Protect Our Neighborhood Schools is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization of parents, educators, local business leaders, and people across Portland, led by an Advisory Committee and Campaign Director. Contact us at info@ProtectOurNeighbhorhoodSchools.org or 207-408-0295.
Heather Blier, Ph.D., is the owner of Dirigo Consulting, a consulting firm in Portland that works collaboratively with a diverse range of educational teams to bring innovative interventions to better serve individuals who face challenges in their learning, development, social relationships, access to academic or clinical resources, and/or self-regulation of their emotions and behaviors. She specializes in clinical assessment and intervention, placing a special emphasis on research-based practices and applied research in clinical and academic settings. In addition, Heather has extensive training and experience in organizational development, with a focus on helping agencies and systems better meet the needs of each individual they serve. She is a trainer in a wide array of educational topics as well as in leadership development for young and emerging professionals. As a strong advocate for student rights, Heather brings to the team an expertise in school mental health and a dedication to educational equity in public schools.
Emily Figdor is a co-founder and the director of Protect Our Neighborhood Schools. She recently left MoveOn.org, where she helped lead online fundraising and national campaigns, to direct the campaign this November to pass the referendum to renovate Portland's four run-down elementary schools. Emily has 20 years of experience as an organizer and advocate, working at the local, state, and national levels. From 2010-2014, Emily ran Environment Maine and helped stop a tar sands terminal in Casco Bay. Before moving to Maine, Emily led national campaigns on climate change and clean air and advocated for reproductive rights and health in Washington, D.C. Emily also is the chair of the Portland Democratic City Committee and the co-chair of the Reiche School Parent Teacher Organization. Emily lives in the West End with her partner and two girls, who are first and fifth grader at Reiche.
Joanna Frankel moved to Portland's West End three years ago so her son could attend Reiche Community School, a diverse, teacher-led neighborhood school. Since then she has been active in the school community, currently as co-chair of the Reiche PTO, as well as in the 4-school bond campaign to bring equity to students through much-needed renovations to school buildings. Joanna holds a Masters Degree in Elementary Education and was an elementary school classroom teacher for 15 years. For the past two years, she has worked as the Coordinator of Teaching and Learning at Fiddlehead School of Arts and Sciences in Gray. She is also a yoga teacher at studios in Portland and South Portland.
Emily Herlihy has been an educator for 15 years, with a focus on language and literacy development. She believes that dynamic, high-performing schools are the cornerstone of thriving communities, and she is passionate about helping every student, teacher, and school to reach their full potential. Emily is currently the Literacy Coach at Presumpscot School and lives in the West End with her husband and their two young children.
Eva Humeniuk is a lifelong Portland and public school activist who lives in Deering Center with her two sons and husband. She was one of the first female longshoremen in the state and today works as a business consultant. She also serves on the steering committee for Progressive Portland, is a member of the Portland Democratic City Committee, and is active in the Longfellow and Lincoln PTOs.
Aura Russell-Bedder is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Mercy Hospital who lives in the East Deering Neighborhood of Portland with her husband and two girls. Her seven-year-old daughter attends Presumspcot Elementary, an expeditionary learning school. She is a lifelong Mainer and has been living in Portland for the past 12 years. Aura has worked in schools as both an educator and social worker and is passionate about promoting equity in education.
Ethan Strimling is the mayor of Portland, Maine. Prior to becoming mayor, Ethan spent 19 years as the CEO of LearningWorks, a not-for-profit providing learning opportunities for at-risk youth, the immigrant community, and low-income families. Additionally, Mr. Strimling spent eight years as a political analyst for the local NBC and CBS affiliates, as well as writing a column for the Maine Sunday Telegram and the Bangor Daily News. Ethan also served in the State Senate for six years, representing Portland as chair of the Labor and Criminal Justice Committees. He also chaired Maine’s Homeland Security Task Force. Ethan has championed the cause of passing the school bond to fund all four school renovations since he was elected mayor in 2015.
Jeanne Swanton is a co-founder of Protect Our Neighborhood Schools and currently serves as its Treasurer. She has been a strong and active advocate for pedestrian safety as well as equity among Portland public schools since 2010. She has served on the Reiche Community School’s Parent-Teacher Organization as Co-chair and Treasurer and was a leading voice supporting the 4-school bond proposal in 2013 and for securing crosswalks for Reiche students in 2016.. Jeanne has also served on the Board of Directors for two other local, community-based nonprofits: the West End Neighborhood Association (WENA) and Mom-to-Mom of Maine (M2M). Prior to her move in 2010, Jeanne worked for 17 years in the financial services industry, where she was a Vice President in several product management and product development roles. Jeanne lives in Portland with her husband, Jim, and her sons, Oliver, Reiche alum and current seventh grader at King, and Walter, a third grader at Reiche.
Jess Teesdale is the owner of Jess Teesdale Pottery, a wholesale pottery business. She lives with her husband and three children in the Rosemont neighborhood of Portland. Jess has been active with the school equity issue in Portland since she volunteered on the school demographics committee in 2013. She also revived the Rosemont neighborhood association with the help of a few neighbors. Jess is the founding member of the Rosemont Artist Guild. Jess has one child in the fifth grade at Longfellow, and her twin daughters attend Casco Bay High School.
John Thibodeau, LCSW, is a therapist with a small practice that specializes with seniors. He lives in Deering Center where he is a volunteer community organizer administering the Love Deering Center Facebook page and email list. John became civically active in the 1990s with the Maine People’s Alliance (MPA), beginning as a field canvasser and eventually becoming the community organizer for Lewiston & Portland, and led MPA's state-wide health care policy work. John grew up in Bangor and is happy to call Portland his home for the past 21 years.
Matthew Winch is an architect with varied experience in the planning and design of educational, health care, and health- and human service-related facilities for the private and nonprofit sectors. As the proud dad of three children, Matthew is especially invested in furthering education, prevention programs, and community services for children. Matthew recently ended a 3-year term as the Board Chair for Spurwink Services, a Portland based mental-health services not-for-profit. Matthew has served on Spurwink’s Board since 2005.
Bill Linnell, born in Portland, is a semi-retired teacher, soccer and lacrosse coach, boat carpenter, and lobsterman. With a degree in American Studies from Colby College, he is best known for leading the successful fight to close the Maine Yankee Nuclear plant in 1996. He has taught at Long Creek Youth Development Center and at South Portland and Falmouth schools. He is currently a mentor and volunteer at Long Creek. As a candidate in 2016 for the school board (he lost very narrowly to the incumbent), Bill was a strong advocate for the 4-school bond. He lives in Stroudwater with his sweetheart, Joyce.