TALAS E-newsletter – October 22

Posted on October 22nd, 2020
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Texas News
Fabens & Ysleta ISDs among 8 Texas school systems to get rapid virus tests in new pilot program
The Fabens and Ysleta independent school districts will be part of a new pilot program involving eight Texas school systems to provide coronavirus tests with results in 15 minutes or less to staff and selected students, local and state officials said Friday.

Fabens ISD said it would close its school campuses all next week, opting instead for remote learning during that time, due to rising virus cases in the community as it prepares to implement the new Covid-19 rapid antigen testing. Ysleta ISD just extended its fall intercession to keep students on break until Oct. 26.

The pilot program is meant to help schools conduct rapid tests of employees and students who have written permission from parents. Health experts have said accessible, rapid testing could help the state achieve substantive widespread Covid-19 testing, an elusive public health goal for Texas and much the country.

Dallas ISD: Hinojosa Earns Highest Education Honor—2020 Urban Educator Of The Year
Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa was named the 2020 Urban Educator of the Year, during the 64th Annual Council of the Great City Schools Fall Conference (Council) held virtually this year.

Hinojosa was selected as the sole finalist among 20 big-city school district superintendents competing for the nation’s highest honor in urban education leadership. The recognition, also known as the Green-Garner Award, honors an outstanding superintendent or school board member, in alternating years, from 76 of the nation’s largest urban public-school systems.

Austin ISD superintendent creates new teacher group, voices of employees heard through committee
A group of 40 teachers will meet with the superintendent every week to discuss issues on campuses.

Austin ISD teachers are given a voice with the school district with Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde’s new teacher group. The new committee will meet with Elizalde every week and a couple of teachers in the committee said this can benefit hundreds of AISD employees.

“Our committee members have had a chance to have honest conversations with Dr. Elizalde and report kind of what people on our campus and in our communities are feeling,” said Jazmyn Lynch, a Pillow Elementary third-grade teacher.

El Paso ISD board approves TEA waiver to continue virtual learning
The El Paso Independent School district board of trustees on Tuesday approved the two-week waiver from the Texas Education Agency that extends full virtual learning.

When El Paso Independent School District students return to learning next week they will be attending via Schoology.

El Paso ISD announced Monday morning that the Texas Education Agency approved an extension of full virtual learning for the district through November 9 for those who opted for in-person instruction.

Under the approved plan, in-person instruction for those students whose parents opted for that option would resume starting on Friday, Nov. 6, for identified students in special-education programs, grades pre-kinder through second, as well as sixth-graders and high-school freshmen. All remaining students who opted for in-person instruction would return to campus the week of Nov. 9.

As Houston ISD resumes in-person classes, officials tout effort to close digital gap
While Houston ISD students returned to in-person classes Oct. 19 for the first time since before spring break, administrators took the opportunity to celebrate the efforts made to close the district’s digital divide.

“This is truly a historic and transformational accomplishment in our district,” interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said at a press conference at Highland Heights Elementary School marking the return of in-person classes.

The district has distributed 110,000 devices, and every student in need has received a device, she said. Credit was shared with local officials as well as the Moody Foundation, which gave HISD $1 million to help purchase devices.

Dallas ISD hosts webinar to discuss race and education inequality
Dallas ISD held the first of several web-based seminars to discuss race relations in the district. It wants to help teachers come up with lesson plans for all of its students.

The people involved in it feel it’s more critical than ever to not just have these conversations, but develop action plans and measure how they are working to enhance cultural intelligence in Dallas schools.

The district is working with the Cultural Intelligence Center, a training and consulting company, to help teachers and staff to recognize and reduce discrimination and bias against minority students.

Health officials predict most Texans won’t have access to COVID-19 vaccine until July at the earliest
If a COVID-19 vaccine is ready next month, Texas health officials predict it won’t be widely available to Texans until at least July.

Under the state’s vaccine distribution plan, vulnerable people, including health care workers, older people and people with underlying medical conditions would likely be the first to get the vaccine in the early months that it’s available.

The estimated timeline presented at a meeting of health officials Monday hinges on the COVID-19 vaccine being approved before the end of the year, though it remains unclear whether that will happen. But the allocation plan provides more information about who will be first in line to get a vaccine in Texas and how long it might take before vaccines are accessible to public at large.

Opinion: Charter school expansion is not what Texas needs during a pandemic
The Texas Education Agency recently approved new charter schools for the next school year, which means the state will be redistributing some education dollars and resources to new schools during a recession that has already burdened existing schools. This is not what Texas school districts need right now.

The TEA commissioner has allowed 49 new charter campuses next year, including 12 for IDEA Public Schools. The reasoning for charter expansion during a recession and pandemic is surprising. The commissioner has the authority to approve charter expansion, but must consider “information relating to any financial difficulty that a loss in enrollment may have on a district” as well as “evidence of parental and community support for or opposition to the proposed charter school.”

