TALAS E-newsletter – February 4

Posted on February 4th, 2021
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Texas News
Hutto superintendent updates on COVID-19 procedures
Recently, Hutto ISD Superintendent Dr. Celina Estrada Thomas, provided an update on how the district is navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our safety processes for minimizing the spread throughout the schools is still working,” she said. “Almost all positive cases among students and staff have come from outside of our campus, usually from home.”

Thomas said there has not been a COVID-19 spread issue within the district. According to the Hutto ISD COVID-19 Dashboard, there are currently 42 active student cases and 14 active staff cases. The district’s enrollment is 8,399 with 1,176 staff members.

Milano announces lone finalist for superintendent
Dr. Elisabeth Avila Luevanos is the lone finalist for the superindentent’s job that will be open at the end of this school year.

Robert Westbrook is retiring from the position at the end of this school year, the district said.

Luevanos has been in education for over 15 years. She last worked at Texas A&M University throught W.K. Kellogg Foundation Grants and as an adjunct professor.
Thousands of Dallas children are in need of after-school care, survey finds
The pandemic has strained already limited resources for such programs, advocates say.

Dacia Tarleton works remotely, with days consisting of sifting through emails, attending virtual meetings, analyzing data and tag-teaming child care responsibilities with her husband.

The couple scrambled to take care of their two children when preschool programs closed last March. And nearly a year later, they’re still struggling to balance parenting and work even though her 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son are now going to school in person.

“The first thing that we noticed when school started back in person was there were no options for aftercare,” said Tarleton, 45.

To Preserve The Legacy Of A Closing Austin ISD School, UT Students Create A Digital Archive
For almost every day of Carolyn Robledo-Estrada’s 50 years of life, Metz Elementary has been a constant.

In fact, her connection to the East Austin school started before she was even born.

“Both my parents went to Metz,” she said. “I don’t know if they knew each other. I’ve had aunts and uncles that have gone to Metz, so they grew up in the neighborhood.”

Robledo-Estrada still lives in the neighborhood herself. She attended Metz as a kid, sent her own children there and for the last 17 years has been a teacher at the school.

It’s a part of her history, but at the end of this semester, the school is closing its doors for good.

Amid Texas’s Substitute Teacher Shortage, Many Classrooms Are Being Led By Administrators, School Staff and Uncredentialed Stand-Ins
When high school teacher Jennifer Lee came down with COVID-19-induced pneumonia during winter break, first-year teacher Hana Oglesby-Hendrix “adopted” her class.

The two teachers share a portable building at Harker Heights High School in Killeen Independent School District, and substitutes are harder to come by than in previous years. Since the beginning of January, Oglesby-Hendrix has regularly rushed to the door separating the two classrooms to make sure Lee’s students have everything they need, sometimes interrupting her own work if a student walks in late or needs help with an assignment. She receives supplemental pay, up to $120 per day.

TEA Decision for In-person Testing Tied to Lucrative Contracts?
In early December of 2020 the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced that, while the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) test would still be given during the 2020-2021 school year the A-F grading system for Texas public school districts would be paused.

TEA stated that testing would continue “in order to provide critically important information about individual student learning that teachers and parents can use to help students grow.” Little thought was given to what that testing might look like as school officials, parents, and community members praised the TEA for allowing districts and campuses a grace period from state accountability.

With John Cornyn’s Support, New Texas Coalition Forms To Push For Congressional Fix For ‘Dreamers’
The Texas Opportunity Coalition includes chambers of commerce, other economic development groups and institutions of higher learning.

With the support of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn—and the arrival of a Democratic president—a new Texas business coalition is launching to advocate for a permanent legislative solution for young people whose parents brought them illegally to the United States as children.

In addition to the state’s senior senator, the Texas Opportunity Coalition includes nearly three dozen chambers of commerce, other economic development groups and institutions of higher learning. They believe the moment is ripe in Washington, D.C., to end the yearslong uncertainty — prompted by executive action — and pass a federal “DREAM Act” that would give permanent legal status to those known as “Dreamers.”

