AISD holds Q&A over strongly opposed TEA special education proposal
Austin ISD Board of Trustees held a virtual Q&A session to hear concerns from the community about a controversial order from the Texas Education Agency that would appoint a team of monitors over its special education department. AISD has until Friday to vote on the proposal. Read more
Houston ISD set to move ahead with District of Innovation plan
Houston ISD’s Board of Managers is expected to vote later today on Superintendent Mike Miles’ plans to turn HISD into a District of Innovation. This will allow him to extend the school year and join the vast majority of other Texas’ school districts in being exempt from certain laws. Read more
Pflugerville ISD joins lawsuit against Texas Education Association
Pflugerville ISD has joined a coalition of school districts in Texas suing the Texas Education Association (TEA) over changes to its accountability ratings system. The rating change would raise the bar for measuring college, career, and military readiness, which some district officials argue could harm the reputation of public schools. Superintendent Doug Killian criticized the timing of the rating system reset, calling it unfair to staff and students. Joining the lawsuit could cost the district between $6,500 and $21,000. Previously, districts could receive an A rating if 60% of students were deemed ready for college or a career, but the TEA plans to increase that threshold to 88%. The changes have raised concerns among 250 Texas school districts, who fear a significant drop in state-rated scores for high schools. Read more
San Antonio ISD urged to let families have final say on school closures
A coalition of groups representing teachers, parents, students, and neighborhoods in San Antonio has demanded that the public have the final say over which schools are closed during a new project to “rightsize” facilities. The coalition argued that closing or consolidating schools would lead to destabilizing effects in the community and should only be used as a last resort. The district’s timeline for making a decision doesn’t allow for adequate input from families and students, according to the coalition. Read more
Houston ISD employees must reapply for jobs
Newly-installed Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles has announced that employees at nearly 30 schools will have to reapply for their jobs as part of his “New Education System” plan. Miles is starting with 29 schools and undertaking what he calls “wholescale, systemic reform.” He’s raising teacher compensation at those 29 schools to a record $96,000 a year. Employees who aren’t re-hired will go to other HISD schools, and soon, he says, all district employee pay will be tied to student performance. Miles has promised not to close any schools in his first year but said closures are likely after that. Organizations are planning to protest next week at the district’s first meeting with Miles and the nine-member board of managers that are replacing the elected HISD board of trustees. Read more
San Antonio ISD teachers to receive ‘historic’ pay increases
San Antonio ISD educators will receive sizable pay increases of three to nine percent next school year, as part of a nearly $20 million compensation package approved by the district’s board on Monday night. More than half of the package’s cost will go directly to teachers with hourly non-exempt employees just coming on board receiving an extra $0.50 per hour as part of the package with additional pay based on factors such as experience. In addition to the increase, there will also be opportunities for more pay to reward long-standing hourly staff members every year. Those who’ve been with the district for five years or less are slated to receive a 4% pay increase. Teachers with more than five years of experience in the district will make an additional .25% every year with an up to 9% increase for educators with 25 years or more of experience. In addition, all full-time, permanent staff members are eligible to receive a 3% pay increase, with stipends also being given to teachers in specific fields, such as special education. Read more
Austin ISD asks state to reconsider naming special education conservator over district
Austin ISD is requesting a review of a Texas Education Agency report that recommended placing a state conservator to oversee the district’s special education department and help fix an accumulating backlog of evaluations. Instead of a conservator, the district would like the TEA to install a monitor to report on but not bind the district’s action, officials said Monday afternoon. The district has a severe backlog in assessing whether students should get special education accommodations, but since January it has implemented a new system to track those evaluations, give special education staffers financial incentives and create systemic changes, interim Superintendent Matias Segura said in a statement. Read more
Austin ISD mulls appeal of state oversight
Austin ISD is deciding whether to appeal the Texas Education Agency’s plan to install a management team to oversee the district’s special education department. A union representing AISD employees, Education Austin, has already expressed opposition to the conservatorship. Ken Zarifis, the group’s president, said AISD has had issues with special ed services for a long time, but he believes in the district’s current leadership. “Right now, we have an interim superintendent and a board that we believe will work with us to problem solve for special ed students. Because at the end of the day, our students are the most important priority in this district,” he said. Read more
Civil rights organizations file federal complaint against Texas’ takeover of Houston ISD
The ACLU of Texas, the Houston NAACP and other groups say the takeover is a violation of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. Read more
Houston ISD decides not to appeal TEA takeover
Houston ISD board members late Monday decided not to make an appeal to Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath to prevent the announced state intervention of the district. Read more
Parents disrupt first public Houston ISD takeover meeting
Houston ISD community members were irate Tuesday night as Texas Education Agency officials tried to explain the process of taking over their school district. State officials did not take questions about the effects such a move could have on the district, which is the largest in Texas, but did try to recruit community members to replace the existing school board. Read more
Texas Education Agency will take control of Houston ISD in June
After a prolonged legal battle and weeks of speculation, the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday confirmed it’s removing Houston Independent School District’s democratically elected school board and superintendent, effectively putting the state in charge of its largest school district. Read more
Fort Worth ISD pushed to hire more non-certified special ed teachers
As schools in the Fort Worth area struggle to find enough teachers to cover their special education classrooms, some are increasingly being pushed to turn to non-certified educators hired on an emergency basis. Fort Worth ISD hired nearly three times as many special education teachers on emergency permits ahead of the current school year as compared to the year prior, district records show. Read more
TEA takeover of Houston ISD imminent, says Mayor Turner
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday morning that he has been told that the Texas Education Agency plans to take over Houston ISD as early as next week. “I’m talking to legislators, and what they’re saying to me is that the state intends to take over the district, replacing the entire board, replacing the superintendent,” Mr. Turner said at a City Council meeting. “I find that totally alarming.” Read more
Crosby ISD votes to become largest Texas district to adopt four-day school week
Crosby ISD leaders voted 4-3 Monday night to become the largest school district in Texas, and first in Harris County, to adopt a four-day instructional week. The new school calendar is a move by the district to attract additional teachers after facing 40 openings at the start of the school year. Read more
Houston-area school districts battling to retain teachers
Amid considerable workforce challenges, school districts in and around Houston are offering stipends, bonuses, and even four-day weeks in attempt to retain teachers. Many Houston area school districts already pay slightly above the state average for teacher salaries, which is nearly $59,000. Read more
Spring ISD program teaches students rudiments of housebuilding
A new career and technical education program in Spring ISD is allowing students to get home building experience by constructing tiny houses, with work already underway on a solar-powered dwelling that when complete will be gifted to a community member in need. Read more
McKinney ISD eases library book review process
McKinney ISD trustees have unanimously voted to change its book policy, a move they say makes it easier for books to be reviewed. Instead of evaluators needing to read an entire book they may now read only passages under question. Trustees also voted to clarify the definition of obscene material, using language from Texas Penal Code statute 43.21. Board President Amy Dankel said the new ruling applies only to the district’s library books, not classroom materials. Read more
Texas Supreme Court clears way for state’s education agency to take over Houston ISD
The Texas Supreme Court cleared the way Friday for the state to potentially take control of the Houston Independent School District, which state education officials say has been plagued by mismanagement and low academic performance at one of its high schools.
Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath first moved to take over the district’s school board in 2019 in response to allegations of misconduct by trustees and years of low performance at Phillis Wheatley High School. Read more
Dallas schools tackle high dropout rate with credit recovery programs
Dallas ISD is embracing evening and online classes to cut down on the high number of students who drop out of school each year. Administrators are also exploring how to catch teens before they ever fall behind. Read more
Fort Worth opens vision center for low-income students
One in five students in Fort Worth ISD failed a vision screening in 2021 and nearly half of those students in pre-K through fifth grade didn’t receive the needed follow-up eye care. Instead of just connecting its students with outside providers, the North Texas school district decided to bring comprehensive eye care to campus with the establishment of the Alcon Children’s Vision Center. The brightly painted vision center, officially launched in partnership with the Alcon Foundation on Monday, offers eye exams and prescription glasses to Medicaid-eligible students free of charge in an effort to close the gap in eye care for low-income families. Read more
Dallas ISD sued for negligence after death of teaching assistant
The family of a Dallas ISD teaching assistant is suing the district, accusing it of negligence in an attack on the now-deceased 56-year-old. Court documents stated that Sharla Sims was attacked by a 17-year-old special needs student at Spruce High School in January 2021. B’Ivory Lamarr, an attorney for Ms. Sims’ family, said that she was “punched and thrown into a bookshelf repeatedly.” He added that educators “should be able to perform their job without the fear of being violently attacked at work.” Read more
Vidor prepares to open elementary, five years after Harvey
Starting in January 2023, just over 650 students will return to Vidor ISD’s Oak Forest Elementary School, which was ravaged more than five years ago by Tropical Storm Harvey, forcing its students and teachers onto other campuses, eventually settling in portable buildings. Read more
Keller trustees vote to let teachers carry guns on campus
Keller school trustees voted 4-3 Monday to explore allowing some trained employees including teachers to carry guns on campus. The vote came after students, parents and teachers urged the district to look at alternative ways other than arming staff to expand security in the wake of the Uvalde school massacre and other mass shootings. Read more
Carroll ISD strikes gender, religion, sexual orientation from nondiscrimination statement
The Carroll ISD board voted on Monday to remove references to gender identity, sexual orientation and religion from its nondiscrimination statement. The amendment, which passed 5-1, means the statement will simply say the district “does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age in its programs and activities.” The statement previously included the words “religion,” “gender” and “sexual orientation.” Read more
Houston ISD tweaks attendance policy
Houston ISD has tightened up its attendance policy to say that students who miss more than 10% of high school-level classes in a semester may not receive credit, regardless of whether the absences are considered excused. If students do not attend 90% of classes in a semester, excused and unexcused absences will be counted against them and they will receive a no-grade, according to the new policy. Read more
Grief and trauma training is unexpectedly healing for school district staff in Texas
In Dallas Independent School District, social workers and therapists are receiving training that’s not only been beneficial to the students they serve, but also addresses how they themselves can navigate grief after losing loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more
Frisco ISD board votes to remove books from libraries
Recently, the Frisco ISD board voted to permanently remove five titles from district shelves, after a state Republican lawmaker challenged 28 books to be reviewed within the district weeks ago. Read more
Copperas Cove ISD accepted into Teacher Incentive Allotment
Copperas Cove ISD is one of only 29 school districts out of more than 1,200 across the state to be included this year in the Teacher Incentive Allotment. The state has indicated that the purpose of this initiative is to provide TIA designations, and therefore increased compensation, to the top 33% of teachers across Texas, says Amanda Crawley, CCISD deputy superintendent of instructional services. Read more
Resignations driving teacher shortages in San Antonio
School districts in the San Antonio are struggling to find enough teachers, after many districts saw a spike in resignations at the end of last school year. Districts struggled to fill all of their vacancies last fall, but this year there have been even more vacancies. Read more
Four of 23 Fort Worth schools failed state safety audit
Four out 23 Fort Worth ISD schools that were assessed in state-mandated intruder audits this year required “corrective action,” according to a report presented at the November meeting of the school board Tuesday. Details on the audits were only shared during executive session, but Deputy Superintendent Karen Molinar said that the campuses had work orders and training in place to respond to the audit findings. Read more
Book vending machines placed in schools
Port Arthur ISD’s Washington, Adams, and Houston elementary campuses, as well as Sabine Pass ISD, have installed Book Vending Machines under the United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County’s Early Literacy Initiative. United Way CEO Janie Johnson stated: “When books are in homes, they can be enjoyed and shared with siblings, cousins and neighbors. The book vending machines can be used to reward students meeting reading goals or being good Samaritans.” Read more
Denton ISD school buses get WiFi
Denton ISD has added free WiFi to all 206 school buses in its fleet. Using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, and in partnership with Cradlepoint, the district implemented the initiative to address the “digital divide” concern among school-aged students. Read more
San Antonio to increase focus on security text alerts
San Antonio ISD Superintendent Jaime Aquino said the district is to enhance its capabilities to share information through text messages with parents in the event of another emergency like Tuesday’s report of a shooting, which proved to be a false alarm. Read more
What Texas’ educator shortage looks like for one pre-K teacher
TeamTSTA member Michelle Cardenas has taught at Del Valle ISD for nearly two decades, but the 2021-22 school year pushed her to her limit — her district had dozens of teacher vacancies at the end of May.
That left Cardenas, a bilingual pre-K teacher at Hillcrest Elementary School in South Austin, overseeing two classes at once with 30 students total. She moved back and forth between the rooms, relied on aides to supervise her 4- and 5-year-old students and even used video calls to simultaneously teach both classes. If Cardenas has to do it again, she said, “I’d probably walk out the door.” Read more
Beaumont to consider adding more law enforcement at high schools
There may soon be additional police officers at Beaumont ISD’s two high schools, Beaumont United and West Brook. At a regular board meeting, trustee Joe Evans suggested the district add additional law enforcement officers to its high schools for a trial period of a month to see if the presence of more officers curbs fighting between students. Read more
Tyler ISD launches anti-bullying, emergency app
Tyler ISD has launched Safe2SpeakUp, an app that students can use to report bullying, submit safety tips and to access safety resources during emergencies. The new app allows students to report the activity immediately, and will also help authorities in the district by helping them to respond more quickly. Through the app, students can message within groups or with the school’s safety team, and anonymity will be preserved if selected. Read more
Uvalde residents challenge district’s new safety plans
The Uvalde school board at a Monday town hall discussed fixing crucial security issues exposed during the Robb Elementary tragedy. Every resident who spoke said plans were not enough. Security plans for the new academic year, which begins September 6 for Uvalde schools, call for 33 Texas Department of Public Safety officers to monitor campuses across the district. Uvalde Consolidated ISD trustees couldn’t answer residents’ questions about whether any of those officers were among the 91 DPS officers who responded to Robb on May 24. Read more
Flooding disrupts North Texas schools
North Texas schools navigated hectic morning commutes and afternoon dismissals after heavy downpour across the area throughout Monday. Some area districts, including Dallas ISD, delayed buses during the morning as drivers navigated around flooded streets to pick up students. Dallas and Fort Worth school officials also saw delays during afternoon bus routes. Mesquite ISD stopped all of its buses Monday morning due to road closures from high water levels. Richardson, Duncanville and Cedar Hill schools also reported bus delays on some morning routes, with Cedar Hill officials urging families to “please pack your patience.” Read more
Period equity expands in Texas as Austin schools provide free supplies
When Austin ISD students return to classes this month, they will find a new amenity awaiting them in the bathrooms: dispensers of free maxi pads and tampons. Over the summer, the district spent around $85,000 on dispensers and $70,000 on the first batch of menstrual products to provide to students at no cost. Austin is the state’s fifth-largest district and joins Fort Worth, which will also offer supplies to students for free this fall, following a decision Dallas schools made last year. Read more
Houston districts still looking to fill teacher vacancies
School districts across the Houston region are trying to fill thousands of teacher vacancies before most will be welcoming students back to classrooms in the coming weeks. A review of about 18 area school districts’ job listings, including Alvin, Deer Park, Fort Bend, Galena Park, Goose Creek, Katy, Lamar, Magnolia, Pasadena, Galveston, Humble, Spring Branch and Spring, showed a need for more than 3,400 educators to fill a variety of vacancies as of the beginning of August. Read more
Dallas joins districts in requiring clear or mesh backpacks
Dallas ISD announced Monday that it will require students to carry clear or mesh backpacks to class, joining other Texas districts in implementing new security measures following the Uvalde school massacre. The new rules apply to 6th-12th grade students and will take effect when the upcoming 2022-2023 school year begins in August. Other types of bags will no longer be allowed. Read more
No COVID sick days next year for Houston ISD staff
Houston ISD employees no longer will have extra sick days should they become infected with COVID-19 during the upcoming school year, district officials have announced. Trustees approved up to 10 additional paid leave days last August for the school year that just ended at the same meeting they approved a plan to offer a $500 stipend to employees who showed proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID. Read more
Fort Worth school board asks Abbott to call special session for new gun laws
The Fort Worth ISD school board passed a resolution Tuesday asking Governor Greg Abbott to call for a special legislative session to pass “common sense” gun law policies to protect students from mass shootings. Calls for a special session have come from Tarrant and Dallas County commissioners, a bipartisan coalition of Texas mayors and most Democratic state legislators. Read more
High number of teachers, staffers resigning from Austin schools
According to data from Austin ISD’s Office of Human Capital, more than 1,700 staff members resigned from Austin schools from July 2021 to June 2022, more than in any of the past three school years. Within this, 875 teachers resigned, nearly 30% up from the 2020-21 school year. The school board approved pay increases and bonuses for the upcoming school year, and is offering a 2% midpoint raise plus a $1,000 base pay increase for teachers and librarians. It also has a $2,000 retention stipend for full-time employees and a $1,000 stipend for part-time employees, along with a $21 per hour starting rate for bus drivers. To remain competitive with neighboring districts and adjust to Austin’s high cost of living, Eduardo Ramos, the district’s chief financial officer, said the district’s goal is to be the highest paying district for teachers in Central Texas within the next two years. District officials also said the upcoming bond proposal might include investments in affordable teacher housing. Read more
Lake Travis ISD approves 4-7 percent compensation increase for all staff
The Lake Travis ISD board of trustees approved a 4 percent midpoint raise for administrative staff and a 7 percent midpoint raise for all other staff at a recent board meeting. “This is really an unprecedented time for us when it comes to looking at salary increases for our employees because we have so many other factors going on,” said Evalene Murphy, the district’s assistant superintendent for employee and community relations. “We have staffing shortages nationally, our geographical concerns, our housing concerns, the inflation. It’s just kind of a storm of what’s hitting our employees.” Read more
