Middle school kids stand up for teacher
A seventh-grade student at Brundrett Middle School said he circulated a petition that garnered about 200 signatures in support of Mary Sibley, a BMS teacher whose probationary contract was not renewed by the school board last month.
Sibley started teaching writing at the Port Aransas Independent School District in fall 2008. In action March 12, the PAISD Board of Trustees renewed the contracts of all of the approximately 51 certified faculty members in the district except for Sibley's probationary contract.
Citing laws against releasing information on personnel issues, neither Rick Adams, president of the school board, nor Superintendent Sharon Doughty have commented on why Sibley's contract was not renewed.
Sibley told the South Jetty she believes she has done a good job as a BMS teacher. She said she did not know why her contract was not renewed and was "floored" when she heard it wasn't. Her last day with the district will be the last day of school - May 29.
At the April 8 school board meeting, Aaron Kenigsberg was one of three BMS students who stood before a lectern and addressed trustees in praise of Sibley.
Kenigsberg admitted that students may not know all of the factors that went into the decision not to renew Sibley's contract. But, he added, "we (students) know better than any of you what a great teacher Ms. Sibley is."
BMS Principal Bob Byrd declined to comment on Sibley's case because it's a personnel matter. But he did say that when he heard the petition was being circulated, he investigated to make sure no school district employees were encouraging or discouraging the students involved with the document. He said he found no adults involved with it.
Another student speaking in support of Sibley was seventh grader Ty Morris.
"She brought a new meaning to language (for students) and truly changed our lives in the process," Morris said. "We couldn't ask for a better teacher and friend."
Eighth-grader Michelle Arnold also spoke in support of Sibley.
Due to Open Meetings Act laws, trustees did not reply directly to the students' comments, but trustee Chuck Borders commended them for speaking their minds and doing it with passion.
Asked if trustees were reconsidering the non-renewal of Sibley's contract, Adams said he could not comment because it was a personnel matter.
Sibley did not attend the meeting. "I don't want to cause a problem in this city," Sibley told the South Jetty the next day. "I don't want to be a spectacle."
Sibley said she had nothing to do with the petition and did not encourage the students to speak out in her support. However, she said she was "very proud of what they did."
Kenigsberg said he started the petition because he was upset that Sibley would be leaving BMS. When his mother, Stephanie Kenigsberg, saw how upset he was, she suggested that he take action, he said.