PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

June 14, 2013

PAISD takes aim at disorder

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — After a tumultuous year involving numerous fights and a longtime teacher being accused of physical assault, Mark Porterie has decided to address the problem head-on.

“This is just the beginning of what we have to do to be ready for Aug. 26, when our students come together,” Porterie, interim superintendent of Port Arthur Independent School District, said in a discipline management meeting held at the PAISD administration building on Thursday. “In order for our students to be successful academically, they have to be able to have some discipline in the schools.”

Longtime PAISD educator Louis Reed discussed PAISD’s disciplinary policies with a group of teachers, parents and students. Those in attendance offered their input on what improvements could be made.

“I did see a lot of students being very disrespectful to teachers,” said Alondra Ceja, 18, who graduated from Memorial High School on June 6. “I would have to stay after school to make up the work I couldn’t do in class because of the behavior.”

However, Ceja stressed, she doesn’t have only horror stories to tell of her tenure at PAISD. On a scale of 1 to 10, she rated her overall experience a 7.

“I did have wonderful teachers,” Ceja said. “My culinary arts teacher would say, ‘Be quiet,’ and that’s what we were supposed to do.”

Stephanie Rhodes, who teaches AP English at Memorial, was one of those “wonderful teachers” Ceja referred to. Rhodes mentioned the arduous process a teacher has to undergo when referring a student to the principal’s office.

“You have to complete a manifesto before you can get the kid out of your room,” she said. “You have to stop and call the parent, you have to do all this stuff.”

Rhodes suggested that any misbehaving students be removed from the classroom on their second offense.

“I honestly believe that would be a very big help,” she said. “I very seldom have to write referrals, but when I do — I’ve had enough.”

Rodney Eddie, a parent, said these disciplinary problems originate with popular music, television and the geographical upbringing. He stressed the vital role the parents play.

“The only way we can detour our children is to bring those culprits to the forefront, expose them for who they are, and show our children a better way,” he said. “We can’t allow those bad seeds to take root.”

Reed suggested increasing training and teacher support as one option. He also encouraged transparency between the administration and the rest of the district.

“People who are involved in things want feedback,” Reed said. “They actually want to be a part of it, and I think this is a really good start.”

Chief education reform academic officer Emma Gene Rowry said the district would listen to and consider everything that transpired at the meeting.

“We will not gloss over what you’ve said,” she said. “We’re not perfect, but we’re not terrible either in PAISD.”

Porterie said that this meeting is only the first of many of its kind.

“This cannot be the last meeting,” he said. “We cannot overlook this anymore — and we won’t.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA