DR. MARK PORTERIE — Student safety takes spotlight as school year begins
Published 12:40 am Saturday, August 5, 2023
The 2023-24 school year began for our employees and school staff this past Tuesday.
We anxiously await the return of our registered new and returning students on Monday/Aug. 1. Our leaders have planned many exciting activities to create a learning environment that is safe, engaging and effective for all students in the Port Arthur Independent School District.
Our charge for each of our students is that they are able to learn, comprehend and compete, not only with students in our region of Texas, but also with students from across the world.
The year has already kicked off with a wonderful Back to School Fest hosted by Valero-Port Arthur Refinery, Port Arthur Industrial Group, Diamond Green Diesel and PAISD. We would like to thank over 60 Valero volunteers, over a dozen event vendors, several community businesses and organizations who freely hosted informational exhibits, and all of our PAISD employees that were on hand for coming out and supporting this enormous event.
Our community greatly benefited from the school supplies and backpacks given away, STEM activities, fuel gift cards raffled, games, food, entertainment, car seat belt safety and so much more.
Last Wednesday, the district welcomed back staff and employees at our annual convocation held at the Memorial High School boys gymnasium. Many vendors were on hand to showcase ways their businesses can benefit PAISD in the neighboring girls gym.
We extend a huge thank you to Mrs. Adrienne Lott for coordinating such a huge event.
We congratulate and thank the Port Arthur Independent School District Board of Trustees for approving a 2 percent pay raise across the board for all of our employees. Our board understands the economic issues that are plaguing our country and is eager to try to find ways to recruit and retain our employees.
Every day, we have discussions on how we can tighten up our safety protocols within our district. No matter how much we plan and implement, our protocols can always be better.
As with academics, we have to continue to find ways to enhance what we are doing within our facilities when it comes to safety.
PAISD administrators recently decided it was in the best interest of safety for all campuses to move in the direction of requiring all our students to use clear backpacks to transport their belongings to and from school each day.
We firmly believe clear bags are safer than mesh backpacks that were being used in the past. Clear bags also speed up the process of daily security checks.
I understand many families have purchased or been given mesh backpacks. But now we have to work together in order to ensure every child that needs a clear backpack has what they need at the start of school, while we continue to keep our students safe.
Parents, you know that the Port Arthur Independent School District has proven we will work with you for the success of every student. We have free breakfast and lunch daily, free laptops yearly; we give out free uniforms and school supplies when they are available; we provide free instruments for our band students every year, and the list of what we give to assist our students goes on.
Your homes and our school are partners in the education of each child and must also partner for the safety of each child. Together, we achieve so much more than when we disagree.
Our community has been fortunate to not have experienced a school shooting; however, we cannot get comfortable with the fact that it has not happened here in Port Arthur. There have been 386 school shootings since Columbine, and in 1988, one of our own school bus drivers was shot and killed by a student during her route.
As the school year begins, and throughout the entire year, we will be assessing our safety standards and protocols. When we research and learn of best practices, we will change in the interest of safety. We may change with short notice because it is in the best interest of our students and staff.
We will do our best to give you a timeframe you can work with. But we cannot guarantee that will always be the case.
I am asking that you partner with us — and not resist us — to ensure our students have the required clear backpack for the first day of school. We have witnessed, and we have no doubt, that on Monday, August 14, 2023, our students will return to school with the most fashionable shoes, clothing, hair styles and more. Please include the clearest see through backpack with their look.
We understand how you feel about the time of the announcement, and because of that, we are working on securing assistance from our business partners to help us meet some of our students’ needs for clear backpacks.
Additionally, we, ourselves, are researching vendors and methods to order clear backpacks for some of our students in need. We cannot order bags for all 8,000 plus students, but we can put forth the effort to make a difference for some.
We will work with our parents who have registered their children for the 2023-24 school year; and we are asking every parent to have clear backpacks for all students by Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. That gives you a little over a month after school begins, and exactly seven weeks after the new directive was first announced, to secure what your child needs for school safety compliance.
We look forward to working with each of you, and wish for each staff member and student, a safe, successful and engaging school year.
Dr. Mark Porterie is superintendent of schools for the Port Arthur Independent School District. He can be reached at email@example.com.