TALAS E-newsletter – February 22

Posted on February 22nd, 2021
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Texas News
Some Schools Will Close or Switch to Virtual Learning Due to Winter Storm Damage
Schools across North Texas are dealing with the same problems that many peoples’ homes are: buildings went without power and pipes are broken. Now that the power is back on in many areas, schools are trying to figure out just how bad the damage truly is.

Frozen Pipes Plague North Texas Schools
The bitter cold that accompanied two winter storms finally loosening its icy grip.

And yet, across North Texas the warming temperatures reveal the extent of damage already done in homes and schools.

“We are seeing issues,” says David Bates, Dallas ISD’s Assistant Superintendent Operations. “Since the power has been out for so many hours at a campus, sprinkler pipes freeze and they burst and then we have to start the mitigation process, and as we plug in our equipment to clean, the power will go off again, and it’s just been a bit of a nightmare.”

The Texas Blackout Is the Story of a Disaster Foretold
Those in charge of Texas’s deregulated power sector were warned again and again that the electric grid was vulnerable.

In November, when the officials who run Texas’s main electric grid took stock of whether the system could handle the coming winter, they felt confident. There would, even under “extreme conditions,” be plenty of power. But last week, an arctic blast mocked their assessment, freezing in about 40 percent of the grid’s power-generation capacity and throwing much of the state into the cold and dark. How could the state’s energy managers have gotten things so wrong?

Dwindling Food, Flooded Hallways, Unflushable Toilets: Texas’s University Dorms Descend Into Chaos During Historic Winter Storm
At first, the snow was exciting, ethereal, dreamy, said college students who bundled up Sunday night to play like children in the unusual Texas snowstorm.

Then, the power went out. Pipes burst. Toilets stopped working. Food and water became scarce. The winter wonderland had transformed into a frozen hellscape.

Four days after nearly a week of freezing temperatures, snow and ice left millions without power and even more struggling to access drinkable water, college students living on campuses across the state said they’re struggling to get basic necessities. While some campuses have slowly regained power over the past 24 hours, many dorms still lack access to consistent water and food.

Watch: United ISD’s success; An interview with Gloria Rendon
United ISD is doing so well that the Texas Education Agency has been down to see what is going on. 

United, which covers much of Webb County, is now the largest school district in Region 1, with 43,000 students. It is 77 percent economically disadvantaged. 

A-rated by TEA, the district celebrates its 60th anniversary next year. 

“We write our own curriculum with our own teachers. We have been very, very successful. Our students have been competitive,” said Gloria Rendon, deputy superintendent for United ISD.

Texas Tech ranked first among online Hispanic-serving colleges, universities in Texas
Texas Tech University has been named No. 1 among online, Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) in Texas by Texas Online Colleges. The rankings recognize colleges and universities in Texas that provide robust online degree offerings and meet the definition of an HSI as stated by the U.S. Department of Education. Texas Tech achieved its HSI designation in 2019, the result of efforts across the entire university to serve the needs of a diverse and growing campus community.

Fall 2017 was the first time Texas Tech met the Department of Education enrollment criteria to be recognized as an HSI, with Hispanic students comprising 27.8% of the undergraduate student body that semester. By fall 2020, that number had risen to 29.7%. Of the 131 Carnegie Tier One research institutions, Texas Tech is one of just 14 to meet the HSI criteria for designation.

El Paso Heeded the Warnings and Avoided a Winter Catastrophe
The West Texas city was spared the worst effects of this week’s storms, thanks to its preparations in the wake of a devastating 2011 deep freeze.

While shoppers in other Texas big cities faced long lines and empty shelves at grocery stores, Robert Gomez breezed right into his local Albertsons in El Paso on Wednesday. The store was fully stocked, and more importantly, had functioning lights and heat. The fifty-year-old graphic designer found the same at the Food King store he visited afterward. Besides having to step over residual snow sludge on streets and sidewalks, El Pasoans like Gomez were experiencing few aftereffects of a historic winter storm that brought the city subfreezing temperatures and three inches of snow and ice.

Looking for a new opportunity?
Supporting Your Career
Live Virtual Event:
Resume Writing for Second or Late Career Adults
Thursday, February 25, 2021 • 10 am–12 pm EST
From Employment Tutors: Our trainers interview for a living. This live training will give you tips and help you apply those tips while sharing what makes some candidates rise above their competition. This is a generally spirited and honest training about finding a job as a second career position or over 40.  

We’ll discuss the truth and fallacies of ageism and how you can write a resume and cover letter that won’t feed into unconscious bias but rather help you stand out from the masses. There is Q & A time built in to allow for open and quality conversation.
National & International News
Mexico to raise concerns at U.N. over unequal vaccine access
Mexico’s president said the government would like to see the U.N. address vaccine hoarding and equity so that “all countries have the possibility of vaccinating their inhabitants.”

