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BISD students planning to protest on Monday
BEAUMONT- by Haley Bull
Teachers, parents and community members have spoken out, but now Beaumont students are voicing their opinions on proposed teacher cuts. They're planning to protest at Monday's BISD board meeting, where trustees will discuss the issue.
The board of trustees voted four to one in May to declare financial exigency, a move that's paved the way for up to 300 possible job cuts, many of them teacher's positions, to save $25 million.
The district released a list of proposed positions to eliminate on Friday. On the list are more than a dozen band, choir, orchestra and theater positions district-wide. Students said they're worried about the impact eliminating those positions would have on the district's fine arts programs.
Some students spent Sunday afternoon painting posters for Monday's rally.
"I feel like we have to show them how much fine arts means to us," Hope Flores, a theater student at Ozen High School said.
"It's just hit this point where the students need to use their voice that art has given us," Antonio Trevino, another Ozen High School theater student said.
The students got the idea for a rally after seeing the list of proposed positions to eliminate. It included their theater teacher's position.
"On the list it said one theater teacher is getting cut from Ozen High School. Ozen High School only has one theater teacher, therefore it's her," Flores said. "Without Mrs. Martin there is no theater program."
Gina Martin is the theater teacher at Ozen High School. She didn't know before they started their campaign, but her students are leading the effort to save band, orchestra, choir and theater positions.
"By cutting the things that they're talking about cutting, there are lots and lots of kids that will be left behind and that's just sad," Martin said.
She learned about the possible fate of her job through a text message from a friend.
"If the position itself is eliminated then the logical conclusion is that the program is eliminated along with the dance program, the orchestra program, the choir program, leaving a school of over a thousand kids with what appears to be two fine arts teachers on campus," Martin said.
Her son, Franklin Martin, plans to attend Ozen High School next year as a freshman and join the theater program. He's helping lead the protest.
"I'm not just doing this for myself or my mom, I'm doing it for the kids that are in it," Franklin Martin said.
The students said the fine arts program is more than just a class.
"It's where we get to be ourselves," Franklin Martin said.
BISD trustee Mike Neil stopped by the poster-making event on Sunday.
"When the district announced what they're gonna cut, and it's not just positions it sounds like it's almost departments," Neil said. "It has an impact on the students and I think maybe it woke some of the students up."
Neil said glad to see the students voicing their concerns but would like to hear any ideas they might have for a solution.
Hope Flores had one.
"I think it's very unfair that students and teachers have to suffer because of carelessness of the administration. I believe the administration should take a cut in their paycheck to make room for programs that matter," Flores said.
Fine arts students from Ozen High School are not the only ones planning to rally at Monday's board meeting. Band members, past, present and future are planning to join the effort as well as students from neighboring school districts.