Veterans, parents upset by plan to have school on Memorial Day

By CASSIE MCKEE, Hill Country News

It’s been a highly unusual winter in Central Texas with three bad-weather days for Leander ISD students; however, the LISD Board of Trustees’ plan to make up one of the missed days on Memorial Day has upset many local veterans and parents.

Leander resident and Marine James Crabtree created an online petition last week to urge the LISD board to not have school on Memorial Day. He then sent out a press release and began speaking out through local Austin media. He and several other local veterans and parents spoke during the citizen’s comments portion of the LISD School Board meeting last week on Feb. 6.

Leander resident and Marine James Crabtree created an online petition last week to urge the Leander ISD board to not use Memorial Day as a bad weather makeup day. Crabtree also spoke at LISD's board meeting last week. photo by Cassie McKee

Leander resident and Marine James Crabtree created an online petition last week to urge the Leander ISD board to not use Memorial Day as a bad weather makeup day. Crabtree also spoke at LISD’s board meeting last week.
photo by Cassie McKee

It is a personal fight for Crabtree. While serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, he said his battalion lost 10 men.

“It’s the one day our nation has set aside to honor them and all those we’ve lost in our nation’s armed forces,” Crabtree said, prior to the LISD meeting. “It should be a day that is more than just another random school day or a day for mattress sales.”

After learning that the district was planning to have school on Memorial Day, Crabtree said he and other community members sent emails to the Board of Trustees to ask them to reconsider. He said he received a response from the assistant superintendent of human resources.



“The response that she sent me is the exact same response she sent to everybody else on that issue word for word,” he said. “Down to thanking them for their military service, when a lot of them that wrote were not vets. Some of my friends got really upset about that because it just showed that it was a check the box response that Memorial Day is some pet issue to veterans, and it’s not.”

Leander parent John Wilkes also spoke at the LISD meeting to express his opposition. He is an actively serving Navy reservist.

“When I realized it was going to be Memorial Day, I was a little taken aback because Memorial Day is a day we honor those who we can’t thank anymore,” Wilkes said. “So I just want to come up and say my piece with the board and hopefully they’ll understand and change course.”

Though the board cannot address citizen’s comment during the meeting, LISD Superintendent Bret Champion addressed the issue at the start of the meeting.

 “I’ve recently heard some things that deeply saddened me that some in our community believe that we have intentionally disrespected the memory of the great men and women who have served our country so that we can have the freedom that we have,” Champion said.

Dr. Bret Champion

Dr. Bret Champion

“I can tell you, speaking for the district, we are grateful everyday that we live in a country where any child from any background, race or religion can come to school to learn and grow and become a productive citizen in our society. We recognize that freedom, that opportunity, is not free but took the sacrifice of many for us. We value our Armed Services. We have very active ROTC programs at two of our high schools; our fifth high school was named after Lt. Matthew Vandegrift. It saddens me that there have been some who say we don’t respect these folks who served.”

 Champion said because the board approves school calendars in advance of the school year, including bad weather make-up days, they are very limited in their ability to change those days. He said the district is looking into the possibility of applying for a waiver with the state that would allow Memorial Day to be a staff-development day only.

 “If we’re able to make Memorial Day a staff development day, I will be the first one to submit that waiver,” he said.” We’ve already talked to our staff about that possibility. But I am reluctant to do it right now given the crazy weather pattern that we have Central Texas. It’s been a crazy winter, to say the least.”

 He said the board will also look to find different days to use as make-up days for the 2014-15 school year.

 Crabtree said he received an updated response from Champion Monday morning.

 “He wrote that they want to get through winter and then will work with other districts to ask the commissioner for a waiver,” Crabtree said.” I think we certainly brought this issue to their attention, far more than they probably ever expected, and I’d be very surprised if a solution can’t be found.”

 LISD parent Lisa Morris also spoke at the board meeting and said that while she is not a veteran, she is a “Gold Star Mom” meaning she lost a child in the armed services. Following her comments, she received a standing ovation from many in attendance. She said the board should not have even considered having school on Memorial Day.

 “Quite frankly, I know your intention is not to insult but as a patriotic American, I am insulted that you would even think that that is an option, because it’s not,” Morris said.