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ATPE News A Tale of Two




hat to expect from the 18 W“Zoom Legislature” andemic exposes problems 29 Pwith online access in Texas who’s calling the shots 32 Understand on school policy during COVID-19

Let ATPE add some extra jingle in your jangle

After everything 2020 has put us through, the holidays are now here to round out an already-wild year. Whether you find the holidays a time of added stress or time for some holly and jolly, ATPE offers exclusive member discounts to help you manage the financial weight of the season. Members have access to premier discount programs that can help you save—whether you are shopping for family and friends or treating yourself after the year you’ve endured! •H  ead to the BenefitHub to explore more than 10,000 brands, 200,000 offers, and one million products. •S  hip and save with UPS. ATPE members have access to flat-rate pricing with savings of 45% on domestic next day/preferred, 25% on ground commercial/residential, and up to 50% on additional services. Plus, use UPS Smart Pickup® service for free shipping! •E  nroll in a variety of health and lifestyle benefits, such as Teladoc, Doctors Online, and pharmacy services. • Join Costco as a new member and receive a $30 Costco Shop Card.

Visit atpe.org/discounts for full details.



The official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators

State Officers

Jimmy Lee. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . President, Paris (8) Karen Hames. . . . . Vice President, Lewisville (11) Stacey Ward. . . . . . . . . . . . Secretary, Humble (4) Jayne Serna. . . . . . . . . . . . . Treasurer, Leander (13) Tonja Gray. . . . . . . . . . . . Past President, Abilene (14)

Board of Directors

MaElena Ingram . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . McAllen (1) Barbara Ruiz. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Corpus Christi (2) Cathy Stolle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Karnes City (3) Eli Rodriguez . . . . . . . . . . . Cypress-Fairbanks (4) Susan Harrell. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Newton (5) Gidget Belinoski-Bailey. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Willis (6) Kim Dolese. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Northeast Texas (7) Shelia Slider. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . North Lamar (8) Patti Gibbs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nocona (9) Wanda Bailey. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mesquite (10) Teri Naya. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Birdville (11) Ron Walcik. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Killeen (12) Christie Smith. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Pflugerville (13) Leslie Ward. . . . . . . . . Jim Ned Consolidated (14) Darlene Kelly. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ballinger (15) Shane Whitten. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Amarillo (16) Allyson Haveman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lubbock (17) Gail Adlesperger. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Big Spring (18) Michael Slaight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Clint (19) Laura Herrera. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . North East (20)

ATPE News Staff

Sarah Gray . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Editor John Kilpper. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Art Director Michael Spurlin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Associate Editor Haley Weis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Associate Editor Jennifer Tuten. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Digital Editor Jesus Chavez. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Contributing Editor Kristina Kaczmarek. . . . . . Contributing Designer Kate Johanns. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Editorial Director ATPE News contains legislative advertising contracted for by Shannon Holmes, Executive Director, Association of Texas Professional Educators, 305 E. Huntland Dr., Ste. 300, Austin, TX 78752-3792, representing ATPE. ATPE News (ISSN 0279-6260) is published quarterly in fall, winter, spring, and summer. Subscription rates: for members of the association, $3.32 per year (included in membership dues); non-members, $10 per year. Extra copies $1.25 each. Published by the Association of Texas Professional Educators, 305 E. Huntland Drive, Suite 300, Austin, TX 78752-3792. Periodical postage paid at Austin, Texas, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to ATPE News, 305 E. Huntland Dr., #300, Austin, TX 78752-3792. Advertising rates may be obtained by sending a written request to the above address. Opinions expressed in this publication represent the attitude of the contributor whose name appears with the article and are not necessarily the official policy of ATPE. ATPE reserves the right to refuse advertising contrary to its purpose. Copyright 2020 in USA by the Association of Texas Professional Educators


wo sentiments I’ve heard a lot during these extraordinary times: Everything is more difficult right now, and everyone is trying their best. Even the simplest of tasks have to be reimagined, and we know how hard you are working. Many of you have reached out to us describing long hours, concerns about your health and that of your students, and new tensions brought on by virtual learning or in-person instruction that looks completely different than it did before. ATPE understands your sacrifices and struggles, and we’re working around the clock to advocate on your behalf. We are in constant contact with school districts and policymakers, and we continue to update our COVID-19 FAQs and Resources page (atpe.org/coronavirus). We’ve hosted and moderated numerous webinars, with topics ranging from health and wellness to leave options. And our advocacy efforts will only ramp up when the 87th Texas Legislature convenes in January 2021. With the November 3 election over, ATPE’s attention is now fully focused on the next legislative session. We are deep into preparations to advocate for you at the State Capitol. For a legislative outlook and how you can stay involved, see pages 18–23. With COVID-19 still at the

ATPE UNDERSTANDS YOUR SACRIFICES AND STRUGGLES, AND WE’RE WORKING AROUND THE CLOCK TO ADVOCATE ON YOUR BEHALF. forefront of everyone’s minds, this issue also takes a look at parents’ perspectives during this educational crisis, as well as how the pandemic has affected student technology equity. We’re at the halfway point of a school year we never expected to experience, and I know the journey has been fraught with twists, turns, highs, and lows. I’ve never been prouder to have the honor to stand by your side and speak up for you.

Shannon Holmes ATPE Executive Director

ISSN ©ATPE 2020 0279-6260 USPS 578-050 305 E. Huntland Dr., Ste. 300 Austin, TX 78752-3792 (800) 777-ATPE (2873) atpe.org | atpe@atpe.org ATPE NEWS 3

Contents ATPE NEWS | Winter 2020, Volume 41, Number 2



On the Cover

A Tale of Two Kindergartners Anthony and Barret were both poised to start kindergarten at their neighborhood schools this fall. Then COVID-19 hit. Their parents explain the thinking that led them down two very different paths. Plus: How school districts and community organizations are finding innovative solutions to help families during the pandemic.


The Zoom Legislature: ATPE Prepares for a Session Unlike Any Other As we approach the 87th Texas Legislature, we only know one thing for sure: This session will not look like anything we’ve experienced before. Take a peek at ATPE’s legislative priorities and how we’re preparing to advocate for you. 4 ATPE NEWS


A Hot Spot for Connectivity Problems In a state as large and diverse as Texas, getting and staying connected are key. Learn how individuals and organizations across the state are doing their part to close the digital gap.

EVERYTHING ELSE 6 Calendar 8 Regional Roundup 10 The Learning Curve

University of Texas scholars delve into augmented reality opportunities available to educators.

13 Your Ally

Get answers to some of the most common questions about the legality and best practices surrounding remote-instruction platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet.


ATPE member Jennifer Orona of Rice CISD shares insights about her school’s experience with face-to-face instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

22 Staying Involved Beyond Your Vote

15 PAC Honor Roll

The 2020 general election is over—but your ability to make a difference and ensure your voice is heard continues. Kindergartner photo courtesy of Erica Goodoff; Connectivity illustration by John Kilpper

14 How COVID-19 Safety Procedures Helped Shift Campus Culture at One Texas School

32 Who’s Really Calling the Shots?

This outline demonstrates how federal, state, and local entities play a role in determining school policies during COVID-19.

The Fall 2020 ATPE News incorrectly omitted Mary Reyes as Region 20 Past President on the Meet Your 2020-21 ATPE Leaders spread. We regret the error.

17 Your Voice

Understand how your feedback helps ATPE and policymakers learn more about your experiences and concerns—and how that shapes policy.

36 Your ATPE

Submit nominations for ATPE’s awards | Be a campus rep | Learn about a new degree program available to members

43 Brain Break: How to Get Cozy This Winter

THE ATPE VISION The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) supports the state’s largest community of educators who are dedicated to elevating public education in Texas.

THE ATPE MISSION ATPE advocates for educators and delivers affordable, high-quality products and services that give members the peace of mind needed to inspire student success.



December 1

Nominations due for ATPE Educator of the Year, Campus Rep of the Year, and Local Unit of the Year Awards




January 1

State office closed for New Year’s Day


Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees meeting


State Board for Educator Certification meeting

State office closed for winter break

National Mentoring Month and School Board Recognition Month


87th Texas Legislature convenes


State office closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

26-29 31 State Board of Education meetings

Last day to join ATPE as a 2020-21 associate, professional, or administrator member



Join ATPE today!

February 1

Application deadline for Educator of the Year, Local Unit of the Year, and Campus Representative of the Year awards


School Counselor Appreciation Week



State Board for Educator Certification meeting

ATPE Board of Directors meeting

ATPE at the Virtual Capitol

Each year, ATPE recognizes educators and ATPE leaders through various awards. See page 36 to learn more about this year’s slate of awards.



Teacher Retirement System Board of Trustees meeting



After conquering a historic virtual summit and ATPE House of Delegates meeting, we’re ready to make new connections at the 2021 ATPE Summit, a reimagined hybrid event with options for in-person and virtual attendance. There’s something for everyone at the 2021 ATPE Summit, whether you’re gearing up for continuing professional education from the comfort of home, the chance to connect with your fellow members as you grow in ATPE leadership, or opportunities to shape the future of ATPE during the House of Delegates.

Mark your calendars for July 12–14, and look for details soon at atpesummit.org!




here are more than a thousand school districts in Texas and each one has success stories. Regional Roundup highlights some of the achievements happening in our public schools. When something special happens in your school district, let us know! Send news to comm@atpe.org.












Gulf of Mexic


From Across the State 1 True History  

Keina Cook, a history teacher at Killeen High School, is teaching the first official history course in Texas schools that specializes in African American history. The course discusses topics ranging from African traditions to the civil rights movement. Cook has received national media attention and has stated that she hopes “if [students] take anything away from this, they learn that Black history is American history and that they have a place in this country.”



4 Field of Dreams  

In a rivalry high school football scrimmage with Bastrop, Lockhart High School senior Desmond Pulliam was ready to win. The defensive lineman has autism spectrum disorder and has dreamed of scoring a touchdown for his team. His dream became reality when, on the final play, Bastrop fumbled the ball, which Pulliam then scooped up to score a 65-yard touchdown for his school. His teammates, family, friends, peers, and coaches were all there to celebrate his accomplishment. lockhartisd.org

2 Desks for Sale  

The shift to virtual learning can be stressful for many students, especially those who do not have an appropriate workspace in their homes. Fortunately, El Paso ISD found a solution with its “student-desk surplus sale,” where the district sold more than 800 school desks for a small fee to students and families. Thanks to a generous donation, the first 500 desks were free of charge.

