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Old 08-23-2012, 08:42 AM
 
7 posts, read 20,277 times
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My husband received a job offer in Portland, and I was hoping someone might have recommendations regarding the best Portland neighborhood or other town for our family. We are an Asian-Caucasian couple with a 2-year-old daughter. Our home buying budget would be around 350,000-400,000.

I've read threads regarding the best schools in the area, although few of them mentioned diversity (racial/socioeconomic/etc). We've lived in extremely diverse areas in the past (NYC, Philadelphia, Houston for the past 2 1/2 years) so it hasn't been an issue before. While I don't expect anything in the Portland area to be as diverse as we're used to, I also don't want our daughter to always feel different from everyone else in school. Not particular about specific groups, just would like to find a place where she wouldn't feel like an outsider in an environment where everyone else is the same.

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old 08-23-2012, 09:05 AM
 
Location: Gorham, Maine
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Our 5 year old daughter is Chinese, and although we were warned by our adoption agency about racism, we haven't seen any at all in Maine or anywhere we've traveled. She starts kindergarten next week and has been in many play groups with children of mixed race and the kids are completely color blind, it is really fun to watch.
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Old 08-23-2012, 05:54 PM
 
Location: Cape Elizabeh, ME
404 posts, read 695,708 times
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Portland is more diverse than one would think, there are a fair amount of asian, indian, african, russian students and famlies. I used to work across the street from portland highschool and saw a fair amount of different ethnic students.
I honestly believe your daugher wll be just fine in any school system in and around portland including, yarmouth, cape, falmouth & freeport. Portland having the highest concentration of ethnic diversity in maine.
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Old 08-24-2012, 07:25 AM
 
Location: East Boston, MA
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I used to live in Portland and actually worked in one of the elementary schools. Even though Portland is the most diverse city in Maine, Portland is nowhere near as diverse as the other cities you mentioned. Not even close. Maine and Vermont typically switch spots during the Census every 10 years for the title of "whitest state in the nation." So when Portland is called "diverse" it's relatively speaking. Portland is still in the realm of 91% non-Hispanic white. As soon as you get outside of the city limits, all of the towns are over 95% non-Hispanic white. The towns with the "best" schools (Scarborough, Cumberland, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Yarmouth) have populations that are over 97% non-Hispanic white. I think it would be a mistake to expect much diversity at all when compared to NYC, Philadelphia, and Houston.

That said, race really isn't an issue in the Portland area. Every place I've lived before/after Portland was far more diverse and I witnessed and heard reports of far more racial intolerance than I ever did in Portland. It's a live/let live area. And while only a small percentage of Portland is non-white, a variety of ethnic backgrounds are represented in that small figure (the largest being Somali/Bantu immigrants) rather than just one or two races. Despite the numbers, I don't think Portland is a bad place to be of a different race.

As far as schools go, you'll find the most diverse student bodies within the city of Portland itself. However, schools within the city limits are sort of a mixed bag. I'd try to avoid Reiche elementary, Riverton elementary and Portland High School. They tend to not perform as well as some of the others in the city. Outside of the city, Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth tend to be the best performing school districts (and also the least diverse). South Portland's schools are good, but I don't think they're what most parents would describe as "excellent." Same Saco. Both South Portland and Saco would offer a little more in the way of ethnic diversity, but again, not much.

If diversity is really a concern and you don't need the "best" school in the state, then I'd consider the Deering neighborhood of Portland. It's fairly suburban (old street car suburban with nicely aged houses and quiet neighborhood streets) and very safe. It'll also mean your children attend some of the better schools in the city.

Last edited by lrfox; 08-24-2012 at 07:34 AM..
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Old 08-24-2012, 08:36 AM
 
7 posts, read 20,277 times
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Thanks for the information! We're probably coming up for a long weekend to look around next month, and this gives me a good idea of which areas I'll definitely want to check out (besides the usual suspects).

I am aware that Portland is diverse relative to the rest of Maine but not so much in comparison to the cities I'm used to. I actually grew up in a town that had demographics similar to Maine's (overwhelmingly white) although it was within a larger metro area that was extremely diverse. However, as a caucasian person I don't presume to know what that experience is like for a child who is not part of the larger group. Although overt racism may not be a problem (and I never anticipated it to be), the challenges of growing up and forming an identity in a place where no one else can truly understand and share your experience can be lonely. I'm just trying to figure out what the best situation would be for us.

