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High-energy start to new school year


When it comes to unbridled enthusiasm, uproarious laughter and limitless good will, Mark Porterie delivers every time.

The Port Arthur Independent School District superintendent got the school year off on high energy in a two-hour convocation at Memorial High School on Wednesday.

There was dancing in the aisles. There was chanting from the rafters. There were hoots and hollers from every corner. And those were the teachers and staff.

The clock had barely passed 8.

C’mon, 2018-2019!

Porterie, District 5 superintendent of the year, has lots of method behind the madness. Amid the controlled chaos in the Memorial gym, the aim was clear and intentional — this school district intends to deliver for the public schoolchildren of this city. This district must deliver.

Some 1,300 teachers, administrators, staff and support staff seemed focused on doing the job for this year. They could not have left that gym Wednesday without clear knowledge that their every good effort is appreciated and that their mission — educating young people — is of paramount importance to Port Arthur’s future.

Porterie started by recognizing every school and every department for above-and-beyond efforts to revive this city after August 2017 flooding delivered blow after blow to Port Arthur and its people.

Plaudits were extended to the bus drivers and cafeteria staff who transported and fed people from around the beleaguered city in the short-term aftermath of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey.

“When the hurricane came, they were there!” Porterie shouted, searching the crowd for those unsung heroes. “Where are you, transportation?”

Likewise, he noted that many of Port Arthur’s 6,000-plus students come from impoverished homes and that their only meals are served on school trays. Cafeteria workers, he said, are “close to my heart” because they tend to those children’s basic needs.

Appreciation was extended to teachers and staff who, despite their own storm setbacks, put personal concerns aside to serve children. The reopening of schools, he said, put order and purpose back into the city, gave parents reason to get up and support their children.

“On the day that the yellow buses rolled, our community started coming back together,” Porterie said. There was a lot of truth in that.

Excitement was palpable Wednesday. Teachers greeted one another with some sense of joy.

That’s a long way from almost a year ago, when homes were destroyed and people displaced by the worst flood in American history.

“It affected everyone in our community,” Porterie recalled. “At times, we did not know what tomorrow would bring.”

Well, it brought Wednesday, when compassionate people with renewed purpose and well-earned pride gathered again, energy recharged, ready to do the most important job in public life: Educating our young citizens.

Welcome back, educators.