Louisiana Photos courtesy of Killeen ISD, El Paso ISD, Aldine ISD, Lockhart ISD, Frisco ISD, and Lubbock ISD




5 Connecting the Dots  

Frisco ISD teachers Valerie Linn, a visual impairment braillist, and Darla Hamilton, a certified teacher for the visually impaired, have a mutual student who is blind and musically inclined. When they realized the student was learning to play piano, guitar, and violin by ear, the two teachers decided to take classes at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to become certified in music braille. friscoisd.org

3 Curbside Compassion  

A group of Aldine ISD staff members are making sure their students and staff do not go unnoticed. The district has implemented a CARES program—“Caring And Reaching Every Student/ Staff”—and the team reenforces that message even during the pandemic. The CARES team checks in on students, staff, and their families while they are learning from home to provide curbside meals, emotional support, and even accolades for jobs well done. aldineisd.org

6 Crossing the Road  

Community volunteers provide schools with much needed support throughout the year. At Overton Elementary in Lubbock ISD, one father is continuing to make a difference as a volunteer crossing guard—even though his daughter has moved on to middle school. For the past five years, Cornelio Palomo has arrived at the elementary school after work to help safely direct traffic and lead the student team of crossing guards. lubbockisd.org



Augmented Reality: An Emerging Technology for Education

University of Texas scholars delve into augmented reality (AR) opportunities available to educators—pre-created AR content, experiences that position students as active inquirers, and applications that allow students and teachers alike to create their own AR material.


ugmented reality is closer than you think. Our mobile devices already have common features, such as GPS location and built-in cameras and microphones, that serve as gateways to augmented reality (AR) content and experiences that render physical places, spaces, and objects in novel ways. Although students commonly use mobile devices to consume media, conduct internet searches, and read and send text messages, AR apps extend the reach of those devices by enabling children to view and interact with layered, multimedia content in conjunction with physical spaces and objects (think Snapchat lenses and Pokémon Go). Students’ simultaneous engagement with virtual content and physical artifacts enables place-based and contextualized learning. AR creation software also enables children and teachers to create virtual augmented content (with or without coding), allowing learners to synthesize and represent ideas in new ways. These approaches can be useful in teaching procedural thinking, critical inquiry, and problem-solving while also activating a sense of curiosity about the spaces students routinely inhabit. AR content is available from many sources for use in a variety 10 ATPE NEWS

of subjects. For example, NASA offers Spacecraft AR or 3D apps that project interactive models of spacecrafts onto any flat surface. Learners can explore the crafts and their missions into space. On the digital library site OER Commons, technology integrator/librarian Chris Barnabei designed a parabolic challenge that uses the GeoGebra AR app for students to explore how the quadratic equation affects an augmented, projected parabola’s shape. National Geographic designed an AR-enabled cover (via Instagram) with which students can explore the projected climate of 12 cities in 50 years. Then there’s DisruptED, which provides early readers with physical books and an AR app to augment the reading experience by introducing virtual multimedia content within a place-based and object-based (static book) context. Children point a mobile device’s camera over the book, and virtual information in the form of 3D objects is layered on the screen in a way that allows readers to simultaneously see the digitally augmented information and the physical book’s page, text, or pictures. Similar to DisruptED, CleverBooks provides workbooks or worksheets from which students can launch AR content using the CleverBooks app. Google Expeditions has AR content,

© Natalia - stock.adobe.com


Augmented Reality Best Practices such as dinosaurs, sharks, volcanoes, space shuttles, and more. For the anatomy-minded, Virtuali-Tee enables students to examine augmented circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems by directing a device’s camera on a T-shirt. History teachers can try San Antoniobased Experience Real History, which uses AR to bring historical sites and events to life. Quiver Education even provides 3D coloring experiences as a form of edutainment. While these examples provide teachers with pre-designed AR material, educators can also create their own augmented reality that positions students as active explorers in the learning process. For example, educational researchers created School Scene Investigators (SSI) in which students investigate an augmented mystery called “The Case of the Stolen Score Sheets.” Students collaboratively identify the mystery’s culprit by using an augmented app set within a forensic science narrative that plays out in the physical space of a school. They scan QR codes with a mobile device’s camera to gather augmented clues and evidence to solve the mystery. Thoughtful integration of AR can result in a powerful transformation of the learning environment and enable learning to move beyond the walls of a singular classroom. Although SSI was situated in the school environment, the AR science lesson, “Mystery at the Lake,” collaboratively created by educational researchers and teachers, took place at a local lake near a school. In this example, student investigators equipped with tablets explored a local lake to uncover causes of a decline in the lake’s mallard ducks population. Instead of using QR codes, “Mystery at the Lake” took advantage of GPS location services on the device to present information to students as they walked into target

locations, which triggered the reveal of virtual content (text, diagrams, videos) on screens through the tablet’s camera. Such location-based AR technologies allow students to test place-based hypotheses about the environment by viewing location-sensitive information. Understandably, many teachers may not have time to collaborate or independently create these ambitious, custom AR learning experiences. Yet, educators and students can become AR content creators. For example, Spanish language learners have created AR storybooks for beginning language learners. Middle schoolers have created an AR campus map of their school campus. Learners and teachers can use the AR application Metaverse to build AR games, scavenger hunts, and memes. Zappar offers tools to create both simple and complex AR. Like other AR tools, Zappar displays virtual information after someone scans an object or enters a location-sensitive AR space. Apple’s new AR technologies, such as lidar (light detection and ranging) scanning, with 5G are on the horizon to support real-time, precise, and collaborative uses of AR. For now, students can also use tools like ARIS, the tool used to create SSI, to design AR games that include storylines and the ability to embed player decision-making. Educators must use their instructional, learning, or curricular needs in the classroom to guide the appropriate adoption of these technologies, whether they choose pre-developed AR, teacher-developed AR, and/or student-developed AR. As mobile platforms grow in sophistication, AR technologies will continue to enable teachers to design innovations that engage students and ultimately shift the ways in which students see, interact, and learn in the world around them.

• Consider how AR positions learners as either a consumer or creator and what learning goal(s) they are working toward. • Weigh the technical advantages of a given AR application against real-life classroom constraints or technology access. • Evaluate technical software, hardware, and connectivity requirements. • Design AR-integrated lessons in equitable ways, such as ensuring culturally relevant content, offering AR experiences to all subgroups of students (not just gifted), and considering language, physical, socio-emotional, and cognitive barriers to participation. • Limit GPS-based AR to outdoor locations. • Pre-plan classroom management strategies using pairs and trios to support collaborative learning.

Augmented Reality Beginner Resources • Follow the #AR and #ARVRinEDU hashtags on Twitter • Add this Pinterest board http://bit.ly/pinterest_ar • Visit Ann Marie Carrier’s AR Tools and Resources at edutech4u.com/vr-ar-resources • Explore Kathy Schrock’s Guide to AR at schrockguide.net/arvr.html

Joan E. Hughes (@techedges), Ph.D., and Jason Rosenblum, Ph.D., are faculty in the Learning Technologies program at UT Austin’s College of Education, where Daeun Hong recently earned her master’s of arts. ATPE NEWS 11


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Zoom: Not as Scary as It Might Seem

L BY PAUL TAPP ATPE Managing Attorney

ately everything about public education seems new—especially providing remote instruction via a computer and platforms such as Zoom or Google Meet. The abrupt change to instruction has led to many questions about legality and best practices. Although widespread virtual content delivery is still too new to have many definitive answers, we can answer some of the most common questions based on our current knowledge.

interfering with their ability to teach. Section 37.124 of the Texas Education Code makes it a Class C misdemeanor for an individual to enter a classroom without the consent of the principal or teacher and disrupt instruction through misconduct or the use of profanity. Note: This provision does not apply if a parent has either the principal’s or teacher’s permission to “enter the classroom.”

Student Confidentiality

We have heard many stories over the past few months, ranging from students unexpectedly appearing naked on camera to parent arguments in the background—complete with smashed dishes. Remote learning certainly can present teachers with circumstances they would not have in the physical classroom. When confronted with something unexpected, don’t panic. While every situation must be handled individually, it is best to remain calm and contact the administration at the first opportunity.

One early concern was that using a platform that allows others, such as parents, to view instruction violates student confidentiality under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The common requirement to record the instruction, which a parent could then share, heightened the fear. Educators directed to provide remote instruction should rest easy. First, FERPA only applies to identifiable student information maintained or kept by the school district. Having a parent simply see instruction and other students on Zoom is like having a parent or administrator visit the classroom, which has been allowed for years. Even if the class is recorded and thereby “maintained,” educators should know FERPA places the obligation to maintain student confidentiality on the district, not the teacher. As long as a teacher is following an administrative directive, any complaint would fall on the district. That’s why it’s important teachers follow given directives and not go beyond them. Some teachers have also expressed concern that forcing students to use their own cameras in their homes could be embarrassing and considered an invasion of privacy. While striking the right balance between possible embarrassment and necessary monitoring can be difficult, again, as long as the teacher is following a directive, they should not fear repercussions.

Disruptive Parents

Although parent classroom visits have long been a part of education, these have been limited because they could be disruptive. We have heard from educators who unfortunately struggle with parents who impose themselves in the remote class, either through video or chat. Teachers should try to remain patient and professional and engage their campus administrators if they have a parent who is

Unforeseen Occurrences

Parent Complaints

A common fear is that parents with more access to instruction are more likely to complain. Although we have seen a slight increase in the number of teachers dealing with parent complaints, there has not been any significant change. Parent complaints still seem to focus on grades and assignments, just like they did pre-pandemic. Teachers should, of course, continue to be careful of what they say and how they say it, but most teachers know every classroom has 20 to 35 little recorders ready to go home and tell on them for saying anything arguably inappropriate or controversial. With many districts focusing on in-person instruction and the general recognition that in-person instruction is more effective than remote, along with the anticipation of an effective COVID-19 vaccine, there is hope the need for remote instruction and its challenges will fade through the spring. But, in the meantime, teachers can be assured that at least most of their concerns are not actually as dangerous as they might appear. The legal information provided here is accurate as of the date of publication. It is provided for general purposes only. Individual legal situations vary greatly, and readers needing individual legal advice should consult directly with an attorney. Eligible ATPE members may contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department. ATPE NEWS 13


The measures we have put in place include:


BY JENNIFER ORONA, RICE CISD n January 2020, I was blessed to assume the principalship of Rice Junior High School in Altair, Texas, which meant packing my bags and moving 300 miles to South-Central Texas from Fort Worth. It also meant leaving the comforts of home and the amenities of city life and moving to a small rural town where I knew no one. Despite the uncertainty, I met the challenge of leading a school with great enthusiasm.  When I took over the principalship, the campus culture needed discipline, and the focus of student behavior was slightly less than academic. Fast-forward five months, after students had been sequestered due to the pandemic, and the campus was 100% transformed when our school reopened for face-to-face learning.

Respectful, Responsible, and Kind

The new safety guidelines we have implemented instantly brought order and structure to the campus. As a leader, I pondered whether so many restrictions and procedures would create a negative, stifling campus culture. To be proactive and mitigate concerns about the increased restrictions, I assembled two committees: the Student Culture Leadership Team (SCLT), charged with finding ways to celebrate student achievement, and the Campus Culture Leadership Team (CCLT), charged with creating a positive campus culture, improving morale, and developing strategies for us to take care of our teachers. If we lift up our teachers, then they are better equipped to lift up our students. Teachers are the heart and soul of our 14 ATPE NEWS

school. What they are being asked to do is beyond enormous; they have adapted and shifted their professional practice almost overnight. Teachers have participated in hours upon hours of guided and self-taught professional development to learn how to provide remote instruction. They are on the front lines, and they deserve our full support, appreciation, and gratitude.  The SCLT has implemented small measures to make students feel welcome and at home. An immediate initiative was creating “The Wall of Fame,” an area where students and teachers recognize and honor each other for exhibiting positive behaviors. When we catch each other exhibiting one of our campus’ core continued on page 40

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Orona

How COVID-19 Safety Procedures Helped Shift Campus Culture at One Texas School

• Students’ eating breakfast in first-period classrooms. • One-way traffic with 6-foot social distancing in the halls. • Staggered dismissal of small groups during passing periods.  • Propping interior doors open at all times.  • Facing students the same direction during lunch. • Socially distancing students while they eat. • Strict protocols for use of masks and hand sanitizer.  • Installing automatic hand sanitizer stations in every room. • Stocking schools with wipes, cleaning supplies, sanitizers, shields, and masks for emergency use. • Removing tables in the teachers’ break room. 


Thank you for your investment in Texas public education! The following ATPE members donated $50 or more to ATPE’s Political Action Committee (ATPE-PAC) from July 1 to September 30, 2020.

