TALAS E-newsletter – December 17

Posted on December 17th, 2020
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Texas News
TASA and 22 other organizations pen letter to Gov. Greg Abbott regarding continued ADA funding
TASA, along with 22 other organizations, sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott today that urged him to extend the provision in TEA guidance that provides assurances of 100 percent ADA funding for the remaining 18 weeks of the 2020-21 school year for both virtual and in-person learning.

If enrollment declines continue after the first 18 weeks, school district funding is in jeopardy, and districts’ ability to continue to serve students will suffer. Budget cuts will be inevitable and will result in layoffs of some teachers and other essential school personnel at the worst possible time. Educators and other school staff members have put their lives on the line to keep schools open.
FBISD decides on superintendent finalist
Flour Bluff ISD has named Gregory Portland Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Velma Soliz-Garcia as the sole finalist for its superintendent job.

The search for the new superintendent began after the previous superintendent, David Freeman, died as a result of COVID-19-related complications in August.

The position is currently being filled by acting superintendent Joe Kelley.

Harlingen CISD Trustees name Dr. Alicia Noyola as lone finalist for superintendent position
In a news release, the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District named Dr. Alicia Noyola as the lone finalist for the superintendent position left vacant by the retirement of Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos. 

With over 30 years of experience in public education, Dr. Noyola qualified for the position. Dr. Noyola currently serves as HCISD’s Chief Academic Officer, a position she has held for the past eight years. 

“With her vast and wide array of experience in education over the past 30 years, including the last 17 at HCISD, we are confident in Dr. Noyola as our lone finalist,” said HCISD Board President Eladio Jaimez. “We have made great strides as a district, and we are confident we will continue in that path under Dr. Noyola’s committed leadership.”

A Commitment To Reducing The Carbon Footprint Earns Dallas ISD A Big Award
Dallas ISD received the 2020 NRG Excellence in Energy Efficiency Award. The district was selected from public and private entities statewide to receive the award for its “continual process to reduce costs by reducing energy consumption,” and by being the largest urban school district in the nation with renewable energy.

This singular recognition is a result of a coordinated effort within the Dallas ISD Maintenance and Facilities Department to enhance financial and environmental stewardship through preventive maintenance, lighting and HVAC upgrades, and focused support of the department’s Energy Management and Sustainability team. Beginning in July, Dallas ISD committed to 100% renewable energy and participation in several demand response programs overseen by the Energy Management System team. Maintenance and Facilities’ commitment to energy efficiency has resulted in a reduction in the district’s energy consumption, an increase in savings, and an impressive lessening of its carbon footprint.

Austin ISD: Teachers, staff to be in phase 2 of state COVID-19 vaccine rollout
The Austin Independent School District said district teachers and staff will be a part of phase two in the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.

The announcement came from Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde during a Monday night board meeting.

“They know how important our teachers are to our schools… the lobbying we’ve done collectively—our voices were heard,” said Elizalde at the meeting.

As COVID-19 cases grow at San Marcos ISD, staff presents plan to reduce numbers after holidays
The number of COVID-19 cases at San Marcos CISD has been rising steadily since early September, with the total number of cases throughout the district reaching 86 by Dec. 7.

At the district’s Dec. 14 meeting, staff presented its plan to mitigate case numbers once students return to school after the holidays.

SMCISD Superintendent Michael Cardona told the board district staff will still return to campuses Jan. 4 but will request families who have the ability to keep their children in remote learning from Jan. 5-11.

Texas students will still take STAAR tests in 2021, but schools won’t be rated on them
State lawmakers had previously asked the Texas Education Agency to seek a federal waiver to cancel the standardized tests.

Texas public school students will still take the STAAR test this spring, but the state will not rate schools and districts based on their results, the Texas Education Agency announced Thursday.

The announcement comes as districts report alarming numbers of students failing at least one class this fall and thousands of students who have not showed up to online classes or turned in assignments. In normal years, Texas rates its schools and districts on a scale from A through F, based in large part on the scores students receive on the standardized tests.

Texas Medical Association advises school districts to continue offering virtual learning option
The Texas Medical Association and Texas Pediatric Society sent a letter to the state’s association of school boards and administrators, advising them to continue offering virtual learning options as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Some Texas schools have been returning to classes in-person only, mainly due to connectivity issues or struggling students.

“We really put some families in a very difficult position, because they may not have access to those things,” State Rep. Geanie Morrison, (R-Victoria), said during a Texas Tribune discussion this week.

But, TMA said getting rid of the virtual option altogether presents several problems.

Texas school leaders urge state not to cut funding as they struggle with declining enrollment
Enrollment has fallen as schools and families grapple with pandemic closures and health concerns. Next semester, the declines could start hitting district budgets.

Texas school superintendents and education advocates are asking the state not to cut funding next semester for districts seeing enrollment declines because of COVID-19.

Texas funds schools based on attendance, whether students are learning in classrooms or virtually from home during the pandemic. Because many districts have seen enrollments drop as schools and families grapple with closures and health concerns, state leaders agreed to fund districts for the first 18 weeks of this academic year based on their projected attendance numbers instead of actual student counts.

Texas pediatricians hopeful COVID-19 vaccine for younger kids will be ready by summer
On a white piece of paper the red ink spells out the day. 

7 a.m wake up call. By 7:15 a.m. breakfast is ready and then it’s off to gather pencil, laptop and water before virtual school starts. 

“We make lots of lists, plus schedules to get us through our days,” said Sera Bonds, a midwife, who has been working from home. “Virtual learning for kids has been hard and we are so grateful for the option to stay home.”

Bonds and her pediatrician husband have been mindful about how they’ve spent the last nine months. 

Houston immigrant rights activist Maria Jimenez dies at 70
Houston immigration and civil rights activist Maria Jimenez, 70, died on Dec. 1 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Jimenez dedicated her decades-long career to fighting for marginalized communities, including immigrants and the LGBT community. The bulk of her efforts centered on issues facing the Latin American and immigrant communities, such as human rights abuse committed against immigrants by border agents.

“She was a compassionate and tireless leader, fighting for the most vulnerable, especially immigrants,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo in a tweet on Dec. 2. “She was a mentor to me and one of the first people to support me in running for county judge. Rest in power.”

ALAS Special Edition Pre-Conference:
Learning Loss and Why Assessments Matter for Our Students of Color
Thursday, Dec. 17 @ 7pm EST
ALAS will host a special edition episode of TrueTalkThursday on December 17th at 7 PM ET as a pre-conference event leading up to ALAS’ January 2021 Education Conclave.
Registration Now Open!

Education Conclave
Language and Literacy: Mitigating Learning Loss
January 20–21, 2021
Event Description: Join ALAS National for our Education Conclave on January 20-21, 2021! To better serve our members, state affiliates, and partners/sponsors we will pivot and host this event virtually. We look forward to hosting a hybrid event soon.
ALAS Holiday Food & Toy Drive
Dec. 9–31, 2020
The Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) is running a national online toy and food drive to support Feeding America Food Banks and Toys for Tots across the country. You can help reach the goal of 3,000 items by shopping online to support the cause.
Looking for a new opportunity?
Supporting Your Career
9 Compensation Negotiation Strategies That Work
Once an employer decides they want to hire you, your negotiation power is the greatest—so use it! Your ability to negotiate well will not only affect your livelihood for years to come but will also set the tone for your working relationship. So, it’s important to take good care and do it well. Regardless of your comfort level in negotiating, it is a skill that you can build through practice. It’s a delicate and highly nuanced balance between “you don’t ask, you don’t get,” and “pigs get slaughtered.”

In my work with scores of clients over almost two decades, I find that many people previously haven’t bothered to negotiate or don’t negotiate as well as they can because of either (1) lack of skill, or (2) discomfort and a dire need for closure. Sadly, in doing so, they have cost themselves dearly.

National & International News
Connecticut Becomes First State In Nation To Require High School Courses On African-American, Black, Puerto Rican, And Latino Studies
High school course requirements are changing in Connecticut.

Beginning in the fall of 2022, all high schools will have to offer courses on African-American, Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino studies.

Connecticut is the first state in the nation requiring more culturally diverse courses.

Last week, the Connecticut State Board of Education unanimously approved the curriculum for the course, which was a final step needed to implement the requirement.

How the pandemic will affect Black and Latino children’s education and wealth for years to come
“Learning loss is happening. It is real and it is inequitable,” said McKinsey partner Jimmy Sarakatsannis.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt schooling across the country, students are falling behind — and none more than Black and Hispanics, a report by McKinsey & Company found.

That will have long-term implications on their earnings and health, said Silicon Valley-based Emma Dorn, global education practice manager at McKinsey and co-author of the report.

“One of the great travesties of this pandemic is that it has hit the most vulnerable among us the hardest,” she said.

Hispanic Groups Push Former NEA President as Education Secretary
More than 40 Hispanic civil rights and policy groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, are urging President-elect Biden to pick a former National Education Association president, Lily Eskelsen García, as education secretary.

“Eskelsen García is the ideal candidate to lead the U.S. Department of Education in a new direction from the previous destructive practices and policies of the Trump Administration,” wrote Antonio Flores, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in a letter to Biden on Friday on behalf of the coalition, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. García, as well as a number of others including the heads of large urban school systems, have been among those seen as potential candidates to succeed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

‘The Chicana/o/x Dream’: Authors discuss new book on Mexican American students
In The Chicana/o/x Dream: Hope, Resistance and Educational Success (Harvard Education Press), students are center stage. Interviews with them are the basis for the authors’ suggestions — about community colleges and four-year institutions.

Gilberto Q. Conchas, the Wayne K. and Anita Woolfolk Hoy Professor of Education at Pennsylvania State University, and Nancy Acevedo, an associate professor of educational leadership and technology at California State University, San Bernardino, are the authors, and they mix their views — based on years of working on Latinx educational experiences — with the interviews. They answered questions via email.

