Q & A with SBOE Chairman PorterAustin Harris
Jim Porter was recently elected chairman of the 10-member State Board of Education. Porter, of Fredonia, has served on the board since 2015 and represents District 9, which covers southeast Kansas.
What is your background in education?
I began my career in public education as a K-12 vocal and instrumental music teacher. In that school district I was promoted to assistant secondary principal and then principal. I then became a superintendent of schools for a 34-year period with a brief interruption to serve as an assistant director of a Regional Professional Development Center. I have served on numerous committees and boards as well as serving as an adjunct instructor in both music and education at several universities and colleges.
Why did you run to be a member of the State Board of Education?
I have always believed in community service. I believe that it is the responsibility of citizens to give back to their communities. However, my decision to run for the State Board of Education was somewhat impulsive. When Jana Shaver decided not to stand for re-election I was asked by several people to run and decided to do so, basically at the last minute.
What is the biggest challenge facing the State Board?
There seems to be a disrespect for public education and teachers and other personnel by some segments of the community. The challenge is to support teachers and schools in this difficult time. We must attract the highest quality teachers and staff to educate the children of Kansas. We must rebuild respect and trust.
What is the best part about serving on the State Board?
The best part of being on the State Board is visiting schools and interacting with students and school district personnel.
What do you do outside of your board duties?
I am recently retired and spend as much time as possible with my 4 pre-school aged grandchildren. We are also doing some traveling that we put off while I was working and I still serve on several Boards and Committees.
When you were a child, who did you look up to?
My mother was a first grade teacher who taught until she was 77 years old. She was absolutely dedicated to her students. I also attended a large and active church and there were many leaders in my church who inspired and influenced me.
Who inspires you now?
A lot of people inspire me now. I am inspired every time I visit a kindergarten classroom and see the amazing progress students are making under the direction of outstanding teachers. I am inspired by the passion and dedication of my colleagues on the State Board of Education. I am inspired by our Commissioner of Education and the Deputy Commissioners, along with other dedicated professionals of the Kansas Department of Education. I am inspired and proud of my immediate family, all of whom are working to make their communities better. I am inspired by all of the dedicated education professionals who are working hard to assure that “Kansas Leads the World in the Success of EACH Student.”
Was there a teacher or someone in the education community who made a difference in your life?
Gertrude Crawford was my 8th grade history teacher. I didn’t like her as a smart aleck 8th grader. She had high expectations for all of us and held our feet to the fire. In retrospect, I see now that my life long interest in history is a direct result of her influence. Miss Crawford was nearing the end of her career when she was my teacher almost 60 years ago. I wish I could go back and thank her.