TALAS E-newsletter – March 4

Posted on March 4th, 2021
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Texas News
Caught by surprise, Texas education officials unsure how end of mask mandate will affect schools
Some superintendents say they will continue requiring students and staff to wear masks as they await further guidance from the Texas Education Agency.

Texas school superintendents did not receive advance notice of Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement ending the state’s mask mandate Tuesday, leaving them scrambling to tell parents and educators what to expect.

School districts can determine mask policies, can’t mandate vaccines, Texas Education Agency says
TEA still to require masks for students over the age of 10

When Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that Texas would fully reopen businesses and lift the mandate on masks beginning March 10, many wondered how that would impact the state’s schools.

Now, the Texas Education Agency has issued new guidance in response to Executive Order GA-34.

Garland ISD High School Awarded $10K Grant for Invention Designed to Keep Firefighters Safe
Students at a Garland ISD high school have come up with an invention that is now getting national attention.

Students at the Gilbreath-Reed Career and Technical Center designed a system to sanitize firefighters’ boots to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

The design got the attention of the researchers at MIT. The high school was then given a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program, which promotes invention and the early stages of entrepreneurship across the United States.

Houston ISD to test tech that enables camera to follow teacher around room for streaming classes
Some Houston ISD students soon will get a new classmate. Its name: Swivl.

HISD leaders plan to outfit hundreds of classrooms in the coming months with a robotic device called Swivl, which supporters say improves the quality of live-streamed instruction and offers a better experience to children in online-only classes during the pandemic.

Texas Teachers Go Door to Door as Kids Disappear From Remote Classes
At one San Antonio middle school, teachers don’t wait for students to go missing — they search for them at the first sign of trouble

Middle school teacher Brandee Brandt pounded on the door of a ground level apartment in San Antonio, Texas for the third time one January afternoon in search of one of her students.

“It’s Ms. Brandt! Davey, are you there?” she called, her face close to the apartment door.

She could hear voices inside, and finally Davey’s older brother cracked open the door.

How to get involved in the Texas redistricting process
Given Texas’ history, it would be unusual if, at the very least, some redistricting plans didn’t end up in federal court. Here’s how you can get involved in the redistricting process and help work toward fair and equal districts for your community.

With Texas legislators poised to redraw the state’s political maps this year, many Texans have asked how to get involved in the complicated and contentious process that determines their political districts and representation for as long as 10 years.

Latino farmworkers are frozen out of work after Texas storm iced citrus, other crops
“When devastation hits,” a farmworker advocate says, “they are the ones most vulnerable.”

The Arctic air that whipped into Texas last month put this season’s Rio Grande Valley harvest on ice, and it has left many farmworkers with no or very little work.

Paulina, 74, usually harvests crops in the fields of the Rio Grande Valley from 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. But she said her work hours have been drastically cut.

Frida Kahlo’s Art Broke Taboos Then and Now. A Dallas Exhibit Highlights Five Lesser-Known Works.
Her paintings grapple with pain, loss, and mortality in ways that still resonate today.

These days, Texans are more likely to encounter Frida Kahlo as a commodity than as an artist. The likeness of the acclaimed Mexican painter, with her instantly recognizable unibrow and flower crown, can be found on anything and everything: T-shirts, coffee mugs, posters, jewelry, stationery, and kitchenware. You can choose from nearly forty thousand Frida-themed tchotchkes on Etsy, or join her 1.2 million Instagram followers. A cartoon version of her nearly stole the show in the movie Coco, and an animated biopic is in the works. With depictions of her everywhere, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason why people are so fascinated with Frida Kahlo in the first place: her art. Kahlo’s self-portraiture and surrealist renderings of a complex life filled with grief and pain continue to capture the imaginations of many.

Discussion Workshop with Coppell ISD and NoRedInk
Wednesday, March 10, 12:00pm CST

Is writing a waste? Discuss with Coppell ISD and others:
You’re invited to join a discussion group for TX administrators about how to counteract learning loss and meet grade level writing standards.
After you join, you will also receive a gift card for lunch of your choosing from Buc-ees, Whataburger, or Rudy’s BBQ!

Event sponsored by NoRedInk.
Looking for a new opportunity?
Career Advice
Working Remotely? Here’s How To Better Manage Your Team
If I don’t say this often enough in this column, let it be known, once and for all: I love my job. 

I genuinely feel so moved that I get to help others in their careers and self-actualization journeys, be it through my books, my podcast, my courses and even this blog… I love the work I do so much that sometimes I can’t believe that I’ve been a career coach for over nine years.