Abilene Tonja Gray Deana Kirtley Aldine Kristina Preston Alief Heriberto Ibarra Abrego Barbara Lebold Alvin Ron Fitzwater Amarillo Michael Renteria Shane Whitten Andrews Stacy Gallier Argyle Kimberly Kass Arlington Carole Lemonds

Austin Renee Conley Cathryn Harris Heidi Langan Ballinger Cheryl Buchanan Darlene Kelly Beaumont Suellen Ener Birdville Janet Erlinger Mary Gardner Tiffany Gygi William Monty Boerne Ona Beth Day Teri Nail Richard Wiggins Bryan Bonnie Mallen Burleson Jacquline Price

Crowley Steve Pokluda

Carrollton-Farmers Branch Ginny Welch

Cypress-Fairbanks Jay Guerrero Rebecca Keels Eli Rodriguez Karina Torres

Coleman County Sarah Beal Community Wendy Smith Conroe Robert Evans Judi Thomas

Crowell Lisa Henry

Dallas Grace Barber Julie Fore Deshun Parker Dianne Reed Felicia Robinson Araceli Slette Mary Stricker Del Valle Debbie Smith

Corsicana Julleen Bottoms Wendy Cook Brooke Roberts Suzanne Waldrip

Hawley Tommie Hicks

Falls City Phyllis Jarzombek Theresa Moczygemba

Hays Shawna Mayerson

Ferris Meredith Malloy Betty McCoy

Bushland Dawn Riley

Clint Robert Zamora Sylvia Zamora

Ennis Nathan Moye

Early Betty Gail WoodRush Edgewood (20) Rebecca Dominguez

Fort Worth Dominic Perez Fredericksburg Rhonda Eckert Frenship Keri Henderson Galena Park Sharon Dixon Lynn Nutt Lissa Shepard Marla Taylor Garland Nichole Gambulos Jed Reed George West Cesarea Germain Hale Center Brenda Bryan Lynette Ginn Harlandale Joan Espinosa Jennifer Hill

Humble Gayle Sampley Stacey Ward Ingram Chris Moralez Irving Connie Kilday Kristin Kilday Jacksboro Jean Henderson Jim Ned Consolidated Nicole Fuller Karnes City Cathy Stolle Katy Carrie Godfrey Keller David Williams Kennedale Elizabeth Bitar Kerrville John Milner

Invest in the ATPE Political Action Committee today! It’s easy to set up recurring monthly or quarterly donations online at atpe.org/pac-donate.

ATPE-PAC solicits contributions only from members, employees, and their families. Participation in ATPE-PAC is voluntary.



Killeen Alice Erdelt Barbara Graham Eileen Walcik Melissa Walcik Ron Walcik Klein Allen Bettis Diane Hudson Wendy Kirkpatrick Krum Brandi Claiborne Betty Plunkett La Joya Jesus Garza Yessica Garza Lamesa Abigail Ramford Leander Jennifer Bowland Phyllis Crider Mary Dorney Katharine Muller Jayne Serna Greg Vidal Jeannette Whitt

Lewisville Karen Hames Allyson Haveman McAllen Twila Figueroa MaElena Ingram McGregor Lisa Hudson Mesquite Tamara Garcia Jennifer Grady Kimberly Matchniff Kay Young Midway (12) Jason Forbis Millsap Deann Lee MonahansWickett-Pyote Vicki Greenfield

Navasota Susan Ambrus North East Suzanne Randolph North Lamar Shelia Slider Northside (20) David de la Garza Madonna Felan Jacqueline Hacker Bobbye Patton Odessa Maria Ecklund Bridget Loffler Olney Kimberli Cuba Dale Lovett Becky Spurlock Sam Spurlock Onalaska Misty Strong

Nacogdoches Katherine Whitbeck

Thanks for rising to the occasion, ATPE members! We understand this has been a challenging year for everyone, but through it all, you kept pushing. Thanks to your support, we met our annual PAC’s Peak Challenge fundraising goal for the 10th year in a row. You helped raise more than $20,000 for the ATPE Political Action Committee (ATPE-PAC)!


Paris Jerrica Liggins Lisa Lipstraw Abby Rogers Pasadena Charlotte Anthony Pflugerville ChristieSmith

Round Rock CaRita Forte Stephanie Stoebe San Antonio Byron Hildebrand Annie Perez Spearman Sherry Boyd Rhonda Smith

Willacy County Christina Lopez Willis Michael Robinson Donna Ward Windham Sandra Bounds

Pharr-San JuanAlamo Michael Sweet

Spring Branch Shawn Mustain

Woden Carl Franks Malinda Holzapfel Teresa Millard

Pineywoods Kevin Harrell

Stanton Bill Griffin

Ysleta Edana Slaight

Plano Rebecca Bottin Katy Matthews Lindsay Robinson

Tyler Betty Berndt Eddie Hill

ATPE Staff Ginger Franks Shannon Holmes Kate Johanns Yvette Milner Diane Pokluda

Robinson Michelle Ruddell Rosebud-Lott Jennifer Lorenz

Waxahachie Nora Crist Kim Kriegel Rebecca LeBreton Wichita Falls BelindaWolf


Teacher Feedback Makes the World Go ’Round


e often talk about crafting education ATPE, which advocates on your behalf, directly or policy in terms of a linear, start-to-fin- through ATPE surveys, such as those on Advocacy ish process. But I like to think of it as a Central. constantly evolving loop. In education policymakIn an anonymous back-to-school health and ing, educator feedback links the end of the process safety survey conducted in September, 770 ATPE back to the beginning. Picture this: Policymakers members visited Advocacy Central to offer their become aware of a need, they enact a policy to ad- thoughts on how safe they felt in their districts dress that need, the Texas Education Agency and and what policies were making them feel safe or school districts implement the policy, educators unsafe. ATPE analyzed each open-ended response experience the policy, educators speak out, new to this survey and now has a rich repository of onareas of need are identified, and the whole cycle the-ground stories and educator reflection from starts over again. these unprecedented times. Complemented by Educator feedback is important because many of other ATPE membership surveys, your communithose who make policies, such as elected officials cations help us learn more about your experiences and those who are appointed by elected officials and concerns, which we can use to better inform (including Texas Education Commissioner Mike and persuade decision-makers. In fact, we have alMorath), have no K-12 classroom experience. In ready begun to share your observations and comfact, of the 181 elected repments with elected officials resentatives and senators and their staffs. With ATPE who served in the 86th Texas members’ feedback, we can Legislature, fewer than 5% confidently and accurately had K-12 classroom teaching explain to all state officials experience. Occupational what changes need to be YOUR COMMUNICATIONS backgrounds in business and made to reduce educators’ HELP US LEARN MORE law are over-represented in stress, and ensure they feel ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES safe. the legislature. The underAND CONCERNS, WHICH lying principles of these ocThe most important time cupations—such as placing to provide your feedback is WE CAN USE TO BETTER great emphasis on competi... always! We are always here INFORM AND PERSUADE tion and a profit/loss mento listen. Only the luckiest DECISION-MAKERS. tality—can fall counter to the people on earth have enough goals of public education and patience to be teachers, so leave us with policies that not everybody understands seem to harm more than they help. what it is like to grow with a class of students year When educators speak out, especially in great after year. Unfortunately, this sometimes means numbers, elected officials and other decision-mak- that you, as an educator, are left implementing polers take notice. In addition to exercising your voice icies that may not help you do your job and, thereat the ballot box, providing feedback can be as sim- fore, do not help your students learn. By providing ple as a letter, email, social media interaction, or your feedback to policymakers and ATPE, you can phone call to your federal or state representatives help close the gap between education policy and or senators, the commissioner of education, or education practice. your State Board of Education member. (See pages 22–23 for more on that.) It could also be a virtual Ready for some advocacy training? visit with your elected officials, which is often easier to set up than an in-person meeting. Another See page 21 for more details! way to provide feedback is by communicating with ATPE NEWS 17

The Zoom Legislature: ATPE Prepares for a Session Unlike Any Other

As we approach the start of the 87th Texas Legislature January 12, the one thing we know for sure is that this session will be different from anything we have ever experienced.


OVID-19 shuttered the Texas State Capitol this year, disrupting much of the interim work lawmakers would normally conduct when not in session. In lieu of holding public hearings, most House committees resorted to requesting written information from stakeholders. Senate hearings, including one convened by the Senate Education Committee October 14 at the Capitol, were closed to the public and livestreamed. Senators, a few wearing masks, sat on the dais between newly installed plexiglass dividers. They viewed monitors mounted from the ceiling as invited witnesses provided testimony via Zoom. Rows of audience chairs remained empty. The small number of officeholders and staff members in the room were required to test negative for the coronavirus before being admitted. It is still too soon to know how the Legislature will conduct its business during the session or how much access to the Capitol— if any—the general public may have. House and Senate rules governing everything from committee appointments to required attire for lawmakers cannot be adopted until the session begins. The House must also elect a new speaker. We assume, nevertheless, that access will be diminished for 18 ATPE NEWS

rank-and-file visitors to the Capitol and even seasoned lobbyists accustomed to camping out in its granite-lined hallways. It is likely the number of public entrances to the building will be reduced and that temperature checks will be added to the existing metal detector screenings, making the entry process for visitors considerably slower. Committee hearings held in meeting rooms packed beyond capacity are likely a thing of the past. Probably gone, too, is the crowded cafeteria line inside the Capitol Grill. Large gatherings are expected to be prohibited, and many legislators will shrink the size of their on-site staffs and reduce their office hours. The possibility of more virtual interactions being allowed next session, such as committee testimony delivered via Zoom, holds promise for those who may not live in Austin or cannot make it to the Capitol for a late-night hearing on short notice. But there are sure to be limits on virtual interaction, and it’s unclear at this point whether new procedures will make the legislative process seem more or less accessible to constituents. In states that have already convened legislatures amid the pandemic, lobbyists report more “face time” with elected officials, albeit through a computer screen, than before COVID-19,

© iStock.com/LeoPatrizi

By Jennifer Mitchell, ATPE Governmental Relations Director

when in-person meetings might have climate. Testing steals precious time been attended only by legislative staff- and resources throughout the school ers. However, wary of exposure, legisla- year that could be devoted to helping tors have demonstrated a “get in and get students get through the pandemic. The out” mentality, wanting to speed up their tests place extra, unwanted pressure on business and focus on the highest-prior- students, families, and educators, and ity issues—meaning the policy agenda the data standardized tests will yield will of the governor or legislative leadership be undeniably flawed and incapable of might be among the only bills that make comparison to prior or future years’ test it through the process. results for various high-stakes purposes. ATPE has been lobbying to extend last Six Urgent Priorities year’s waiver of testing and accountabilAmid these uncertainties, what are ity requirements to the 2020-21 school the takeaways for ATPE members? year, and we will be asking lawmakers to Relationships are more important than address these concerns. ever. When it becomes impossible to meet COVID-19 has illustrated the imporface to face, preestablished connections tance of supporting a public school syswith an officeholder and their staff mem- tem that offers all students a learning bers are invaluable. Information sharing environment that is safe and adaptable is important, too, but making your mes- based on changing needs. Texas cannot sage stand out amid all the other noise will afford to spend its limited resources right be essential. More than ever before, advocates must set legislative goals that are focused, reasonable, and achievable. Against this backdrop, COVID-19 has illustrated the ATPE has distilled our legislative importance of supporting a public program into the six priorities that reflect the concerns most frequently school system that offers all and urgently expressed by our memstudents a learning environment bers across Texas. (See page 20.) that is safe and adaptable based We know, first and foremost, that on changing needs. public education funding will be one of the top concerns. The State of Texas faces a $4.6 billion deficit due to the recessionary impact of COVID-19 and the decline in oil and now on vouchers for private or home gas revenues vital to the state economy. schools, the expansion of experimental The state and school districts are reeling charter schools, or needlessly subsifrom unforeseen and continuing costs dizing virtual schools run by for-profit of the pandemic, such as PPE purchases companies. Gov. Greg Abbott has aland technology improvements. There’s ready used federal coronavirus relief also the strong desire to preserve the funds to set up his own voucher program funding gains and educator compensa- for students with disabilities despite tion increases achieved through last ses- long-standing legislative opposition to sion’s House Bill 3. As has been the case spending taxpayer dollars in this manin many recent sessions, ATPE’s first ner. Lawmakers undoubtedly will face legislative priority this session is for the pressure to continue, fund, or expand state to find the resources necessary to that controversial program. In these difmeet these funding demands. ficult and economically strapped times, As demonstrated by a resolution adopt- the Legislature must focus on shoring up ed by the ATPE House of Delegates this our public schools. This means ensuring summer, our members want relief from students can thrive in a digital age by state and federal testing and account- providing access to devices, broadband ability requirements that simply do not internet, tech support, and training. work in today’s disrupted educational Making sure our public schools are safe

places for students to learn and educators to work is also critical. And the state must prioritize resources to support the mental health needs of students and school employees during these trying times. ATPE knows educators are working harder than ever. We’ve heard about the long hours spent creating lessons— sometimes doubled every day to accommodate both in-person and virtual classes—as well as meeting remotely with distraught parents, tracking attendance, and endlessly filling out paperwork. We’ve counseled worried school staffers who feel they have been forced to make an impossible choice between keeping their job or avoiding a potentially deadly virus. ATPE believes it is important for lawmakers to hear your heightened concerns about working conditions and to take steps to prevent an exodus of school employees that would cost the state more money and rob students of the experience and talent you bring to classrooms. Finally, ATPE will be fighting for your rights to engage in advocacy and to prevent any legislation that would infringe on your political involvement or your ability to teach and model good citizenship to your students. In these challenging times, educators’ voices must be heard. We hope you will reinforce our efforts by following updates from ATPE throughout the session and communicating frequently with your legislators. Use the additional resources in this issue of ATPE News to help you stay involved, encourage your colleagues to do the same, and reach out to us for help when you need it. Because of your engagement and your voter turnout in the 2018 elections, the 2019 legislative session was deemed the “education session.” ATPE believes every session should be an “education session”! With this year’s boisterous elections behind us, it’s time to start fresh and get down to business on achieving new legislative successes. Let’s work together and make 2021 a year for recovery, renewed promise, and triumph.