Possible financial difficulties in store for Pflugerville
With local property values on the rise and more development coming by the day, Pflugerville ISD’s tax base is larger than ever—but officials said the district may not be better off financially because of it. According to the Travis County Appraisal District, the median taxable value of a home in Pflugerville ISD went up from $257,557 in 2021 to $287,944 in 2022, an 11.8% increase. However, Superintendent Doug Killian said the rising property values have created more problems for the district than they have solved. Read more
Almost 25 percent of Houston ISD students absent on first day after winter break
Approximately one-quarter of Houston ISD students were absent on Monday, the first day back following the district’s winter break. Figures by the district show that 45,515 students were absent on Monday and 26,259 on Tuesday, resulting in attendance rates of 76% and 85% respectively. The district’s average daily attendance was 95% in the 2018-19 school year, the latest figures available from the Texas Education Agency. Houston ISD also said that 301 teachers were absent on Monday, 242 on Tuesday and 122 on Wednesday. In all, there were 758 total employees, including teachers, absent on Monday, 527 on Tuesday and 321 on Wednesday. Read more
Brownsville hosts vaccine clinic for students and employees
Members of the Association of Brownsville Educators served their community by volunteering at a Brownsville ISD vaccine clinic. Folks receiving their first dose were eligible for a $20 gift card from AOBE.
Pflugerville approves paid COVID leave for teachers and staff
Pflugerville ISD is joining several other school districts in Travis County that already have paid COVID-19 leave for their teachers and staff. The policy shift came during a Thursday board meeting, at which several members of the Pflugerville Educators Association showed up to voice their strong support for the policy. Prior to the meeting, August Plock, president of the PEA, said different iterations of COVID-19 leave for teachers and staff have already been approved throughout districts in Central Texas, including five in Travis County. Plock said eight-10 days paid leave is a reasonable expectation. Read more
San Angelo ISD installs a bio-defense system at middle school
San Angelo ISD has announced its latest measure to slow COVID-19, a biodefense system that works like an air purifier. The Integrated Viral Protection Unit is FDA-approved and works to eliminate the airborne transmission of SARS-coV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The system, installed at Glenn Middle School, uses a heated filter and a metal mesh foam to catch and kill viruses and pollutants. The system is said to be 99.99% effective. Read more
Dallas ISD offers $500 incentive to staff who get vaccinated
Dallas ISD will give its employees $500 if they submit proof that they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The district won’t require its teachers and staff to get vaccinated, though officials are hoping to incentivize as many people as possible. The announcement comes amid a spike in coronavirus cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant. Dallas County recently raised its COVID-19 threat level to red, meaning there is a high risk of community transmission. In explaining the shift, County Judge Clay Jenkins noted the increase in cases among children. Read more
Houston ISD returning to 100% in-person instruction for 2021-22
Houston ISD confirmed yesterday that its upcoming school year will feature 100% in-person learning, along with 15 additional days of instruction. “HISD is aware and concerned about the learning loss that has resulted statewide from educational challenges caused by the pandemic,” the district wrote in a statement. “The recent STAAR test results provide us an opportunity to address student academic needs and utilize resources to regain learning. HISD is adding 15 additional days of instruction and returning to 100% in-person instruction in the fall. Read more
TFA educators clap back after wrongful termination
In June 2020, two Texas professors urged administrators to rely more on online classes and enforce mask-wearing on campus. In a move that shocked faculty across the nation, the college fired both educators in the spring. Read the story
Killeen Educators Association wins pay raise – and more – for all district employees
After KEA members, armed with facts, made a convincing presentation for higher compensation, the Killeen ISD school board this week approved a 3 and a half percent raise for all employees based on their individual salaries, not the midpoint of all salaries. All non-hourly employees also will receive a $1,000 retention stipend. This was particularly good news for veteran teachers, who had felt overlooked because of annual midpoint raises that reduced their purchasing power.
The education support professionals, who have performed so valiantly during the pandemic, were even bigger winners. In addition to the pay raises, the district is giving them “market equity adjustments” to create pay equity with other Central Texas school districts. Instructional support staff will receive an 8 percent pre-raise bump, administrative support staff will receive adjustments of as much as 10 percent and manual trades employees will receive 13 percent adjustments.
The 3.5 percent raises, based on the new, adjusted pay levels, will come after the adjustments for ESPs. All hourly employees also will receive a $500 retention stipend.
The Killeen Educators Association had presented the board with a detailed salary proposal packed with data about teacher pay rankings, turnover, living-wage needs, district finances and powerful personal testimony from six members. The board also heard a presentation from the Texas Association of School Boards outlining just how low hourly wage rates for ESPs had become.
“When we work together, our voices cannot be silenced,” KEA President Rick Beaulé said. “Together we had the power, and together we won real improvements in members’ lives.”
Killeen Educators Association scores major victory with due process rights for ESPs
KEA convinced the Killeen ISD school board of the importance of writing due process rights for Education Support Professionals into the district’s administrative procedures, giving ESPs the respect they deserve for the vital work they do for school children.