Thanks again!
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Old 09-03-2012, 10:18 AM
 
Location: Maine
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I just want to add some input here because like your child, I too am of mixed Asian/Caucasian descent. I went through the South Portland school system, and I really had no problems regarding race issues. Sure, my friends used to joke that because I was half Asian, I must have some mad math skills, but that's not a bad thing, right? It is true that there isn't much diversity here in Maine, Portland being the most diverse. But both students and teachers embrace diversity very well. There were many times where the teachers invited me to share my mother's culture, which I was very happy to do so. Yes, there were some minority groups that stuck together, but that was mostly because they were in the same ESL classes and found comfort in not being the only ones in the same country.

My Cambodian mother and many of my relatives and family friends are teacher assistants at the Portland school district. I know being a mixed race may be strange because we look different, but most people find it very fascinating. Your child has the ability to find common things with both Caucasian and Asian groups. I myself were a part of both groups (and by Asian groups, I mean the ESL kids). It's a very cool thing (and came especially handy in Japan, where people assumed me to be half-Japanese and so it was easier for me to assimilate, haha). Oh, and to add to this, there are plenty of Asian food stores in Portland, which is wonderful. Not to mention restaurants. Cambodians are the biggest Asian group here.

Sorry for my rambling, haha.
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Old 09-07-2012, 12:30 PM
 
63 posts, read 167,946 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eliza16t View Post
Thanks for the information! We're probably coming up for a long weekend to look around next month, and this gives me a good idea of which areas I'll definitely want to check out (besides the usual suspects).

I am aware that Portland is diverse relative to the rest of Maine but not so much in comparison to the cities I'm used to. I actually grew up in a town that had demographics similar to Maine's (overwhelmingly white) although it was within a larger metro area that was extremely diverse. However, as a caucasian person I don't presume to know what that experience is like for a child who is not part of the larger group. Although overt racism may not be a problem (and I never anticipated it to be), the challenges of growing up and forming an identity in a place where no one else can truly understand and share your experience can be lonely. I'm just trying to figure out what the best situation would be for us.

Thanks again!

I read your post on this thread and really appreciate what you have to say. My wife and I lived in Burlington, VT for 7 yrs prior to adopting our son from Ethiopia 3 yrs ago. He is now four years old. We went through a similar process around where to live regarding diversity in the community and schools. It is interesting... When you pose such questions to people in mostly white communities, (especially in liberal, caucasian areas such as northern New England) you almost uniformly get responses about "how open and inclusive everybody is... how nobody even pays attention to race..." Very easy for caucasian folks to say... We thought hard about issues related to our son's racial identity formation, what dating might be like as he gets older, some of the underlying, hidden racism that exists in some of these communities (i.e. in schools, dealing w/ police, etc...). We ultimately decided to move to Minneapolis, where I had a job offer. It has been better here in terms of the racial dynamics, but we really miss the mountains, hiking, etc... We are now deciding whether to return to New England (I actually have a job offer commutable from Portland, ME as well as many opportunities in Boston) or move to Seattle. We are leaning towards Seattle because we do believe the racial dynamics would be better than New England (plus a huge Ethiopican population there) and great access to nature. I do appreciate your being in tune with identity issues as the primary concern. I think it is hard for children of color to grow up in mostly white communities...
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Old 09-16-2012, 10:53 PM
 
4 posts, read 9,692 times
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I grew up in Maine and thought racism was all but dead until I went to college in Virginia. Down south and out west, whites have their own culture, as do blacks, asians, etc. Maine is 99% white and rural so the few minorities who do exist, aren't trying to establish their own counter-culture. The only racists I met were older blacks. There are concentrated african refugee populations in Portland and L/A, but their culture is much, much more family-friendly/productive than American black culture. I'm married to a Latina and I would feel extremely comfortable raising our daughter anywhere in Maine.

As far as what schools are more diverse, Portland would probably rank #1, but since it's a public school in our only real city, your child will be exposed to worse influences than if you send him elsewhere. If going private is an option, I'd recommend Thortan Academy. in Saco. They are more diverse than the other major private school (Cheverus). Cheverus seemed to produce better students, but they are very white/Catholic.

Last edited by NonSineDeo; 09-16-2012 at 11:03 PM.. Reason: Add School Info
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