The following was written by LYS Principal, Dr. Jerry Burkett. Governor Perry, I want to take this opportunity to invite you to my school. I am fortunate to lead a mid-sized elementary school in North Texas that is poised for greatness this school year. Although this is only my first year to lead my school, our students have shown double-digit gains in reading, math and science in all grade levels. We are positioning ourselves to achieve our first TEA Exemplary rating in school history. How did we do it? Perseverance and dedication. Our students come to school nearly everyday and a select few arrive at school at 6:30. We are not staffed to allow these students in the building this early as many of these students have working parents who are on their way to their second job. Our school is a stop on the way to work. Our students sit outside and wait patiently for the school to open, reading books, and completing homework. When we are able to open the building, I have two dedicated paraprofessionals who monitor our students through breakfast. We open the computer lab for the older students and the library for younger students. This alleviates the overcrowding we have in our small cafeteria. This also allows us to rotate our students through breakfast. Breakfast is very popular. Most all of our students elect to eat. For many, it is the first meal they have had since lunch at school the day before. I am thankful for the federal government free and reduced lunch program. It benefits nearly 90% of my student body. After breakfast, we dismiss for classes. You will find the finest teachers greeting students at the door each and every day. We shake hands, give hugs, smile and talk to our students before they even walk into the classroom. We look to make sure students not only have their homework but have gotten enough sleep, are clean, and aren’t wearing the same clothes at the day before. If we do find these things, we notify our counselor and social worker so these professionals can get our families in contact with local charities for food and clothing. Students are expected to perform to the highest standards set forth by the Texas Education Agency. We do not allow our students to fail. We ensure quality instruction, communicate with our parents, and educate in each subject area according to the student expectation, not the TAKS test expectation. My teachers work tirelessly to plan lessons, attend staff development sessions, analyze data, host parent conferences, complete paperwork, and grade papers. They understand the needs of our students and work hard to meet their needs. We are able to accomplish these tasks on 10% less than we were given by our school district last year and we’ll do it next year with even less. I invite you to tour my building with me and experience its age and history. My building is named for a famous Texan who once graced the same grounds you walk today and I believe that he would be proud to have such a school named in his honor. However, in my building you will find temporary walls, a leaking gym, and that musty smell that is indicative of building as old as mine. Sadly, it cost more to run my building than some of the newer ones in the district, as it is not as energy efficient as it should be. Governor, on a daily basis, we work to serve a variety of students from many nationalities. My student population is largely Hispanic but my student body is blessed with talented students from El Salvador, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Vietnam. We are fortunate to have such a fine collection of cultures and nationalities collected in one school. I encourage you to visit my Pre-K or Kindergarten Dual Language classroom where you will find students learning English and Spanish in all subjects in one room. Even I have been able to learn some Espanol in my short tenure as a principal. Imagine that, my students teaching me! Despite the many roadblocks we hurdle each day, our students leave my building with a smile. Our school is safe and our students know they are loved. I ask my teacher to love their students and I ask my students to love each other. As long as we work to respect everyone and the needs they come to us with, we can succeed. I realize that you had your own personal needs to fulfill when you restructured the tax code in 2006. You needed to be re-elected and it made for great debate fodder against Chris Bell and Carolyn Keeton Strayhorn who warned you against restructuring that same code. I understand that your approval ratings were down and you needed to remind your Republican supporters that you were on their side. However, since then, you have succeeded in steadily pulling money each and every year from your state school districts yet raising the requirements and expectations of those same districts. You have asked us to perform with higher expectations and lower funding. Yet, we have persevered and we are dedicated. Governor, I implore you to rethink the structural tax deficit that was created in 2006. Using the rainy day fund will only plug the hole, it will not fix the problem. Imagine how much more your school districts could do with the proper funding. I am not asking for more funding, I am only asking what is necessary. Right now, we do not have what is necessary. I hope you find the time to visit my school. You will find the finest students in all of North Texas working hard each and every day to meet our expectations. The only thing they expect from you is the funding necessary for them to be guaranteed what our state constitution requires for all students, “to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” Sincerely, Dr. Jerry R. Burkett, Proud Principal Think. Work. Achieve.Your turn…Follow Sean Cain on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation

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