“What we’ve achieved here is remarkable, something only a dozen or so districts in the state have,” KEA President Rick Beaulé said. “It’s an important step in equality and respect for all of the KISD community to work together in educating our children.”
Beaulé told the board: “Removing fears about job security promotes a positive relationship… that reduces turnover and makes any district adopting due process for ESPs a destination district.”
The action gives ESPs, who do not have contracts and are considered “at will” employees, a progressive process to be followed for disciplinary action, providing them a measure of parity with their contracted colleagues.
Beaulé said the next step is to get the change placed into board policy. Administrative procedures can be altered simply by going through a “review process.” Placing the language into board policy would require a public vote to change the new ESP due process rights.
Austin educators ask TEA to renew ‘hold harmless’ protections
Officials from Austin ISD, teacher’s union Education Austin, the Austin Association of Public School Administrators, and the Austin Council of PTAs, have signed a letter to the Texas Education Agency advocating for the continuation of “hold harmless” protections. This would allow districts to be funded for the first half of the 2020-21 school year based on the previous year’s enrollment as opposed to current attendance numbers. Read more
Education Austin files grievance over Austin ISD employees denied medical accommodations
TSTA’s local affiliate Education Austin has filed a grievance on behalf of 127 educators who were denied medical accommodations to teach remotely during the spring semester to protect themselves, students and family members from COVID-19. Austin ISD has denied more than 1,000 accommodation requests from teachers and other employees, including many who had been granted accommodations for the fall semester.
The district said it is expecting more students to return to campuses for in-person instruction in the spring despite the fact that the COVID pandemic is surging in Texas. Under current state policy, which TSTA is working to change, districts lose funding if they don’t offer in-person instruction to students who request it.
“We firmly believe that the accommodations need to continue,” Education Austin President Ken Zarifis said. “COVID is worsening. Why would you lighten it up? Why would you lessen the accommodations?” Read more.
Texas still blocked from taking over Houston’s school district, appeals court rules
In a 2-1 ruling, the Texas Third Court of Appeals upheld a temporary injunction that stops the Texas Education Agency from replacing the elected school board of its largest district with an appointed board of managers. The appeals court ruling sends the case back to the lower court that in January blocked the state’s takeover effort. TEA did not follow proper procedure and acted outside its authority as it moved to sanction the district. It also ordered the state to pay all costs related to this appeal.
The TEA plans to appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court. Read more
Dallas ISD heading towards hybrid plan for high schools
All Dallas ISD high schools are likely to move to a hybrid form of class when in-person instruction begins October 5, after an overwhelming 82 percent of parents responded to a district survey indicating that they would prefer their kids to return to in-person learning. DISD Chief of Schools Jolee Healy explains: “The hybrid model we are using at most schools would have half of the students on Monday and Tuesday, a flex day on Wednesday, and then the other half of the students on Thursday and Friday.” District leaders say the plan is to use the hybrid model for nine weeks and then reevaluate. Read more
San Antonio districts publishing COVID-19 numbers against Metro Health guidelines
Some San Antonio’s school districts have broken with the health authority on its guidance to publicly report the total number of COVID-19 positive cases and absentee rates related to coronavirus on their websites. While Metro Health guidance issued August 7 asks districts to report certain public health data and outcomes, including the number of COVID-19-positive staff and students, weekly, North East ISD is one school systems which does not plan on posting the information. San Antonio ISD and Judson ISD too do not plan to post such numbers to their websites. While Alamo Heights, East Central, Edgewood, and Southwest ISDs plan to post this information online, and Harlandale ISD is already posting such a report online, Northside, South San Antonio and Somerset ISDs have not yet decided on a policy about publicly posting data on the collective coronavirus case totals. Read more
Harlandale educators rally for remote learning, no STAAR
Harlandale ISD educators staged a socially distant motorcade parade to advocate for greater latitude for school districts to set their own back-to-school dates based on the effects of COVID-19 in their areas, full funding of schools regardless of enrollment losses because of the pandemic, and a moratorium on STAAR testing.
