Parking seems to be a hot topic in McKinney, downtown or elsewhere.
In November, residents voted down bond money for a downtown parking garage. This week, parking-related complaints surfaced from students at McKinney North and McKinney High School.
They found out McKinney ISD plans to do away with one of their prized traditions: seniors decorating their own parking spots for their final year.
The tradition began 10-12 years ago at McKinney High when seniors sold particular parking spots as a fundraiser. That morphed into seniors claiming and painting their preferred spots.
McKinney Boyd, the newest of the three high schools, does not participate in the senior tradition.
After recent renovations and additions transformed McKinney High, and with similar but smaller-scale renovations underway at North, the district wants to shift away from the tradition and keep charge over campus facilities and their appearance.
District officials’ reason for eliminating the tradition? The painted spots don’t look good.
With the upgrades to the two participating high schools, officials feel it’s “time to move away from this particular tradition,” district spokesman Cody Cunningham said.
Students, many who watched older siblings decorate their parking spots before them, are trying to hold onto the tradition. “Painting Senior Parking Spots,” an online petition at change.org directed at the school district, has more than 1,600 supporters.
Formatted as a letter to MISD, the petition states: “The tradition of painting senior parking spots should be continued. How can you justify taking it away from us?”
The signed protest comes several weeks after protest to the proposed downtown parking garage. In November’s city bond election, voters denied the funding necessary to build the structure, likely leaving downtown with a shortage of spaces for at least a couple of years, city officials said.
For the student-organized petition, mostly graduates voiced their reaction to the plan, many pointing to McKinney High’s traditions as what make the school and McKinney ISD so great.
Brenna Whitten, a former McKinney Lion, urged administrators not to undermine the school’s legacy by “stripping us of the traditions that make us stand out.”
Debra Keiser, another McKinney High graduate who says she’s lived in the city for over 20 years, called the parking spot decoration a “rite of passage” and cited the tradition’s monetary benefits. If 75 percent of her daughter’s 500-plus-student graduating class painted their parking spots last year, the school could have raised more than $18,000, according to Keiser.
Cunningham said the online petition “does not impact” the district or its decision. But McKinney ISD Superintendent Rick McDaniel decided to table the issue until next year.
McKinney High Principal Gordon Butler sent a letter to parents and family members Sunday night providing reasons for the coming change. In the letter, he confirms that seniors may paint their parking spaces for the 2016-17 school year, though with “specific guidelines” determined by a committee of parents, students and McKinney High staff.
“Next year will serve as a transition year for this tradition,” the principal states. “I will seek input from students, parents, and MHS staff to look for viable alternatives to painting senior spaces in the future.”
McKinney High’s traditions committee will brainstorm and review potential replacement options, Cunningham said.
Here’s Butler’s full letter to McKinney High parents:
“Dear Lion Nation,
“On Friday I had the opportunity to attend the McKinney Independent School District Athletics Hall of Induction ceremony. It was an honor to hear the stories from coaches, athletes, and contributors about their time representing MISD and McKinney High School. It struck me that our traditions at MHS are not built on activities, but the people and their impact on MHS. Tradition is about leaving a figurative mark, instead of a literal mark on MHS.
“It was with careful deliberation and thoroughness that I made the decision to move away from seniors painting their parking spaces. I am using the same careful deliberation and thoroughness to allow this tradition to continue for the class of 2017, with the support of the MISD Administration.
"For the 2016-2017 school year, seniors will be allowed to paint their parking spaces; however, a committee of students, parents, and MHS staff will work together to create specific guidelines that students must follow in order to paint their senior parking space.
“Next year will serve as a transition year for this tradition. I will seek input from students, parents, and MHS staff to look for viable alternatives to painting senior spaces in the future.
“We are blessed to work in a district that graciously approved a bond that enhanced the physical beauty of McKinney High School. The upcoming bond this spring has the potential to further enhance the aesthetics of our campus.
“Each morning as I pull into the MHS parking lot, I am reminded of our motto that is displayed on our marquee, “Rich in Legacy, Focused on the Future.” This statement is the essence of what makes our school The McKinney High School.”
Gordon Butler, Principal