, Port Arthur, Texas

March 28, 2013

Brown: PAISD's 'come a long way'

Erinn Callahan
Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — When addressing the current condition of Port Arthur Independent School District, superintendent Johnny Brown borrowed a catchphrase from the 1960s: “We’ve come a long way, baby.”

“In PAISD, we’ve come a long way,” Brown told the crowd gathered at the Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center, 1800 Lakeshore Driver, for the eighth annual “State of Schools” luncheon on Wednesday, March 27. “ And we’ve done it in spite of some obstacles,”

Those obstacles, Brown said, include education budgets that are dwindling as rapidly as family needs are growing, as well as the challenges of preparing students for life in the 21st century. In spite of this, the school district remains academcially acceptable based on a rating from 2011. PAISD was not rated in 2012 due to the implementation of a new accountability system, but they will be rated again at the end of the year.

The graduation rate has risen from 61 percent in 2006 to 81.9 percent in 2011, Brown said. The completion rate was at 83.3 percent in 2011, as opposed to 75 percent in 2006. Only 1.2 percent of the class of 2011 was lost to dropouts, compared with 6 percent in 2006. In 2007, 145 students were unable to graduate due to failure to master the TAKS test. In 2012, that number  dropped to 19, with a graduating class that year of 475 — 95 percent of all active students at Memorial High School.

“We’ve gotten to the point where just about every student has an education plan, and we’re proud of that,” Brown said. “We should have done that a long time ago, but we’re doing it now.”

The improvement is due to professional learning committees, when teachers and administrators gather together and discuss curriculum, and the implementation of the curriculum CSCOPE, Brown said.

“There’s some controversy around the state with CSCOPE, but we’re doing well in Port Arthur and proud of it,” he said.

The increase in academic scores has also led to a decline in disciplinary problems. Brown said the school has reduced suspensions — from 4,793 in 2006-2007 to 1,256 in 2011-2012 — andthe district’s Disciplinary Alternative Education  program for students has decr. However, this does not indicate that PAISD has grown lax.

“When children mess up, they’ve got to be punished, and we will punish them,” Brown said. “We will not allow a child to disrupt or block the education of another child because he’s actiing crazy — they know better.”

New facilities are also cropping up all over the district, Brown said — including the new administration building and board room, and the new Gulf Coast Health Center for the Wheatley Elementary students.

“We’ve either got new buildings or major renovations in every school in our district,” he said. “We also have quietly demolished those buildings that would have become old eyesores.”

Brown also acknowledged the areas that needed improvement.

“We are focused upon holding all staff accountable for results in support of children,” he said. “For some reason, some people have this impression that there’s this great big apple you can bite out of called ‘working for PAISD,’ just come on in and we’ll pay you money without getting the results. That’s a great concern of mine, because when we hold our staff accountable, our children learn better because of it.”

Nonetheless, victory is something PAISD has grown accustomed to.

“I’m so glad we’re spoiled,” Brown said. “When we didn’t win the last football game, we were really upset about it, weren’t we? What a great sign that is. We expect to win.”

Grace Blair, president of the Port Arthur Public School Foundation — who sponsored the event — said the luncheon was a success.

“We’re glad to see this room full of people supporting PAISD,” Blair said.


Twitter: @ErinnPA