Closing the Opportunity Gap in Portsmouth Schools

September 26, 2017

We live and work in a special community. Recent open house events at the high school and middle school were wonderful examples of parent engagement and school-community connections. Our students benefit in so many ways from the commitment in this community to excellence in education. Recently the Board and administration took an in-depth look at the performance and participation of students along socioeconomic lines, particularly those students on free or reduced lunch compared to those who are not. What we found was students on free and reduced lunch were considerably overrepresented when we looked at the group of students who are struggling academically, and significantly underrepresented when we looked at enrollments in our most rigorous coursework and enrichment opportunities.

The School Board has put strategies to close any opportunity and achievement gaps front and center in their goals for 2017-2018. We know these issues are complex, but we also know we are fortunate to live in a community that has the resources and the will to solve important issues. Many efforts already exist to provide support for any student who needs it, whether it be our PTA’s/PTO’s, local businesses, local non-profits, or other generous donors. The Board recognizes these important efforts and is working with administration to create a system to assure any student on free or reduced lunch will have the same access to opportunities within the Portsmouth School Department as a student not on free or reduced lunch.

To accomplish this, the Portsmouth School Department is creating an Educational Opportunity Fund. This fund will be dedicated to supporting access for students on free and reduced lunch to educational opportunities such as running start (early college) courses at PHS, any academic-related fees, educational trip opportunities in all grades, and other school-sponsored enrichment opportunities. We believe closing these gaps is within our collective capacity. Years ago, the late Joe Sawtelle started the Futures Program ( to open access to college for students in need. Almost 30 years later that program still exists to offer guidance and tuition support for eligible PHS students to go to college!

How can you help? Today we wish to call on that same spirit as a community for access to the many educational opportunities our students have. In any educational opportunity that our schools sponsor, we will start including a check box to donate to the Educational Opportunity Fund as well as a contact to access it. To donate to the fund sooner, please make checks payable to the Portsmouth School Department with a note specifying your donation to the Educational Opportunity Fund. Send donations to:

Steve Bartlett, Business Administrator

Portsmouth School Department

1 Junkins Ave, Suite 402

Portsmouth, NH 03801