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MARK PORTERIE — PAISD thinks of children, not politics, when setting safety protocols

I usually do not respond to opinion pieces because I do realize everyone has a right to their opinion. However, last week a letter to the editor was published about PAISD. I felt the writer did not give a full measure of what actually occurred.

Dr. Mark L. Porterie,
superintendent of schools

There are times when I must stand for right and at least correct the record and just speak the truth.

The policies of the Port Arthur Independent School District are meant to be fair and consistent for all parents and students. Our district is neither Democrat nor Republican; we are child-centered.

We do not give privilege to some parents while treating others as if they don’t matter. We give all students consistent rules; parents do not receive privilege because they view themselves as different or more entitled than others.

As many elementary and secondary school parents are aware, carpool is challenging. We have a large number of parents in our district who drop off and pick up students. We experience parents lining up in all surrounding areas of the schools as early as 2 p.m. for a 3:15 p.m. dismissal.

Historically, parents have been able to avoid the long lines by parking and waiting by exits or on sidewalks to wait for their child/children.

Due to safety protocols designed to protect our children and make every effort to halt the spread of the COVID virus, such crowded situations are not in the best interest of anyone at this time.

Some parents are concerned with having children needlessly exposed to crowded situations and strangers. We at the district believe, we must do at least the minimum to protect everyone.

This may cause an inconvenience to some who may have more than one student at different schools. However, as with medical appointments and true emergencies, we are more than willing to work with our parents.

We have early release for medical appointments and emergencies; as we will stay with a child when a parent is unexpectedly delayed.

We have parents who, for one reason or another, call at 2:30 p.m. to have their child released early. Now, with all of the efforts our schools are taking to socially distance students, a parent’s whim to check out a student by calling less than an hour before dismissal for staff to walk a single child to an exit so that the parent can skip the hassle of carpool is truly a selfish act. Prior to COVID-19, this was not a practice except in cases of true emergency.

In PAISD, parents are treated equally. A parent who wishes to pick up a child early to avoid the carpool lines will not be accommodated.

This is not a Democrat or Republican decision. It is a decision of fairness to all. All of our parents and students are special in PAISD. We do not check any political party allegiance — we don’t care.

We love our children as our own. However, in order to show that love for all, we must keep the playing field even, though some want special treatment or think they are entitled to special treatment.

I commend my staff for not bending to the pressure of the feelings of entitlement that are presented by some parents. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to stand your ground, say no and brace for the windstorm that follows. For the sake of remaining advocates of fairness for all students and parents, we are here to brave the storm.

The parents/guardians of PAISD have shown patience, resilience and a great deal of communication between the home and school. This has been one of the most difficult times I can remember in recent years.

Each decision that has been made due to COVID or bad weather conditions has been made with the best intentions for our students. We understand that even with COVID and hurricanes, we have to address the learning of our students.

It saddens me when educators who risk their lives to continue to do this job during this time are demonized on social media for just making the best decisions available to protect all. While a parent has only their circle of interest, educators have to take into consideration what is best for all and every child involved.

We are moving fast, and I will ask that when parents/guardians have a question, please do not hesitate to contact school officials in order to get a clearer understanding of what has occurred. Most times social media only tells one side of the story and sometimes assumptions are made on the side of who is telling the story. No matter if it is true or not.

I do not think that anyone who is truthful can say that we have not done everything possible to assist our students in order to deliver the best education possible under the circumstances.

We have free breakfast and lunch, we buy uniforms, teachers have purchased food for children and their families when they know there is a need, we have kept children after hours when parents are not on time, we go out to the home and try and find students who have been absent for a long period of time, we have created programs for students to assist in their success after graduation, purchased computers and internet hotspots for students to continue with their learning and much, much more.

We do this because we care about our children and we care about this community. How someone can confuse the love for children in PAISD with a political statement is unclear to me.

To be an educator, you have to have a heart for children.

PAISD will continue to defend our educators, children, district and community. There are those of us who choose to remain in Port Arthur, raise our children and create wonderful lives.

There are those who act like they are begrudgedly here, as if they do not have a choice. I would ask that the two would come together and make Port Arthur, and especially the Port Arthur Independent School District, the best place to live and the best place to learn.

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