By Kim Hilsenbeck
Hays CISD school board members listened to about a dozen comments at Monday night’s board agenda meeting, all related to retiring “Dixie” as the Hays High School fight song.
Recent graduates Jordan Kadjar and James Collins, both of whom were active at Hays High – including in the Rebel Band – during their tenures, spoke passionately to the board. Each expressed strong pride for their alma mater but Kadjar said the fight song doesn’t define student pride.
Collins, who will attend the University of Texas at Austin, said he applauds the decision.
Many community members and former Rebels also spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. Former long-time Hays High football coach Bob Shelton said retiring the song was a big deal. He expressed dismay at how the decision was made, in his view, without community or student input.
“Quit doing what is politically correct and start doing what is right,” he told the board and school administrators.
District officials said they received about 80-90 emails along with comments through the Let’s Talk forum, accessible on the Hays CISD website.
Spokesperson Tim Savoy said the majority of that input was in favor or retiring Dixie, but he said officials also considered a petition to keep the song. Community members said that petition had about 1,300 signatures.
Superintendent Mike McKie along with top officials at the district and the campus, including Principal David Pierce, made the decision earlier this summer to no longer allow Dixie to be the school’s fight song.
There is no indication from district officials or board trustees, two of whom are Hays High graduates, that the issue will be brought to a vote or the decision reversed.
However, the board discussed Item K2, 4 on the agenda, which involves district-initiated revision to the naming policy. Debate then ensued on whether such changes, for example to mascot names and school colors, should be taken to a board vote. In particular, since, as trustee Marty Kanetsky said, such changes may require an appropriation of funds.
Trustees who spoke said they do not want the board to micromanage issues and that board decisions regarding expenditures are limited to $50,000 and above.
Board President Merideth Keller said the naming policy will be up for a vote at the next meeting.
At the conclusion of the public comment period, many audience members left the building, despite the pleas from Hays CISD Board President Merideth Keller, who said, “Please stay for the budget discussion.”
Later in the evening, board member Holly Raymond said, “I wish all the people who were here for ‘Dixie’ were still here for this [budget] discussion, because this is what affects all 18,000 students.”
Raymond said having a balanced budget two years in a row is important and she complimented Chief Financial Officer Annette Folmar for making that happen.
Folmar said receiving an infusion of $11.1 million from the Texas Legislature following the 84th session helped.
Projected enrollment for Hays CISD in the 2015-2016 school year is 18,754, up from 17,924 the previous year. Per student spending is estimated at $7,559, an increase of 3.75 percent over 2014-2015.
The proposed total Hays CISD operating budget for the 2015-2016 school year is $141,761,644. The board of trustees will vote on the budget at the Aug. 27 business meeting.