Texas is on the cusp of another COVID-19 surge. Is the state better prepared to handle it?
Cases of COVID-19 in parts of Texas surged to near catastrophic levels this summer as some hospitals were forced to put beds in hallways, intensive care units exceeded capacity and health officials struggled to stem the tide of the virus.

After peaking in late July and August, cases fell and leveled off in September, and the state’s seven-day positivity rate — or the proportion of positive tests — reached its lowest point since early June.

But health officials are now eyeing a worrying trend: New infections are rising again, and the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 is also ticking upward. The state reported 2,273 new cases Monday, and the seven-day average was up by 862 from the previous week. On Monday, at least 4,319 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, far below the more than 10,000 in July, but that number has steadily risen during the last month.

To Fight COVID-19, Some San Antonio Schools Are Relying On Private Funds to Step Up Contact Tracing and Assurance Testing
As San Antonio schools continue to reopen, the inevitable presence of COVID-19 has educators and parents on edge — and with public resources lacking, some schools are using private funds to fight the pandemic.

Public schools, which have focused heavily on mitigation strategies like PPE and social distancing on campus, are depending on the City’s Metropolitan Health District to help them fight the pandemic, even though over the summer the health district was criticized for lags in contact tracing, and rapid tests have yet to become available at City-run testing sites.

But at least one district and one private school are relying on private resources to bolster testing and contact tracing capacity. In Somerset ISD, a small high poverty district in southwest Bexar County, philanthropic funding has allowed for universal weekly screening of students and staff through rapid testing. Saint Mary’s Hall, a private school on the city’s north side, has deputized an in-house contact tracing team—and hired an epidemiologist to train some of them—using more thorough protocols than Metro Health.

Congratulations to Veronica Vijil & Steven Gutierrez, Our Two Newest TALAS Officers!
Two new TALAS officers were sworn in at the executive board meeting held earlier this month. Board members Veronica Vijil (Fabens ISD Superintendent) and Steven Gutierrez (Tomball ISD Chief Operating Officer) are TALAS’ new Secretary and Treasurer, respectively. Congratulations!
Dr. Veronica Vijil
TALAS Secretary
Fabens ISD – Superintendent
Dr. Steven Gutierrez
TALAS Treasurer
Tomball ISD – Chief Operating Officer
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Supporting Your Career
5 Ways To Make Zoom Presentations Engaging And Irresistible
Dry. Dull. Boring. Exhausting. Painful. Waste of time. Forgettable. Those are the words and phrases that came up when I asked people this question: What word would you use to describe the Zoom presentations and webinars you attend?

And it’s true, most webinars are likely to be uninspiring … and forgotten shortly after you attend them. They aren’t wildly engaging, and their impact on your success is likely minimal. One thing that impedes their ability to wow is that they aren’t very different from other meetings you attend online. Also, those who create and deliver online presentations neglect the importance of understanding the medium. Online presentations have to do a lot more work to captivate you.

National & International News
Bolivia appears to shift back left as Morales party claims victory after election
Arce’s victory is bound to reenergize Latin America’s left, whose economic justice message has appeal as poverty is expected to surge to 37% this year, according to the U.N.

Bolivia appeared Monday to be shifting sharply away from the conservative policies of the U.S.-backed interim government that took power last year after leftist President Evo Morales resigned, with the self-exiled leader’s party claiming victory in a weekend presidential election.

The leading rival of Morales’s handpicked successor, Luis Arce, conceded defeat as did interim President Jeanine Áñez, a bitter foe of Morales.

Officials released no formal, comprehensive quick count of results from Sunday’s vote, but two independent surveys of selected polling places gave Arce a lead of roughly 20 percentage points over his closest rival — far more than needed to avoid a runoff.

Supreme Court to take up Trump border wall spending, asylum enforcement
A federal appeals court ruled in June that the government improperly diverted $2.5 billion of the Pentagon’s counterdrug program money to build more than 100 miles of border wall.

The Supreme Court said Monday that it will hear a challenge to the Trump administration’s use of Pentagon money to build the southern border wall and also its appeal of a ruling that blocked a policy sending asylum applicants to Mexico while they wait for their appeals to be heard.

A federal appeals court ruled in June that the government improperly diverted $2.5 billion of Pentagon counterdrug program money to build more than 100 miles of border wall. The court said only Congress could approve such a transfer.

What does a district court ruling mean for future right-to-education cases?
A Rhode Island District Court judge has ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not ultimately include a right to civics education. The case, Cook v. Raimondo, saw a group of plaintiffs sue Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner and the state Board of Education, arguing that the state failed to provide an education that adequately prepared students to participate in civic life.

While Judge William E. Smith ruled in favor of the education commissioner and the board, among other state leaders, he said the case “highlights a deep flaw in our national education priorities and policies” and hoped “others who have the power to address this need will respond appropriately.” The latest decision in the Rhode Island case left open “a legal road to appeal” that plaintiff attorney Michael Rebell said has the potential to end at the steps of the Supreme Court, decades after justices in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez decided education was not a constitutional right.