ATPE supports prioritizing public education funding to ensure school districts have the necessary resources to address the many ongoing challenges of COVID-19, preserve funding gains and equity achieved through last session’s House Bill 3, and continue efforts to raise the prestige of the education profession through meaningful compensation.


ATPE supports measures to alleviate the burden of standardized testing and accountability requirements in order to allocate time and resources to pressing critical needs brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as prevent high-stakes decisions from being based on flawed or unreliable data and reduce the pressure testing places on students, educators, and parents.

›3 ›4 ›5 ›6 20 ATPE NEWS

ATPE supports initiatives to ensure all Texas students have access to optimal public school learning environments that are safe, supplied with current technology, and adaptable to changing needs, while preventing the diversion of the state’s limited resources to unregulated private, home, or for-profit virtual schools.

ATPE supports efforts to provide greater resources for the mental health and social and emotional needs of public school students and staff.

ATPE supports measures to reduce staff turnover by addressing public school employee concerns about working conditions, including health and safety issues, increased workloads, and burdensome reporting requirements exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ATPE supports laws and policies that protect the rights of educators to become more involved in advocacy and elections at all levels of government and encourage them to set an example of engaged citizenship and civility for future generations of Texans.


LEGISLATIVE SYMPOSIUM AND ADVOCACY TRAINING EVENT EXCLUSIVELY FOR ATPE MEMBERS FEBRUARY 21, 2021 In a world where the Capitol closes its doors to visitors, how can you make sure your educator voice is still heard? Join ATPE Governmental Relations and special guests Sunday, February 21, for a day of panel presentations, legislative issue updates, Q&A opportunities, and advocacy training. We may be forced to advocate from a distance, but together, we can speak up for our profession and our students with a voice that is stronger than ever.



Compiled by Sarah Gray

The 2020 general election is over. Now what? Stay engaged, stay active! No matter how you feel about the election results, there are many ways to continue making a difference and ensure your voice is heard on important issues facing Texas public education.



There is no shame in admitting you don’t know who represents you. Luckily, there are quick, easy ways to find out who your representatives are across various levels of government.

Now that you know the “who” component of being politically involved, it’s also important to know the “what.” What’s the latest news? What bill is up for debate? Here are a few ways to stay informed.

Who Represents Me?

A great place to start is by visiting wrm.capitol.texas.gov. Simply enter your address, hit “Find,” and you’ll be shown your U.S. congressional representative, Texas House and Senate members, State Board of Education member, and U.S. senators.

At the Local Level

Change starts from within your local community. It’s important to know the characters in your local government. Visit usa.gov/local-governments to begin a search for your mayor, city council members, city managers, and more. Use your school district’s website to find out who represents you on the board of trustees.

At the State & Federal Level

Much of ATPE’s advocacy is focused on the State Capitol in Austin, but we also have a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. To learn more about your state and federal representatives, visit ATPE’s Advocacy Central. (This is an ATPE membership benefit, so you’ll need to log in. If you are unable to access your account, call ATPE Membership at (800) 777-2873.) To access this tool, head to atpe.org/advocacy-central, scroll to where it says “Find Officials” on the right-hand side, and select “Elected Officials.” Then, enter your ZIP code, hit the gray arrow, enter your address, and hit the gray arrow again. A directory of your elected state and federal officials will appear. You can view their contact information, links to their social media profiles, and particular bills they’ve authored that ATPE is tracking. 22 ATPE NEWS

Use TeachtheVote.org

ATPE’s comprehensive advocacy website, TeachtheVote.org, makes it easy for any Texan— including educators, parents, and college students—to read the public education news that matters most; stay informed through regular blog posts and email updates; and follow legislative action as it happens. Teach the Vote connects your choices at the polls to the realities in the classroom. When it’s election season again, you can research the education platforms of political candidates and elected officials and decide which candidates will make public education a top priority. Are you on Twitter? Then follow @TeachtheVote and the ATPE lobbyists.

Watch Hearings Online

One way to stay up to date on Texas politics is to watch legislative and regulatory hearings online via livestream. Committee hearings are a critical stop in the legislative process and viewable at capitol.texas.gov. Committee chairs have the power to determine which legislation advances in the process—and they face enormous pressure from advocates and other lawmakers about which legislation to hear. One way to “kill” a bill is to make sure it’s never heard in committee. Hearings are also the forum for advocates, including ATPE, to offer input on pending legislation. Similarly, you can watch meetings of state regulatory boards, such as the State Board of Education (SBOE), State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), and Teacher Retirement System (TRS) on the respective agency websites. Check the websites of your school district and city to find out about upcoming local governmental hearings.

KNOW HOW TO BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT Now that you know who your elected representatives are, it’s time to hold them accountable. Whether you and your representatives are politically aligned or not, your outreach matters. Legislators keep track of how many constituents call and write to them, what topics they care about, and their stances on those topics. They take that into consideration when voting on bills.

Use Advocacy Central to Call, Email, or Tweet

Advocacy Central is also your one-stop shop for influencing bills that affect public education at the state or federal level. Once again, you’ll go to atpe.org/advocacy-central. There, you’ll find links to contact your elected officials and advocacy campaigns centered on major bills, ATPE’s legislative priorities, or other trending topics. Clicking on each campaign allows you to read ATPE’s stance on the issue and gives you the opportunity to send a message to the appropriate elected official who will be voting on the bill or deciding on a policy. Advocacy Central enables you to communicate quickly and easily with your state senator or representative, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the Texas attorney general, your congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., and even the president. On certain campaigns, ATPE has customized messages for the State Board of Education, State Board for Educator Certification, or commissioner of education. With only a few clicks, you can communicate with your elected officials by email, phone, or social media. The best part is that you can opt to use prewritten messages and scripts already drafted for you by ATPE, or you can replace that text with your own words. Once you’ve finalized your message, just enter your name and contact information in the fields below and hit send.

Communicate Effectively

Often, when you reach out to a representative’s office, you will be communicating with a staff member or aide. Don’t be disappointed: The staff member may be the resident expert on education issues, so they’re often the best person to talk to. No matter whom you speak to, it’s important to be professional and polite in your communications. Consider making your outreach personalized to you. Proofreading is also important. Unfriendly officeholders love to point out errors in something written by an educator! Try to be clear, concise, and kind. Also, in most cases, it’s best only to contact your own elected officials, especially your congressional delegation in D.C., unless you have a personal relationship with another officeholder. There may be times where reaching out to members of a certain committee for a particular bill could prove helpful. ATPE’s lobbyists will share recommendations on Advocacy Central about which officeholders you should contact in each situation.

Attend Meetings

Whether it’s a town hall, issue forum, or candidate debate, elected officials and candidates often hold these events so they can hear directly from constituents and discuss trending topics. It’s a perfect time to ask a question and get face-to-face time with the people who represent you or are vying to become your elected official. To find information about when and where these meetings take place, go to the official website of the officeholder or candidate. Also watch for announcements of upcoming events at TeachtheVote.org.

Write a Letter to the Editor

ATPE often reaches out to Texas media seeking opportunities to publish op-eds in newspapers across the state. Local journalism is a vital service for its community and, as such, there may be opportunities for you to write a letter to the editor of your local paper and speak about your experience as an educator and how you and your students have been affected by decisions made by state officials.

Provide Testimony or Written Input

Often during hearings, there is an opportunity for citizens to submit testimony—either through writing or orally. This is another chance for your educator voice to be heard and influence legislation or policy. Use the links in this piece to find out about upcoming legislative hearings and instructions on how to submit testimony. Check your local websites for opportunities to testify at school board or city council meetings. Read ATPE’s advocacy blog at TeachtheVote.org to find out about other opportunities for educators to share input on the implementation of new laws and changes to regulations, such as Commissioner’s Rules. If you need assistance, reach out to the ATPE lobbyists for help.

For additional guidance on your political involvement activities, contact ATPE Governmental Relations at government@atpe.org.


A Tale of Two


he Marcums and the Goodoffs, though they live in two dramatically different Texas communities—the Marcums in small-town Stephenville, the Goodoffs in a Houston suburb—have a lot in common. Both couples are in their late 30s and work in the medical industry. Both couples have a kindergarten-age son, and both expected to send that son to a public school this fall for kindergarten. Both families are huge supporters of Texas public schools. But the effects of COVID-19 on public schools brought each couple pause. Their decision-making processes led them down two dramatically different paths.

The Marcums

“Tedious at best” is how Dr. Benjamin and Katie Marcum describe the spring 2020 remote learning experience. Their first-grade daughter struggled with so much screen time. Their son’s private preschool offered some Zoom lessons, but as Katie says, “You might as well try to nail Jell-O to the wall.” “The short version is, the spring was terrible,” Benjamin says. “We didn’t do a great job teaching our children. We know that neither of us are really cut out for that. And we looked around in late June, early July and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, our kids haven’t had any social interaction with anyone else since March.’” Stephenville ISD had assured parents the fall 2020 virtual learning experience would be far more structured and intensive. And the Marcums have been proponents of caution throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As one of the community’s family physicians, Benjamin has worked hard to make sure Erath County citizens know the risks associated with COVID-19, publishing a regular newspaper column featuring hard truths about mask-wearing and social distancing. Plus, the family had experienced the strain on life with a frontline worker in the house as Benjamin’s work brought him into contact with COVID-19 patients. But when it came time to make decisions about the fall, the Marcums decided the benefits of social interaction— and the downfalls of remote learning, particularly with young children—outweighed the risks. Over a socially distanced summer getaway, they agonized over where to 24 ATPE NEWS

Stephenville ISD kindergartner Barret Marcum and his second grade sister Anneliese participate in the district’s United Way “Hat Day” fundraiser in October. The children are attending class on campus this school year. send their children for the 2020-21 school year. “The whole time we were there, we were asking ourselves, ‘What do we do? Are we going to send them back?’” Katie says. “We were really torn. There was a lot of angst.” They toured one of Stephenville’s few private school options and found both the school’s technology resources and COVID-19 protocols lacking. “They don’t use any screen time or iPad or computer lab, and technology is the way the world’s going,” Katie

Kindergartner photos courtesy of Erica Goodoff and Katie Marcum

says. “Plus, when we went there, no one was wearing any masks. We were the only two adults touring who were doing any sort of distancing, and it didn’t seem like there would be a strict policy if a kid in the class tested positive. So that was the end of that.” Looking at the whole picture—their daughter’s need for special education services, the hands-on experience of a kindergarten classroom, their trust in the local school system—the Marcums opted for face-to-face instruction. “As a physician, you worry about the medical cost of catching the disease, but you also worry about the social implications and the other medical problems that come from social isolation,” Benjamin says. “Everything you do is a risk-benefit analysis. And, when it came down to it, we felt like the benefit of going to public school, where they’re going to follow strict protocols about trying to limit the spread of the disease, outweigh the risks associated.” While their son’s kindergarten experience is more than a little different than their daughter’s, the Marcums are happy with their decision. Although the district does not require masks in kindergarten to third grade, the Marcums require them for their children. “On the first day, my son came in and said, ‘Mama, I’m the only one in my class wearing a mask,’” Katie says. “I said, ‘Yes, and if you want to continue to go to school, you will wear one, unless you want Mama to be your teacher.’ ‘No, no, Mama!’ So, in every picture the teacher sends, he wears his mask.” (So are more of his classmates, as masks become more socially acceptable across the state.) The Marcums lament the changes in the school experience—no PTO carnival that Katie and other parents would help organize, no WATCH D.O.G.S. program for Benjamin and his fellow dads and father-figures—but they have accepted there must be a balance. “Everyone says, ‘I can’t wait for 2020 to be over,’ but this is going to be here until 2021 or even 2022, even when we get a shot,” Katie says. “You still need to be smart about contamination and wearing a mask. But how long are you going to keep them home? If we did do virtual, would two years of their schooling be robbed from them?”

