Hundreds of Timber Creek High School students staged a peaceful protest this morning in support of teachers who recently received termination notices because of budget cuts.
Students staged a sit-in outside the front door of the school, chanting "save our teachers," as a few students used a megaphone to address the crowd.
“There isn’t any disrespect going on, but we really want to let everyone know that we care about our teachers,” said Cameron Steele, a junior at Timber Creek, which is in the Keller school district.
Sophomores Rachel Dykes and Colby Niblette said they participated in the sit-in to show their support.
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“I think it’s important that our teachers don’t get fired, especially the good teachers,” Rachel said.
Colby said he wanted to rally around Kyle Sammons, a U.S. History teacher and coach who received a termination notice. He said Sammons gave freely of his time to students, especially in helping with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Sammons spoke to the students and asked them to go into the school auditorium to talk about their concerns.
About 500 students gathered in the auditorium to listen to Principal Todd Tunnell discuss the budget crisis, “a problem that is bigger than Timber Creek or Keller ISD.”
“I’m very grateful for your passion and concern for your teachers,” Tunnell told students.
He said the school had to lose 17 teachers, including the popular Sammons who is an assistant coach for football and wrestling.
“There is a chance we can get these teachers back,” Tunnell said.
Because of a state funding crisis, the Keller school district officials are projecting a $38 million deficit for the 2011-12 school year. Last week, school board members called tax-ratification election for June 18, which will ask voters to approve a 13-cent property-tax increase.
About 120 teachers on probationary contracts received notice last week that their contracts would be terminated. District officials have said they expect to hire back about 75 percent of those teachers. But if voters do not OK the tax-rate increase, those teachers would likely be laid off again, officials have said.
Tunnell urged students to get involved in raising awareness about the budget crisis and encourage community members to vote in a tax ratification election. He also asked kids to do well in school the rest of the year as part of the proof that their teachers were effective and needed.
While a few teens spoke in the auditorium, Tunnell asked many to submit their questions to him in writing and notify him of their willingness to help.
Tunnell then asked the students to go to class, but many who had made T-shirts and signs and worked to arrange the protest were not willing to give up that easily.
About 200 kids left campus and marched along Timberview Boulevard and Keller-Hicks Road on their way to the Keller Education Center, about four miles away. While some students drove and others caught rides with parents, most of them walked all the way. They met for about 30 minutes with Superintendent James Veitenheimer.
Veitenheimer said he told students and the handful of parents who accompanied them that the problem was much greater than the Keller school district and that the budget crisis could only be resolved at the state level.
“You don’t cut 20 percent out of an already efficient district and not impact people,” he said.
Veitenheimer lauded students for their concern. “I appreciate what it was they felt. It’s great kids will stand up for their teachers.”
District officials made a bus available for students to return to Timber Creek, but some chose to take the rest of the day off.
District officials said they were still in the process of deciding how the absences would be handled.