Rick Carter's Board of Education Inauguration Speech

 

Board of Education Inauguration

December 3, 2012

 

I would like to thank everyone for coming out today for the inauguration. I especially want to thank the board for their confidence in electing me to serve as their chair.

My next thanks are to Tap Fitzgerald, our outgoing chairman. Tap has done an outstanding job this past year guiding us through what seems like a never ending series of difficult budget years. His soft spoken, easy going demeanor has served the board well. Again, thank you Tap.

This will be my ninth year as a school board member. Over that time I have attended hundreds of meetings, performances, and events. But over that time three days a year have become most special to me.

The first is each year the school department has a breakfast on the first staff day back from summer break. The entire staff meets at South Portland High School for breakfast and then a presentation in the auditorium. To visit with and witness the incredible talent we have at all levels gives me great pride as a school board member, gives me thanks as a parent when my sons were in school and still now that they’re not, and gives me hope for the future of all of our kids in South Portland.

The second day I look forward to is in the spring the South Portland Teachers Association has its annual retirement celebration. Here retiring teachers are recognized and honored. Some I have known as teachers of my sons, to whom I give special thanks, while others I may be meeting for the first time. In either case, to be in the room with teachers who have dedicated their lives to educating and improving the lives of thousands of children over the years is humbling.

The third day is South Portland High School graduation. It is the day that we, as students, parents, families, teachers, and community celebrate education. We recognize and honor the hard work, dedication, commitment and spirit that our kids have given over their year in our schools. We cry with sadness that they are leaving and pride that they are going forward, all the time knowing we have prepared them for success.

These three days have become very important to me. Individually they represent the beginning and end of a person’s education story in South Portland with the beginning of school to graduation for students or retirement for teachers. Collectively they represent a commitment to excellence in education.

As I said earlier, this will be my ninth year as a school board member and in that time I have witnessed tremendous challenge, change and growth. Before I joined the board, in 2001, with citizens backing, South Portland built or renovated our elementary schools. Also with citizen backing we are currently undergoing a complete renovation of South Portland High School. Both votes exemplify the strong support South Portland has always given its schools.

But beyond the facilities, we have pushed education reform to address the various needs of different students. We have stressed the importance of rigor, relevance, and relationships. We know as educators and parents that if kids are challenged they will meet that challenge. We know as educators and parents that if kids don’t see the relevance of what they are being taught they will tune out. We know as educators and parents that a child will thrive when they have a positive relationship with an adult at school, whether it is a teacher, an ed tech, or a bus driver.

We must ensure that we have the right people in place to do the job, that we have the right infrastructure, and that we have the right educational practice in place to ensure each student’s success. And I believe that we do. Our improvements in facilities, staff and programming have not gone unnoticed. For example, our elementary school population has increased from 1343 in 2001 to 1543 in 2012, a 15% increase. This increase is a result of all of the hard work that has taken place over the past decade. I couldn’t be prouder that South Portland is once again the school system where parents want their kids. We have become an education destination. But we can’t stop there. We must continue to improve. We must strive for the success of all students. We must work together as board members, educators, parents, city officials and community, for there is nothing that we do as a society that is more important than educating our children.

Thank you.

Rick Carter, Board Chair