“No to STAAR, 100 percent virtual and governor, our school districts need to have 100 percent funding from you,” association president Julie Gimbel said before the motorcade of about 50 vehicles left a parking lot at Harlandale Memorial Stadium. Read more
Austin ISD planning blended teaching approach
Austin ISD is working toward a blended approach for classes for the 2020-21 school year to better enable the switch from in-person learning to virtual learning when needed. A new calendar will also include intersectional breaks throughout the year, as recommended by the Texas Education Agency. While the district typically follows a 22-to-1 student to teacher ratio within a classroom, they will be limited to 6-8 students each due to social distancing requirements and available space next year. Read more
District deploys Wi-Fi buses for students
Austin ISD is deploying 110 Wi-Fi equipped buses to neighborhoods and apartments identified as having the highest needs to help students access the internet to complete online classes. Students, who must be within 300 feet of the buses for access, will be able to access the internet on their school computers on weekdays between 8 am and 2 pm. Read more
San Antonio officials concerned about state funding
The widespread closures and unemployment claims resulting from coronavirus are putting the state’s finances under pressure, with the future sustainability of pay raises for teachers and additional funding allocated for every student in Texas included in a 2019 school finance package now under threat. School district leaders in San Antonio are now starting to seek alternative revenue to cover the unexpected costs associated with a large-scale move to remote learning. Read more
Fort Worth ISD moves to pass/fail grading for remainder of the year
Teachers will monitor student progress and will assign a P for passing or F for failing for each of the final two grading periods. This method will be used for all students in grades 1 – 12 and for all courses. Students will continue to receive assignments to complete; the district recommends one assignment per class per week. Read more
Southside ISD board announces decision on bond election and superintendent search
Southside ISD ’s board has decided that an election on a bond to build two new schools will not take place until November, while Rolando Ramirez, superintendent of Valley View ISD in Hidalgo County Monday was named lone finalist for the position of superintendent. Outgoing Superintendent Mark Eads had announced earlier that he would retire this summer after over three years in the role. Read more
Houston ISD abruptly halts food distribution program after suspected COVID case
Food distribution at Houston ISD campuses has been suspended indefinitely after it was found that an individual now under self-quarantine had attended a distribution location. All volunteers and staff have now been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. Read more
Austin-area districts prepare to close for remainder of school year amid coronavirus pandemic
A handful of Austin-area school districts have announced they are extending closures until mid-April or later, but behind the scenes, many are preparing to be out the remainder of the school year amid the spread of the coronavirus. While no decisions have been made, district leaders recognize the cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, are rising daily. Read more
San Antonio-area school districts tackle employee pay issues amid coronavirus closures
Local school district boards met last week to ensure that paychecks will keep arriving for teachers and other employees, including hourly workers and support personnel such as bus drivers, as campuses stay closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Even before the closures, as districts were extending their Spring Breaks, employees and state and local unions asked if staff would have to use personal days off if unable to physically go to work. Read more
Austin ISD releases “frequently asked questions” document on coronavirus
AISD has published a document outlying how parents receive learning standards, and resources after spring break or once school starts on April 6 along with additional resources for teachers and staff to engage with students in this new mode. Read more
Austin ISD to distribute meals during school cancellations
Austin ISD Food Services will prepare and distribute meals for children under the age of 19 at 14 sites while school is closed due to COVID-19 precautions. AISD is working in collaboration with the Texas Department of Agriculture. Curbside lunch meals will be provided for each child in the car. Read more
Former district leaders pushing charters
Several former leaders of South San Antonio ISD have joined charter school start-ups that want to open campuses in the district. Former trustees Angelina Osteguin, Edward Mungia and Elda Flores now are on the board of the 7Cs Academy, which wants to open in the 78227 ZIP code and recruit elementary-aged students from Edgewood, Southside and South San ISDs, while former superintendent Abelardo Saavedra is on the board of Royal Public Schools, which hopes to open four campuses targeting families in Southside, Harlandale and South San ISDs. Read more
FBI and IRS search Houston ISD offices, administrator’s home
FBI and IRS agents spent more than three hours at Houston ISD’s administration building conducting an investigation on February 27, 2020. At least a dozen federal agents made their way in and out of HISD’s Hattie Mae White building, at one point carrying several boxes and containers to vehicles parked nearby. The bureau called the search a “court authorized law enforcement activity,” but did not elaborate. It did, however, assure the public there is no danger to HISD students, staff or the greater Houston community. Read more
Austin schools chief to step down
Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz is leaving his post for a teaching position with the University of Texas’s Cooperative Superintendency Program. Cruz, the first Latino to be named Austin superintendent on a permanent basis, served in various roles during his 14 years at the district, including as chief schools officer, overseeing educational support services, high school redesign and the academic management of schools. He also worked as the district’s associate superintendent of middle schools and is a previous deputy commissioner with the Texas Education Agency. Read more
Dallas ISD to get funding to increase teacher stipends
Dallas ISD is now in the final stages of qualifying for the Teacher Incentive Allotment cash, which was made available through Texas’ House Bill 3 to encourage school districts to provide differentiated pay for high-performing teachers in high-poverty and rural areas of Texas. As one of the few school districts poised to receive funding next year because of its existing teacher merit pay and evaluation system, DISD expects around $28m from the allotment for 2020-21. Read more
Pflugerville ISD moves forward with public comment policy
The Pflugerville ISD board is standing firm on a controversial public comment policy that some teachers fear could limit citizen participation at board meetings. The board‘s public policy committee recommended last week to leave a new public comment rule — which only allows citizens to comment on agenda items during regular board meetings — unchanged. Read more
Pflugerville Educators Association scores a big victory for ESPs, but more work ahead
After a year of hard work, members of the Pflugerville Educators Association won an impressive victory. The Pflugerville school board approved an across-the-board, 5 percent pay increase for the district’s ESPs. Read more
TEA again revokes Marlin ISD’s accreditation
Closure looms over Marlin ISD for the fifth consecutive school year after Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath revoked the district’s accreditation for this school year. A letter from Morath says the district failed state academic accountability ratings based on last school year’s state standardized exam scores for the eighth consecutive year. The district has faced the same possibility the past four school years and has continued operating under abatement agreements with the TEA since 2015. Read more
Some Edgewood teachers to reapply for positions
As the district implements a new educational model, officials at Edgewood ISD have this week told teachers and administrators at two schools that they will need to reapply for their jobs. After the State graded 10 of EISD’s 20 campuses as failing in 2019, Superintendent Eduardo Hernández decided to take a drastic step to change course. The district can choose not to renew the teacher’s contract or lay him or her off. Read more
Dallas ISD approves budget plan for tornado-damaged schools
Dallas ISD trustees approved plans to renovate three campuses that were severely damaged in the October tornado outbreak. Trustees passed a plan to consolidate Walnut Hill Elementary and Cary Middle School with a new pre-K through 8th-grade facility at the Cary Middle School site. Thomas Jefferson High School will be renovated with additions, with a total cost not to exceed $82,100,000. The three campuses have been unusable since the October 20th twister tore through North Dallas. Read more
