer Response to PPH

Community Letter August 19th, 2019

Dear Deering Community,

By now most of you have probably seen the Press Herald article about the atypically small cohort of rising freshmen coming to Deering this fall.

While these enrollment numbers fluctuate for all the high schools over time, Deering has in recent years been the school that has received the most freshman. In the 2017-2018 year, for instance, we had approximately 220 ninth-grade students.

So what happened? Simply put, a series of upsetting incidents in the fall of 2018 set up a negative feedback loop that took root, spurring some outlandish rumors, all of which affected the numbers. Other issues, like the facilities study or trying to align grading practices to the district’s proficiency work, that would not have been as big an issue by themselves, likely had a more amplified effect once the negative feedback loop was established.

What has gotten lost is the terrific work our students and staff actually accomplished last year. Yes, we had a bad week coupled with some other incidents during the year, as is the case with most high schools, but we had many more good weeks. Deering provides an outstanding education to 900 students year after year. We serve the most diverse high school student body in New England north of Boston which, research confirms, gives all our students a learning advantage. The high school has been recognized for our efforts to expand Advanced Placement Programming​ for all students (search How A Portland School Is Getting More Minority Students Enrolled In AP Classes, Maine Public). We have the largest number of students of any high school in the region taking college and university dual enrollment classes while Deering’s talented students excel in the arts and athletics. We have state championship debaters, the State of Maine Poetry Out Loud champion, another championship in Nordic skiing, and a recent winner in the Maine App Challenge, just to name a few highlights. Deering hosts the wonderful Best of Both Worlds show, and we started a wildly popular drag show​ (search, At Deering, a drag show gets everyone on their feet, Press Herald) using the proceeds to support suicide prevention and other important causes. None of this reality comes through in the recent Press Herald article.

We are laser-focused on this year and making sure we have positioned Deering for a strong 2019-2020 and beyond. Let us all join together as a community to support our school and the incredible students who attend every day. In fact, this has already started, with messages of support and Deering pride being sent from alumni, students, parents, and staff since the publication of this article.

I am so proud of Deering High School. It's an honor to walk through its doors each morning and greet our students and to watch the important work staff does to support the success of every learner.

Together with the administrative team I am committed to the leadership and work that, when we reach the end of this school year, will set aside doubts and will have the Deering community standing proudly united.

Sincerely, Gregg Palmer