by Joseph Sweeney | editor-in-chief
For most students, senior year marks the end of their high school career, but for class of 2016 alumni Ryan Sedillo, it was actually only the beginning.
“When I was at Johnson I mainly focused on lighting so that was my thing,” Sedillo said. “They had a couple of different names like head light master, master electrician, whatever. I was the light guy and I did everything from spring show to pop show and everything in between, and of course all the theater productions that we did. [Megan] Thompson, my senior year, was like, ‘hey, you can be a contractor and we need your help,’ so I was like, absolutely.”
Since graduation, Sedillo has worked under contract with both the theatre and dance programs.
“We have students who we contract to work on video for us, we have students we contract who do graphic design for us, we have students who we contract to choreograph for us. It just depends on our needs for the year,” theater instructor Megan Thompson said. “And it’s not just former students. We like to provide work for former students if we can, but a lot of them go off to college and are not available anymore.”
While working with theatre, Sedillo attended colleges in San Antonio to obtain both his electrical trades certificate and IT degree. He has also recently begun working with James Madison high school’s theatre program and for Trinity University’s marketing department.
“Coincidentally, Mrs. Thompson, our theater teacher, her husband is now over there,” Sedillo said. “And so I’m there helping him jumpstart that program, getting to do the same thing, teach the kids, and even teach Mr. Thompson some things along the way.”
Sedillo is not alone in this practice, however, as a number of students in fine arts programs return to work with their alma mater as contract workers.
“What we do is we have to make them a vendor first. So we give them a bid packet, they fill that out, once they fill that out, then we can give them an individual contract,” Fine arts director Joseph Johnson said. “It is up to the individual sponsor that is looking for some work and all that. It’s normally people that they find that they’ve either worked with in the past as students that are now doing it professionally. [When] people know someone, they’re like, ‘hey, they do really good work. I’ve seen their stuff. I’d like to use them.’”
When signing on with the district, contractors can specify their desired pay either by the hour teaching, like for those that give tutorials, or based on a general allotment for those that judge events such as debates.
“When they go to a tournament, stuff like that, sometimes they’re judging every round that’s offered, sometimes they’re off two or three rounds, it doesn’t matter, because they get that one lump sum $200. So it’s really up to the coach at that point to decide ‘how am I going to use that person?’ Johnson said.
Through their employment with the district, and after obtaining the proper certification, contractors are often considered for open positions in their department for full-time teaching employment. More recently, however, a shortage of contractors has come about in departments which relied on remote work during the pandemic.
“What we’re finding is that even our contract workers are part of this greater social period that we’re going through right now that many have referred to as the great resignation,” Johnson said. “Last year, we had to do everything through Zoom-like applications. That’s really impacted this year, because a lot of people got used to that. If I’m a judge, and I’m going to UT, I could judge any tournament I wanted to. I was no longer restrained by geography. So I could go judge a tournament in Dallas one weekend, and I could judge one in El Paso the next weekend, because it was all remote. So last year, we found that we had access to more judges than we normally didn’t have. Now that we’re trying to do in-person tournaments we’re finding it very hard, because people are like ‘well, you have an in-person tournament going on here, and they’re doing it remotely. [Remotely,] I don’t have to leave my house.”
Despite the changes as a result of the pandemic, contractors like Sedillo have persevered and stuck with their respective programs.
“We have this banquet at the end of the year, every year. They give out these things called Gnomies: it’s a golden gnome, like a gnome screwed on a piece of wood, spray painted gold, and it has our names on it,” Sedillo said. “So everyone gets a different Gnomie; a phrase but relevant to that person. My Gnomie my senior year was most likely to be here next year.”