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Porterie supports Lofton against Guillory claims

Port Arthur Independent School District Board President Kenneth Lofton, Sr. denies allegations made by Joseph Guillory II about personally profiting from PAISD facilities.

Guillory claims Lofton has used the power of his office to avoid paying the appropriate fees whenever he has used the PAISD facilities for his basketball league. He has asked local law enforcement to look into the matter.

At one of the basketball league’s games Monday night at the Thomas Jefferson Middle School gymnasium, Lofton said it simply was not true.

He said the money that is charged for entrance and enrollment fees is used to buy trophies for the children.

Other fees, such as those charged for concessions, goes toward school projects or organizations like Project Graduation and AAU teams.

“Nobody benefits but the kids,” Lofton said.

Regarding Guillory’s claim that Lofton bypassed proper procedure to secure insurance for the school children who participate in the program, Lofton said it is not necessary.

“I have signed a liability form; each kid who plays has signed the form. But because it’s a program that’s run as an afterschool program, it just needs the signature of the superintendent and the (school’s) principal,” he said in a phone interview.

Lofton said that PAISD superintendent Mark Porterie and Thomas Jefferson principal Randy Lupton had signed off on the program.

In addition, he said there has not been an incident in 10 years, or in the entire time that he has been running the program.

“I have the support of our superintendent, our principals and our parents,” Lofton said.

Porterie and Lucien Adams principal Cheryl Tripplett were present at Monday night’s game.

“It teaches good character and good sportsmanship because those are the same qualities that carry over into the classroom,” Tripplett said of the program’s value.

Accordingly, she said the basketball program is not sponsored by the school, but it is connected with it.

“It’s supported by volunteers,” Lofton said. “There’s no sponsorship; it’s all connected with volunteers. They support us wholeheartedly.”

And while some referees are paid with the fees collected for the games, others like Amber Kinlaw and PAISD Board Vice President Brandon Bartie freely volunteer their coaching and referee services.

According to Kinlaw, who is the daughter of PAISD trustee Dr. Thomas Kinlaw III, it is her third year volunteering and coaching for the program.

“I think this offers discipline,” Kinlaw said of the value it offers children. “It’s getting their grades up and giving them something to do.”

Kinlaw also praised the community aspect of it.

“We’re a family here. Even if some of the kids don’t have a family or a good situation where they come from, we have a family here for them.”

Kinlaw said the kids enjoy themselves at the basketball events and that it’s a positive outlet for everyone.

Lofton described the basketball program as an opportunity for Port Arthur boys and girls in the fourth and fifth grades to come together and to spend quality time with friends and family in addition to helping them maintain and improve their academic performances.

Lofton said the latter is accomplished because the children have to perform in various afterschool activities in order to participate in the league. This includes tutoring.

“This is a positive for everyone when they come here,” Lofton said, also citing it as an opportunity for parents to get more involved with their children’s everyday lives.

“I don’t do it for elections,” Lofton said. “I do it for the school and I do it as an outlet for the kids.”

Lofton started the program 10 years ago, one year longer than he has been on the school board.

“I don’t do this for a profit; I’ve been doing this before I was even on the board,” he said.

In a written response to The News, Porterie said the basketball program “is an extension of the district’s afterschool tutoring program for students in need of extra instruction during the school day. The afterschool elementary basketball program is a school sponsored event.”

Porterie said such programs occur on each elementary campus in PAISD.

Porterie stressed that Lofton does not receive financial profit from the league and that all funds are handled by other parents.

“Mr. Lofton does donate several hundreds of dollars each year to ensure that all students receive trophies and other rewards,” he said.

According to Porterie, such programs do not require insurance.

“As a student support program, the elementary basketball league has been governed under Policy GE (LOCAL) for the past 10 years,” Porterie said. “As such, the league is allowed to use district facilities with the approval of the campus administrator. There is no fee or insurance requirement for school support organizations such as this program.”