TALAS E-newsletter – January 28

Posted on January 28th, 2021
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Texas News
Runge ISD picks new leader
After a months-long process to find its next leader, the Runge Independent School District Board of Trustees has its next superintendent lined up. Hector Dominguez, the current principal at Crosbyton ISD, has accepted the job.

Dominguez was named the lone finalist following a recent round of interviews and will officially be eligible for hire on Jan. 29. He will start his new job in Runge in February, likely either Feb. 1 or Feb. 8.

“He has family in Nixon (located about a half hour north of Runge) and has been a band director, assistant principal and principal,” said RISD board President Sandy Villarreal. “He seems to be a great fit and is very personable, very smart and has a wonderful positive attitude.

McAllen ISD superintendent wins state recognition
The McAllen Independent School District (ISD) announced their superintendent is the Texas Superintendent of the Year.

Dr. J.A. Gonzalez was awarded the honor by the Texas Association of School Boards. In November, the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) named him the state’s nominee for 2021 National Superintendent of the Year, an award given by AASA, the School Superintendents Association.

Dr. Gonzalez said he is proud to earn the recognition, although he never anticipated it happening during a pandemic.

UISD to name new school after Superintendent Roberto Santos
The UISD is looking to honor its current superintendent by naming its newest elementary school after him.

The school district will name the campus after Roberto J. Santos who will be retiring this summer after 39 years of service.

Over the course of 16 years as superintendent of schools, Mr. Santos worked endlessly with the board and the community to construct eight new elementary schools, four middle schools, four ninth-grade campuses, and one new high school.

How Texas Teachers Are Prioritizing Basic Skills as Instruction Time Gets Crunched During the Pandemic
San Antonio teachers are combatting pandemic learning loss with a surgical approach to keep young students at grade level, focusing on a core curriculum of must-have skills in reading and math.

Given the challenges of limited class time and distance learning during the pandemic, San Antonio educators know students are simply not learning everything they would in a normal school year, especially in the early grades.

So this year, educators are going deep.

Dallas Wanted to Prioritize Vaccines for Hard Hit Black and Latino Neighborhoods, But Texas Officials Blocked That Plan
With the various coronavirus vaccines now circulating throughout the nation, the conversation about the pandemic has shifted to include the logistics of distributing doses efficiently, sufficiently and, to a lesser degree, equitably. A number of Dallas County Commissioners in Texas recently tried to tackle that issue of equity by passing a measure to prioritize vaccine doses for residents in neighborhoods that are majority Black and Latino.

According to a report from the Dallas Morning News, the decision came after a review of data collected by the county showed that most vaccine shots have been going to residents of neighborhoods that are largely white and rich. This, despite the numbers showing that coronavirus has hospitalized more Black and brown residents in Dallas than other demographic groups. An epidemiologist there even pointed out to the Dallas Observer that three of the hardest hit communities are those that lie south of a highway that essentially divides Dallas on racial and financial lines.

Texas Education Agency Moving Forward With STAAR Testing This Spring, With Exceptions
With kids back in school after winter break, much attention turns to the standardized tests, like the STAAR tests, which typically take place at the end of the school year.

The Texas Education Agency recently announced students will be taking the STAAR tests this spring; however, there will be some traditional elements missing from the tests. Accountability decisions, like grade promotions that are often tied to the STAAR tests, will not be included this year.

“The TEA and commissioner Morath have said accountability will be disconnected from the test this year, and we think that is a smart decision,” Anne Wicks said.

Texas A&M professor in Latino and Mexican American Studies encouraged by diversity report, but acknowledges challenges lie ahead
One Texas A&M history professor, who is also core faculty in Latino and Mexican American Studies, is impressed by the diversity report released by the university’s commission, but says making meaningful change will present its challenges.

The Texas A&M University Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion presented their findings to the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents Monday evening. The report found the school falls short in matching demographic populations of Texas. Although the commission found Hispanic enrollment has increased by 300% since 1999, enrollment among Black students is flat over the past 20 years, including the hiring of Black faculty and staff. The report also detailed retention of those students is 13-20% lower than other land grant institutions.

Texans receiving federal food assistance soon could get more aid under Biden’s executive order
Texas families receiving pandemic-era federal food assistance for students who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals will soon see a 15% increase in their benefits. That additional aid is one of three food access issues President Joe Biden addressed in an executive order last week.

The moves come as 16.5% of the state’s 29 million residents said they did not always have enough food to eat in the last seven days, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last year approved the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer Emergency School Meals Program, which sends money directly to families to make up for missed school meals due to virtual learning. That benefit will increase from $5.86 to $6.74 per child per school day. In the spring, nearly 3 million households in Texas received meal funding due to school closures.

Looking for a new opportunity?
Supporting Your Career
Networking During The Pandemic: How People Who Barely Know You Can Help Accelerate Your Career
Whether you are actively looking for a job, seeking to develop business, or working to build professional relationships that will help advance your career over the long haul, you know that networking is key. Most people don’t take full advantage of their networks because they define them too narrowly and feel more comfortable reaching out to close friends than to more distant acquaintances. It can be scary to make an overture to people you don’t know well, or it may feel weird to ask for help from a relative stranger or someone you haven’t seen in ten years.

