Clad in red to show solidarity on Tuesday May 24th, students, parents, and teachers gathered in front of their beloved Darnall Charter School to demand that Darnall board members reconsider their vote to eliminate the position of Ignacio Gomez, one of only two counselors who serve in the school of about 600 students.
The controversial decision has left staff, parents, and members of the local education community sad and disappointed. For the dozens of protestors at the school site, cutting emotional supports in the post-pandemic era is not in the interest of the students that the Darnall board claims to serve.
Educators cannot understand why a transformative figure could be so expendable; “Among the seven core beliefs of Darnall Charter is ‘inclusive behavioral and social-emotional instruction and support’” explained Darnall English teacher Michelle Miguel. “How can we reasonably meet that need by eliminating half of that support system?”
Outside the school, supporters of Mr. Gomez were given heart-shaped papers where they scribed notes of acknowledgment for specific moments when their counselor helped them. Once written, they attached their thanks to the front gate to be included among the scores of other moments when he was present in their young lives.
During the meeting, some of Mr. Gomez’s efforts with students and voluntary school projects were described, such as the beautiful school murals, and his “positive door message” that inspired nearly all the school’s doors to have supportive messaging as well.
Like the murals now covering the walls of Darnall, Mr. Gomez’s influence is everywhere.
In another outreach based on student need, Mr. Gomez recognized Muslim students at Darnall did not have a time or place to observe their religious practices during the school day. Since there is a specific window for noon prayer, he organized and collaborated with teachers to open up a classroom during lunch so those students could pray privately. By seeing these students and their need, he has helped to reinforce and encourage diversity and acceptance on the campus.
Moments of celebration have also been improved and been more inclusive-like the Mariachi Performance at the beginning of the school year-a concert Gomez organized for everyone at Darnall.
Mr. Gomez was also honored for his unsung outreach to students, wherever they are. This includes visiting them at the hospital to show he is there for them.
Darnall educators, parents, and students have made it clear they want their counselor reinstated.
“Mr. Gomez is an integral part of the success of Darnall. He puts the needs of our students first. He implements new programs and supports students who are unique to our school. The prayer time and small group counseling all started because he recognized the needs of our students.”
– Nicole Weaver, Science Teacher