Mark Porterie recognized: Lifelong educator named Region 5 Superintendent of Year

Published 11:56 am Saturday, June 2, 2018

By Lorenzo Salinas


Education is a vital tool for society. It imparts knowledge, experience and, ideally, the curiosity needed to question the world one lives in.

Superintendents are likewise integral to a good educational system. They make decisions about programs, spending and staff; they work with school and community leaders; and they respond to the demands of the district as a whole — its students, teachers, parents and the community as a whole.

A really good superintendent does all this and more, including having a clear vision for the district, being a good communicator and dedicating themselves 100 percent to the job and to the district.

Sometimes, a superintendent is recognized for this extraordinary work.


Port Arthur’s own nominated

Mark Porterie was announced as the 2018 Region 5 Superintendent of the Year by the Texas Association of School Boards. Porterie has been the superintendent for Port Arthur Independent School District since January 2014. He oversees a district that consists of 14 schools, 1,300 staff and 8,500 students.

According to an issued release from Danny Lovett with Region 5 Education Service Center, Porterie was chosen for “his strong communication and leadership skills, dedication to improving the quality of education at Port Arthur ISD and his commitment to public support and involvement in education.”

According to PAISD board president Debra Ambroise, Porterie was chosen for his strong leadership skills and unwavering dedication to the district.

“He has absolutely hands down been phenomenal during this whole process, (especially) during Tropical Storm Harvey,” Ambroise said. “There was no question he should have been nominated, and the board supported that decision.”

In the board’s letter of nomination, members said, “The approach of change was something that (Porterie) knew started with him and made its way down to his administrative staff and then to a campus level. Thus, the need for collaborative efforts through planning and implementation.”

The board commended Porterie for his tireless service to the district after Harvey, even though his own home had been destroyed in the flood.

“Not once has Dr. Porterie mentioned these specific details to the board. Instead, his focus remains on the students and employees of the district and the community at large.”


A team effort

Porterie was nominated by the Port Arthur school board, and then selected by a selection team of school board members from various districts to receive the TASB award.

“I’m honored for being able to receive such an award. I’m so thankful to the board of trustees who nominated me for the award,” Porterie said. “First and foremost, I am appreciative for having a board who really respects what we do as an education system.”

Porterie specifically thanked those members whose homes were affected by Harvey, but still put the needs of the district first.

“They put Port Arthur Independent School District in the forefront. I appreciate each of my board members.”

Porterie was quick to point out, however, that the award was a collective achievement, not an individual one.

“Yes, they nominated me for an award but I did not by any means do it by myself,” he said. “The direction the district is in was not put in position by any one man; it took an entire community to do that. It was an effort by students, by the 1,300 staff, by parents and by the community. The award represents what the community meant.”

To Porterie, it would seem “resilient” is what the community represents to the district and its students.

“We use the term ‘resilience.’ That’s what Port Arthur Independent School District has shown — that we are resilient; that we can come together when (stuff) happens,” Porterie said. “We may not always agree on everything; but with the situation here, we have shown we can put things into perspective. We know what is right and what is wrong…

“I hold the award, but it represents so much of the great things we have done and that the district has done.”


Lifelong educator

Porterie has made a lifelong career in education, being everything from a teacher and principal to an assistant superintendent — all within the Port Arthur school district. He has served the district in one form or another since 1994.

“Being superintendent of Port Arthur Independent School District has afforded me the opportunity to work with absolutely wonderful individuals,” Porterie said. “My executive team, my staff, our students and our parents are all absolutely phenomenal people. They want what’s best for the community and what’s best for the students.”

Porterie said working with the district — especially as a superintendent — has allowed him to see things from a more global perspective. In addition, it’s allowed him to view education as a comprehensive program — something not relegated to just the academia.

“It’s so important for educators to understand that we teach the entire child. There’s so much to teach that child before teaching content,” Porterie said. “We have to address the emotional needs, the home needs, the personal needs… We have to address all of that before we could even get into the content.”

Porterie emphasized the total cultivation of the student’s mind — from intellectual to emotional wellbeing.

“Teaching goes deeper than reading, writing and arithmetic,” he said. “It asks: How do they function? How do we prepare to get them back into a world that may not be pleasant? How do we help the children understand?

“Just because you’re going through things at home doesn’t mean you’re bad; it just means you’re going through something that you have to understand. We try to help kids to understand.”

Porterie said he wants Port Arthur students who turn 18 to have better options come graduation due to the better life the school district would have introduced them to.

“So, we’re hoping we’re doing good jobs to have them make a good choice to decide on a better life,” he said. “When they’re children, they don’t have a lot of options; but as they get older, we hope they get those options. Education is deeper than just the curriculum we teach.”


Toward the future

Porterie expressed hope for the district moving forward.

“Going forward, we want to strengthen,” he said. “Last year, we were so fortunate that all the schools met standard. Even after Harvey, we have stayed in that mold.”

Porterie referred to the occasion last year when all PAISD schools met state standard according to the Texas Education Agency, something the district had not achieved since 2013.

Porterie referred to the district’s momentum as a building block for future success.

“It will ensure our success continues,” he said. “Harvey will not break that cycle. We want to make sure all our students are in a high-tech, safe environment for learning.”

Among other strategies for success, Porterie highlighted the efforts of faculty and staff and said their due diligence would not go unnoticed.

“We want to show appreciation to our staff and make sure they have all the tools needed to be successful,” Porterie said. “We want to ensure they have the personal benefits for their lives to be successful as well.”

Porterie listed items like competitive salaries and insurances that would make working for the Port Arthur district an attractive prospect when compared to other districts in the area.

“We understand that Port Arthur Independent School District is not just here to educate children, that there’s a business side to it as well,” Porterie said. “How does business relate to attracting new personnel to our district? We want to do something that attracts them.”

As an example, a tax ratification election that passed last year assured school employees the highest starting salary for a region 5 school in the area and gave experienced faculty a pay raise.

“If the organization is strong, it helps you to sell that organization” Porterie said. “If you have things in place, if you have a stable community, a stable district, a strong work ethic and all those things, you want to be around people then who are like-minded; and all of us want to be in the same mode of success — not only for our students but for our staff as well.”

“Port Arthur Independent School District is as strong as we’ve ever been in some time, and it’s because of Dr. Porterie’s leadership that put the nomination over the top,” Ambroise said. “His leadership for the district and for the city as a whole has been phenomenal. We’re strong, very strong.”

The TASB State Selection Committee will interview Porterie later in the year, where he will have the possibility of being a finalist for State Superintendent of the Year.

Porterie won an honor from a region that encompasses 35 school districts in six counties of Southeast Texas.