National News
Education Pick Miguel Cardona On Biden’s Promise To Reopen Schools
With many U.S. schools still shuttered or operating on a limited basis, and millions of children learning remotely (or trying to), the stakes are high for Miguel Cardona. He is President Biden’s pick to run the U.S. Department of Education, and if confirmed, he’ll be charged with making good on Biden’s promise to re-open most K-12 schools during the new administration’s first 100 days.

When asked Monday if that goal was “too optimistic,” Cardona pushed back: “No, I think it’s strong leadership.”

National racial equity coalition calls on Biden administration to create a White House Office on Racial Equity and Inclusion
The Racial Equity Anchor Collective is in support of some of the reforms made so far, but wants sustained commitment from the new U.S. president for real change.

It is no secret that racial identity and justice in the United States is becoming increasingly relevant. Issues of race seep into every institution, including health care, education, the workforce, the justice system and more. 

The U.S has been contending with a deadly virus that disproportionately impacts people of color, historic protests for racial justice that manifested on a global scale in the Summer of 2020, and now, the new presidential administration is taking steps to confront systemic racism. 

Advocates hope pandemic shift away from requiring SAT and ACT will help diversity
But experiences of colleges that are already test-optional show other changes are also needed

When Worcester Polytechnic Institute wanted to attract more Black, Hispanic and female students, it became the first nationally ranked science university to make the ACT and SAT standardized tests optional for admission.

Eliminating the test requirement can raise the numbers of low-income and first-generation students and those from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups without affecting graduation rates, according to research conducted in collaboration with the National Association for College Admission Counseling, or NACAC.

Rep. Joaquin Castro to Biden: DACA recipients need health care coverage
Over 200,000 DACA recipients are “employed as essential workers on the front lines to keep our country healthy and running,” Castro and 93 other House members wrote.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, is urging President Joe Biden to allow DACA recipients to get health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, particularly the more than 200,000 who are essential workers.

Castro and 93 other House members signed a letter dated Tuesday pressing for the change as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it would benefit not only participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, but also the general public.

DOJ eliminates its “zero-tolerance” policy regarding migrants at the U.S.-Mexico Border
There are still 611 children who haven’t found their parents as a result of the Trump era policy.

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, the Department of Justice revoked the Trump-era memo that enforced a “zero tolerance” policy to prosecute any migrants caught crossing the U.S-Mexico border illegally.

Under the policy, which went into effect from April to June 2018, all adults, including those traveling with children, were referred for prosecution. 

Because children cannot be jailed with their family members, more than 5,000 children were separated from their parents and put under the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The Pandemic Reveals Racial Gaps in School Meal Access
Researchers are documenting the ways food distribution locations have been out of reach for Black and Latinx families.

As an attorney working on school desegregation cases in the South, GeDá Jones Herbert is intimately familiar with inequities and discrimination that Black families face on a regular basis. And when schools began shutting down in-person instruction last March due to the pandemic, she heard from many of her clients.

“We knew that [the pandemic] was going to have a huge impact on the lives of our clients and students across the country,” said Herbert, who is based in New Orleans and works primarily on cases in Louisiana and Alabama. “As we were assessing the closures, the things we were really looking at were access to distance learning . . . and food and nutrition.”

Latino baby boomers of the ’60s and ’70s still have to come to terms with their forced “assimilation”
Writer Manuel Padilla Jr. examines in Coconut, the racism and marginalization faced by a middle-class Latino family amid a civil rights struggle.

“There are 42 million Latino baby boomers, many like me, who were not taught Spanish or encouraged to embrace their Hispanic roots,” recounts writer Manuel Padilla Jr

Padilla, a U.S.-born Mexican American, tells in Coconut (Xlibris, 2021), the story of the Rodriguezes, a second and third-generation Mexican-American family that must confront racism while exploring the complexities and inheritance in family life. 

‘Hope has returned’: Five Latinx women reflect on their expectations for the Biden-Harris administration
“I don’t think that Biden’s going to come up and suddenly everything’s going to be fine. But at least now I have hope, which I don’t think I had before.”

“We made a decision not to have children,” Daniela Rodriguez told The Mujerista as she explained how she and her husband lived in fear of his possible deportation during the Trump administration. She said the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed them to lose hope in the country’s immigration system. So much so, the couple decided not to have children in the case they were separated. 

From migrant worker to superintendent: How Tony Rodriguez rose to lead a Tulare school district
Tony Rodriguez thought he’d always be a migrant farmworker. 

As a boy, he woke up at 4:30 a.m. to help his father in the fields every summer. The hard work helped Rodriguez earn money for new clothes and a color TV, he said. 

Rodriguez grew up at the Woodville Farm Labor Camp, a 92-acre Tulare County-run housing community for farmworkers. His Mexican-immigrant family worked for growers in Texas and Arizona before settling in California, where their survival meant working land around the Central Valley.

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