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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.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Why Wasn't Porter Told?

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent John Porter speaks to the media Thursday at the Waterford Marriott in Oklahoma City. By NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN

One question that has come up, largely by those defending Dr. Porter, is why wasn't he told that some of the expense reimbursements he had submitted were excessive or not allowed by district policy.

This question was covered today in The Sunday Oklahoman in a story written by Wendy K. Kleinman and Jeff Raymond. Tammy Carter, the district's legal counsel, says that it's likely that the others involved in the reimbursement process likely felt they couldn't tell Dr. Porter his requests were wrong. Tammy sates, "Think about your boss — do you really think that you would have the authority to tell your boss, ‘I'm not going to OK your travel expenditures?' " {Sunday Oklahman, 13 Jan. 2008)

I know Ms. Carter. She is a good lawyer who has served the district well. The AFT has at times had to work for employees who have gotten into trouble, and Tammy has typically been fair and willing work with us where that is possible.

I do, however, have slightly different take on this. It would be wrong to blame subordinates for the faults of their supervisors. Dr. Porter himself says in this report that he does not blame others for his situation. However, I would hope that somebody might have been willing to give good advise to Dr. Porter. Sure, you don't want to tell the boss, "You're wrong" unless you want to risk your job. But you can say something like, "You know, boss, you might want to check some of these items out. I'm not sure they are going to fly with district policy." This would be particularly helpful with the new kid on the block.

Again, as I have repeatedly said, this doesn't look like a case of a man wanting to defraud. It looks like a man who made errors. The question is, do those errors rise to the level of the need to dismiss him. Do we gain more by this than we do by a reprimand, a replayment, and a reconciliation? That is what the school board will have to decide.

Sunday Oklahoman article "Why were receipts approved?"

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