Why decades of trying to end racial segregation in gifted education haven’t worked
On a crisp day in early March, two elementary school gifted and talented classes worked on activities in two schools, three miles and a world apart.

In airy PS 64 Frederick Law Olmsted, in affluent, white north Buffalo, 22 would-be Arctic explorers wrestled with how to build a shelter if their team leader had frostbite and snow blindness. Unusually for Buffalo’s public schools — where 20 percent of students are white and 46 percent are Black — about half of the fourth grade class was white.

In PS 61 Arthur O. Eve, on the city’s majority-Black East Side, 13 first graders, all of them Black, Latino or Asian American, folded paper airplanes in their basement classroom as part of an aerodynamics and problem-solving lesson. Unlike at Olmsted, the highest-scoring elementary school in the city, students at Eve scored around the dismal city average in math and English in 2019, when fewer than a quarter of students passed state tests.

SNA Survey Finds School Meal Programs’ Financial Losses Mount
new survey from the School Nutrition Association (SNA) reveals the severe financial toll school meal programs have incurred as they adapt to safely meet the nutritional needs of students during the pandemic. Fifty-four percent of responding school districts reported a financial loss in School Year (SY) 2019/20 and a harrowing 62% anticipate a loss this school year, with an additional 28% of respondents unsure of what to expect.

During COVID-19 school closures in March and April 2020, schools served almost 400 million fewer meals compared to the prior year, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The resulting drop in federal meal reimbursements and corresponding loss of a la carte and catering revenue left school meal programs struggling to manage rising costs and new expenses, including meal packaging and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The financial imbalance has school meal program directors wary for SY 2020/21; financial loss was the top concern in SNA’s survey, cited by 93% of respondents.

This Latina’s Mobile Bookstore is Bringing Bilingual Books to Latinx Communities
Davina Ferreira is on a mission to get kids in L.A.’s underserved communities reading more—in both English and Spanish.

For many Latinos living in the U.S., being bilingual is a real challenge. Cultural norms and the pressure to assimilate can often mean a loss of (or lack of) Spanish. But for Davina A. Ferreira, the founder of Alegría Bilingual Media + Publishing, bilingualism isn’t just her work—it’s part of her life’s mission to bring the beauty of Latinx culture to the masses.

Opinion: The invisible toll of mass incarceration on childhood development
Every Sunday morning for five years, K. packed up her son, M., filled a bag with books and snacks, and took the bus to 26th Street and California Avenue. Infamous to Chicagoans, the intersection is home to the Cook County Jail. Mother and son entered the facility, sent their belongings — even M.’s milk — through a metal detector, clapped their shoes together for the guards, and sat in the waiting room. Eventually, they would be granted what they’d come for: a 15-minute visit with M.K., M.’s dad and K.’s partner. (The family is being referred to by their initials in order to protect their privacy.)

The visits, though, were far from ideal. M. often fell asleep in the waiting room and woke up cranky when his father appeared. The rules governing the visit felt punitive: no toys, no candy, no touching. K. often left feeling as if she and M. were the ones waiting for trial. “We are visiting an inmate. We are not inmates ourselves,” she said. K. was painfully aware of what her son — never once held in his father’s arms — was being denied during the most critical time of his life. She did everything in her power to help him and his dad forge a relationship, but it isn’t easy to parent through plexiglass.

Remembering the Unsung Boricua Shero: Sylvia del Villard
This modern-day list of Latina sheroes may be familiar; mention Evelyn Cisneros, Sonia Sotomayor, Antonia Novello, Lisa Fernandez, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and people will almost immediately recognize the names. Many women have contributed to society, making a difference in culture, arts, sports, medicine, politics, and other areas.

Growing up, my generation was not as fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about females that impacted society in meaningful ways. Instead, we were considerably deprived of the accomplishments of others that looked like us; though it may not have been intentional, ignorance took a major role in the cover-up.

Sylvia del Villard is one of the numerous silent pioneers that paved the way for those that came after her. Unfortunately, she was an unsung Boricua shero that did not get the kudos deserved for her contributions as one of the best representatives of the Afro-Puerto Rican culture.

Isabela Merced, Rita Moreno, Gloria Estefan & More To Celebrate COVID-19 Heroes During TV Special
A coalition of Latinx musicians, actors, artists, activists and nonprofit and corporate leaders are coming together to celebrate the contributions of the Latinx community who have fought against and have been impacted by COVID-19.

On October 26, CBS will broadcast Essential Heroes: A Memento Latino Event, a one-hour special that aims to highlight the incredible work Latinx people have done across their communities during the pandemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanic or Latinos are 2.8x more likely to be infected by the coronavirus in comparison to Whites. They are also 4.6x more likely to be hospitalized and 1.1x more likely to die from the coronavirus.

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