TALAS E-newsletter – February 15

Posted on February 15th, 2021
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Texas News
Weslaco ISD superintendent announces retirement
Weslaco Independent School District (ISD) Superintendent Dr. Priscilla Canales announced her retirement at the end of the 2021-2022 academic school year.

Dr. Canales served in public education for 30 years and as superintendent of Weslaco ISD since Dec. 1, 2016 and is the first female superintendent of the almost 100-year-old school district, said the districts news release.

“It’s time for me to start planning the transition to the next chapter of my life and return to family,” said Canales. “I love Weslaco ISD, and want the School Board to have ample time to work with the community to develop the ideal profile of the next superintendent. I know transitioning leadership takes a lot of time, and I will fully support the Board throughout the process.”

Austin ISD School Board Approves $1,000 Bonuses For Staff
The Austin Independent School District’s board of trustees on Thursday unanimously approved $1,000 bonuses for all full-time and part-time staff as a way to thank them for their work during the pandemic.

Most trustees at the board meeting mentioned they wished they could give staff more, but were excited the district found a way to give some sort of additional compensation.

“It really is about focusing on how we can demonstrate our appreciation in this small way,” board member Noelita Lugo said.

Galena Park ISD employees surprised with $1,000 stipend during pandemic
The emotional strain from the coronavirus pandemic on educators has been overwhelming. Instead of telling the faculty and staff in Galena Park Independent School District what a great job they’ve done, the school board of trustees and superintendent decided to show them.

As a token of their appreciation for their dedication and commitment during the pandemic, trustees approved the administration’s recommendation at Monday’s board meeting.

“There was just applause and joy and laughter. It was astonishing. We were so surprised and grateful. This will go a significant way into paying for student loans for our family and making sure my husband and I will be able to start a family soon,” said Cynthia Tenaglio, a chemistry teacher at Galena Park High School.

These South Texas school districts are offering COVID vaccines for teachers, staff
Victoria Longoria was expecting to be at the end of the line for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Longoria is an instructional teacher coach at H.M. King High School in the Kingsville Independent School District. She’s 30 and doesn’t have chronic health problems that put her at greater risk for COVID-19 complications.

But on Tuesday morning, Longoria headed to the campus nurse’s office, rolled up her sleeve and got her first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Texas Nominates 26 Schools for 2021 National Blue Ribbon Honors
Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency today announced the nomination of 26 Texas public schools as 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools.

“These 26 schools exemplify academic excellence, and I thank the teachers, staff, administrators, students, and parents for their outstanding work,” said Governor Abbott. “We have a responsibility to ensure that every Texas student graduates with the knowledge to succeed in college or a career, which is why last session we passed transformative legislation to invest more money into our classrooms and give our teachers a pay raise. This session we will build on these accomplishments to ensure that every Texas student receives a quality education regardless of their zip code.”

Many Texas students can skip STAAR tests this year, but high schoolers might have to show up to graduate
There will be few consequences if parents worried about the health risks of in-person testing keep their elementary and middle school students in virtual learning at home. But high schoolers still must pass certain exams to graduate.

Parents of Texas elementary and middle schoolers in virtual learning who don’t want their children sitting for in-person standardized tests this school year have a simple option: They can keep their kids home with no ill effect.

But for some high schoolers, whose test results still determine whether they graduate, there may be no way to get around showing up for testing sessions in person.

Obstacles for Black and Hispanic students could sink Texas if left unchanged
Texas minority students have always faced inequalities compared to their white peers, but new data shows the COVID-19 pandemic is widening the education gap, and that could mean negative consequences for everyone in the state.

School leaders and educational advocates warned during an ABC13 town hall Thursday night that lawmakers only have a small window of time to take action, as thousands of students have disengaged from virtual learning or have been lost in the shuffle altogether.

“Eighty percent of the children in Houston today are either African American or Latino,” said Andy Canales, executive director of Latinos for Education Greater Houston. “Our collective future rests on their success.”

A Dallas Art Car Brings Migrant Farm Workers’ Experiences Out of the Shadows and Onto Main Street
Carlos Ramirez’s ‘Altar to a Dream’ honors his parents, who traveled across Texas and the U.S. to pick crops.

The parents of artist Carlos Ramirez, whose public art installation Altar to a Dream is on view through February 14 in downtown Dallas, were born in Mexico, came to the Rio Grande Valley area as teenagers, and traveled across the United States as young adults, following the harvests. As they drove through states like Texas, Oklahoma, and California in a 1951 Studebaker, they nurtured a young family (Carlos and his two older sisters spent much of their childhoods on the road) and a dream of prosperity and belonging, while keeping one eye peeled for unfair bosses and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Looking for a new opportunity?
Supporting Your Career
Storytelling Can Amplify Your Virtual Networking Events
That virtual networking event you’ve spent weeks planning is probably missing a huge opportunity. Online meetings fall into patterns that few of us question. But Eva Niewiadomski, founder of Catalyst Ranch, a creative meeting and event space in Chicago, has observed that it’s commonplace to squander the first few minutes of online gatherings.

