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DR. MARK PORTERIE — Parents still needed in students’ return to classroom

Now is not the time to grow weary in our good works. We all have to finish the race we have been running since March.

The arrival of the Coronavirus has been more than a lesson in how to social distance or the importance of wearing a mask; it is a lesson in man’s vulnerability and the insane way, we, as a society, divide ourselves instead of coming together for the good of everyone.

Fighting a pandemic should not be a divisive thing.

This time has opened some eyes to the reality that not everyone in our society is “equal.” We sing the songs and recite the words of freedom and liberty for all, then we turn on the T.V. or click on a computer screen and get reminders that “Whether every life matters?” is still a question to be answered in this country.

Education has been a consistent equalizer that has allowed each one of us to escape a class system that holds certain members of society in an endless generational spiral of poverty and desperation.

For me particularly, I was taught that one of the most important things in life that I could achieve was an education. I was told as a young boy that if I achieved an education, I could do anything.

There have been lessons in federal and state leadership of how people interpret civil rights, and especially for me, how people value or better yet, devalue our overall educational system. I hear from parents every day imploring me to reopen schools and relieve them of the pressures of having students home every day; parents who are struggling to replace the educational support students receive in a public classroom.

We will reopen our doors; however, I want those same parents to remember how difficult the job really is, multiply that feeling by 21, and support public education when students return.

One of the most important lessons that I have learned since the beginning of this virus is that the educational system continues to be the impetus that will produce positive contributors to our society.

For 30 years, I have walked into a brick and mortar learning establishment that offered students strategies to solve mathematical problems, a system to learn how to conjugate verbs, interpret interesting science mysteries and how the history of our country has brought us to this incredible point in our lives.

All of that and more can be learned behind the walls of the brick and mortar building. But I recently have learned that for some of our children, coming to the brick and mortar building represents much more than the traditional learning patterns. Walking behind the brick and mortar walls means power, safety, a place to rest, a place to be heard and a place to be recognized as a person.

Behind the walls of a school for so many of our children is not just the path for their future success, but for some, mere survival.

Beginning Monday, Sept. 14, PAISD will begin the phase-in process of bringing students back to face to face learning. Our children will return to us for more than just an excellent, scholastic education, they will return to patterns of hope.

We will be able to look into their eyes and discover their next steps for success. We, in the PAISD, are more than ever committed to teaching children for excellence. We are committed to protecting and nurturing our children for the benefit of their success.

The reason why the 1,300 plus employees of the PAISD choose to work in this district is to assist in the preparation of young adults that will produce success for the future of themselves and others.

No matter if your part is to transport, feed, teach, clean, and now sanitize, fund, or to pick up a book and introduce a child to reading with expression, it all matters in the process of creating well-rounded individuals.

Parents, guardians, grandparents, friends, older siblings and others who have assisted us during the last six months, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. But now, it is time for us to resume the position.

It is time for us to take the reins and do what we do best, educate the whole child for the good of this community and other communities that will benefit from a child educated in the PAISD.

When you give them back, don’t bow out! You now know how hard the task really is. Let’s not get weary in our good works, we can make it to the end.

Dr. Mark Porterie is Superintendent of Schools for the Port Arthur Independent School District. He can be reached at mporterie@paisd.org.