SYRACUSE — Note to Mrs. Faerber, Mr. Wilcox, Mr. Arquette and Mr. McCord: Your students seem to really love you.
Some waved signs with those names, some chanted, some drove around honking and waving and some took off their shirts, wrote one letter each of "Save our teachers" in black ink on their chests and stood in a line.
About 500 students at Syracuse High School (enrollment 1,800) left class Friday at 10 a.m. to protest cost-cutting measures by the Davis School District.
The mass of students traversed 2000 West, briefly stopping traffic, to make it clear they left school property before Syracuse police and Principal Craig Hansen urged the students to come back to school property where it would be safer for them to stand.
For the next two hours, they danced, cheered and held signs saying "No teacher left behind" and "Save our teachers."
Rumors of similar protests at Layton, Northridge and Clearfield high schools circulated from cell phone to cell phone, but no similar protests began at those schools.
Student Melissa Wallace, who helped organize the walkout at Syracuse with fellow cheerleaders and the girls' basketball team through Facebook and text messages, said she was excited about the turnout.
Some students said their teachers dismissed them from class to go to the protest, and rumors circulated about students who received extra credit for going.
"I think it's pretty cool the teachers are behind us," Wallace said. "They can't say anything or they'll get in trouble."
She said there isn't a lot students can do, but she wanted to show that they care that the school will lose teachers with one-year contracts that may not be renewed for the coming school year.
"A lot of people don't know what's going on," Wallace said.
A need to trim $31 million from the proposed 2010-11 budget has forced Davis School District administrators to make frustrating choices that include reducing central office administrators and staff, not renewing the contracts for recently hired teacher positions, increasing class sizes and more.
District spokesman Chris Williams said the district is considering a property-tax increase and is conducting a poll of Davis County residents to gauge public response for such an increase.
Along with 90 certified employees who were on one-year contracts, budget cuts also mean that 15 school counselor positions, nine secondary and 15 elementary school administrative intern positions and one high school secretary position per school will be cut. Also, 11 reading teacher positions will be lost.
At Syracuse High, seven teachers have been told they won't be returning, Wallace said.
Williams said some of the teachers are moving to other schools and some won't have their contracts renewed.
"This is a tough decision for (the school board) to make," he said. "People are shouldering a lot of extra work."
More than 470 people have joined the Facebook group Wallace created called "Save SHS Teachers and Programs." Some of them are parents, Wallace said, but most are students.
She said text messages about the protest had been flying through the school "like crazy" on Friday. School administrators made an announcement Friday morning that students who walked out would be handed truancy citations.
"I don't know how they can handle that many," said Wallace, a graduating senior this year.
Wallace said she's not too bothered by a possible truancy, which means a $5 fine.
By noon, about 50 students remained on the sidewalk, but began filtering back inside for lunch.
The district budget must be finalized by the end of June. Other options being considered by the district include a property tax increase, reducing the number of refrigerated vending machines in schools to cut energy costs and decreasing department supply budgets by 5 percent.
Contributing: Amy K. Stewart
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