Superintendent calls allegations false

Sunday, January 6th 2008, 10:42 pm
By: News 9

Staff and Wire Reports

With his future on the line, Oklahoma City Schools Superintendent John Porter defended himself Sunday against allegations of wrongdoing that have led the school board's chairman to ask whether he should be suspended or fired.

Porter said allegations that he wrongfully hired a company to institute a new reading program and turned in questionable expenses were both false, and he intended to plead his case at a school board meeting Monday morning.

"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.

Chairman Cliff Hudson has criticized Porter for refusing to meet with the school board and said in a statement Saturday that 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.

School board chairman Cliff Hudson told NEWS 9 the findings were the result of an investigation.

Hudson didn't describe the investigation except to say "those involve some required by state law."

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

"There's been no personal contact, inspire 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 had been scheduled to be out of town during the district's winter break and he was also tending to a family emergency. He said he first received the allegations against him on Thursday.

"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.

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

He said he also follows 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 school 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 his change in leadership at John Marshall made the school "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 had 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 poor 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."