TALAS E-newsletter – November 5

Posted on November 5th, 2020
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Texas News
McAllen ISD Superintendent selected as Texas’ nominee for AASA
Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) selects McAllen ISD Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez, Ed.D., as a state nominee for the 2021 National Superintendent of the Year.

Gonzalez has served with MISD for four years as the superintendent and as an administrator for 23 years. He has served as a principal, assistant principal, teacher and coach before holding the title of superintendent.

“Being an educator and having an influence on people is near and dear to my heart because when you look at it with depth and complexity and from a parent’s perspective, you start to understand the magnitude of what the field of education is all about,” Gonzalez said.

The School Superintendents Association (AASA) will present an award to the winner where Dr. Gonzalez will be considered by a panel of judges from across the U.S. and select four finalists.

Despite Major Push by Democrats, Texas House of Representatives, Always at Least a Little Purple, Stays Under Republican Control
Texas Democrats woke to an especially hard set of headlines this morning. The electoral “blue wave” many had predicted failed to wash over the state, despite record spending by supporters, massive voter turnout, momentum from the flipping of a dozen seats in the state House of Representatives in 2018 and political intel suggesting that the nine more needed to gain control of the lower chamber were within reach.

Rubbing salt in their wounds: The 2021 Legislature will have a Republican majority during the upcoming high-stakes, once-in-a-decade redistricting.

In fact, while some races have yet to be called, The Texas Tribune has reported it’s likely the split in the House will be essentially what it was during the last legislative session, in 2019: 83-67.

Republicans maintain majority on Texas education board with two seats too close to call
Democrats appeared poised to gain one seat on the Republican-dominated State Board of Education on Wednesday, with tight races in all three they hoped to flip.

With the final votes still being counted around the state, Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau, a Texas State University professor, was leading Republican Lani Popp, a Northside Independent School District speech pathologist, in District 5. Incumbent Ken Mercer, a Republican who held the seat for 14 years, decided not to run for reelection in the district, which picks up communities along the Interstate 35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin and stretches into the Hill Country.

But Republicans kept control of one seat Texas Democrats wanted to flip this year, and they’re poised to hold on to one other. Republican incumbent Tom Maynard defeated Democrat Marsha Burnett-Webster, a retired teacher and college administrator, according to results from Decision Desk HQ​​​. They competed for the District 10 seat, which runs northeast of Austin and includes suburban and more rural communities.

Student enrollment dips during pandemic mean Texas schools will lose millions without state policy change
Every day, the Richardson school district dispatches staff to track down missing students who never logged on or showed up for the fall semester. They knock on doors, call family members and visit locations around the area where students have been spotted.

Even with these efforts, about 1,900 students are unaccounted for — that’s the equivalent of the enrollment at three junior high schools.

In Texas, where funding is based on the number of students who show up for class each day, the 1,900 missing students mean Richardson ISD could lose $10.4 million in state funds.

EPISD to open learning pods, keep most students home
El Paso Independent School District officials announced Tuesday that the district will open learning pods at all campuses on Monday, November 9, for students that have been identified as having a priority need, following a state mandate that districts reopen schools during the pandemic.

District schools must reopen per state mandate despite the El Paso County stay-at-home order issued last week.

“We greatly appreciate our teachers, staff and Board of Trustees for their commitment to our students over the last eight months. We look forward to having our students and staff back on campus, but we want to do it when it is safe and secure,” said Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera. “We know people are nervous about coming back into our schools, and we want everyone to know we have spent a lot of time and energy making our campuses safe and appropriate for learning during these uncertain times.”

HISD, other local districts join program to receive free COVID-19 rapid tests
HISD plans to test a percentage of students and all campus-based staff who choose to participate.

A veteran Chavez High School English teacher also has biology on her mind these days.

“So far I’ve been COVID free,” said Coretta Mallet-Fontenot.

But she knows there are no guarantees while teaching face-to-face again.

“I, myself, and my immediate family, we’ve not had it thank God,” said Mallet-Fontenot. “And so we just take every precaution that we can.”
That’s something Houston ISD and many other districts may be doing too.

They’re participating in a program through the TEA and others that will offer free COVID-19 rapid testing to a percentage of students, with parental permission, and all campus staff.

Waco ISD board adopts anti-racist resolution created by two teachers, administrator
Rachelle Warren remembers the first time someone made her aware of her race.

The Waco Independent School District administrator was in third grade when the campus bully referred to her using a racial slur. Warren did not know what the word meant at the time, but she knew it was intended to hurt her and that it was not supposed to be said.

She told her parents what happened, and they talked with school officials. As a third grader, Warren did not know exactly what transpired between her parents and school officials, but she knew that suddenly the campus bully who had intentionally harmed her was now doing everything he could to make sure no one else hurt her.

“I learned the power of being aware of a piece of me that I had no control over that was presented to the world without my permission,” she said during a recent Waco ISD board workshop. “I also understood how important it was for me not to be silent.”

Socorro ISD schools earn Texas Purple Star Campus Designation award
The Socorro Independent School District always has been committed to providing support and services to military-connected students.

Recently, the Texas Education Agency commended Team SISD for its long-time work in supporting military families by honoring numerous SISD schools with the prestigious Texas Purple Star Campus Designation for supporting military connected students.

The special award recognizes school districts across the state that show their support and commitment to meeting the unique needs of military-connected students and their families.

“We cherish our military students and families in Team SISD, and I am proud of the work that our staff does across the district to help them,” said SISD Superintendent Jose Espinoza, Ed.D. “We are here for our military-connected families with counseling services, daily support, special events and activities because they are an important part of Team SISD. We are especially grateful to the military parents for their service.”

Group demands changes from TEA as Austin ISD prepares to bring back more students, teachers
The Austin Independent School District is preparing to bring back more students, teachers and staff to its campuses on Monday, Nov. 2, as part of its phase-in reopening process, and some worry the district is moving too quickly.

On Saturday, a group of concerned students, parents, teachers and community advocates held a virtual press conference, detailing the changes they’re asking the Texas Education Agency to make to better protect schools.

As part of that list of more than a dozen demands, the group is asking the TEA to fund remote learning for all schools districts, to not hold school districts accountable for attendance for the 2020-2021 school year or withhold funding and to cancel the annual STAAR test because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the press conference, David DeLeon, who identified himself as an AISD teacher, shared he is “terrified” of returning back to campus on Monday.

Can Public Schools Overcome the Pandemic?
When Alexandria Smith, MEd ’17, learned in late March that she wouldn’t return to her English classroom for the rest of the spring, her first thought was about her students. Austin schools, including LBJ Early College High School, where Smith teaches, were closing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and Smith knew she could adapt to teaching online. But some of her students didn’t have laptops or internet access. Some qualified for free lunch and relied on the school for their midday meal. For some, school was a reprieve from a difficult home life. Immediately, Smith and her fellow teachers started calling students to find out what they needed and how the school could help.

El Paso reports more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day, shattering previous record
The record-breaking case count came as a state district judge heard arguments Wednesday over a shutdown order issued by El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego. Judge William Moody said he would render a decision later this week on whether to temporarily halt the county order.

Cases of COVID-19 in El Paso continued to skyrocket on Wednesday as the city reported a record 3,100 new people contracted the virus, smashing the previous single-day record by more than 1,000.

City officials also reported eight additional deaths and more than total 21,900 active cases.

El Paso in recent weeks has struggled to stem the tide of the novel coronavirus. Hospitals are near or at capacity, and El Paso County has set up four temporary morgues.

Texas Latino Voting Patterns Suggest Both Parties Should Pay More Attention
As election results continue to be tallied, sifted and evaluated, some patterns are starting to take shape, especially when it comes to Latino voters.

Richard Pineda is the director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication at the University of Texas-El Paso. He told Texas Standard that the immigration narrative the Trump administration created has connected with Mexican-American voters in the state.

“I think that it has drawn a bright line for the administration to point to newcomers to the state, newcomers to the United States and say, ‘listen, you know, those people are coming and they’re going to be a threat to what you have accomplished so far,’” he said.

Pineda also points to how he says Democrats didn’t see the issue of immigration resonating as much as they had hoped, and thought the images of the child separation policy, and the plight of asylum-seekers would sway voters in their favor.

For Texas middle schoolers watching the election unfold, social studies teacher a guide through the unknown
Heated race has students more engaged than in previous presidential elections, teacher says.

Eighth grader Yarettzi Chavez sat at the front of her class, a mask tight around her nose and mouth, as all eyes were on a partially colored-in Electoral College map projected across the whiteboard.

The 13-year-old Permenter Middle School student, who is so engrossed in politics that her mom calls her “Michelle Obama,” felt as though her muscles were trembling as she considered the hodgepodge of blue and red.

These Cedar Hill students, like the rest of the country, woke up not knowing who would lead the nation for the next four years. It was up to social studies teacher Angel Hale to help the teenagers process what had happened and navigate their anxiety about what is still to come.

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When Election Results Divide: How To Work With People Effectively When You Disagree On Politics
Even if we don’t agree on a political candidate, we can certainly agree that over the years—and the last months especially—things have become increasingly divisive, polarized and sometimes even combative in political discussions. We’ve experienced this with friends, family and colleagues.

A new Gartner survey of US workers found 6 in 10 were distracted by the election. In addition, 22% reported the election has had a big impact on their ability to do their jobs, and 43% have found it challenging to work with a colleague who holds different political opinions. In a study by Zety, 83.3% of people reported they have talked about politics at work. In addition, 22.1% have felt disrespected by co-workers due to their political beliefs and 37.5% felt uncomfortable at work because of political discussions. Clearly, a significant proportion of people are experiencing some spillover from politics into their work.

National News
Trump cultivated the Latino vote in Florida, and it paid off
From the time President Donald Trump took office, he focused on the Latino vote in Florida, and according to figures coming out of the state, it paid off on Election Day, especially in Miami-Dade County, the most populous in the state.

Around 55 percent of Florida’s Cuban-American vote went to Trump, according to NBC News exit polls, while 30 percent of Puerto Ricans and 48 percent of “other Latinos” backed Trump. Trump won the coveted battleground state with its 29 electoral votes.

Trump drastically improved his support in Miami-Dade County, going from 333,999 votes in 2016 to at least 529,16 votes this year. Biden, however, wasn’t able to grow Democratic support in the county. Clinton got 624,146 votes there in 2016 and with 95 percent of the vote tallied, Biden had 613,086.

In Puerto Rico, Conservatives Sweep Island-Wide, But Progressives May Score One Big Win
Puerto Rico had no say in Tuesday night’s presidential election. But candidates from the traditionally conservative-leaning party won the top two island-wide seats in the United States’ largest territorial possession.

Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress and a vocal ally of President Donald Trump, easily cruised to reelection early Tuesday evening. Pedro Pierluisi, a veteran politician and former lobbyist for a coal-fired utility accused of contaminating groundwater, is projected to win the race to be the island’s next governor.

Both candidates are members of the New Progressive Party, which historically champions low taxes, privatization of services and social conservatism but orients its politics primarily around advocating for Puerto Rican statehood. The other dominant force on the island is the Popular Democratic Party, whose support for maintaining Puerto Rico’s commonwealth colonial status with the U.S. defines its politics.

With Control of Senate Uncertain, Educators Look to Mitch McConnell, Who Calls Pandemic Relief Package ‘Job One’
For months, the nation’s education leaders and advocates have pinned their hopes for another pandemic relief package with substantial funding for schools on changing leadership in Washington.

But the outcome of the presidential contest is unclear at this point, and hopes that the Democrats would take control of the Senate are fading. As a result, some experts are scaling back their expectations.

“Schools urgently need additional federal aid to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, whether they’re educating students in person or remotely,” said Carissa Moffat Miller, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. “Whatever the final outcome of the congressional and presidential elections, we urge leaders to come together and reach a bipartisan solution quickly.”

In Blow To University Affirmative Action, California Rejects Proposition 16
A nationally watched ballot measure that would have allowed affirmative action programs to be reinstated in California was going down to a resounding defeat as of Wednesday morning.

Under Proposition 16, public universities in California would have been permitted to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin to promote diversity in admissions and other programs. The measure would have also allowed state and local governments to consider those factors when hiring government employees and awarding government contracts.

As of Wednesday, with over 70% of precincts reporting, Proposition 16 was losing by a 56.1% – 43.9% margin, representing a gap of nearly 1.4 million votes. The proposition was placed on the ballot by a two-thirds majority of the California Legislature. Proposition 16 took the form of a constitutional amendment that would have repealed the highly controversial Proposition 209, which was passed in 1996, from the California Constitution. Proposition 209 stated that discrimination and preferential treatment were illegal in public employment, public education, and public contracting. It made California one of fewer than 10 states to ban affirmative action.

US border agents sending unaccompanied children from other countries to Mexico: report
U.S. border agents have expelled more than 200 non-Mexican unaccompanied children to Mexico, potentially violating U.S. laws and a diplomatic agreement with the country, according to a report by The New York Times.

The report is based partly on emails allegedly written by a top border official, Border Patrol Assistant Chief Eduardo Sánchez, warning that the expulsions violate U.S. policy and could endanger the Trump administration’s entire quick deportation strategy.

“Recently, we have identified several suspected instances where Single Minors (SM) from countries other than Mexico have been expelled via ports of entry rather than referred to ICE Air Operations for expulsion flights,” Sánchez wrote in an email obtained by the Times.

If confirmed, the report would provide evidence for claims made by many immigration and border activists, who regularly accuse border authorities of cutting corners and violating internal and external regulations.

Why racial inequities in America’s schools are rooted in housing policies of the past
American public schools are divided along economic and racial lines, the aftermath of a system that denied capital to families of color for decades.

Systemic inequities in education have come into clear focus as our nation splinters over a global pandemic and racial reckoning. Yet, racial injustice has been baked into our education system since its genesis. We still can’t shake it.

Nearly 51 million students are enrolled in America’s public schools, but the system is far from equal. Segregationist policies, like school funding based on property values, are impeding the progress of those most marginalized.

American public schools are divided along economic and racial lines. A recent study shows that predominately nonwhite school districts receive $23 billion less funding than majority white school districts, despite serving the same number of students.

Schools weigh plans for rapid COVID-19 tests
White House officials hoped that sending states rapid COVID-19 tests would encourage their use in reopening schools, and while that’s one way states are using the shipments, they say they need more resources and better data about how to best deploy testing.

Health officials in some states say they are beginning to offer testing to students and teachers, but they are still finessing how to determine who should be tested and how frequently that should occur.

The Trump administration last month announced that it would provide 150 million rapid antigen tests to detect COVID-19, two-thirds of which would go to states and territories to help reopen schools and their economies.

Día de Los Muertos Celebrations Across the Country Honor Latine COVID-19 Victims
Día de los Muertos has been especially sobering this year as at least 36,500 Latine people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, which amounts to one in five COVID-19 deaths being a Latine person. Latin American countries are seeing gigantic death tolls from the virus. Ecuador and Mexico currently rank in the top 10 of the highest coronavirus death rate. Both countries have more deaths from the virus than the United States. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared three days of national mourning during Día de los Muertos celebrations.

Día de los Muertos, known in English as Day of the Dead, is observed as a moment when the veil between the physical and spiritual world thins, allowing us to communicate with our lost loved ones as their souls return to Earth. Across the country, ofrenda altars were displayed to honor those whose lives have been claimed during the deadly pandemic.

Ritchie Torres becomes first gay Afro Latino elected to Congress
Torres, a Democrat, was elected to represent New York’s 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ritchie Torres has won his House race for New York’s 15th Congressional District, making him the first gay Afro Latino person elected to Congress.

Torres was all but certain to win in his deep-blue House district. He defeated Republican Patrick Delices, a former professor of Caribbean studies at Hunter College.

He fills a seat left by Rep. Jose Serrano, a 16-term Democrat who said last year that he would not run for re-election.

“Tonight we made history,” Torres tweeted Tuesday night, calling it “the honor of a lifetime to represent a borough filled with essential workers who risked their lives so that New York City could live” during the pandemic.

As The Votes Are Counted, Latin America Wonders What A Biden Administration Would Mean For The Region
Apart from his hateful and racist rhetoric, Donald Trump has paid very little attention to Latin America. Since taking office in 2017, he’s made only a single visit there, to the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires. A region so used to U.S. leadership and/or interventionism has tried to adapt to this new arrangement with so little U.S. engagement.

Unlike in the past, when Latin American presidents were often vocal in their support for particular U.S. candidates, leaders are remaining silent. The presidents of Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Colombia spoke out in favor of Hilary Clinton in the last election—but there’s been far less vocal support for Joe Biden this time from the leadership.

As a ‘Second Wave’ Looms, Here Are 4 Steps Schools Can Take to Boost Resiliency and Minimize Outbreaks
Health experts have warned for months that the U.S. could see a second wave of COVID-19 infections. As daily case counts in the U.S. set records and hospitalizations soar, it appears that the surge we’ve been bracing for is already here. This raises important questions about how to minimize the risk of further spreading the virus, especially in schools.

A school’s ability to function and protect its members from COVID-19 depends largely on the willingness of each individual to engage in prosocial behavior—voluntary actions aimed at helping others. So in preparing for a resurgence of COVID-19 as the weather changes, this is an ideal time to reflect on the effects of efforts so far, and consider what else we can do to most effectively promote prosocial behavior within our school communities.

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.

Gloria Barrera – Vice President / Area Manager – 281.378.8073

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