Fired up over the very real chance that nearly half the teachers at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts could be let go, senior Korey Elizabeth Parker paced the Wyly Theater stage last night, letting the crowd know that in the coming budget battle, she and her fellow mimes will not be silenced.
Nor will dance, music or visual arts students at the arts magnet school; nor the parents, teachers and friends -- including the Dallas Theater Center's artistic director, Kevin Moriarty -- who filled the Wyly last night, plotting a resistance to the worst-case plan released by Dallas Independent School District, which has said it could slash 42 of Booker T.'s 89 teaching positions.
"Use the rainy day money," Parker told the crowd. "'Cause it's not raining anymore. It's pouring, and a hurricane's coming."
Mike MacNaughton with Dallas Friends of Public Education, who organized the rally, told the crowd they'd need to come speak at DISD board meetings, and keep coming back. What the district faces now, he said, is "a permanent resetting of finances."
"The way it looks right now, the state is not going to bail us out. The feds are not going to bail us out," MacNaughton said. "So if you think this is a scare tactic, you're wrong."
Pointing out trustees Bernadette Nutall and Lew Blackburn in the front row, MacNaughton called Blackburn "a strong-willed voice of the people" for insisting teachers be the last thing cut from the budget. He reminded the crowd to write letters to their trustees advocating for teachers at Booker T. Washington and let them hear about it in the next election. (Carla Ranger, Adam Medrano and Jack Lowe's terms are up this year; Lowe has said he won't seek another term.)
Another student, Jillian Jones, called for more participation from her fellow students, who could turn out to the school's most articulate and persuasive advocates in the political theater around DISD's budget.
"As students, we sit on the sidelines and watch the political battle ensue," Jones said. "I am a young person who is a part of this system, and I'm not sure what this educational system holds."