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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Is the Case Against John Q. Porter a Matter of Personalities?

Oklahoma City School Board President Cliff Hudson

When one examines the allegations against Dr. Porter presented by Mr. McCampbell, the investigative attorney hired by the board, one sees that the allegations bascially fall into two categories: financial and personal. The financial allegations deal with reimbursement expenses Dr. Porter submitted which the board counsel considers unjustified and a large contract for a reading program Dr. Porter ordered without seeking competitive bidding. The rest deal with complaints by administrators and principals about how Porter has treated them.

The State Department of Education has affirmed that the reading program contracted by Dr. Porter is a "sole-source" program meaning that Dr. Porter entered into the contract in good faith believing that he was acting rightly. He can't be accused of "bid rigging" or graft in this matter. In other words, the dispute is a procedural one, not one of wrong doing.

The reimbursements have already been dealt with in this blog and in other venues. Porter can explain most and has accepted fault for the others. But again, the matter is one of policy and procedure invovling a man who has been in the district less than a year. In other times and places these have been matters of a reprimand at the worst and not an outright dismissal.

To me, that leaves only the matter of Porter's treatment of those he has been given the responsibility of directing. One person, in an anonymous interview on one of the television stations, spoke of Porter getting angry and using profanity against him. Other principals have spoken of being confronted by Dr. Porter in a demeaning manner.

Here is a man brought into the district for one main reason: save the MAPS for Kids project. The problems at the new John Marshall High School. This was brought about largely because of the MAPS for Kids committee boneheaded rush to open New JM when it was half finished. The principal and the staff where woefully unprepared to deal with the problems associated with bringing students from two widely different racial and socio-economic groups together in such a facility. Dr. Porter's first move was to deal with John Marshall, and by all indications, the moves he made were the right ones.

The problems in the district are not isolated in John Marshall. Porter has also confronted problems of long standing in our district. In doing so, he has created enemies, needlessly perhaps, but often necessary.

The problem of personalities is not solely within the schools and sub-ordinate administration. There are rumors that some board members dislike of Dr. Porter for their own personal reasons. One in particular is said to have soured on the superintendent because the member felt that Dr. Porter was "insincere" in his support near and dear to the member's heart.

This leads me to believe that the financial issue have less substance to them than we have been led to believe and that the case against Porter is a subjective one.

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