Lessons Learned from West: Public Schools are Important

West  Independent School District (ISD) and its community are special to me. While attending Baylor University, I did my first semester of student teaching at West Middle School. Growing up in Waco, I played basketball in their gym. I have attended WestFest numerous times, and like many Texans, stopping for  kolaches at the Czech Stop is a ritual. So it was with heavy heart that I watched the terrible fertilizer plant explosion that rocked their entire community. Three of the four school buildings of West ISD were heavily damaged. The West Middle School that I taught at was destroyed.

But in the midst of that horrible tragedy, West’s strong sense of community prevailed. I saw people supporting their public schools – from within the community and around the state. School districts from across Texas immediately responded to help the students and educators of West ISD. A few of the acts of support included:

This doesn’t begin to include the other support received from churches, private organizations, local businesses, community members, and donors from across the state. The outpouring of support for the citizens of West and West ISD was so great that superintendent Marty Crawford “asked to be kept in thoughts and prayers, as he said the district was “swamped with school supplies.” Because of that outpouring from the community and all Texans, West ISD was able to resume classes within less than a week of that devastating blast.

No one talked about curriculum or testing. No one talked about inadequate funding, vouchers, or taxpayer savings grants.  No one talked about bond elections or TREs.  No one talked about parent triggers or shutting down the school and selling off its existing buildings to charters for $1. No one talked about common core or C-Scope.  All that mattered was getting the children of West, Texas, back to their public schools to help them regain a sense of normalcy and comfort after a tragedy.

And with that re-opening, the community was strengthened. Re-opening those schools was important because local public schools are the heart of Texas communities. They are the bedrock of our neighborhoods. Public schools are important. The people of West know that.

I always say, “If it’s important, you show up for it.”  West ISD is important, and the people showed up for it. I hope the legislature watched and learned as Texans supported their public schools. Maybe one day they’ll choose to do the same.

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