Gary Rush | Reporter
In a unified protest, students attending Santa Fe Trail USD 434 Junior High and High School took it upon themselves to walk out of scheduled classes Thursday, Oct. 15. The walkout was spurred on by the resignation of several district teachers, which were accepted at the district board meeting the night prior. Many believed the letters of resignation from the teachers would force the hand of the board, with the intention of entering negotiations for changes in the conditions within the district.
“The board of education was given the opportunity to table the resignation(s) until next month’s board of education meeting to give time to see if an agreement could be made,” said Milissa Caskey on the “Don’t Overlook Overbrook” social media page. “The teachers who submitted their resignations stood up and told the BOE they do not want to quit, they want change. The board voted to not table (the resignations) and instead accepted them.” In summation, the teachers asked for their resignations to force the hand of the school board. The ploy fell short, however, when the delegation granted their requests.”
The demonstration held at the Carbondale Attendance Center resulted in many middle school students remaining on school grounds, but outside the building when classes were usually in session, for the entire school day.
“We do not agree with the learning system,” said River Allen during an interview at the protest in reference to the newly implemented “Summit Learning” platform. Allen is a Carbondale Attendance Center student and resident of Carbondale. “It is causing all of our teachers to leave because they are unable to teach with their own lesson plans. They are unfamiliar with the material the system requires them to teach.”
“We are also protesting because our principal has removed all of our hands-on learning,” said another student from Overbrook.
“Hands-on work is what I do,” said Kimberly Espinosa, a student from Carbondale. “Online learning does not work for me. It makes me not want to do it.”
“We are doing this until our teachers don’t have to leave,” pledged Alizea Antrobus, Overbrook.
“I understand the purpose,” said Patrick Graham, Santa Fe Trail High School principal, referencing the several SFT high school students opting to include themselves in the walkout demonstration. “They are unhappy about teachers leaving. We are, however, supportive of having the students practice their freedom to protest against what they feel is not right.”
Graham eluded to the notion that the number of teachers leaving the district might be misleading. In total, 10 district teachers had voiced their intent to leave after the current school year.
“Four of the teachers leaving are doing so by requesting well-deserved retirements after long years of valuable service to our schools,” Graham said.
Regarding the remaining six teachers leaving the district via resignation, one is doing so after completing an internship and practicum at the Overbrook Attendance Center. The remaining five are resigning from the Carbondale Attendance Center. No teachers have tendered letters of resignation from the ranks of Graham’s high school instructors.
“My staff is amazing,” Graham said. “They are working harder this year than they have ever been asked to do so in the past. I will stand behind my teachers without question. Everything we have done this year is to keep the students in the building and learning. Computers will never replace my teachers. Only 30 percent of our schoolwork is completed online, while the other 70 percent is through student-teacher interactions.
“We are working with the kids and their schedules because the world has experienced some drastic change of late,” Graham said. “We are doing what we can to adapt.”
Students returned to classes but the school district, as a whole, appears to remain in a state of duress. The board will meet again in regular session 6 p.m. Nov. 11 at the high school auditorium.