Egypt, Libya: They got nothing on the Katy school district.
Of course, "uprising" may be overstating it, but students at the schools left class to protest teacher layoffs caused by state budget cuts.
Morton High had an early dismissal today, so the situation worked itself out. At McMeans, though -- let's let the letter to parents from the principal tell the tale.
Today we had about 200 students who chose to go outside and protest. While most of them were peaceful, some were disruptive, and many chose to remain outside all morning. Students were talked by me, and many other staff members, that their voices have been heard and we wished for them to go back into class, and a few did take advantage of that. We did have students sign poster boards to show support for teachers, and on numerous occasions, we encouraged the students to go back to class.
We did, unfortunately, have one student with a minor injury after a parent pulled into the parking lot with water for the students and the students mobbed the car. The student is safe, and the crowd was dispersed by staff.
Students who remained outside will receive an unexcused absence for each period absent. Some, who were disruptive, will receive disciplinary consequences.
I wish to commend the students who stayed inside and continued their education, yet may have given me letters, expressed their concern, or asked about a more appropriate way to show support for the teachers.
This is a very troubling time for us in KISD, and here in Bobcat Country, but we will do our best to persevere, and provide the best education possible for your students.
And KISD Superintendent Alton Frailey sent out a letter to all secondary-school parents that included his letter to students explaining the budget situation.
Dear Parents, Below please find a copy of a letter from the Superintendent that was e-mailed to all secondary student Katy ISD e-mail accounts this afternoon. This letter is in response to today's campus walk-outs.
While we understand the frustration that some of our students are feeling at this time, we need to keep them focused on academics during this last stretch of the school year. Legally, we cannot stop students from leaving class; however, both parents and students know that there are consequences with unexcused absences, missing classroom work and disrupting the school day. Therefore, we encourage you to talk with your students about the importance of staying in class.
Also, we encourage you to take a moment to view the latest news and Q&A document regarding the 2011-2012 budget so that you, as a parent and community member, can stay well informed about the situation.
Letter to students:
Today, some of your peers decided to take a stand to have their voices heard in protest of teacher lay-offs. I understand that many of you are upset over losing great teachers, and I too feel the same frustration. This entire process has been one of the toughest challenges we've faced as a school district in recent years. Therefore, I want you - our students - to understand how we got here:
The State of Texas is facing an education budget shortfall of as much as $10 billion over the next two years. This means that school districts all over the state will not receive a significant amount of money. For Katy ISD, we're estimating a loss of approximately $50 million. However, by Texas law, we cannot reduce teacher pay to save jobs. And, by Texas law, we cannot use funds for new school buildings to pay teachers. This is why we have had to face the difficult task of cutting back on programs and laying-off staff members - both teachers and administrators.
Texas law requires us to notify teachers of their job status at least 45 days before the last day of school. So, even though the state has not announced a final dollar amount that will be cut from our schools, we are forced to make difficult staffing decisions before April 19. This deadline is what drove the announcements this week. These layoffs are necessitated by the projected shortfall in state financial support-not due to job performance. My hope is that the state does not cut as much as is currently projected, allowing us to hire some of these great teachers back.
Our goal is to spread the cuts as much as possible so as to not severely impact the classroom, classroom support, student learning experiences and other services that have made Katy ISD one of the top school districts in our nation.
You are Katy ISD, and I admire you for wanting to have your voice heard - and for caring about our great teachers. We are continuing to work hard to balance this situation, and I ask that you be respectful of your teachers and your principals as this time is very difficult for all of us.
Please stay focused on your academics and finish strong in this last stretch of the 2011 school year.
Superintendent of Schools