The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
The Port Arthur ISD school board voted against its own attorney’s advice and undermined it’s own administration on Thursday, by reinstating a receptionist, who had been moved out of her position without adequate explanation.
Evelyn Johnson, 63, had been employed as a receptionist at the PAISD administration building for over 30 years, according to her attorney Carl Parker.
As PAISD moved into their new administration building this July, Johnson was moved into a new position at Booker T. Washington Elementary School and replaced by two new, higher-paid receptionists, said Parker.
Johnson filed a level one grievance against the PAISD administration in July of 2011.
The grievance was repeatedly denied by district administrators and conversely appealed by Johnson, until it reached a level four grievance, which brought it before the board to vote Thursday.
Among the compelling evidence presented to the board by Johnson’s attorney, was a packet of the employee’s long history of positive evaluations.
Parker, Johnson’s attorney, also accused assistant superintendent Mark Porterie of nepotism for denying the grievance during the level one hearing.
“Her grievance was over-ruled by your assistant superintendent, whose wife was one of those people who has taken over her position,” said Parker.
Citing his client’s loyalty, Parker asked the board to, “Reinstate Ms. Johnson back to the job she has served so faithfully and so well.”
In defense of the administration, PAISD attorney Tanner Hunt, argued that the policy established by the district did not allow the board to enter into the issue, saying it the board policy had a “narrow focus,” and that unless the superintendent Johnny Brown or one of his employees did not follow the policy, the board should not go against it.
“You would be involved in a situation of micro management and I am sure that is not a situation in which you want to be in,” said Tanner Hunt.
But Parker rebutted by saying he would bet his law license that Hunt would not advise a lawsuit against its own board.
“You have the power to do that and don’t let them tell you you don’t,” Parker told the board.
The board deliberated Johnson’s grievance in closed session before coming out to vote.
“We as a board must uphold policies and procedure,” said trustee Thomas Kinlaw, during the final discussion. “But I do have concerns after looking at these evaluations.”
All board members voted in favor of reinstating Johnson, except Willie Mae Elmore, who chose to abstain.
“This is a moment that may come back to cause some consternation and problems,” said board president Kenneth Marks. “We are not here to undercut the superintendent and his staff but with the vote that has just been taken, that’s what happened.”
After the board meeting, the redeemed Johnson told the News, “It feels good to know we have a decent board. They are the governing body of the district and they proved that tonight.”