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Texas News
McAllen ISD’s J. A. Gonzales named South Texas Hero of the Year
The United Way Board of Directors announced Dr. Jose A. Gonzalez, Superintendent of McAllen I.S.D., and United Way Board Member, as the 2021 South Texas Hero during the Volunteer & Company Awards Event.

The South Texas Hero Award is presented to an individual that demonstrates commitment and leadership in the community through extraordinary engagement in year-round service projects. The award was established in 2008 in honor of Ray Alexander, retired General Manager of KRGV TV 5. He was instrumental in leading and strengthening collaborations between United Way of South Texas and other non-profits. He also played an essential role in establishing the Rio Grande Valley’s “211” Information and Referral program.

San Antonio ISD looks to Latin America for hard-to-find dual language teachers
As early as this fall, San Antonio Independent School District might have teachers from across Latin America leading some of its dual-language classrooms.

The district is moving forward with a board-approved $325,200 contract with the International Alliance Group to recruit 30 teachers in all grades, which could help with an ongoing teacher shortage and support its push for culturally relevant studies.

Last month, the board approved using ESSER funds — from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief program — to cover the cost of the contract. The IAG is to cover expenses related to vetting, visa applications and insurance.

Longview ISD unites families through bilingual soccer commentary
Inside a press box with eyes glued on a moving soccer ball and a phone and a microphone that transmits in two languages in hand, Francisco Rojas connects the Hispanic community and sports by providing bilingual soccer commentary for Longview ISD.

Rojas, who works as Longview ISD’s spokesperson, has been tagging along for Lobo soccer games, taking turns producing play-by-play commentary in English and Spanish.

Texas teachers say they’re pushed to brink by law requiring them to spend hours in unpaid training
It was one thing to ask Texas teachers — during an ongoing teacher’s shortage — to make extra room in their busy home routines for online classroom teaching for months, then to monitor the latest in vaccine and mask mandates while waiting and adjusting yet again for a return to the classroom.

But now, as teachers attempt to restore all the learning lost by their students during the pandemic, the Texas Legislature has insisted those who teach grades K-3 need to jump another hurdle: they need to complete a 60-to-120 hour course on reading, known as Reading Academies, if they want to keep their jobs in 2023.

Texas schools don’t have enough mental health providers. As leaders fail to fix it, kids suffer.
Sitting at her desk, Luna Mestre-Colón felt her throat tighten.

She reached into her binder and pulled out a piece of paper with instructions for a breathing exercise, the edges creased from frequent use. The school counselor told her to follow these steps when she felt an anxiety attack coming.

She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. The room was closing in.

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National & International News
To Close Pandemic Academic Gaps, Experts Point to a ‘Cascade’ of Skills Young Kids Will Need To Work On
At his Kumon Math and Reading Center Franchise in San Antonio, Sarit Kapur is used to working with kids who are at risk of falling behind. 

Now, said the tutor, after the effects of the pandemic, not only is the risk a reality, but the gap is growing. 

“A lot of kids who were on the borderline before all the virtual stuff, they have fallen behind,” said Kapur, who can see just how wide the gulf has become for students who have spent two years in pandemic schooling because he begins tutoring at whatever level a child has mastered, not the level their age and grade suggest. 

Less Funding, Less Representation: What a Historic Undercount of Latinos Means for Schools
The U.S. Census Bureau reported in March a significant undercount of Latinos in the 2020 census data, an outcome with wide-ranging implications for K-12 education, experts and community leaders say.

The population count that happens every 10 years to determine the number of seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives historically undercounts certain demographic groups including Latinos. But the 2020 undercount of 4.9 percent for Latinos was about three times greater than the undercount of 1.5 percent in 2010.

Pandemic-era free school meals to end in June without congressional action
Since the start of the pandemic, El Paso students have been able to eat breakfast and lunch at no cost. That’s slated to change next school year if Congress doesn’t take action — and soon.

School nutrition waivers that cover meals for all students regardless of income expire in June. Congress didn’t extend them when it passed its federal spending bill last month, but a bipartisan group of senators is pushing to preserve the benefits for another year as part of a COVID-19 relief bill being debated this week.

Ninety percent of public school districts nationwide took advantage of the U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers to offer universal free meals to students, including El Paso County districts.

One-third of Latinos blame debt issues on parents not teaching them how to manage money
A new study finds many Latino parents are hoping their children make better choices with their money than they did. Only 51 percent of Latinos would want their children to make the same financial decisions (saving, investing, and budgeting) that they did.

A recent survey of 2,000 Americans between 18 and 41, half of whom identify as Latino, found that non-Latino respondents were much more likely to want their children to learn from and model their own money habits (76% vs. 51%).

Four Questions for Xochitl Gonzalez Regarding Her Debut Novel, “Olga Dies Dreaming”
Gonzalez’s debut novel, Olga Dies Dreaming, was published in January by Flatiron Books. Set in 2017, the story centers on Olga Acevedo, a wedding planner for Manhattan elites, and her brother, Pedro, a popular congressman who represents their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn. Such apparently successful lives cover a painful family history: their mother, Blanca, had abandoned them to follow her militant political cause in support of Puerto Rico’s independence; their father — also a political activist — became addicted to heroin and died of AIDS. Raised by their grandmother, Blanca eventually comes blowing back into her children’s lives as hurricane season also rolls in. Gonzalez explores questions of ethnic and gender identity of the siblings as their respective American Dreams begin to crumble under the weight of self-realization, historical injustice, and federal indifference.

Las Tienditas
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David Webb – Regional Partnership Director, Texas – 214.883.2880