• 66°

DR. MARK PORTERIE — 2020 delivers hard lessons, truths that can’t be forgotten

I can truly say, it won’t be hard to say goodbye to “2020.”

Dr. Mark L. Porterie,
superintendent of schools

This has been a year of many challenges and lessons learned. We at Port Arthur ISD are determined to become better for it.

The last nine months have been difficult to say the least when it comes to deciding on whether or not to wear a mask, staying out of the stores, spending time with family and we cannot forget the millions of individuals out of work.

We sat and watched COVID-19 go from something that affected others to seeing it effect our own lives, as loved ones fell to the fatal disease. As a result of COVID, many of us have embarked on a new sense of caring for our neighbors, families and friends by embracing wearing masks to save lives.

We have taken on the personal responsibility to endure inconvenience for the betterment of society as a whole.

In 2020, without any warning, we, like other districts, faced the challenge of converting to virtual learning. Our staff, parents and students have embraced this new use of technology. We have come to learn that technology can be used to strengthen our overall instructional process for generations to come.

Virtual learning will have its place in our society as an alternative, not replacement to the in-person school setting. A large number of our students have done great in meeting the challenges of virtual learning; however, I think most would agree that virtual learning is not the optimal instructional tool.

In 2020, we have discovered if standardized tests are cancelled, teachers will still instruct and students will still learn. Through ingenuity and sheer will, we have found ways to still equip the next generation to succeed. After months of virtual learning, parents and the public have a new found appreciation of the educational system.

Teachers and school employees have taken their rightful place as essential workers. Teachers and school employees have stepped up and become everyday heroes as they greet masked students each day and meet student needs while trying to remain safe and healthy.

As a nation we have uncovered the true value of the meal that is served by the cafeteria worker for that child who needs it. We have appreciated the important role our school custodian plays in keeping us all safe. We realized that too many of our children are not safe at home and need the protection the school day provides.

As our lives slowed down, the nation finally saw the fright of every Black parent who has to let their child out into a world where not every life has the same value. We have learned many lessons and uncovered some harsh realities as COVID-19 disproportionately kills minority and underprivileged segments of our society.

As we say goodbye to 2020, we see across America another surge in positive COVID cases. In 2020, we made tough decisions for our family and ourselves. Decisions that had to be made without any reference guide.

Sometimes we had to make decisions against a backdrop of sheer ridiculousness. I was amazed when the question of, “Whether or not to wear a mask?” became a political statement. Wearing a mask is the least we can do to protect our fellow Americans.

I believe we will continue to move through this unprecedented time in our history with the new year. As we do, PAISD will continue to address the affects 2020 has had on our children.

Children have had to adapt to changes in things that were constant in their lives, education, sports, spending time with friends and in the case of a large number of children in the United States, where the next meal is coming from.

Children do not always understand how change actually affects them. We as educators see it every day.

During my 29 years in education, I have found that children have coping mechanisms to sustain them in the middle of crisis. However, I have never witnessed an educational crisis such as the one we are currently experiencing.

As a school district and society, we must meet the challenge of continuing to push our students to educational and emotional excellence. I have asked our community and parents to assist us all year; we are asking that you not give up now.

As the new year 2021 approaches, we will have to make up for the gaps our children may suffer. We will have to dig even deeper in 2021 to keep the momentum for our students. We cannot suffer from COVID fatigue or assume a new year will mean an automatic change in our circumstances.

The media has promised a vaccine for COVID-19 debuting in a clinic near us, soon. However, let’s not forget about all the lessons we have learned in 2020. We cannot go back to business as usual and forget about the issues, inequities and ridiculous political posturing the 2020 pandemic has uncovered in our nation.

I have hope for our country, city and especially for the Port Arthur ISD. We have the grit and tenacity to rebuild, bigger and better. We will recover because that is who we are.

The year 2020 brought heartache, confusion and outright distress but we will rise. Port Arthur ISD will rise to meet the challenges yet to come. We will learn the lessons of 2020 and build a better educational system because of it.

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