Racial-Justice War On Merit-Based Schools: It’s an Injustice Against Excellence, Critics Say
At a virtual town hall in Brooklyn about how the COVID-19 pandemic will change admissions to high-performing selective schools, New York City officials got a lecture – on systemic racism.

“Racism is foundational in all of our institutions, in our government, our economy, our health-care system, our legal system and our education system,” Ayanna Behin, president of a school district council, said at the June meeting. “It’s our recommendation that we prioritize the end of racial segregation in our schools.”

Behin’s comments reflect a racially charged debate in New York and across the country, invoking Jim Crow-era language to describe an education flashpoint more recent than old-fashioned enforced segregation. The conflict – influenced by critical race theory, the idea that racism is embedded in the structures of society – is over disparate racial and ethnic admissions, which critics deem so pernicious that even seemingly neutral yardsticks like grades and test scores reinforce them. These critics aim to integrate elite schools by removing the performance barriers that many white and Asian parents defend as objective measures of achievement.

Remembering a Chicano Academic Legend
Álvaro Huerta reflects on the life and contributions of scholar, activist and poet Juan Gómez-Quiñones.

Last month, the Mexican people on both sides of la frontera and our allies lost a brilliant scholar, activist and poet with the passing of Juan Gómez-Quiñones, or JGQ, as people often called him. It was one of the saddest days of my life.

We lost one of the greatest intellectuals not only in the Americas but also the world. The fact that JGQ was born a Mexican in el sur (Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico) and died a proud Mexican/Chicano in el norte (Los Angeles, Calif.) in a time when the Mexican continues to be otherized, marginalized and pejoratized serves as a grim reminder of this great loss for la raza.

For more than 50 years, from graduate student to full professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, department of history, JGQ dedicated his life to uplifting the people of the sun through his superior scholarship, dedicated mentorship, political actions and eloquent words. While his contributions are many, for the sake of space, I’ll list only a few.

50 Years Later, ‘Feliz Navidad’ Still Delivers On Its Bilingual Message
It’s been 50 years since José Feliciano came up with the seasonal earworm “Feliz Navidad.” The song is just two phrases of holiday cheer, in Spanish and in English, repeated over and over for three minutes.

“Musically, it’s simplistic, but that doesn’t take away from the charm of the song at all,” says musician Bobby Sanabria, co-director of the Bronx Music Heritage Center. “‘Feliz Navidad’s one of those kind of songs that, like ‘Happy Birthday,’ it’s very, very iconic. And anybody can sing it.”

Now, on the anniversary of a song that became a bilingual landmark, Feliciano is celebrating with a new recording, a new children’s book and a livestreamed concert on Dec. 20. For the new version of “Feliz Navidad,” he sang with 30 of his friends, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jason Mraz, Gloria Gaynor and Linda Viero Caballero, better known as La India.

This Mexicano Went From Campesino to Astronaut, Now His Daughter and Netflix are Telling His Story
Vanessa Hernández is using social media platforms to tell the world what it’s like to be the daughter of the first Mexican-American astronaut to go from working in the fields to being launched into outer space as an astronaut in hopes of leaving a positive impact and inspire future generations.

“Something that I really admire about my father that I’m trying to practice every day is to have that fearlessness of you should take risks [to achieve] what you want to do,” the Loyola Marymount University graduate tells FIERCE.

An engineer who co-developed the very first full-field digital mammography imaging system for early detection of breast cancer, hard work, perseverance, and grit were nothing new to him even if he had to create his own path.

This Mexican 12-Year-Old Girl Is Nominated for International Children’s Peace Prize
Ivanna Ortega, 12, has made it her mission to clean up the Madín dam, located in hometown in Mexico, Atizapan in the municipality of Zaragoza, just a few kilometers away from Mexico City. The dam was suffering from a lily infestation and the discharge of sewage and waste by construction companies in the area. Once Ortega realized action was needed, she organized a petition on Change.org to ask authorities to do something to save the dam.

“The dam has always been an important part of the place where I live, when I passed by and saw it full of lily pads I felt sadness, anger and despair to do something about it,” said the young activist.

Water lilies are a plant that grows very quickly and can become a pest that restricts water movement, contributes to siltation and decreases the economic utility, recreational and environmental values of water bodies. That combined with waste and sewage can lead to environmental disaster.

Sofia Vergara as Zorro In a Series Written by Robert Rodriguez? Yes, Please
After directing what many Star Wars fans are considering one of the best episodes of The Mandalorian this season, word on the street is that writer/director Robert Rodriguez is working with NBC to develop a new TV series based on the fictional masked vigilante Zorro.

Zorro was created in 1919 by American pulp writer Johnston McCulley. The character has appeared in countless mediums over the last century, including American, Mexican and European films, TV shows, literature, stage productions and radio dramas.

While the character has been portrayed by actors before like Antonio Banderas in the most recent film version (2005’s The Legend of Zorro) and Douglas Fairbanks in the silent-era original film in 1920 (The Mark of Zorro), the new Zorro will have a contemporary twist to the story with the casting of Colombian-American actress Sofia Vergara (TV’s Modern Family) in the title role.

Las Tienditas
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