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.

Pflugerville Elementary teacher leads “College Shirt Wednesday” campaign

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.