The Goodoffs

About 300 miles away in Pearland, Erica and Frank Goodoff had enrolled their son in their neighborhood’s Alvin ISD elementary school in May. At that point, COVID-19 numbers in Texas looked promising and the state was beginning to open up. Because the Goodoffs were both able to work from home, they had kept their son home with them since March, even though his day care had reopened in June. In the spring and summer, Erica says, they had developed a nice routine: The trio would sit down at breakfast, Frank

Erica and Frank Goodoff decided to home school their son Anthony for kindergarten after determining their local public school’s plans for virtual learning were not a good fit for their son. and Erica would check their work emails, and they’d discuss the day’s activities and appointments—down to her son’s afternoon chat with his grandparents. Then, they’d go their separate ways for a couple of hours—Frank and Erica would work, and their son would play independently. The rest of the day, the couple switched off doing what they have come to realize was a casual form of home schooling for their child: teaching him to read or helping him learn how to ride a bike. The intention was always to send their son to public kindergarten, and even when this summer’s COVID-19 spike led Alvin ISD to plan a virtual start to the school year, that was still the intent. But questions started forming in Erica’s mind as the start of school drew near and she had so little information about what the learning experience would look like. The final straw was the first virtual meeting with her son’s teacher. Erica wrote the following on Facebook: “We made a hard decision this week: Anthony will not be starting kindergarten this fall. We had him enrolled and signed up to be in a virtual classroom starting Monday at our local elementary school, but this afternoon we withdrew his enrollment and will be doing home school instead, as we have been since March. “On a virtual meeting this week with other kindergarteners and their parents, I watched all the mothers’ faces fall simultaneously as they were informed that children would, in fact, spend hours a day on a computer and that they—the mothers (I would say parents, but Frank was the only dad on the call)—would be expected to be present for all of it to ‘help their children stay engaged.’ ATPE NEWS 25

And lest you think I live in the suburb of Stepford, all of the mothers who asked that question framed it as ‘I work; what are our options?’ But because state funding for schools is based on attendance and enrollment, the long hours and strict attendance requirements for virtual learning are mandated at the state level. Even for 5-year-olds.” “When the kindergarten teacher got on there, you could tell she was trying very hard,” Erica says. “I know that they are doing the best they can, but this is coming from above. This would not be a kindergarten teacher’s first choice. We recognized it very much, and we told the school that when we called to say this isn’t going to work for us.” At some point, when they feel comfortable with the COVID-19 situation and the learning situation, the Goodoffs plan to enroll their son in public school. Right now, they have amped up and formalized their home-schooling efforts—and they’re speaking out about

Making it



ince the COVID-19 pandemic began, Texas public educators have been forced to “build the plane as they’re flying it,” as the saying goes. And the skies have definitely been bumpy— but at the risk of pushing a metaphor to the brink, there have been some rainbows. Educators, community members, and public education advocates across Texas are coming together to develop innovative strategies to support students and their families during this bizarre and difficult time.

“We can’t overcommunicate right now”

Dallas ISD’s Parent Advocacy and Support Services team always fields a lot of parent inquiries, but the need to communicate has been so heightened during the pandemic that staff quickly realized a different approach would be needed to prepare families for the fall 2020 semester. Lessons learned from the spring made the district’s “Smart Restart” virtual parent conference, held in August, a good solution. “We’ve learned a couple of things: Parents are eager for information, and they’re willing to learn


the inequities facing parents today. “I believe Texas has purposely set it up this way to make their public schools fail,” Erica wrote in her Facebook post. “The privileged will withdraw their children, just as we have, for other alternatives—highly unregulated private schools that would allow smaller classes and shorter hours, or home-school, which literally has zero regulations. I don’t blame our local school for any of this. They’ve tried very hard to work with what they were given, and you can tell they’re under pressure. I hope very much we can go back one day soon. “Our family will be fine. Anthony is learning things as fast as you would expect from a 5-year-old with overachieving parents. We have a well-balanced system that allows us both to work remotely while taking on our teacher roles, and our child is particularly patient and willing to amuse himself independently for long stretches. … But it was very clear to me from watching the faces of my fellow kindergarten mothers that we’re in the minority.”


however they can,” says Liliana Valadez, DISD Parent Advocacy Support Services executive director. “Before, they didn’t know how to use Zoom. They do now.” And, after an isolated end to the 2019-20 school year, parents are now more willing to communicate. “Parents want us to have their emails; they want us to text them,” Valadez says. “They want us to reach out to them. It’s become easier to connect to families.” With this in mind, Valadez and her team reached out to colleagues across the district to design a oneweek series of evening Zoom sessions on topics such as safety protocols, district technology, etc. “After we booked one week, we realized we actually needed a second week,” Valadez says. With DISD’s campus community liaisons promoting the event, more than 1,000 parents and guardians registered to participate in the live conference, which included sessions in English and Spanish. The archived sessions continue to serve as a resource. “Anecdotally, we have heard parents appreciate

that we are being transparent and communicating information,” Valadez says. “We can’t overcommunicate right now. Parents want information. They want to know ‘Is my child learning? What are their struggles? How can I help?’” As she works with parents, Valadez reminds them educators are learning right now, too. “Parents need to realize this is a challenge,” she says. “Educators are finding it a challenge to teach using a device and not be in a classroom with many of their students. They’re learning how to use technology in a better way for instruction and how to connect with families.”

All hands on deck

Parents and educators alike have had a steep learning curve when it comes to implementing learning management systems, whether the district’s system of choice is Seesaw, Google Classroom, Schoology, Canvas, or something else entirely. Temple ISD administrators knew of other districts where parents had voiced concerns about long wait times and never-answered requests for IT assistance, so they set out to avoid such issues by training a large tech support team. “I was brainstorming with Dr. Lisa Adams, our assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and she came up with the idea: How can we get more people to answer?” says Craig Wilson, TISD director of digital learning. With the goal of ensuring parents could speak to a “real human” when they called, Wilson trained more than 100 auxiliary staff members to answer calls from the district’s parent tech support line. “Initially, we thought we could train all of the auxiliary personnel to say, ‘I don’t know the answer, but I can get back with you,’” Wilson says. “But then we took that to the next level—why don’t we give them some of the tools so they can help?” Looking back at parent inquiries from the spring, Wilson determined some questions were more frequently asked than others and also fairly easy to address. Take login issues: Generally, the parent hadn’t ensured they were logged in to the student’s account. He developed videos for a parent support website and produced step-by-step screenshots, a HyperDoc, and good old-fashioned printouts for the tech support team, which included Spanish speakers. The result has been a great team effort to the

benefit of Temple ISD families. “What do they say—necessity is the mother of invention?” Wilson says.

Community solutions

This summer, Austinite Tala Matchett and her friends were discussing how to “navigate the new normal” when it came to their children and the fall semester. She was conscious of a huge gap between her options and those of other parents in the community—parents whose jobs couldn’t be done remotely but who didn’t feel comfortable sending their children back to campus. “I wanted to know, how can we solve the problem together as a community?” Matchett says. Matchett is a partner at Notley, a philanthropic organization in Austin that takes an entrepreneurial, incubator approach to solving community issues—so she began tackling this problem from that perspective. The result? Community Pods, a Notley program that offers Austin ISD parents an option in between keeping children at home and sending them back to campus. She began a listening tour, connecting with parents, churches, partners such as Communities in Schools, and the school district, which she describes as an “ally” of Community Pods. When school started, Community Pods had opened two locations at churches in North and Southeast Austin, offering parents a location for virtual instruction that offered reliable internet, nutritious food, and the support of volunteers who could help navigate the intricacies of learning management systems. Students complete their Austin ISD virtual assignments from the Community Pods locations, which use a contactless health screening process to prevent COVID-19 exposure. On the weekend, students are sent home with backpacks filled with food from the Central Texas Food Bank and Costco. Even with Austin ISD opening its campuses for face-to-face instruction, Matchett says Community Pods participants plan to stay in the program, which will relieve strain on schools that wouldn’t necessarily have the room to follow social distancing protocols if everyone were back on campus. “The plan is as long as the pandemic continues, we will go to additional churches,” Matchett says. “We see this growing and scaling as the need continues.” Continued on page 40



A HOT SPOT FOR CONNECTIVITY PROBLEMS B Y S A R A H G R AY Texas is known for its vastness. A state filled with densely populated, skyscraper-lined cities and rural towns situated among open plains and desert mountains. But this alluring vastness is not without problems. In a state as large and diverse as Texas, getting—and staying—connected is key, but studies have shown that many Texans lack reliable devices and internet connectivity at home. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues, especially for children. The nonprofit Common Sense conducted a report about the nation’s digital divide, especially in light of distance learning, and found that Texas has the greatest number of kids who lack reliable broadband access at home: 34%, or 1.8 million, of the state’s public K-12 students do not have adequate connectivity, and 25% do not have an adequate device, such as a laptop or computer. The internet and device inequities have not gone unnoticed by Texas policymakers. In September, a bipartisan group of 88 state lawmakers sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott stating that Texas is “well overdue for a state broadband plan” and that the issue should be addressed immediately.

Illustration by John Kilpper

In the meantime, countless individuals and organizations are working tirelessly to close the gap as much as they can.