Austin ISD considers opening a school for young adults with autism
A local nonprofit wants to start a school in Austin that serves young adults with neurological conditions like autism. The school would help students older than 18 who have autism or other conditions learn important life and workplace skills. Students would attend the school after completing high school graduation requirements. Read more
TEA appeals injunction blocking it from taking over Houston ISD board
The Texas Education Agency has filed an appeal to overturn an injunction by a Travis County judge blocking it from replacing Houston ISD’s trustees with a state-appointed board of managers. If the injunction is upheld, the TEA would not be able to move forward until a lawsuit by the Houston ISD board of trustees has been decided. Hearing is set for June 22. TEA officials had hoped to replace HISD’s board by this spring. Read more
Marlin to consider charter status if state closes district
The Marlin City Council will this evening consider hiring a consultant to study the possibility of applying for a city-operated charter school in case the embattled Marlin ISD is closed. The district has not met state academic standards based on standardized exam scores since 2010, longer than any other Texas school district. Read more
BISD changes public comment rules
In response to the updated local policy outlined by the Texas Association of School Boards, Beaumont ISD has agreed to begin each meeting by hearing from members of the public who wish to speak. The only limitation on public comments under the new policy are “complaints, including matters involving district personnel.” Read more
AISD urged to reconsider school closures
Austin ISD trustees have been urged to reconsider their November 18 vote to close four elementary schools by the Save Austin Schools coalition. The schools included Sims, Pease, Metz and Brooke elementary schools. The coalition said Monday the trustees did not have time to read AISD’s Chief Equity Officer Stephanie Hawley’s report, which argued the decision to close four elementary schools would gravely affect under-served communities and continue racial and economic segregation. Read more
HISD urge judge to halt state takeover
Lawyers for Houston ISD have urged a federal judge to stop Texas education officials from replacing the district’s elected board until he rules on the merits of their lawsuit challenging the action. Houston ISD lawyers told U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel that Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath exceeded his authority at nearly every step as he moved to appoint a board of managers to lead Houston ISD, a decision they said would disenfranchise voters of color. They said that if Morath seats a board of managers before Yeakel rules, the new board would be able to yank down the lawsuit, making a preliminary injunction against the takeover urgent and necessary. Read more
Pay increase for Dallas ISD substitute teachers
Per diem rates for substitute teachers throughout the Dallas ISD are to be increased in order for the district to “stay competitive in the market and provide the support needed for students and campuses.” The district said the cost would be met primarily by using the “cost savings of the decreased fill rate for the first part of the 2019-2020 school year in the existing substitute budget allocations,” with a new per diem rate for special education specialized unit substitute teachers and a special per diem for retired Dallas ISD teachers also agreed. Read more
Former school leader in San Antonio investigated over reporting dispute
TEA released a statement on November 21 revealing that it is reviewing a December 2017 incident at North East ISD, and whether former Superintendent Brian Gottardy’s failure to report it violated a requirement to let the state know about educator misconduct. The probe stems from an altercation between an assistant principal and a student, who shoved each other in the school cafeteria. Read more
Parents upset over Austin school closures
Parents are vowing to oppose future Austin ISD bond elections after school board members approved a plan to close four elementary schools and consolidate students at other campuses next year. The closures disproportionately affect Latino and black students, with all but one school located in East Austin. Counselors have been dispatched to the four schools to help families process the closures. Brooke , Metz, Sims, and Pease are the schools that will be closed. Read more
SAT scores for Austin ISD students exceed state, national averages
On Tuesday, Austin ISD released its annual SAT and ACT exam results and for the SAT, the district exceeded state and national averages. The average score in the district was 1109 on a 1600 scale. The national average was 1022. Read more
Austin to vote on school closures
Austin ISD is considering closing 12 schools, though the focus right now is on just four. The school board is scheduled to vote on a proposal to close Sims, Metz and Pease elementary schools next school year. The proposal also recommends looking further into the possibility of closing Brooke Elementary. Read more
Southside ISD to accept foreign-issued ID cards
Southside ISD is now accepting foreign government-issued ID cards after it was criticized for keeping parents out of their children’s schools because they didn’t have a state ID. Attorneys with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund warned Superintendent Mark Eads in a letter last week that treating parents differently based on identification documents could be unconstitutional.
Houston ISD school board could be replaced
Houston ISD ’s school board’s alleged “demonstrated inability to appropriately govern” could result in its being taken over by the state, after a recommendation by the Texas Education Agency. TEA said school board members had discussed district business without notifying the public, attempted to influence the awarding of contracts, and taken action on district issues without appropriate consultation, thereby violating state open meetings law. Read more
Austin approves new sex-ed curriculum
The Austin ISD board has unanimously approved a new Human Sexuality and Responsibility curriculum which, for the first time, will teach elementary students about sexual orientation, gender identity and sexually transmitted diseases. Under the new curriculum, educators will also teach lessons on healthy relationships, puberty, pregnancy and reproduction. Parents may opt their children out of one, multiple or all the lessons. Read more
Southside ISD Changes Its School Visitor Policy
The Southside Independent School District will no longer require a state-issued ID to gain full access to its campuses. School visitors can show any form of government-issued photo ID to gain entry to Southside campuses.
The district says they’re following state law by requiring a Texas form of ID before allowing entry inside schools. However, the Texas Education Code doesn’t require state-issued IDs. Read more
Waco ISD superintendent demotes administrators
Waco ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon has demoted five administrators, replacing three of them with appointments from outside of the district. Ms Kincannon also promoted district spokesman Kyle DeBeer to the newly-created position of chief of staff, effectively putting him second-in-command of the district. Waco board secretary Norman Manning said that board members should have been informed of the reshuffle ahead of a meeting on Thursday; in response, Ms Kincannon said it had been important for her to move quickly, because of the multiple campuses that received an F accountability rating from the state this year. Read more
Two Dallas schools likely completely destroyed after storms
Several Dallas schools will be closed until at least Wednesday, October 23 and some will be closed indefinitely after three tornadoes touched down Sunday night in North Texas. Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said in a press conference Monday that Walnut Hill Elementary School will likely be a total loss. Read more
Longview holds meetings on charter plans
Concerns remain about plans to convert the rest of Longview ISD’s campuses to a private charter school system, as a series of town hall meetings are held to address the issue. Unlike many districts across the state Longview is not partnering with a charter school, instead partnering with a private nonprofit organization, with officials saying the process enables them to fund innovative programs and receive state funding. Read more
Austin board meeting turns sour
Ken Zarifis, president of the Education Austin teacher union, has called for a series of roundtable discussions with Austin ISD police after officers searched his cellphone for a video recording of the last school board meeting. The meeting heard input on the district’s proposed changes to its sex education curriculum, until local activist Naomi Wilson – who complained that the lives of LGBTQ individuals are in danger from hateful speech – was escorted out of the room by police, and another woman, Sharon Armke, claimed she was assaulted in the melee. Zarifis said police were not respectful in the way they treated attendees.
