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23rd June 2022
Congress poised to pass gun control bill
A bipartisan Senate bill unveiled Tuesday includes $300m for school security grants, including $100m for a program that can be used to “harden” schools to make them more difficult to target. The bill is Congress’ attempt to avert additional school shootings, and if enacted it will result in some schools getting a bit of extra money to support student mental health and bolster security. Aside from the $300m for school security, it offers $1bn for a broad array of efforts to “support safe and healthy students," $1bn for school-based mental health support, $240m to train school staff to notice and address student mental health challenges, and $50m for summer and after-school programs for middle and high school students. It would also ban the use of federal education funds to arm teachers or school staff. The Senate is expected to have a procedural vote on the bill later today.
Child nutrition waivers set to be extended
Congress reached a bipartisan, bicameral deal Tuesday to extend through the summer and upcoming 2022-23 school year child nutrition waivers that have proven crucial in allowing schools to provide meals to students and navigate pandemic-related disruptions. The waivers, which were set to expire at the end of June, have provided schools with generous reimbursement rates and allowed them flexibility from complying with meal patterns and nutrition standard requirements. School nutrition directors say the waivers have been crucial in allowing school meal programs to operate at all given the unpredictable landscape. The Keep Kids Fed Act aims to give the USDA temporary authority to provide summer meals to all students for free, eliminate the reduced-price meal category and increase reimbursement rates to help offset rising food costs. “With 90% of our schools still facing challenges as they return to normal operations, this will give our schools and summer meal programs much-needed support to deal with ongoing food service issues,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said in a statement. “Congress needs to act swiftly to pass this critical help.” The legislation is expected to be moved forward this week, in time to avert the expiration of the waivers.
Robb Elementary to be demolished, Uvalde mayor says
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin has announced that Robb Elementary School will be demolished, stating that no child or teacher should return to the site of the shooting. According to state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, President Joe Biden supports demolishing the school and building a new campus. A federal grant designed for schools involved in mass shootings will likely help pay for the razing and rebuilding of the school, he explained. The grant covers up to $45m in expenses. Mr. Gutierrez also said he is suing the Texas Department of Public Safety over records related to the shooting. State and local Uvalde officials have fought the release of records that could provide clarity around the botched emergency response to the shooting that killed 19 children and two educators. Law enforcement responding to the shooting waited more than an hour on the scene before breaking into the classroom to kill the shooter. Gutierrez said he filed an open records request on May 31st for documentation about police presence and ballistics at the shooting, and he still has not received a response. Per state law, DPS had 10 business days to either respond or make a case to the attorney general.
Uvalde schools police chief placed on leave
Uvalde CISD police chief Pete Arredondo has been placed on administrative leave, Superintendent Hal Harrell said Wednesday, following a a month of sharp criticism for his decision to delay confronting the gunman who killed 19 children and two children at Robb Elementary School. "Today, I am still without details of the investigations being conducted by various agencies," he said. "Because of the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigations, I have made the decision to place Chief Arredondo on administrative leave effective on this date." No further information was released about Arredondo or the decision. Lt. Mike Hernandez will take on the duties of chief, Mr. Harrell said.
Spring ISD announces new leadership
Spring ISD will see new principals and new staff members in other leadership roles beginning with the 2022-2023 school year in order to fill positions and bring new talent to the school district. LaToya Patterson has been appointed principal of Hirsch Elementary, Sarahdia Johnson will lead Hoyland Elementary, Cecily Parker will take charge of Jenkins Elementary, and Kimberly Dusette assumes leadership of Dueitt Middle School. Additionally, Paul Carampatan has been appointed Director of Student Affairs, Tiffany Weston as Director of Teacher Leadership Development, Michelle Starr as Assistant Superintendent for Research, Accountability and Testing, Tracey Walker as Assistant Superintendent of High Schools, Dr. LaTracy Harris as Assistant Superintendent of Academics, and Dr. Kregg Cuellar as Chief of Academics. 
West Oso ISD superintendent delays retirement further
West Oso ISD Superintendent Conrado Garcia will remain in his role until January 2026, further delaying his retirement, with plans to improve campus safety in the wake of the Uvalde mass killing. He had been due to retire this month, but in May announced plans to delay his retirement until the end of 2022 after the shooting at Robb Elementary. "I don't want to mislead anybody," Mr. Garcia said. "I cannot guarantee any family that I can stop an AK-47. That's humanly impossible. We're not equipped as school people to be able to handle such an attack. But we can do a lot to minimize that impact." In recent weeks, West Oso held a "Stop the Bleed" first-aid training for staff. The district also plans to require clear backpacks next year. Educators also expect more funding, as promised by Gov. Greg Abbott, for secure doors and windows and other devices, Mr. Garcia said during a news conference Tuesday. The district also plans to launch a "Parents on Patrol" campus program, with volunteers looking out for potential safety concerns. 
