PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

June 21, 2013

PAISD works to engage parents

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Mark Porterie and Melvin Getwood both had other matters to tend to on Thursday, but none pressing enough to keep them away from the Port Arthur Public Library, 4615 Ninth Ave., where the Port Arthur Independent School District continued its path to transparency with a parental engagement meeting.

The event was slated from 11 a.m. until noon. Several speakers, including Jody Holton of the Port Arthur YMCA and local author Jessie Haynes, offered presentations on various ways children and parents can stay active this summer.

However, the meeting ran more than an hour longer than planned, with Getwood, assistant superintendent for secondary curriculum and instruction, and PAISD Interim Superintendent Porterie fielding questions from the parents in attendance for the better part of the first hour.

No complaints were heard from LaWanda Finney, PAISD’s coordinator of professional development and Title 1 parent involvement.

“This was more positive than I ever imagined,” Finney said. “The parents are hungry for information. They’re asking not for controversy, but for results.”

And results they got. Porterie said he has already had an opportunity to exercise the more stringent discipline management plan. Since summer school began on Monday, several physical conflicts have erupted — all of them solved promptly, Porterie said.

“You can’t come here and fight, so you go home for the rest of the semester,” Porterie said. “We had a student that needed two credits — sorry. We said we were going to do something, so we have to follow through.”

Besides getting discipline down to a “fine art,” Porterie said, in order for the district to function properly, there must be a seamless connection between the home and the school — which requires the administration to be accessible and the parents to leave their intimidation at the door. But all of that, Porterie added, rings hollow if he isn’t doing his job.

“If I’m wavering and doing things that I’m not supposed to do, then it’s going to be chaotic,” he said. “There are some decisions we’re going to make this summer that we’re just going to have to stick to.”

Port Arthur resident Nadria Turner, whose daughter is entering her senior year at Memorial High School,  inquired about the district’s pathways to post-secondary education.

“I think they should focus on more than just testing,” Turner said. “When she graduates, I want her to be able to expand her horizons and be prepared.”

Getwood told Turner that while summer programs are dedicated solely to remediation, the district was looking to increase its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, as well as offering dual credit courses during the academic school year.

“We’re preparing for college and career readiness,” Getwood said. “The curriculum that we’re using will allow that to occur.”

Those weren’t the answers Turner was seeking, but she said she understands the district is making strides.

“It’s a work in progress, and the parents are being heard,” she said. “They know that they have a voice.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA