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.
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).