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Students fight for WFISD teacher’s job

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:44 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Since sweeping cuts were announced by WFISD a few weeks ago, one teacher has become a rallying point for students and the community.

Linda Fain has been with WFISD for the last 30 years, but she no longer has a job as Hirschi’s International Baccalaureate program coordinator because of the school district’s financial crisis.

The school board has said that the IB program is not being cut, but Fain’s students say that losing her would cripple the program. In addition to scheduling students’ classes and tests, Fain acts as their support and safety net through years of an extremely stressful academic program.

“Without an IB coordinator, which is what Ms. Fain does, IB can’t really run,” Lexi Jacobson, a sophomore at Hirschi High School, said. “Without Ms. Fain, there would be no IB program.”

Jacobson originally considered attending Hirschi after hearing about its International Baccalaureate program from relatives, but it was Fain who sold her on the switch.

“I’ve always been about academics, I take my grades very seriously,” Jacobson said. “ My mom and I actually had a couple of Google meets with Miss Fain, who gave us some information about it, helped me set up my schedule and basically talked to me about what it would do for my future, especially if I graduated with a diploma.”

The connection didn’t stop when Jacobson entered the program.

“She is pretty involved with my family,” Jacobson said. “My mom and her have conversations all the time. A lot of my friends have the same connection with her. I have a friend who Ms. Fain has been there through all of her siblings.”

As IB coordinator, Fain is in charge of registering exams, documentation for foreign students, ensuring the correct curriculum is taught (it changes every five years), and much more. Her students are adamant that what Fain brings to the program goes beyond her job description, which is already three pages long.

“She does so much that people don’t see,” Jacobson said.

One of those hidden tasks is serving as a safety net for her students.

“There’s a lot of kids in one school, and counselors have to deal with all of those kids,” Jacobson said. “She specifically deals with the honors kids and the IB kids.”

These kids are high achievers, but they can also fly under the radar because they’re unlikely to act out in class. If something’s going on in their home lives, it can be harder for teachers to spot; something especially dangerous when the kids in question are enrolled in a notoriously grueling academic curriculum.

“They do start piling on the work, and our teachers are there for us, but to a certain extent that’s on you,” high school senior Phillip Allery said.

“Grades sometimes to them are more important than their mental health and they don’t realize that until they go, go, go, and then have a breakdown because it all hits them at once,” Jacobson said.

Because Fain develops deep relationships with her students and their families, it can be easier for her to catch issues before they develop into something more serious. In addition to monitoring their grades, Fain has regular check-ins with students. Perhaps most importantly, these relationships last for years.

“She tries to get to know a lot about you, considering that you’re going to be one of her kids for pretty much the next couple of years, or as she calls it, her babies,” Jacobson said.

Some might argue that it’s special treatment -- but in the words of Allery, Fain “makes a point to show that IB kids aren’t her only focus.”

Allery had initially signed up to be in the IB program, but wasn’t able to complete it due to external situations.

“They let me drop the classes in the IB course. But she didn’t stop looking out for me there, she, she still followed me and still made sure I was okay,” he said. “She still talks to me, knows me, checks up on me when she can... for a lot of students, that’s the guiding light that gets us through high school.”

So Linda Fain’s students continue to fight for her to be reinstated to her former position. While they acknowledge it may involve a pay cut or reduced hours, they say their teacher is ready to make that leap.

“I want for people to not give up on her and keep fighting to keep her there, because this job means a lot to her, and she means a lot, to a lot of people,” Jacobson said..

“Regardless of my not being able to finish out the program, I believe these kids do deserve that,” Allery said. “People like Lexi, who are just now stepping through the front door, all the possibilities in front of them. They don’t deserve not to be able to finish without her.”

But even if Ms. Fain is reinstated as coordinator, questions remain on if the IB program will continue once the new high schools open in 2024. The district is facing a $9 million deficit next year, and has been cutting programs and department budgets to try and make ends meet. Fain’s dismissal is the result of these cuts.

The district said on May 4 that there were no plans to discontinue the IB program at Hirschi, which has offered IB’s “Diploma Programme” since 1998. Kirby Middle School is also an authorized International Baccalaureate World School, offering the IB Middle Years Program. But when Hirschi High School becomes a middle school in 2024, when the new high schools open, will the IB program continue at Memorial or Legacy High School?

Stick with News Channel 6 as we find out.

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