Waco ISD names another four new principals
Waco ISD announced new principals this week for four more schools, bringing the district’s count of new-principal announcements this summer to 13. The group announced Tuesday includes Mandi Murphy, who will lead Tennyson Middle School; Christi Yourman, who will lead Lake Air Montessori Magnet School; Bonnie Trammell, who will lead West Avenue Elementary School; and John Weeks, who will lead the G.L. Wiley Opportunity Center. The other nine Waco schools with new principals announced this summer are Waco High School, University High School, the Greater Waco Advanced Health Care Academy, G.W. Carver Indian Spring Middle School, Cesar Chavez Middle School, J.H. Hines Elementary, Mountainview Elementary, Dean Highland Elementary and Cedar Ridge Elementary.
Listening closely to students pays off academically
New research has confirmed a link between acting on students’ feedback and their academic success, strengthening arguments for incorporating student voice into school improvement efforts. For students, a belief that schools are responsive to their ideas correlates with a higher grade-point average and better attendance, researchers at the University of California, Riverside and Northwestern University found. “Young people are raising their voice in powerful ways, and one of the most crucial places for them to express their views is in school—a place that has a huge impact on their lives,” said Joseph Kahne, a professor of education policy and co-director of the Civic Engagement Research Group at UC Riverside. Mr. Kahne and his fellow researchers based their findings on an analysis of survey responses and academic data from 12,000 9th-grade students in Chicago collected during the 2018-19 school year, and their results were published in the May issue of the American Journal of Education. The study’s authors used student responses from Chicago’s 5Essentials Survey, which asks students about a range of issues related to relationships, trust, and supportive school environments. Students at schools in the bottom tenth in the analysis had a predicted GPA of 2.65, compared to a predicted GPA of 2.85 for students in the top tenth on the responsiveness rankings. The link between school responsiveness and student success remained statistically significant, even when researchers controlled for students’ attendance and grades the previous year and other demographic and socioeconomic variables.
School shootings fuel debate over cellphones in class
More than a decade after a 17-year-old shot his ex-girlfriend and himself right outside the Michigan high school where Sarah Pancost teaches, she is still grateful that the students she hunkered down with that day had access to their cellphones. She allowed students to pull out their phones and reassure their families, who in turn, filled kids in on what was being reported about the incident. For Ms. Pancost, mobile devices are an important safety tool; however, other educators, who feel that cellphones are inappropriate in schools, also cite safety concerns as a primary reason. When students are on their phones during a potential emergency, they may not be paying attention to safety protocols, they say. The technology can jam up communication, get in the way of response plans, pass along misinformation, or blow minor incidents way out of proportion. “The use of cellphones on the part of students has more potential to be disruptive to the crisis-response team than it does to benefit” them, said Shawna White, the senior lead for school safety at the WestEd nonprofit. “It’s hard for me to say ‘oh, [cellphones] are good or they’re bad because different situations are going to call for different responses,” White said. But, she added, “looking at it holistically, I see potential for [phones] to create confusion and chaos and distraction.”
When France sent low-income students to wealthy schools
In January 2017, local authorities closed low-achieving schools in Toulouse, France’s fourth biggest city, and instead bussed the 1,140 affected pupils to campuses in the prosperous downtown. The theory, according to Georges Méric, president of the Haute-Garonne region that includes Toulouse, was that a “rising tide lifts all boats," and that by inserting the students from Bellefontaine and two other suburbs, La Reynerie and Mirail, into schools of proven success, social determinism would be countered and all children would benefit. Principals and teachers at the schools are supported by six “social mix masters” who help facilitate logistics such as transport and tackle any problems that arise, such as dealing with parent concerns. Five years on, the drop-out rate for students living on the three estates after taking the Brevet - France’s national diploma for 15-year-olds - has dropped from almost 50% to less than 6%, with grades up by an average of nearly 15%. “The welcoming colleges had a very good academic level already, that was important,” says Mr. Méric. “It’s worked very well. There has not been segregation in them and it’s promoting the wider acceptance of diversity across the city.” Encouraged by the results, several other cities and towns across France are now studying ways to launch their own bussing initiatives, with the Ministry of National Education helping to coordinate.

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