Back when I started, I could hardly find any career coaches on the internet. Can you believe that?

National News
Education Sec. Miguel Cardona unveils his five-step plan to get students back in school
“We must continue to reopen America’s schools for in-person learning as quickly and safely as possible,” Sec. Cardona wrote. 

In an op-ed for USA Today, newly appointed Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona named “quickly and safely” reopening schools as his top priority, further outlining a multi-step plan to make sure communities have the tools necessary to reopen amid an ongoing pandemic. 

Cardona’s column comes hours after President Joe Biden announced his step to accelerate school reopening nationwide by treating in-person learning as an essential next step in vaccine prioritization, directing Cardona’s department to take a “problem solving” initiative to work with schools, educators and students back into classrooms full-time. 

The Supreme Court case that could end affirmative action, explained
A case challenging Harvard’s admissions policy gives a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court the vehicle it needs to end race-conscious admissions.

The plaintiff in Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard College presents its lawsuit as a bid to vindicate the rights of Asian American applicants to Harvard — though Harvard rejects the overwhelming majority of undergraduate applicants, the rejection rate among Asian Americans is especially high. But the implications of this suit go far beyond Harvard or the lawsuit’s implications for people of Asian descent.

Substitute teacher crisis forces districts to turn to local businesses and recent grads
In Missouri, a barrel company’s employees serve as substitute teachers. In Connecticut, a superintendent turns to recent high school grads. But solutions to the substitute teacher shortage crisis are elusive in most places as learning losses stack up

Stefanie Fernandez usually spends her work week in the finance office of Independent Stave, a company that manufactures oak barrels for bourbon and other spirits, headquartered in Lebanon, Missouri.

But once every week or two since in December, Fernandez has trailed her son into his middle school when she drops him off for classes. She checks in at the office, collects a binder of “sub notes,” and reports to a classroom.

Reading gaps widen in mid-year data, especially for K-1 students of color
DIBELS, or Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, is a series of short tests that assess K-8 literacy developed by the University of Oregon. The tests can be given by teachers marking student responses on paper or online through Amplify’s mCLASS platform.

According to results from the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, more students had slipped “far behind,” and COVID-19 learning losses were twice as large as typical summer loss, Paul Gazzerro, director of data analysis at Amplify, said during a webinar. Students continue to perform worse than pre-COVID-19, and fall learning has not closed that gap, he added.

Lifeline: How Bilingual Learning Pods Are Helping English Language Learners Navigate Classes During the Pandemic Without Teachers or Peers
Gibrielys Delgado was overwhelmed and needed help.

The sophomore at Cleveland’s Max Hayes High School grew up in Puerto Rico in a Spanish-speaking family and moved to Cleveland only a year ago.

With her classes all online because of COVID, it was soon clear that her still-developing English skills just weren’t good enough to keep up.

Teachers’ sentences would blur past from her computer screen, or she would have to look words up, leaving her behind as the class moved ahead. She was failing all of her subjects.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus nominates 25 Latino movies for National Film Registry
The films were selected with feedback from Latino arts and media advocacy groups, lawmakers said.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are nominating 25 films highlighting the experiences of Latinos in the U.S. for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

The nominations are part of growing efforts to fight Latino underrepresentation in Hollywood, Reps. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., and Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said in a letter to Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden on Tuesday.

A Chapter In U.S. History Often Ignored: The Flight Of Runaway Slaves To Mexico
Mexico in the 19th century is often regarded as “a place defined by poverty and political instability and violence” but rarely is given credit for its role in providing safe haven for runaway slaves from the U.S.

In a forgotten cemetery on the edge of Texas in the Rio Grande delta, Olga Webber-Vasques says she’s proud of her family’s legacy — even if she only just learned the full story.

Turns out her great-great-grandparents, who are buried there, were agents in the little-known underground railroad that led through South Texas to Mexico during the 1800s. Thousands of enslaved people fled plantations to make their way to the Rio Grande, which became a river of deliverance.

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!
Vanir has delivered more than 1,000 projects for more than 100 school districts, totaling more than $6 billion in modernization and new construction cost. We facilitate effective and efficient coordination between district planners, regulatory agencies, community and user groups, advisory committees, design consultants and dozens of other participants.

Our education sector projects have included master planning, needs assessments, constructability review, project scheduling and budgeting, bidding, award, on-site construction management and project closeout. We also provide staff augmentation services such as “owner’s rep” and have managed architect, contractor and other professional consultant selection. Our services range from condition assessment/feasibility studies to complete program management for a number of districts.

Vice President / Area Manager

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