“I haven’t seen a single meeting that optimized that time,” she says. People tend to welcome the people they know and get locked into a pre-meeting conversation. This turns what could be a time to welcome everyone into a time when newcomers feel excluded.

Niewiadomski offers solutions.

National News
Senate Committee Approves Miguel Cardona’s Nomination to Be the Next Education Secretary With 17-5 Vote
Miguel Cardona cleared a pivotal step toward becoming the next education secretary Thursday as the Senate’s education committee voted 17-5 to approve his nomination.

He is expected to receive a final Senate confirmation vote soon.

“Cardona has the background, qualification and temperament to serve as secretary of education,” said Sen. Richard Burr, the committee’s ranking Republican, in approving the nomination. “He’s stressed the need for students to be back in school, and that’s now, finally, a bipartisan mission.”

It’s been a big week for TPS holders and asylum seekers in the U.S.
Senators introduced a bill to provide TPS holders a green card and for Biden to end Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. 

Democrats controlling the Senate and President Joe Biden upholding his promises were always going to be crucial to seeing substantial reform in the realm of immigration policy.

Both congressional Democrats and the White House have quickly gotten to work in recent weeks with various planned pieces of legislation that have been discussed, and Biden has signed several executive orders to undo policies from the Trump administration.

NEA Survey: Only 1 in 5 Educators Have Been Vaccinated
Vast majority of educators say they will feel safer about working in-person as a result of the vaccine.

Last December, when the Food and Drug Administration approved two COVID-19 vaccines, the National Education Association (NEA) immediately urged state and local authorities to prioritize the 5 million educators who work in the nation’s public schools. Progress on that front has been frustratingly slow. Too many states – still only half the country – haven’t begun vaccinating educators.

According to a NEA new survey released Tuesday, only one in five of its members (18 percent) have been vaccinated so far, and an additional 17 percent have actually scheduled an appointment to receive one. White educators are twice as likely (20 percent) as Black members (9 percent) to have been vaccinated.

Rep. Grijalva introduces bill to end privately-owned prisons and detention centers
Arizona’s Rep. Raúl Grijalva says that “for too long,” private prisons and detention centers have benefited from the pain of others.

On Jan. 29, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to terminate federal private prison contracts, an action that would ultimately put an end to private prisons, in an effort to address racial inequity and his promises to BIPOC Americans over the campaign Trail.

However it came with its flaws, and activists insisted the move wasn’t enough to fully address the mass incarceration crisis in the nation, or the systems that enable the school-to-prison pipeline.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva called Biden’s executive order “an important step to address the mass incarceration crisis that disproportionately impacts immigrants and communities of color,” but his Justice is Not For Sale Act would go a little further.

What 114 Pre-Pandemic Studies About ‘Flipped’ Classrooms Could Tell Us About Refining Our Approach to Remote Learning in 2021
In a flipped classroom, students watch video lectures before class and use class time to work on assignments and group projects. It’s “flipped” because it’s the opposite of the traditional structure in which students first learn from a teacher’s in-class instruction.

Advocates believe that students learn more when class time is spent actively learning instead of passively listening. Flipped classrooms also free up class time for teachers to help students individually, as a tutor does.

Over the past decade, flipping has spread across U.S. classrooms, from city college campuses to suburban elementary schools. But like many trends in education, the novelty took hold before the evidence mounted.

How much will it take to reopen, catch up kids, and save public schooling long term?
Billions of stimulus dollars are flowing to public schools, but experts say it may not be enough without big changes to how states allocate funds

Superintendent Chad Gestson has been spending a lot of money lately.

He’s had to buy personal protective equipment for staff and laptops for around 28,000 teenagers. He’s also had to keep his schools open for a small number of students with disabilities and extra needs, as well as continue social services like food assistance for families during a pandemic.

“We’re living in the most costly, expensive times that I’ve lived through as superintendent,” said Gestson, who has been in that job since 2015.

Five Afro-Latinas Paving the Way for Young Women in Politics
The Combahee River Collective once wrote, “if Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”

Black women in the United States have always been the ones paving the way for all of us to feel free to be who we are, to have the possibility to do what we love and to be able to represent our communities.

We all witnessed their work during these past elections. Black women delivered countless wins across the nation. They educated and mobilized their neighborhoods, organized themselves and their loved ones, and took action for a better tomorrow.

However, it hasn’t just been about the power of their vote. Black, female public servants, are also opening the doors to thousands of girls and young women in U.S. politics. They are teaching us how to fight and showing us how to win.

So, here are five Afro-Latinas in politics whose personal and career journeys inspire the world.

Las Tienditas
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