Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District is distributing a survey on whether it should implement a clear backpack policy in the coming school year.
In his report to the UCISD board of trustees on Monday, July 17, during a regular session meeting, interim superintendent Gary Patterson ticked off pros and cons tied to clear backpacks.
On one hand, Patterson said, the policy could provide some peace of mind and deter students from bringing weapons into school. On the other, clear backpacks don’t guarantee students won’t find other ways to bring weapons in.
Board president Luis Fernandez requested a survey be sent to families to ensure the board makes an informed decision when the topic eventually goes to a vote.
Although a timeline for when a decision will be made on backpacks was not specifically named, Patterson said the goal is to provide parents ample time to prepare for the start of the school year. The first day of school is Aug. 14.
An outside group said it would donate 500 clear backpacks if the district opts to move in that direction, Patterson told the board. This donation could help lessen some costs for purchasing the bags, he said.
In the aftermath of the May 24, 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School, community members have called for increased district safety measures.
During public comment, community member Michele Prouty told the board it needs to instate accountability when it comes to safety measures. She added district buildings should be regularly monitored for compliance.
“We can install safe rooms in every classroom, we can turn our schools into armed fortresses,” she said, “but school safety systems are only as good as the people employing them.”
Faulty security measures, such as the door that was designed to lock but didn’t, contributed to the May 24 tragedy, Prouty said.
“We know who pulled the trigger, but it was complacency that let him in,” she said.
Adam Martinez, whose ban from attending board meetings was recently rescinded, told trustees that more funds should be directed toward resolving district security issues. He said more money could be spent on school safety measures if the district weren’t paying Patterson as much as it was.
Patterson, who took office in November 2022 following former superintendent Hal Harrell’s resignation, makes $1,000 per day and receives an added $75 travel stipend daily. That amount comes out to more than $240,000 per year. The median income of a Texas superintendent last year was $148,950, according to the Texas Association of School Boards.
“We cannot afford to pay Gary Patterson more than $1,000 a day,” Martinez said.
Another community member, Daniel Myers, criticized the UCISD police force for its action on May 24 and asked whether the officers followed protocol when they waited to intervene. He then turned criticism to the board.
“This school board should have stepped down when Harrell went down,” he said. “This is the same school board that was sitting there when 19 children were killed, and their two teachers.”
Additional reporting of the meeting will appear in future editions of the Uvalde Leader-News.
Sofi Zeman (email@example.com, 830-278-3335) covers education and crime for the Uvalde Leader-News as a Report for America corps member. Report for America (www.reportforamerica.org) is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities across the United States and its territories.