In El Paso, Joining Border Patrol Offers a Rare Path to Financial Security. But for Some Immigrant Kids, It’s Complicated
The new documentary ‘At the Ready’ follows the members of Horizon High School’s criminal justice club as they train for Border Patrol careers—and grapple with what that means.

Inside a classroom at Horizon High School in El Paso, fourteen miles from the Texas-Mexico border, a criminal justice club debates Donald Trump’s latest incendiary statement. It’s fall 2018, and thousands of Central American migrants are headed to the southern U.S. border in a caravan. Trump has just said he’s ready to close the border and that he’ll send the military to help. Sylvia Weaver, a criminal justice teacher and former police officer, asks the group of about eight students for their thoughts. She then splits them into two sides for a debate between those who agree with Trump and those who disagree.

NoRedlnk: Meeting Grade Level Writing Skills During Challenging Times
Dr. Anita De La Isla and the Director of Language and Literacy at Coppell Independent School District in Coppell, Texas. CISD uses NoRedInk, an online writing platform designed to build strong writers through interest-based curricula, adaptive exercises, and actionable data. 

Dr. De La Isla was kind enough to answer some questions about the challenge students and educators are facing in these pandemic times, and the role NoRedInk is playing in keeping students actively engaged and evolving as writers.

Can you discuss some of the challenges you’re seeing at your school as students struggle to meet grade-level writing standards amid the pandemic? 

TALAS Superintendents in MASBA webinar series
Monday, February 8, at 12:00 p.m. CST
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Supporting Your Career
From Tech To Film & Journalism: 7 Mentorship Programs for Latinas
Across industries, there’s a growing demand and prevalence of mentorship programs, but for women of color who are carving their own paths, mentors remain difficult to find.

As lifelong learners, mentees continuously sharpen their skills and gain insight into the changes taking place in their field, which lead to tremendous career and personal advancements. Studies show that employees who have mentors earn higher salaries, are more likely to receive promotions and feel an overall increased satisfaction in their careers. Additionally, this professional support and counsel helps improve work-life balance, self-esteem and overall well being for both mentees and mentors.

National News
Hispanic Caucus leads push to include undocumented immigrants in COVID relief
More than 100 lawmakers urge for the COVID-19 package to include undocumented immigrant workers.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is taking the lead in the push to include legal protections for undocumented essential workers in an upcoming COVID-19 relief reconciliation package.

The CHC is part of 100 members of Congress who are calling for the inclusion of immigrant essential workers, Dreamers, DACA recipients, and those with Temporary Protected Status in the upcoming package, arguing that many are essential workers who have helped keep the country on its feet, and are critical for recovery.

Two major teachers’ unions call on GOP leadership to remove Greene from Education Committee
The two largest teachers’ unions in the U.S. released a joint statement on Tuesday calling for controversial GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) to be removed from the House Education Committee.

The National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) released a letter addressed to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) imploring him to remove Greene from the Education Committee, saying she lacked the “judgment, empathy or wisdom” to have responsibility over learning environments.

“On behalf of the nation’s two leading teachers’ organizations, representing more than 4 million educators nationwide, we request that you immediately rescind the appointment of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to serve on the House Committee on Education and Labor,” the statement reads.

Attention to K-12 cybersecurity grows in nearly 100 bills introduced in 2020
A new report from the Consortium for School Networking analyzes trends in K-12 provisions in the close to 100 cybersecurity bills introduced in 27 states in 2020.

Of the cybersecurity proposals, 10 pieces of legislation were passed into law in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Virginia. Those addressing risks in K-12 in particular focused on cybersecurity instruction for students, technical assistance to schools, and investments for improvement in technology and professional development.

At the federal level, another 10 proposals commonly focused on building a cyber workforce, expanding cybersecurity awareness and training, technology investment, and ongoing research into the K-12 cyber-landscape.

Democrats reintroduce bill aimed at curbing school discrimination
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert Scott (D-Va.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at holding schools accountable for discrimination.

The Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act would allow families to bring disparate impact claims against schools under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The House passed the bill by a 232-188 vote in September, though it has a better chance of becoming law now that Democrats have also captured the White House and the Senate, where Republicans may seek to filibuster it.