Houston-based organization Comp-U-Dopt began in 2007 as a way to keep lightly used corporate computers out of landfills or storage by putting them into the hands of students and their families. According to Colin Dempsey, executive director of Comp-U-Dopt’s Houston/Galveston office, in a normal, pre-pandemic month, the organization would see about 100 visitors to its website, and they had two locations in Houston and Galveston. Since March 2020, Comp-U-Dopt has expanded to seven more cities, three of which are in Texas, and page views have skyrocketed to over 160,000. On March 18, Dempsey set up the Comp-U-Dopt website for lottery submissions, and 48 hours later, more than 20,000 families had applied for a computer. “We see the digital divide as a kind of three-legged stool,” Dempsey explains. “The first one is the hardware. Do kids have access to the actual computer or device that they need? The next part is connectivity. So, internet access. And we consider that reliable, high-speed internet access. Then the third is digital awareness or digital literacy—having the ability to use that computer in a meaningful way and it not just be a paperweight on your desk. We see our role as an organization to solve two of those, the hardware piece and the education piece, knowing that a lot of our families are making the decision, even now, between rent and food.” Comp-U-Dopt partnered with communities and school districts to hand out its first 5,000 computers when the pandemic hit and now operates using a lottery system. Families selected to receive a device are invited to RSVP via text message. On distribution day, Comp-U-Dopt employees place a computer in their cars, and the families go on their way. Because these devices are for families to keep, the organization includes a manual, how-to videos, tech support, and a two-year warranty with each distribution. “The device is gently used, but that doesn’t mean that kids should be getting a less-than machine or one that isn’t working for them, which is another issue about equity,” Dempsey says. “Just because it’s a machine they got free of charge doesn’t mean that it should be less than or not be able to do the things that they need to do in order to stay connected.” Texas school districts are also scrambling to get devices into the hands of students. The state contributed hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus money to subsidize bulk orders of computers, hot spots, and iPads for school districts. By mid-August, Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Operation Connectivity program had already ordered 756,000 devices and 310,000 hot spots for more than half of Texas school districts, though nationwide supplier backlogs mean some orders may take 14 weeks to arrive. San Elizario ISD, located on the U.S.-Mexico border 30 ATPE NEWS

outside of El Paso, was able to work with El Paso County through Operation Connectivity to order devices in bulk. “When partnerships like that exist, our children win,” says San Elizario ISD Superintendent Jeannie MezaChavez, Ph.D. “As a small district in a rural area next to the border, it’s our responsibility to look at ways to try to fill in those gaps for our students. Our parents want what’s best for their kids.” Meza-Chavez says it’s been “one adjustment after another.” The district spent its spring break making hardcopy instruction packets for students until devices would be ready. It also entered into an agreement with the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank to ensure its food pantry remained stocked. Meza-Chavez recalls seeing her students in the car line with their grandparents because their parents were at work. As the students waited to pick up their box of food, they would use their grandparent’s cell phone to try to connect to their lessons. “How great is the need that we have families who are in the pantry line, and the kids are trying to get their schooling done from the cell phone?” Meza-Chavez says. “They won’t skip out on going to the pantry line, but they want their kids to continue to get an education. That’s their reality. We see them, we see the struggles they have, and we are trying to do our part as a district.” Dempsey, too, has seen how access to technology can impact a family. “We’ve heard from families that this has been their lifeline; it’s more than just distance learning,” Dempsey says. “It’s how they’re getting the pandemic EBT benefits, how they’re applying for jobs, or how some people are showing up to court for evictions where the courts are closed and you need to Zoom in—and if you don’t show up, you lose your house. It really has become the portal for everything.” But distributing devices is only one piece of the puzzle.


During the first week of school, in early August, MezaChavez’s technology director, Horacio Hernandez, took her to students’ homes to show her what was happening. Although the district had finally been able to distribute devices, connectivity issues had begun cropping up. “He kept explaining to me what was happening, and we want to make sure all our kids are receiving what they are entitled to, so we went out to visit these houses where they were having trouble with internet,” Meza-Chavez recalls. “We had done our part—we had provided the device—and we just weren’t understanding why they weren’t connected, and that’s where we were exposed to the reality of things. We had multi-generational families living in one home. We had mothers who told us they can’t even connect, and it was a proximity of their home to Mexico [where the signal is often stronger, and the families on the U.S. side struggle to find internet service

providers who can reach them].” San Elizario ISD made plans to reopen its schools in phases, starting September 8 with the students who were having connectivity issues. While acknowledging that entities such as TEA have helped the district dole out devices and hot spots, Meza-Chavez laments the lack of infrastructure, the fact that the state is still talking about STAAR tests for the year, and the consequences it has on her students. “These are students who live here in the United States, and I have an issue when we are being told by the state that ‘you’re going to test,’” she says. “We need to be sure there is a relationship between the powers that be in Texas with the children in Texas. There needs to be a commitment that says, regardless of where you live, the infrastructure won’t fail you.” The city of Dallas is no stranger to the infrastructure issue that afflicts Meza-Chavez’s community in San Elizario. Dallas ranks among the worst-connected cities of its size in the United States. Before COVID-19 was on anyone’s mind in 2019, Dallas city officials had already approved a plan brought forth by Jo Giudice, director of Dallas Public Libraries, that gave the library 900 hot spots for community use. The plan to roll out these hot spots was ready to deploy March 2—a week later, the library closed its building due to the pandemic. “At that point, all but 150 had been picked up by customers, so we brought the 150 down to Central and mailed them out,” Giudice explains. “By mid-March, all 900 were out in the community. When we figured out it was going to be a while before we would be open again, we kept extending the due dates. Those folks ending up keeping those hot spots through August.” As Dallas prepared for the next budget year, Giudice says an additional 2,100 hot spots were approved that will begin to circulate in the next few months. Furthermore, through a grant with AT&T and Cisco, four Dallas Public Library system parking lots are now hot spots, extending the Wi-Fi from the building—similar to school districts manning their buses with routers and parking them in neighborhoods. Although these actions made a positive difference quickly, Giudice acknowledges they are not long-term solutions. “The library was able to offer an immediate solution because we knew how to distribute the hot spots, just like we do books,” she says. “It’s not an ideal solution, we quickly admitted. This is a stopgap to help people connect right now. “People are making tough choices. Whether they may have lost a job or been furloughed or cut back, they are making tough choices: How do I feed my family? How do I pay to connect? Internet is something they let go of over feeding their kids. We’re a service industry, and the library prides itself on being flexible and nimble based on what the public needs, and that’s what we’re trying to do now.”

The pandemic has seared certain images into our collective memories: people sitting outside Taco Bells just to get a signal, school buses stationed in residential streets bringing Wi-Fi to families. These images shine a glaring spotlight on preexisting inequities. “There are tons of gaps the pandemic has revealed,” Meza-Chavez says. “Think about it. These are American children living in the United States who do not have appropriate connectivity because of the infrastructure of the area they live in. They are in a situation where they need people to step up. We need folks to value that every child in Texas deserves to be educated even when there is a pandemic occurring.”


With the spotlight on Texas’ digital divide, Dempsey contends that solving it may not be as complex as one would think. It’s simply a matter of prioritization, funding, and support. “The nice thing about the digital divide is that it is a binary problem,” he explains. “Once you solve it, it is solved. It is either you don’t have a computer, or you do have a computer. Now you might have to refresh that a couple of times during the year, but it is unlike some of these other things that continue to be an issue for generations. I hope that my job does not exist in the next five years in Houston because we close the digital divide. It really just takes the right funding and support from the community to say everyone deserves access to technology, everyone deserves access to internet connectivity, and everyone deserves to have the knowledge and the skills on how to use it.” State lawmakers’ letter to Abbott is a start, because as Dempsey explains, governments need to invest in the infrastructure that allows for long-term investment in connectivity and moving toward the idea that an internet connection is a utility like water. For Dallas’ part, Giudice says the library and city officials have plans to do just that. “We are very much going to be working with the city on how we can push free Wi-Fi into neighborhoods,” Giudice says. “That is our goal. How can we utilize city-owned property, whether that be a rec center, library, or municipal building, where we can put Wi-Fi and beam it out to neighborhoods? How can we help beyond our doors?” And for Meza-Chavez, she is driven by the deep belief that Texas families deserve it. “Imagine that even individuals like myself, sitting as superintendent, would feel like, is there anything else we can do to help our community?” she states. “And why? Because we recognize the type of help that’s needed, and someone needs to trust that we know that, and we do need the powers that be to do their part and to have the same passion and desire to solve the problem.”


Who’s Really Calling the Shots? Until a vaccine is approved and widely available, COVID-19 will be an obstacle the Texas education community continues to face. So, who makes which decisions? By Michael Spurlin

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of public education, from instructional delivery to how you take attendance and where students eat their lunches. A variety of policymakers and organizations shape these decisions. This visualization demonstrates how federal, state, and local entities all play a role in determining school policies during COVID-19.

U.S. Congress

Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act: These long-standing federal statutes govern accommodations employers must provide employees, such as working from home due to a medical condition and taking leave to care for family members. Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): This law, passed in response to the pandemic, temporarily expands the FMLA and provides additional sick leave to employees in certain specific situations involving COVID-19. At press time, FFCRA was in effect until December 31, 2020. CARES Act: This act provides federal funding for schools to help deal with the impacts of COVID-19, including $13.5 billion for K-12 schools, as well as $8.8 billion for child nutrition. It also allows the U.S. Secretary of Education to waive certain federal testing and accountability mandates.


School Closures: Has the power to close schools via executive order temporarily, as he did in March, or for the remainder of the academic year, as he did in April. 32 ATPE NEWS

Wearing Masks: Issued an executive order requiring masks be worn by most people indoors in Texas. Funding: Determines how federal grants will be spent, such as using the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund under the CARES Act to create a voucher program for students with disabilities. Waivers: Sought and received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education for 2019-20 student testing and accountability requirements. For 2020-21, waived a state requirement for using STAAR test results to determine grade promotions. Temporarily waived some requirements pertaining to educator preparation and certification.

Texas Legislature

Funding and Legislation: Adopts the state budget, including funding for schools and the compensation of school employees. Has the power to enact, repeal, or amend state laws governing education as well as public safety and health.

Texas Education Agency/Commissioner of Education Mike Morath

Virtual Instruction: Established when and for how long schools can offer virtual instruction to start the 2020-21 school year. Issued guidance requiring school districts to provide in-person instruction to any student whose parent or guardian requests it. Considers whether to approve additional requests for extending virtual instruction.

© iStock.com/peterschreiber.media, appleuzr, and rambo182


Attendance Requirements: Developed requirements for taking attendance during remote synchronous and asynchronous instruction that districts must follow to satisfy average daily attendance requirements for funding. Allocation of Relief Funds: Distributes federally funded resources to school districts, including technology devices and personal protective equipment (PPE).

AT THE LOCAL LEVEL Local School Board/School District

School Calendar and Learning Environment: Determines when to start the school year and whether to start virtually. Can use District of Innovation status to achieve additional scheduling flexibility. Employee Accommodations: Determines whether to grant an employee’s claim for work accommodations, such as working from home due to a medical condition that could be affected by COVID-19. Safety Precautions: Creates and enforces individual safety protocols on each campus, such as establishing social distancing measures in classrooms, requiring masks, creating quarantining and contact-tracing procedures, and providing cleaning supplies and PPE to faculty and staff. Technology: Selects the technology programs teachers and students will use during virtual learning. Assists with technology accessibility by providing laptops or setting up Wi-Fi hot spots.

OTHER ENTITIES These groups did not direct policy, but policymakers considered their recommendations.


• Developed a set of criteria for safely opening schools based on measurable, scientific data that was shared with state and local district officials. Offered recommendations on safety precautions and strategies to mitigate the spread of the virus in schools. • Urging state leaders to waive student testing requirements and refrain from basing high-stakes decisions, including school ratings and educator appraisals, on STAAR data during the pandemic. • Lobbying lawmakers to prioritize school funding and

oppose across-the-board budget cuts in the upcoming legislative session. Pushed for a moratorium on charter school expansion during the pandemic. • Continues to provide individual representation to hundreds of eligible ATPE members seeking coronavirus-related workplace accommodations or who have other pandemic-related individual employment concerns.*

Local Governments and Health Authorities

Monitoring the prevalence of the virus in the community, local officials have issued a variety of orders, such as mask ordinances and limits on gatherings. School boards can use local health authority recommendations in support of requests for waivers of in-person instruction requirements from TEA.

Medical Groups

Medical groups, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have issued guidance and advice regarding reopening schools and how to make them safer. This guidance has included the benefits of in-person learning vs. prolonged digital learning and what precautions schools should take to minimize the spread of the virus. *Eligibility, terms, conditions, and limitations apply. Visit atpe.org/ protection to view important disclosures and complete details of the insurance policy. Staff attorney services are provided separate from the Educators Professional Liability Insurance Program.


