TALAS E-newsletter – March 1

Posted on March 1st, 2021
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Texas News
TEA appeals HISD takeover ruling to Supreme Court
Lawyers representing the Texas Education Agency filed an appeal Wednesday asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a temporary injunction that has slowed Education Commissioner Mike Morath’s plans to strip power from all nine Houston ISD school board members.

The filing comes nearly two months after the Third District Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that Morath did not follow laws and procedures that would give him the authority to temporarily replace HISD’s school board with a state-appointed board.

Texas schools still tallying storm costs, and some won’t reopen soon
School districts report flooded classrooms and gyms, and teachers have lost supplies and learning materials. The damage is further disrupting a school year already upended by the pandemic.

When the winter storm hit Texas last week, the overhead sprinklers across the hall from Valerie Malone’s first-grade classroom broke and flooded rooms on both sides.

Malone’s elementary school is one of seven in the Arlington Independent School District that couldn’t open for in-person learning this week, joining dozens across the state. The fast-plummeting frigid temperatures and power outages froze sprinkler systems, destroyed flooring and disrupted crucial services to school buildings, temporarily preventing some from providing students with food and shelter.

El Paso ISD wins 31 Texas School Public Relations Association awards
EPISD’s Office of Community Engagement won 31 Texas School Public Relations Association STAR Awards, including four Best of Category, for work done in promotion of the students and staff of the District.

The Star Awards are presented in categories that celebrate public relations efforts of school communication offices throughout Texas. EPISD competes in the largest category for districts with more than 30,000 students.

Canutillo ISD honored for outstanding school communications
This week, Canutillo ISD was honored with 17 Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA) Star Awards – including two Best in Category – in recognition for outstanding school communications and projects.

“This last year was one of the most challenging years educational institutions have ever faced,” said Canutillo ISD Marketing and Communications Officer Liza Rodriguez. “I am proud of the way our team came together to communicate important information and highlight the District’s accomplishments to the community.”

Texas school districts struggle to reach, help homeless students during pandemic
Tens of thousand of homeless students across Texas haven’t made it to school this year.

Across Texas, tens of thousands of homeless students have disappeared this school year.

Getting homeless families to enroll students is a struggle most of the time, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made the issue worse.

At the Presbyterian Night Shelter in Fort Worth, Sarah Diaz works as a child advocate to provide kids with what they need, including shelter and help for families transitioning to new lives. 

200 Schools, Universal Weekly COVID Screening: How ‘Assurance Testing’ Has Kept Thousands of Texas Students in Classrooms
Every Friday since December, my kids head to school and do the same thing as thousands of other kids in San Antonio: They administer their own COVID-19 tests.

Under the watchful eye of teachers and technicians, wearing their masks and staying 6 feet apart, they walk with their classmates to the school auditorium, where they’re handed a nasal swab.

“It’s 1-2-3-4-5 little circles around the front of your nostril,” my 6-year-old daughter told me. “Not like those awful ones at the doctor.”

Texas expects to receive more than 200,000 initial doses of newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday approved the vaccine, the first that requires one dose instead of two.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday for use in the U.S., the third vaccine to be approved since the pandemic began.

Texas could initially receive more than 200,000 doses, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, but the agency hasn’t received a timeline for when they would arrive. The company has said it plans to ship 20 million shots in the U.S. by the end of March and an additional 80 million doses before the end of June.

All Hail the Taqueros Who Fed Texans During the Blackouts
Plus: Aaron Franklin’s steak taco recipe, Wichita’s booming taco scene, and a strange new addition to Taco Bell’s menu.

Numerous taco trucks and restaurants offered free food, potable water, and even shelter during last week’s winter storm, which knocked out power to approximately four million Texas households. Using tens of thousands of dollars in donations from numerous sources, Boombox Taco’s staff made more than 2,400 tacos to feed eight hundred Houston families. As donations roll in, Boombox and other food trucks are being engaged to serve Houston-area communities.

Looking for a new opportunity?
Supporting Your Career
Why Interviewing Your Interviewers Matters
Recognizing that an interview is a data-gathering opportunity can help you to focus on not just if you are the right fit for the job, but if it is the right fit for you, advises Lauren Easterling.

As a career developer for graduate students and postdocs, I often discuss with them how to succeed in interviews and talk through potential questions. One question that arises during those discussions is how to handle when your interviewers ask you if you have any questions.

