Superintendent meets with school board

Monday, January 7th 2008, 9:17 am
By: News 9

Staff and Wire Reports

Oklahoma City Schools Superintendent John Porter is speaking with the school board this morning at 8:00 a.m. in a meeting open to the public. The superintendent steadfastly denies accusations of wrongdoing brought on by the school board chairman Cliff Hudson.

Porter defended himself Sunday against allegations of providing questionable expense reports, avoiding questioning while he was away on vacation, and wrongfully hired a company to institute a new reading program. He expects Hudson to call for Porter's suspension or termination, Porter said. 

"I intend to fight this issue and stay on the job doing what I came here to do: improving education for all of our children," Porter said Sunday at a news conference in the library at John Marshall High School.

Hudson has criticized Porter for refusing to meet with the school board, but refused to speak on details about the allegations, saying it was "in the best interest of the process to refrain from discussing details of the investigative report until we have finally spoken (to Porter)."

Hudson told NEWS 9 the findings were the result of an investigation and involved "some required by state law." But he would not speak on the details of the investigation.

The chairman said he's been trying to contact Porter since Dec. 20 to discuss the findings.

"There's been no personal contact, inspite of telephone calls, e-mails, letters sent to his Maryland home, an overnight courier, letters sent to his Oklahoma City home," Hudson said. "There's been no communication with John. It's not just me trying to reach him. Numerous people have."

Porter said he had not met with Hudson or the board because he was out of town during the district's winter break. He said he was also tending to a family emergency. The first notice he received the allegations against him was on Thursday, he said.

"I have never refused to meet with the board," Porter said.

Porter said the only issues he had been made aware of by the school board's attorney were "fiscal-related" and he believes he did nothing wrong.

He said the school board voted to approve the Wireless Generation reading diagnostic program that had been brought into question and the program was approved by the state Department of Education.

As for his questionable expense reports, he said he followed the district procedures for turning in receipts with his expense reports for out-of-town business.

"I never ever intended to seek reimbursement for any expenses that were not allowed for reimbursement," Porter said. "It's wrong, and I simply would not do it."

Porter was chosen in April to lead the 35,000-student Oklahoma City school district. He came to Oklahoma from Maryland, where he was a deputy superintendent for the 140,000-student Montgomery County Public Schools district in Rockville.

"I committed to come here when I could have stayed on the East Coast and had a great job, but I believed in this place. It's a calling for me," Porter said. "I have a passion about these children, and I am not going to give up because adults have a problem with me. I'm going to fight for these children."

Among his achievements since taking over in July, Porter claimed he helped make John Marshall "calmer, safer, more focused on academic achievement for all students."

"The district is on the right track and I am proud of what we have accomplished together in just six months and excited about what we can do together in the years to come," Porter said. "That's one reason why I am shocked and disappointed that our school board chairman will move to suspend and then to fire me."

Porter acknowledged that Hudson asked for his resignation about three months ago, but challenged the notion that the request was based on harsh criticism from principals in a survey.

"There wasn't a survey of principals that I'm aware of," Porter said.

Porter said he was focused on closing an achievement gap at poorly performing schools, improving low test scores and addressing data that showed low attendance, high dropout rates and more frequent suspensions for black and Hispanic students.

"We have a lot of work to do to improve the academic achievement of our schools, which have generally been much too low for much too long," Porter said. "I hope that the board chairman and I can put this behind us and get on with the business at hand."