United States Postal Service Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation 1. Publication Title: ATPE News 2. Publication Number: 578-050 3. Filing Date: September 16, 2020 4. Issue Frequency: Quarterly (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) 5. Number of Issues Published Annually: 4 6. Annual Subscription Price: $10.00 7. Complete Mailing Address of Known Office of Publication: 305 E. Huntland Drive, Suite 300, Austin (Travis), Texas 78752-3730 Contact Person: Kate Johanns Telephone: (512) 467-0071 8. Complete Mailing Address of Headquarters or General Business Office or Publisher: 305 E. Huntland Drive, Suite 300, Austin (Travis), Texas 78752-3730 9. Full Names and Complete Mailing Addresses of Publisher, Editor and Managing Editor: Publisher: Shannon Holmes, 305 E. Huntland Drive, Suite 300, Austin (Travis), Texas 78752-3730 Editor: Kate Johanns, 305 E. Huntland Drive, Suite 300, Austin (Travis), Texas 78752-3730 Managing Editor: Sarah Gray, 305 E. Huntland Drive, Suite 300, Austin (Travis), Texas 78752-3730 10. Owner: Association of Texas Professional Educators, 305 E. Huntland Drive, Suite 300, Austin (Travis), Texas 78752-3730 11. Known Bondholders, Mortgagees and Other Security Holders Owning

or Holding 1 Percent or More of Total Amount of Bonds, Mortgages or Other Securities: None 12. Tax Status: The purpose, function and nonprofit status of this organization and the exempt status for federal income tax purposes Has Not Changed During Preceding 12 Months. 13. Publication Title: ATPE News 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below: Fall 2020 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months a. Total Number of Copies: 93,619 b. Paid Circulation (1) Mailed Outside-County Paid Subscriptions Stated on PS Form 3541: 90,188 (2) Mailed In-County Paid Subscriptions Stated on PS Form 3541: 0 (3) Paid Distribution Outside the Mails Including Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales and Other Paid Distribution Outside USPS: 0 (4) Paid Distribution by Other Classes of Mail Through the USPS: 0 c. Total Paid Distribution: 90,188 d. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution (1) Free or Nominal Rate OutsideCounty Copies included on PS Form 3541: 1,437

(2) Free or Nominal Rate In-County Copies Included on PS Form 3541: 0 (3) Free or Nominal Rate Copies Mailed at Other Classes Through the USPS: 1,648 (4) Free or Nominal Rate Distribution Outside the Mail: 2 e. Total Free or Nominal Rate Distribution: 3,087 f. Total Distribution: 93,275 g. Copies not Distributed: 345 h. Total: 93,620 i. Percent Paid: 96.69% No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date a. Total Number of Copies: 94,429 b. Paid Circulation (1) Mailed Outside-County Paid Subscriptions Stated on PS Form 3541: 90,993 (2) Mailed In-County Paid Subscriptions Stated on PS Form 3541: 0 (3) Paid Distribution Outside the Mails Including Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales and Other Paid Distribution Outside USPS: 0 (4) Paid Distribution by Other Classes of Mail Through the USPS: 0 c. Total Paid Distribution: 90,993 d. Free or Nominal Rate Distribution (1) Free or Nominal Rate OutsideCounty Copies included on PS Form



3541: 1,453 (2) Free or Nominal Rate In-County Copies Included on PS Form 3541: 0 (3) Free or Nominal Rate Copies Mailed at Other Classes Through the USPS: 1,635 (4) Free or Nominal Rate Distribution Outside the Mail: 0 e. Total Free or Nominal Rate Distribution: 3,088 f. Total Distribution: 94,081 g. Copies not Distributed: 348 h. Total: 94,429 i. Percent Paid: 96.72% 16. Total circulation DOES NOT include electronic copies. 17. Publication of Statement of Ownership: Required. Will be printed in the Winter 2020 issue of this publication. 18. Signature and Date: Kate Johanns, Marketing and Communications Director, September 16, 2020 I certify that all information furnished in this form is true and complete. I understand that anyone who furnishes false or misleading information on this form or who omits materials or information requested on the form may be subject to criminal sanctions (including fines and imprisonment) and/or civil sanctions (including civil penalties).


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Important policy information is available in the University Policy Handbook at https://www.gcu.edu/academics/academic-policies.php. The information printed in this material is accurate as of April 2017. For the most up-to-date information about admission requirements, tuition, scholarships and more, visit gcu.edu. For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program and other important information, please visit our website at gcu.edu/disclosures. Please note, not all GCU programs are available in all states and in all learning modalities. Program availability is contingent on student enrollment. Grand Canyon University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (800-621-7440; http://hlcommission.org/). GCU, while reserving its lawful rights in light of its Christian mission, is committed to maintaining an academic environment that is free from unlawful discrimination. Further detail on GCU’s Non-Discrimination policies can be found at gcu.edu/titleIX. 17COEE0071


Submit Your Nominations! Did you know ATPE has its own award season? Every year, ATPE recognizes outstanding Texas educators, ATPE leaders, and friends of Texas public schools. Recognize a colleague who changes lives and inspires excellence by nominating them for an ATPE Educator of the Year Award. Highlight the work of your local unit by applying for Local Unit of the Year, or nominate an outstanding ATPE volunteer for Campus Representative of the Year. Visit atpe.org/awards for full details, nomination forms, and applications.

CHARLES PICKITT EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARDS The Charles Pickitt Educator of the Year Awards are presented in five categories: Administrator, Associate, Elementary Teacher, Secondary Teacher, and Special Services Educator. Each recipient will receive $5,000. December 1, 2020, is the nomination deadline, and nominees must submit completed applications by February 1, 2021. Self-nominations are not accepted.



The Doug Rogers Campus Representative of the Year Awards recognize volunteers in four local unit/ISD categories: 1–200 members, 201–500 members, 501–1,000 members, and 1,001+ members. Local units may nominate one or more campus representatives. Each winner will receive $1,000. December 1, 2020, is the nomination deadline. Self-nominations are not allowed. February 1, 2021, is the application deadline.

FLOYD TRIMBLE LOCAL UNIT OF THE YEAR AWARDS The Floyd Trimble Local Unit of the Year Awards honor exceptional local units in five categories: 1–200 members, 201–500 members, 501–1,000 members, 1,001+ members, and university local units. Each winning local unit will receive a check for $1,000. December 1, 2020, is the nomination deadline. Self-nominations are allowed. February 1, 2021, is the application deadline.

An ATPE campus representative is a lifeline for new and current members to keep them informed of membership benefits, legislative matters, and issues that impact educators every day. This volunteer role offers a rewarding opportunity to connect with colleagues as you spread the word about ATPE and grow the association. Campus reps serve as the voice of ATPE on their campuses and can work in districts with or without ATPE local units. We’ll provide the training, resources, and networks to ensure you can truly make a difference in the lives of Texas educators and students. Interested? Contact ATPE Volunteer Program Coordinator Anna Belle Burleson at volunteer@atpe.org.


© iStock.com/Designer

Be the Voice of ATPE on Your Campus


New Degree Program: Colorado State University Global ATPE is proud to announce our new partnership with Colorado State University–Global Campus. This partnership will provide our members with a 10% tuition discount. CSU–Global is the first and only 100% online, independent, regionally accredited nonprofit university in the country. The university was created for working adults to affordably earn a degree and advance in the workplace and offers students: • 100% online courses. No set class times or locations, so you earn your degree on your time.

• Student-centered resources. 24/7 access to tech support, a writing center, and tutoring in addition to career navigation services, student advisors, disability services, and tuition planning specialists.

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• No student fees. Unlike most other universities, CSU–Global doesn’t charge student fees or out-of-state premiums. Speak to a CSU–Global Enrollment Counselor at (800) 920-6723, or visit csuglobal.edu/request-information for more details. Be sure to mention you are a member of the Association of Texas Professional Educators to take advantage of this exclusive offer!


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Reassurance for you and your loved ones At Association of Texas Professional Educators, we want to help you and your family to have financial peace of mind if the unforeseen happens. That’s why we’re pleased to offer Standard Issue Association Term Life Insurance through MetLife. You’ll enjoy competitive rates and more. • Your coverage also includes valuable built-in features to help you make the right decisions to manage what life may bring.

To apply or learn more, visit startprotectingyourfuture.com/isi/isi or call Insurance Specialists, Inc. at 1-888-474-1959. Coverage may not be available in all states. Please contact Insurance Specialists, Inc. at 1-888-474-1959 for more information. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by MetLife and its affiliates contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, waiting periods and terms for keeping them in force. Please contact Insurance Specialists, Inc. at 1-888-474-1959 for costs and complete details. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company | 200 Park Avenue | New York, NY 10166 L0519514691[exp0521][All States][DC,GU,MP,PR,VI] © 2020 MetLife Services and Solutions, LLC


ATPE stands by you Texas educators are rising to meet unprecedented challenges. As you serve your students, ATPE stands by you each and every day, ready to support you with affordable and high-quality legal resources so you can have peace of mind. How do you know ATPE delivers? One word: transparency. The complete details of your professional liability insurance policy* and legal resources** are publicly available, so you can be confident about ATPE’s benefits. Other organizations publish incomplete coverage details—but as an insured ATPE member, you know upfront exactly what you’re getting for your membership.

WANT TO KNOW HOW ATPE STACKS UP TO THE COMPETITION? See for yourself at atpe.org/blog/peaceofmind.

ATPE professional liability insurance policy* highlights include: •U  p to $8 million per claim and aggregate in liability insurance, including a $2 million limit for civil rights claims plus defense costs. • Up to $20,000 aggregate for employment rights defense with a $10,000 per-claim limit, win or lose. • Additional $5,000 per claim for favorable-outcome certification and termination claims. • Up to $15,000 aggregate for criminal defense. • Up to $5,000 per claim for bail bond reimbursement. • Up to $10,000 aggregate for successful appeals beyond the school board or commissioner of education. In addition to the above insured benefits, eligible ATPE members have access to a team of staff attorneys who may help with job-related legal concerns.** View the details of the professional liability insurance policy at atpe.org/protection. For assistance, members must call (800) 777-2873. For more information, visit atpe.org/protection.

*The Educators Professional Liability Insurance Policy is underwritten by the National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA., with $5.8 billion in net surplus and more than $23 billion in total admitted assets as of December 31, 2019. The insurer may not be subject to all insurance laws and regulations of this state. The foregoing notice is provided pursuant to Texas Insurance Code Article 21.54. ALL COVERAGE IS SUBJECT TO THE EXPRESS TERMS OF THE MASTER LIABILITY INSURANCE POLICY ISSUED TO ATPE AND KEPT ON FILE AT THE ATPE STATE OFFICE. Coverage applies to an insured’s activities within his/her professional capacity and does not apply to activities that predate the coverage period. View the complete details of the insurance policy at atpe.org/protection. Eligibility for ATPE membership benefits is contingent upon ATPE’s receipt of the entire annual membership dues amount for your appropriate membership category. A disruption in payments to an authorized payment plan may result in discontinuation of such benefits, including cancellation of insurance coverage for the entire membership year retroactive to August 1 or your membership date. ATPE reserves the right to determine eligibility for the appropriate membership category. The membership year runs from August 1–July 31. **The insured benefits and staff attorney services are provided through separate programs.

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continued from page 14—Members Speak

continued from page 27—Making It Work

values, we recognize that person with a written “honor card.” The committee also implemented a program to recognize students based upon academic performance, behavior, attendance, and attitude. This is a small celebration that takes place every three weeks. The program resets every three weeks. If a student does not meet the criteria, they have another opportunity to join the celebration during the next cycle. The celebration is simple, but it allows for some social time, a snack, and music. The CCLT’s first task was asking teachers to create a list of the values they thought most important to instill in students. The committee collected and distilled this data to create the campus values: Respectful, Responsible, and Kind. In small groups, the teachers wrote action statements that aligned to the core values.

Education community comes together

Thinking Forward

Once we had addressed safety and school culture, I asked myself, “What next?” There’s no time or room for complacency in education. As a campus leader, I must think strategically, systemically, and proactively. Creating a learning-centered culture is simply step one. With schools reopened, I think it is important to be flexible and look for ways to take care of the social-emotional needs of all students and teachers. As a principal, I wonder if students are returning with a slight bit of trauma from learning to live in a post-pandemic world. My students seem slightly shellshocked, but happy to be back. School is about learning the curriculum, for sure, but it is also equally as important to focus on creating positive, productive citizens who take care of and look out for one another. It takes all of us working together to keep each other safe and keep schools open. Jennifer Orona was raised in Fort Worth, Texas, during a time when opportunities were limited for Hispanic children growing up in poverty. She credits her high school English teacher, Mr. Calder, with changing her life by challenging her to want more from life. Orona started her career in 1997 and has a master’s in educational administration, a master’s in library science, and bachelor’s in history, political science, and education. Orona was a 2015-16 Charles Pickitt Administrator of the Year finalist and has served in the capacity of principal since January 2020 at Rice Consolidated Junior High School. Previously, she served as a high school social studies teacher, as the first-ever Hispanic female high school librarian for Fort Worth ISD, and as an assistant principal. 

