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September 02, 2005

Hurricane Katrina -- What's Up At My School?

You people know I almost never blog about school, and when I do I am very circumspect.

I will be general in this post, too , but I have to say that I'm going to be a bit more specific in what I say here.

I teach on the east side of Houston, at a 9-10 grade high school campus. We have about 2300 students, 80% minority, well-over half qualifying for free/reduced lunch. We are blessed by an industrial base, as we straddle I-10, and we are also a growing residential community because of new home construction on the north side of the district. I won't name the school or district.

We are being touched by Hurricane Katrina in a small way. My campus had four students fom Louisiana enrolled as of the start of school today. Our sister campus (grades 11-12) had 10. I would speculate the district probably had received 30-40 as of this morning. Who knows how many came in to the district today? I won't even begin to speculate about what will happen next week, though I will note that we already have a lot of students with Louisiana roots whose cousins are likely to turn up.

We got word from the district today -- we will take all comers without question. What's more, the word out of the district offices is that none of these students is expected to lay out a penny for anything -- not pens and pencils, not paper, not notebooks. To quote my principal, "If they don't have clothes, we will take them clothes shopping." I applaud my district for taking that stand, which I suspect goes even furhter than TEA requires of us.

But the commitment goes further than that. There aren't any openings in the district now (we pay well for the area, and have a reputation as a good place to work), but the district is planning to hire on some of the displaced teachers from Louisiana as long-term or permanent substitutes, so that they have money coming in. It won't be anywhere near their regular salaries as teachers, unfortuantely, but it will be something. After all, a lot of schools are closed for the foreseeable future over in Louisiana, and teachers have been told that they are on their own.

The district has asked employees to help. At our faculty meeting today, we were challenged to donate at a certain level (varying depending on whether the employee is uncertified, a teacher, or an administrator). We approved that by acclamation. Proceeds will be going to the school district in Pascagoula, Mississippi, with which there is a pre-existing relationship.

Our kids are in on this, too. One of our service organizations is running a clothing/bedding/canned goods/toiletries/everything-but-the-kitchen-sink drive. Students at the New Arrival Center (for recent immigrants needing to learn English) on one of our other campuses will be sponsoring a car wash tomorrow.

And then there was the fundraising drive by student council. I'm not sure how much they raised, but I suspect that it was in excess of $5000 just from sending someone around to each classroom during third period. I suspect my class ponied up about $50-60. A colleague tells me of one boy who, before going to lunch, pulled out his wallet and emptied the contents into the can -- at least $20.00. I've got this kid in one of my history classes, and know he comes from one of the worst neighborhoods in the district and from a family that doesn't have much. I know he wors after school and on weekends to contribute to the family budget, and doesn't keep much for himself -- so it was probably all or most of what he has for a week or two. He's the type of kid that I refer to when I tell folks that I teach the best kids in the world -- he may not be the best student, but he is an outstanding human being.

I don't doubt that the other schools in the district are responding in exactly the same way.

I'll update you folks about how Katrina impacts my school and my district as time goes on. One thing I can tell you, based on what has happened so far -- we WILL step up. And so will every other Texas school and district.

(Michelle Malkin has a round-up of relief efforts here in Texas -- and Lone Star Times is covering the action at the Astrodome)

UPDATE: As of mid-morning on Friday, at least 6100 students displaced by katrina have enrolled in schools around the state of Texas, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin talks about the situation in Pascagoula





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Comments on Hurricane Katrina -- What's Up At My School?

What a great school, everyone there! This makes me glad that the feds declared Texas and Arkansas disaster states so we'd be able to obtain federal money to help these people that probably lost everything.

But something about the federal disaster money thing I heard on the news bothered me: 'This means that ANY county in Texas will be able to apply for money under the disaster declaration'. Well if ALL the counties that apply for money are taking in evacuees, then it doesn't bother me, but will every county that applies for it be required to have taken in, or helped evacuees? Will someone be watching out for that? Because naturally we don't trust almost all politicans when there's money to be had, plus remember those stories about how some communities used the terrorism-prevention funds on really dufus stuff.

I just hope they're able to catch the opportunist BEFORE they try to take advantage of it, instead of reporters finding out about it way after the fact.

|| Posted by Sherri, September 3, 2005 05:04 PM ||

I'm reasonably sure that you have to show that you have expenses related to the hurricane to get the money. Otherwise it doesn't make any sense.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, September 3, 2005 05:22 PM ||

It's wonderful to hear how not only people but local government is helping.

|| Posted by muse, September 7, 2005 08:43 AM ||

BRAVO for your school! We it get tough in this great country, we Americans rise to the call and bust our butts to help our fellow Americans.

Our school (7-8 JHS, low socio area) is having a minor fundraiser; our kids get to wear blue jeans if they contribute some cash.....I have my advisory kids working on it in a bigger way as their community service requirement.

Just an idea: For "others" to contribute to obtaining supplies for your 'new' students, maybe asking for money cards for Wal-Mart would work better than sending cash or checks or mailing supplies (which the postage eats up alot of the supplies that could be obtained otherwise).

Have a great school year !

|| Posted by Polski3, September 7, 2005 08:33 PM ||

God bless you all. Our high school got our second student today, and our principal gave the people money for food and supplies, and a possible connection to a job for the dad. There are no words for the situation these victims face. We must welcome them all and try to heal their pain.

|| Posted by Ms. Cornelius, September 7, 2005 10:10 PM ||

I think this story that she wrote was good but I need somethings that rhymes lke Humty Dumty or something else that is very cool and interesting for adults,teachers and student to read and entertain.

|| Posted by Bernnie, October 19, 2005 02:01 AM ||
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NAME: Greg
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