Segregation by Income Increasing in Classrooms, New Study Finds, May Reflect Influence of Wealthy Parents
It’s a foundational premise of the American dream: that through hard work and diligent study, young people can use education to access opportunities that were denied to their parents. However, mounting evidence suggests that segregation — not just by race, but also by income — within the school system may stymie those meritocratic aspirations.

Income-based school segregation has been steadily increasing over the last 30 years, studies show. But while researchers have previously demonstrated that low-income students are increasingly attending different schools than their more affluent peers, a new working paper published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University finds that income segregation within schools, from classroom to classroom, is also on the rise.

If schools don’t overhaul discipline, ‘teachers will still be calling the police on our Black students’
As districts across the country cut their school resource officers, advocates warn it won’t be enough to end overly harsh discipline of Black students

Shyra Adams vividly remembers the days after the death of Tony Robinson, an unarmed Black teenager killed in 2015 by police in her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.

Angry and distraught over the injustice, Adams, then a high school sophomore, staged a walkout with hundreds of other students, who filled the state Capitol to protest Robinson’s death. She joined weekly protests and helped organize sit-ins at her school. Then, she cried quietly in class as she watched the Dane County district attorney announce on TV that no charges would be filed against the officer who shot and killed Robinson.

Justice Department’s Withdrawal Of Yale Admissions Discrimination Suit Doesn’t End Affirmative Action Fight
The Justice Department’s withdrawal of its federal civil rights suit against Yale doesn’t end the battle over affirmative action in higher ed.

In a two-sentence filing in a Connecticut federal court today, the government withdrew a suit brought by the Trump administration in October. The government had alleged that white and Asian American students were one-eighth to one-fourth as likely to be admitted to Yale as Black applicants with similar credentials. Yale and other private colleges must comply with civil rights law because they receive federal funds. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin.

How a Diverse School District Is Using a Strategy Usually Reserved for ‘Gifted’ Students to Help Everyone Overcome COVID Learning Loss
The teachers were fighting three enemies. The Monday fatigue that made the third graders yawn through their screens. The disturbances of the Wi-Fi that muffled conversations. Time itself.

They battled the uncontrollable through smiles: Teacher Annie Nguyen wore a hooded sweatshirt with white furry panda ears — it was pajama day, and the students took to the chat box to express their excitement.

They’re in third grade, a critical year for multiplication and reading, but because of the pandemic, they’re in Zoom school at Highline’s McMicken Heights Elementary. The setup gives them significantly less face time with their teachers, and because the clock was ticking, Nguyen and her colleagues had to keep the lesson moving, no matter what.

Add These 10 Latine-Authored Books To Your 2021 Reading List
If 2021 is shaping up to be anything like 2020, we’re looking at a lot more time with only ourselves for company. Luckily, Latine authors are up for the challenge of helping to fill that time. From a novel-in-verse about maybe falling in love with Selena’s ghost to a memoir about growing up queer and biracial in rural Indiana, 2021 promises us a dizzying variety of novels, memoirs, and poetry to carry us through the remaining lock-in.

Here are 10 books coming out (mostly) in the first half of 2021, to keep you company while you wait for your vaccine:

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!
7 Mindsets deliverers SEL solutions including mindsets, equity and multicultural pedagogy.

Our comprehensive school solutions deliver customized plans, coaching and support, and a web-based portal including age-appropriate K-12 curriculum, educator support tools, thousands of searchable videos, activities and other resources, professional development, and ideas to engage parents and community.

7 Mindsets provides an opportunity where students and educators can create meaningful and fulfilling relationships by focusing on their mindsets and further developing their social and emotional health, while changing lives. We offer a powerful common language that develops lasting personal intrinsic motivations, positive school culture, and thriving communities.

We work closely with school leaders, educators and staff to ensure successful implementation based on personal and professional application of the 7 Mindsets framework and methodology.

Schools implementing 7 Mindsets consistently report significant improvements in academic performance, attendance, student behavior, suspension rates and student grit and resilience.

Duane Moyer, Regional Director – 404.354.2930

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