Mexico will this week raise concerns at the United Nations Security Council about unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines globally, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Tuesday.

Ebrard said the government would set out concerns of Mexico and Latin America on Wednesday about “inequality” of access before the council, on which Mexico currently sits.

Liberal groups launch ‘Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab’ to combat Covid, election messaging
Voto Latino and Media Matters are collaborating with a former DNC chairman to combat political and health misinformation aimed at Hispanic communities.

Maria Teresa Kumar was surprised to find out two weeks ago that her mother, who runs an elder care facility in Northern California, was going to forgo a COVID-19 vaccine.

Kumar, the founding president of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor, wanted to know why her mom, Mercedes Vegvary, would take such a risk. The answer: a Spanish-language disinformation campaign, shared peer to peer, that portrayed the vaccine as a technology unsafe for human use.

What the CDC Guidelines Don’t Say About Classroom Ventilation and COVID-19 Spread
Is opening a door or window enough ventilation to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools?

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week provided significantly more detail on how schools should approach issues like community spread and mask use when deciding how to reopen schools safely during the pandemic. But critics say the new recommendations downplay the importance of improving indoor air quality and ventilation to prevent the spread of the airborne virus.

The CDC guidance encourages schools to improve ventilation as part of their overall cleaning strategy, and particularly points to opening doors and windows to “increase circulation of outdoor air to increase the delivery of clean air and dilute potential contaminants.”

Distance learning increases copyright risks for educators
Understanding copyright has been increasingly critical for educators even prior to the pandemic, as the abundance of content readily available online presents numerous potential pitfalls. In the same vein, students must also learn to vet what resources they can legally use and the circumstances under which they can do so.

For example, students can learn how to identify the way a piece of content is licensed and how to apply proper attribution to its creator, as well as whether it can be used. With the internet teeming with pirated software, movies and music, it’s especially easy for educators and students alike to run afoul. As such, districts can put clear usage protocols in place to ensure staff and students properly attribute all work and understand what’s legally available.

Outdoor preschools grow in popularity but most serve middle class white kids
Covid-19 concerns have increased interest in outdoor education but licensing laws limit who can attend

On a frigid December morning in a snow-speckled forest clearing in New Mexico’s Sandia Mountains, a chorus of children bundled in snowsuits, hats and gloves attempted their best impressions of a bear snoring. “I can snort like a pig!” one chimed in as the others giggled.

“Now can you make a rustle on the ground?” prompted their teacher, Brie-Anne Stout, known as “Miss Brie” to the kids. The six “tree-schoolers” ran their fingers through wood chips and dirt, not seeming to mind the cold.

This is what story circle looks like at Sol Forest School, an all-weather, all-outdoor preschool about 15 minutes east of Albuquerque.

Proactive approaches help districts avoid COVID-19 special ed litigation
Despite challenges, districts have worked to communicate effectively with parents, document efforts and use early dispute resolution approaches throughout the pandemic.

When Mitchell Yell, a special education professor at the University of South Carolina, helped the South Carolina Department of Education craft guidance for serving students with disabilities during COVID-19, he wanted to make sure teachers and school administrators heard the important message that there was no wiggle room on the requirement to provide IEP-eligible students their guaranteed individualized services despite school closures or socially distanced learning formats.

So he recorded an hour-long explanation of the guidance that educators could listen to on repeat. “We wanted to tell them right away you still have to offer [a free, appropriate public education] to students with disabilities. It might look different, but you still have to do it,” Yell said.

Teen Latinas in Baltimore are Revolutionizing the Way We Build a Community
As powerful Latinas, we are encouraged to build spaces in our community whenever they are needed. We open these spaces to promote diversity, resistance, and union with our people — not only for ourselves but also for the generations to come. 

But what happens when you need to adapt to a new culture and your community does not have resources? Pues te pones las pilas, and become resourceful. No one knows your struggles and those of your community better than who experiences them firsthand.

In the process of emigrating from the Dominican Republic to Baltimore, Maryland, 19-year-old Yamilex Acosta Cruz, with four other innovative teen Latina creators, decided they needed a space for themselves to discuss their journeys and experiences as immigrants in the city. 

Las Tienditas
This Week’s Featured Sponsor
TALAS sponsors make this newsletter and other TALAS activities possible. Please support them. Click on the logo to learn more!
For 50 years, Curriculum Associates (CA) has been united around one common purpose: to make classrooms better places for teachers and students. In the years since, we’ve remained driven by this mission, introducing and then constantly improving innovative and exciting products that give every student the chance to succeed. We believe teachers are the essential glue between our programs and classroom success, so we strive to empower them with the tools and resources to accelerate student growth. Together with educators we’re making equitable learning programs a reality—raising the bar and making it reachable for all.

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