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The ripple effects of the pandemic are going to last for years. Take public school funding. When a student leaves the public schools, the funding associated with that student leaves, too. That’s an overly simple explanation of the intricate Texas public school finance system, but it’s a huge worry—and one that weighs heavily on the minds of the ATPE team and like-minded advocates. In July, Paulina van Eeden Hill, executive director of the Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented (TAGT), reached out to several public education associations, including ATPE, to form a loose coalition designed to encourage parents to keep their children enrolled in public schools. “Over the summer, as many did, we became concerned about the prospect of too many students leaving the public school system due to the concerns about and lack of clarity around safely opening schools and remote learning,” van Eeden Hill says. “Now that many families have had the opportunity to experience the new online and on-campus learning environments, many families are still considering alternatives to public school enrollment. It’s imperative, for the health of the entire system, that families, educators, and school administrators continue to work together to find solutions that meet the needs of the broader student population, special populations, and our most valuable resource—classroom teachers. The threat of reduced enrollment and attendance, leading to reduced school funding, is a real one, and we must find creative, constructive ways to continue to support our neighborhood schools.” A PR campaign already underway from Friends of Texas Public Schools and the Texas School Public Relations Association fit in nicely with the initiative, as did the back-toschool campaign from Raise Your Hand Texas. ATPE, TAGT, Texas PTA, the Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education (TCASE), and the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT) saw a way to provide resources for parents and educators alike and are hosting an online parent-teacher toolkit at atpe.org/parent-teacher-toolkit. Available resources include a “decision tree” parents can use to evaluate which type of instruction meets their child’s needs, as well as panel discussions on such topics as what home schooling is really like and ways parents and educators can “give each other grace” during this difficult time. Because, at the end of the day, that’s the only way we’re going to get through this.

In a year with no shortage of not-so-fun news surrounding public education, ATPE wants to make sure you don’t miss the good stuff. That’s why we’ve launched “Positive Referrals,” a biweekly email newsletter that focuses on the good public education news. Subscribe at https://signup.e2ma.net/signup/1931397/1742741/.

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2020–21 ATPE Membership Application

Installment payments & auto-renew available for credit card/bank draft at atpe.org STEP 1


Personal Information

Name (first, middle, last)

Last 4 digits of SSN

ATPE member ID (optional)


Birthdate (MM/DD/YY)




Cell phone (required)

Home phone (optional)

Personal email (required) Campus email (optional)

Employee ID number

Mailing address State

City ZIP

Recruited by Print: First Name


Membership Category (select one) & Invest in Education


See below for category descriptions.

Student Teacher, College Student, and Public members may join online at atpe.org. 2020-21 Professional, Associate, and Administrator memberships will not be accepted after Jan. 31, 2021.

Professional (teacher, counselor, etc.) . . . . . . . . . . . . . $139 $175 Associate (para-educator, aide, support staff, etc.) . . . . . . $80 $90

Print Name

Administrator (principal, superintendent, etc.) . . . . . . . . . . . $225 Retired . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$10


OPTIONAL: Invest in Education ATPE Local Unit Dues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $ Support ATPE in your local school district.

ATPE-PAC Suggested Donation . . . . . . . . . . . . $ Make a voluntary donation to our political action committee.

Yes, contact me about becoming a volunteer! How to Submit Your Application

Last Name



Mail your completed application and check to: ATPE | 305 E. Huntland Dr., Ste. 300 | Austin, TX 78752

ATPE membership year begins 8/1/20 & ends 7/31/21. Some benefits’ effective dates may not match effective membership dates. Visit atpe.org for disclosure details/limitations. I understand that ATPE may contact me via information provided on this application, including email and text, to communicate about my benefits/account. ATPE dues are not deductible as charitable contributions for income tax purposes but may be deductible as misc. itemized deductions, subject to IRS restrictions. Approx. 94% of your dues dollar is considered deductible; 5.6% is used for lobbying activities and is therefore not deductible. Or hand-deliver it to an authorized ATPE representative. Faxed or scanned applications are not accepted.

ATPE MEMBERSHIP CATEGORIES You must join in the appropriate insured category in order to qualify for the Educators Professional Liability Insurance Policy. ATPE reserves the right to determine eligibility for the appropriate membership category. Commissioned peace officers are eligible for public membership only. Professional, First-Time Professional, Associate, and Administrator membership is open to persons employed in Texas by a public school district, institution of higher education, Regional Education Service Center, State Board for Educator Certification, or the Texas Education Agency. If you have a question about the eligibility of job descriptions not listed below, call (800) 777-2873. INSURED CATEGORIES Professional Member First-Time Professional Member (Rate available only through 10/31/20) Athletic Director/Coordinator Athletic Trainer At-Risk Coordinator Audiologist Band/Choral Director Business Manager Coach Counselor

Curriculum Director Dean of Instruction Department Head/Chair Diagnostician Instructional Officer Intern Teacher IT Director/Coordinator Librarian Nurse (RN) Parent/Community Coordinator Assistant Principal Regional Service Center Staff School Psychologist/Associate

UNINSURED CATEGORIES Social Worker Teacher Therapist/Pathologist University Professor Visiting Teacher Administrator Member Educators who are employed in Texas by a public school district as a principal, assistant/deputy/ area superintendent, or superintendent, and whose position requires certification

by the State Board for Educator Certification Associate Member Aide to position in Professional category Alternative Center Aide Bus Driver Cafeteria Worker Clerk–General Computer Programmer/Entry Custodial Worker Deaf Interpreter

Educational Aide/Technician Maintenance Worker Nurse (LVN) Regional Service Center Aide Secretary Security Guard (Unarmed) Substitute Teacher

Join online at atpe.org

Student Teacher Member

Public Member

Student teacher in Texas

Friend of public education

College Student Member Non-teaching college student Retired Member Retired former school employee

Use this side to join by


2020–21 ATPE Membership Application

 Save when you pay by credit card, bank draft, or check! See reverse. STEP 1


Personal Information

Name (first, middle, last)

Last 4 digits of SSN

ATPE member ID (optional)


Birthdate (MM/DD/YY)




Cell phone (required)

Home phone (optional)

Personal email (required) Campus email (optional)

Employee ID number

Mailing address State

City ZIP

Recruited by Print: First Name


Membership Category (select one) & Invest in Education

Student Teacher, College Student, and Public members may join online at atpe.org.


Professional (teacher, counselor, etc.) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $175 Associate (para-educator, aide, support staff, etc.) . . . . . . . . . . $90 Administrator (principal, superintendent, etc.) . . . . . . . . . . . $225

You must join in the appropriate insured category to qualify for the Educators Professional Liability Insurance Policy. See reverse for category descriptions.

OPTIONAL: Invest in Education ATPE Local Unit Dues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $

Received Date Print Name Signature

Support ATPE in your local school district.

ATPE-PAC Suggested Donation . . . . . . . . . . . . $ Make a voluntary donation to our political action committee.


ATPE membership year begins 8/1/20 & ends 7/31/21. Some benefits’ effective dates may not match effective membership dates. Visit atpe.org for disclosure details/limitations. I understand that ATPE may contact me via information provided on this application, including email and text, to communicate about my benefits/account. ATPE dues are not deductible as charitable contributions for income tax purposes but may be deductible as misc. itemized deductions, subject to IRS restrictions. Approx. 94% of your dues dollar is considered deductible; 5.6% is used for lobbying activities and is therefore not deductible.


Yes, contact me about becoming a volunteer! STEP 3

Last Name

Payroll Deduction Authorization

2020–21 Professional, Associate, and Administrator memberships will not be accepted after Jan. 31, 2021.* I authorize ISD to deduct membership dues and donations. I further authorize ATPE to notify the ISD of changes in the amount of my annual dues and the ISD to deduct the new amounts. If my employment with the ISD ends, I authorize any unpaid balance to be deducted from my final check. This authorization for deductions is effective until I give notice to the ISD that I want to revoke it.

Total Amount $ I get paid

Total # of Deductions


Last 4 digits of SSN



I wish to cancel deduction of membership dues for: TX AFT





Employee ID

Printed Name Signature

*ISD payroll offices may stop accepting payroll authorizations before Jan. 31, 2021.

How to Submit Your Application

Mail the entire application to: ATPE | 305 E. Huntland Dr., Ste. 300 | Austin, TX 78752

Or hand-deliver it to an authorized ATPE representative. Faxed or scanned applications are not accepted.


How to Get Cozy This Winter As the calendar turns to winter and the days grow shorter and colder (by Texas standards, anyway), it is common for people to experience the winter blues. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to compound the feelings of seasonal depression as many holiday festivities will be cancelled or altered and the ability to enjoy the outdoors for dining or social gatherings will be further limited by cooler weather. One way to overcome these feelings is by embracing the Danish concept of “hygge” (pronounced "hoo-gah"). Loosely translated as coziness, it’s more about creating an atmosphere of warmth and contentment. If it can help Scandinavians, it could help Texans, too.

© iStock.com/Alisovna

By Michael Spurlin

Create a Cozy Home

Eat & Drink Warm Foods

Bring the Outdoors, In

If you must spend more time indoors, make your space an enjoyable place to cozy up in during the winter. Take some time to clean up or declutter a space to serve as your athome retreat. Put out your fluffiest blankets to wrap yourself in. Light candles or hang twinkle lights to create a warm glow. Find time to be present and relax in this comfy space you’ve created for yourself.

Now is the time of year to savor the comfort foods and drinks you did not feel like consuming in the hot Texas summer. Fire up the slow cooker and create some soups and stews. Embrace the opportunity to enjoy hot cider and cocoa now that it finally feels appropriate to drink them.

One way to up the hygge is to include more natural elements in your home. An easy way to do this is to add plants throughout your space. If you don’t have a green thumb, no worries! You can add other natural touches such as dried flowers or pinecones that have little to no upkeep, or even just wooden furniture—anything to remind you of the outdoors.

Light a Fire

Get Sunshine & Fresh Air

Give Yourself Grace

Days will be shorter and fewer of them will be sunny. That doesn’t mean you won’t have opportunities to enjoy some sunshine! Even if it is cold, bundling up and heading outside for some fresh air in the middle of the day can have a positive effect and help you acquire some necessary vitamin D.

Remind yourself that this year has been hard and times are not normal. It is OK to go easy on yourself. Practice giving yourself grace and realize that it is OK to feel a little down after all that you have experienced this year.

Relaxing by the fire is about more than just staying warm. It is a way to decompress and block out the rest of the world. Whether you turn on your fireplace or create an outdoor blaze (perhaps even with some socially distanced friends and loved ones), this is an opportunity to slow down and be present in the moment.

Disclaimer: If you are experiencing a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety, seek help from a trained mental health provider. ATPE NEWS 43

Association of Texas Professional Educators 305 E. Huntland Dr., Ste. 300 Austin, TX 78752-3792

Empower learners to master essential behaviors “This is a must-have resource for any school striving to improve academic and social behaviors, which is every school!” —Edward Gigliotti, school counselor and adjunct instructor, Pepper Drive School, California

“Behavior Solutions is the most comprehensive handbook for teaching behavioral expectations. This masterpiece brings clarity, coherence, and concrete tools to the PLC and RTI processes.” —Joe Cuddemi, educational author, presenter, coach, and consultant

“The authors provide tools, questions for teams, and troubleshooting tips. This book addresses timely topics that challenge school teams, while providing a blueprint for a PLC.” —Steven Weber, associate superintendent for teaching and learning, Fayetteville Public Schools, Arkansas

“Behavior Solutions is a book that all educators should read and work through to help all of their students succeed.” —Benjamin Kitslaar, principal, West Side Elementary School, Wisconsin


SolutionTree.com/BehaviorSolutions 800.733.6786


Profile for Association of Texas Professional Educators

Winter 2020 ATPE News  

Winter 2020 ATPE News  

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