National News
This year’s state test results will be tough to make sense of, experts warn
One day after the U.S. Department of Education told states that they must give standardized tests this year, a number of state officials gathered virtually to hear from leading testing experts.

Those experts offered a warning: be careful how you interpret this year’s results.

Derek Briggs, a University of Colorado professor, presented a hypothetical. Imagine some schools see their test scores hold steady, while others see declines. The obvious conclusion would be that certain schools did better than others helping their students through the pandemic.

Texas disaster spurs Reps. AOC, Velázquez, Schumer to call on FEMA to upgrade Puerto Rico’s electric grid
“The island can lessen their economic woes & climate change vulnerability by building a sustainable grid that’ll create thousands of jobs,” Ocasio Cortez wrote. 

The recent winter storm disaster in Texas and the consequences of failing to invest in renewable energy and appropriate winterization is prompting some U.S. legislators to think of Puerto Rico. 

On Feb. 25, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Nydia Velázquez and Sen. Chuck Schumer led a group of 14 House and Senate members to sign a letter to FEMA, calling on it to use its planned $9.6 billion investment in Puerto Rico’s electrical grid to help transition the island to renewable energy. 

How the pandemic has altered school discipline — perhaps forever
Remote learning violations, mask-wearing offenses and an opportunity to rethink harsh discipline

One Thursday this fall, a middle schooler in Florida’s Brevard Public Schools received an in-school suspension. He had ripped off another student’s face mask and blown into a peer’s face. That same day, six other students across the district were written up for not wearing their masks correctly (including one who also faked using hand sanitizer), while an elementary school student was assigned three days of “private dining” for sharing food in violation of safety guidelines. Meanwhile, an e-learning student got in trouble for filming another student during class without permission.

What Do Predictions of ‘Herd Immunity’ Mean For Schools?
After nearly a year of disastrous COVID news, it emerged in mid-February like a light at the end of the tunnel. Infections began dramatically falling and “herd immunity,” some experts began to say, could spell the end of the pandemic in the not-so-distant future.

At some point this year — estimates range from mid-summer to as early as April — thanks to vaccinations and recovered cases, America will reach a point where enough people are immune to the virus that it can no longer spread through the population.

5 Virtual Learning Struggles Affecting Latinx Families
Virtual learning has been a challenge, to put it lightly, for many families across the nation. But the way it has affected Black and Latinx families is even greater still. I’ve witnessed it in my own household, from having to use often-confusing education apps, to the sheer exhaustion of staring at a screen for hours on end, to my inability to always complete my own work due to essentially working as a teaching assistant for my son (thus cutting my own income down).

I’m one of the fortunate ones, though, and I recognize that the struggles of many other Latinx families (and Latinx immigrant households) are much greater than my own. While many of us continue in this struggle (in order to protect ourselves as well as others in the community), my hope is that schools across the nation begin addressing more of the following issues that are affecting Latinx virtual learning families at disproportionate rates.

“From Mariachi to Mozart”, this program shows Latino children the art of classical music through virtual concerts
The Latino Arts Strings Program in Milwaukee, WI fosters a passion for classical Latino music among its participants.

Latinos have such eclectic and diverse blood coursing through their veins.

African, indigenous, and Spanish influences, can be seen through our food, language, and melodies. 

One in particular, classical Latino guitar music, can be linked to the 15th century in Spain.

From ‘Pelo Malo’ to ‘Tango Negro’, Here Are 5 Must-Watch Pieces Centered on the Black Latino Experience
As you know, February is Black History Month—a time set aside by Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in February 1926. Initially, it was celebrated the week of February 12 to coincide with Frederick Douglass’s birthday. Then, in 1970, the Black United Students at Kent State expanded it to a month.

Now, countries like Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands also officially recognize Black History Month. Many studios take this time to release films centered on Blackness, most notably the Oscar-nominated blockbuster Black Panther in 2018. In recent years, Afro-Latines have become a part of the celebration as well. One of the best ways to learn about our diversity in this fantastic landscape called Latin America is film. Below we will discuss a few projects that tackle this complex history of the Afro-Latinx diaspora. All are available to rent or stream, and serve as a reminder that our history, often marred by pain, also has many moments of joy. That is something worth celebrating, not just Black History month but every month.

Las Tienditas
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