Zarifis said the goal of the discussions would be to improve the way district police engage with community members. He also demanded the police department receive cultural proficiency and inclusiveness training and read books about the criminal justice system.
Teachers to get raises under new state budget plan
As Texan school districts receive new state funding for teacher raises, teachers are set to see significant pay increases. The passing of House Bill 3 into law earlier this month will see Texas’ public school system benefit from more than $11.5bn in additional funding, particularly aimed at providing teacher raises to attract and retain educators.
In Humble ISD, teachers, librarians nurses and counsellors will see at least a $4,000 raise in the fall, while Spring Branch ISD teachers will receive a 6-9% raise, Katy ISD teachers will see a 6% raise and Sheldon ISD teachers will get a 10-15% raise. Alief ISD teachers will receive raises of 6.83%-8.49% and Spring ISD teachers have been promised a 4-6% raise.
Elsewhere in the state, Pflugerville school board trustees have approved a minimum 6.7% pay increase for teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors and licensed professionals. Prior to HB3’s passage, Hays CISD had already earmarked $12 million to increase teachers’ pay by 5%, auxiliary staff’s pay by 4% and other staff members’ pay by 3%, but should the district receive the approximately $3 million additional funding expected from the state, teacher pay raises could rise as high as 7% to 8%. Hays CISD Superintendent Eric Wright said the district wants to make sure how much it’s getting from the state before committing to the higher percentage.
The Bastrop school district approved $3.4 million in pay increases for all employees as part of its $99 million budget for the 2019-20 school year. Classroom teachers and library media specialists with more than five years of experience will receive a 5% increase, all other teachers will get a 4.5% pay bump. Counselors, nurses, paraprofessionals and support staff will receive a 5% pay increase above the midpoint, and administrators will see an increase of 4% of the midpoint, according to the budget.
Two Lubbock members recognized as award winners
Three Lubbock ISD teachers, including two members of Lubbock Educators Association, are winners of the Frank and Nancy Newton Excellence in Education Award, announced last week by the Beaumont Foundation.
The awardees are Amy Drake from Evans Middle School and LEA members Melissa Funk from Waters Elementary School and Josh Shaw from Coronado High School. Each recipient will be honored at an awards gala in May when they will receive $10,000.
As part of the Beaumont Foundation’s ongoing commitment to supporting education, the Frank and Nancy Newton Excellence in Education Award was created to celebrate and recognize superior contributions of teachers whose leadership and dedication inspire a spirit of learning in students of all backgrounds and learning abilities. The program also strives to provide public recognition and financial incentives to teachers who are furthering excellence in their profession. A total of six teachers in Lubbock County are selected annually to receive the Newton Award, with three of the six from Lubbock ISD.
Help end the detention of children
At last count, more than 10,000 innocent immigrant children were being detained by the U.S. government. Teachers Against Child Detention held a Teach-In for Freedom on Sunday, Feb. 17, at San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso, and TSTA members and other concerned members of the community participated.
Check here for other suggestions on how you can get involved.
Every week at Pflugerville ISD’s Copperfield Elementary students and educators are encouraged to participate in “College Shirt Wednesdays,” when teachers and staff can celebrate their alma maters and students can look forward to their own college experiences.
But when Margaret Olivarez, a TSTA member who teaches third-grade bilingual education, looked around her classroom one Wednesday last fall, she didn’t see a single university represented. After polling her students, she discovered that not one of them had a college shirt to wear.
Copperfield is among several Pflugerville ISD schools that qualify for Title I funding, provided to schools with high concentrations of students in low-income families. Olivarez, who has taught at Copperfield for 16 years, had long been aware of this fact, but it perhaps had not been any more painfully obvious than at that moment.
“I want [the students] to know that the possibility of getting into college is there,” Olivarez said. “Nothing should hold them back of their dreams.”
So, she took to her email, sending messages to colleges and universities nationwide about her students hoping that enough would be willing to donate to outfit the kids in her classroom.
She ended up with enough for every student at Copperfield Elementary.
More than 30 colleges have donated shirts to the cause, including Yale, Notre Dame, Texas A&M International, Duke and SMU. The Air Force Academy was first to respond, sending more than 400 shirts, as well as pens, water bottles and backpacks. Other colleges have inquired about making campus visits.
“I was elated to receive such an overwhelming number of donations,” Olivarez said. “Our students know now that the purpose of College Wednesday is to inspire them to dream big and to look at the wide selection of college opportunities.”
Olivarez said she gives the students lessons on each of the campuses the shirts represent.
“It is amazing that one small idea could have turned into something so spectacular,” added Copperfield Principal Georgie Arenaz. “It’s inspiring to think about the shirt being a seed — one that will grow into not only the potential for college, but a destination.”
Locals around the state Marched to the Polls
To show our solidarity in Voting Education First locals across Texas Marched to the Polls to encourage educators and the community to block vote for improving our public schools. Visit our Texas RedForEd Facebook page for pictures and ongoing education events.