Dismay, anger fuel student petition drive

South Whidbey High School students raise their fists Friday in support of a petition drive to help save the jobs of 13 teachers. - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
South Whidbey High School students raise their fists Friday in support of a petition drive to help save the jobs of 13 teachers.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

Wearing hand-printed T-shirts declaring “Save Our Staff,” dozens of South Whidbey High School students protested teacher layoff notices Friday morning.

To guarantee their voices are heard, a petition campaign by the students has begun, designed to encourage the district to change its mind about the number of teachers getting final layoff notices.

On the heels of possible layoff notifications last week from the South Whidbey School District — 37 total, of which 13 affect high school staff — organizer Wolf Clifton said there has to be a better way to solve the district’s $1.9 million budget crunch.

“We want to raise the level of discourse about seniority,” Clifton said.

“None of us can see any rational correlation between experience — seniority — and performance in the classroom. Some of my favorite teachers are on the list. After all they’ve given me in terms of my education, I want to support them,” he said.

Friday, students gathered in the high school commons with the names of the 13 on T-shirts, hand-printed by Hailey Hanna.

“It’s sad,” said Tyler Norris. “The teachers give their time and effort to do a great job, then are told they might be RIF’d. Not much we can do about it, but this is a way to let them know how we feel.”

The petition being circulated asks the school and district administration to retain as many staff members as possible, selecting on the basis of quality, not seniority.

“Not one person has turned me down,” said senior Danyelle Leggett as she roamed the school asking classmates to sign. “I have 112 signatures so far and there are nine of us doing it.”

The signatures will be gathered together and presented to district officials by next Tuesday, Clifton said.

“We hope it makes a difference,” he said.

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