DR. MARK PORTERIE: Port Arthur ISD ready for school year, safety remains at forefront
Published 12:28 am Saturday, August 6, 2022
The TITANS Are Back! Last Tuesday, PAISD welcomed our employees back to work for the new school year by hosting our first in-person convocation since the pandemic hit.
The district suspended in-person convocation after the onset of COVID-19. The last one took place in August of 2019. Seeing employees from every school and department in their respective shirts created a wonderful and exciting experience to kick off the 2022-23 school year.
Our Port Arthur Independent School District employees looked great! It meant so much to all of us that we were able to reunite with all of our colleagues, friends and work families to kick off the new school year without viewing everyone and everything on a small screen.
We often think we can accomplish goals alone, but there comes a time and place when we need to depend on others. There is something about being together and high fiving, fist bumping, experiencing a smile or wave on site and just being able to look over the crowd and see that there are more than 1,000 individuals who are sharing the same experiences that I am experiencing.
We rely on one another for support – knowingly and unknowingly – and it was truly incredible that we had the opportunity to experience togetherness once again.
It would have been remiss of us not to take time and remember what happened on May 24, 2022, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. We should never forget the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 or the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in 2012.
It is amazing that when unjustifiable killings, massacres or injustices occur, we react immediately by marching, signing petitions or calling legislators. Then, after a couple of weeks, and nothing much changes, we return to everyday life.
We hardly ever mention what took place at Columbine 23 years ago; and there have been many more school shootings since then. It is important we continue to remember what has occurred in our schools so we do not become complacent.
We need to be vigilant everyday concerning what is occurring, not only at our schools, but also at the grocery store, the malls and even our churches.
In PAISD, we will continue to regularly teach, drill, encourage and remind our staff and students about the extreme importance of safety and what we should do when faced with emergencies, threats or disasters. It is our daily goal that we return home to our families from school and work in the same or better condition than when we arrived.
In order for us to address safety in every area of our district, we will need the assistance from our parents and community. We need everyone to understand that we welcome positive, constructive support when it comes to the education of our children; however, we cannot allow parents and the community to enter our facilities without following safety protocols.
We are asking our schools to make sure parents have email addresses to our teachers and administrators. If there are questions from home, parents must make an appointment to meet with a district employee.
If a parent has a question, and has contacted the teacher, but has not heard back from them, we ask that they then contact the school counselor, assistant principal or principal for assistance.
At the same token, we expect our teachers and administrators to respond to emails, voicemails and messages in a timely manner – within 24 hours if possible. If our employees are unable to thoroughly address a concern via call, email or message system within 24 hours, at least reply with a simple, “I will look into this matter and contact you with a reply by (a specific day in the same week the parent initially reached out).”
We require our teachers and staff to document parent contact, especially when they initiate it, and even when responding – so that if a parent says, “Mrs. So-and-so never called me back,” the teacher will have documentation that yes, they did call this number on this day at this time, and there was no answer or reply.
In order to ensure safety for all, we have to know who is in our buildings and justify why they are there. The time is over when the school is an open venue for whoever wants to visit to just walk in.
It is imperative that we have a mindset of safety first at all times. Everyone, from students and parents to every single campus or facility employee, must be on one accord when it comes to the safety and security of our buildings. We can no longer afford to leave any entrances or exits unsecured at any point in time.
There is so much hope for the 2022-23 school year. We are anticipating great strides and results in our overall education system. We look forward to seeing all of our students bright and early on the morning of Wednesday/Aug. 10.
Dr. Mark Porterie is superintendent of schools for the Port Arthur Independent School District. He can be reached at email@example.com.