Parents And School Board Speak Out On Day Two Of Boycott

It's day two of an apparent organized boycott by the African American community, apparently, in part, over the re-assignment of John Tyler High School Principal Dr. Aubrey Todd. And again today, more absentees than normal at several Tyler schools. Of the 17,500 students in TISD, 95% are in class on a normal day. Yesterday, it was around 84%. Today, that number raised slightly, to just over 88%. That means, more than 2000 kids were once again absent today. At John Tyler High School, attendance today sat at 78.3%, or around 615 kids absent. Boulter Middle School continued to see the lowest attendance rate at 66.3%. Around 200 of 460 kids were absent. In addition, Ramey and Orr Elementary schools also saw elevated absentee figures today. The line of cars waiting to pick up kids this afternoon at Boulter was once again decidedly shorter. But it still included several African American parents who made the decision to send their kids to school.

"This is a school day," said parent Willie McCalister. "That's one of the primary reasons that I brought him to school, and of course he wanted to come to school. Now, that doesn't mean I'm in disagreement over what our people feel about what is happening."

"It's my grand baby so I'm trying to do everything I can for her to get a good education," said Grandparent Willie Hampton. "That's what it's all about."

"He had missed a lot of days because he had been sick," explained parent Etta Caldwell. "He broke his wrist, so he was out a lot, so I couldn't afford not to, but I am against what they did to Dr. Todd. I think it's wrong. I think you can go about doing stuff a different way."

"Well I just believe that we're supposed to do things the right way," said parent Elisha Lewis, "and like I told the lady, I would just pray about it, and that's all I believe should be done, people should just pray."

"We hope the kids come back. We need them back," said TISD School Board President Andy Bergfeld. "We love all of our kids and we don't have any resentment to any group or community."

Bergfeld says the boycott has gotten his attention, but he says it is not going to change anything. He says school will continue in the meantime for those who want to attend, and the school board is committed to Superintendent Dr. David Simmons in moving forward with hiring a new principal.

"This system would be chaotic if you just let certain groups determine who would be a principal or a coach or a band director," Bergfeld said. "You've got to go through the system and have a school board elected by the public who hires the superintendent, and if he's not getting the results we need him to get, well then we've got to go find someone who can. But so far, David has shown me that he's taken this education thing very serious."

District Officials said today they are in the process of putting together a group that will develop a profile for what they expect from the next principal of John Tyler. That profile will help narrow the 20 applications the district has received so far for the job. The appointed group will consist of teachers, parents, and community members.

Kevin Berns reporting