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22nd September 2022
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Texas to expand voluntary lead testing in schools, child care centers
Texas will expand voluntary lead testing in schools and day care centers, with a new statewide program offering access to free sampling materials, laboratory testing and a self-guided online portal to help test drinking water for lead. The program is part of a nationwide effort to improve drinking water infrastructure, particularly in disadvantaged and underserved communities. Following testing, participants will receive resources for remediation, which could include installing filters, conducting routine maintenance or replacing or upgrading outlets or plumbing. The program is a partnership between the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
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New U.S. bill demands more transparency on college transfer rules
Colleges and universities would have to be more forthcoming about their student transfer requirements under a new measure put before Congress on Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). The Transparency for Transfer Students Act would require two- and four-year schools to post financial aid information and transfer deadlines on their websites, as well as a list of all the schools from which a student’s credits are guaranteed to be accepted. “Community college is an affordable, accessible way for many students to start their education — but at too many schools, complicated transfer policies make it harder for transfer students to earn a four-year degree,” Castro said in a statement. “The Transparency for Transfer Students Act will provide students with better information on college articulation agreements, preventing credit loss and helping students save valuable time and money as they pursue their degrees.”
Round Rock ISD approves one-year contract extension for superintendent
The Round Rock ISD board of trustees this week approved a one-year contract extension and a one-time incentive payment of $28,900 for Superintendent Hafedh Azaiez. Place 1 Trustee Kevin R. Johnson said he voted in favor of the extension, despite concerns from others the status of Mr. Azaiez's teaching credentials, out of a desire for stability. "I don't want to readjudicate anything that has happened or could possibly happen," he said. "What I want to think about is the stability of the district and us moving forward. We have to put our kids first. We have to put the work and the business of our school district first."
Graham ISD picks architect for potential bond measure
The Graham ISD Board of Trustees has selected Harper Perkins Architects to work on a proposed construction project that involves a grade realignment and changes to multiple campuses within the district. HPA, based in Wichita Falls, specializes in new constructions, additions and renovations for school campuses. The company has worked in districts such as Bellevue, Bowie, Electra and Montague. The company is also in charge of the tornado remediation in Jacksboro ISD at an estimated contract amount of $7m, with an estimated completion date of 2024.
Schools trim number of tech tools they use
As time runs out for school districts to spend the bulk of their federal COVID relief funding, which was aimed in part at helping build up their digital capacity, many of the digital tools they have employed over the past two years face being abandoned. Heather Esposito, technology coach for the Cherry Hill school district in New Jersey, said that at the start of the pandemic, educational technology companies were offering free trials of their products with abandon. However, she added, "all the companies were seeing this as an opportunity to offer everything for free, get you hooked, and then eventually say ‘It’s not free anymore,’ and get you to want to buy it.”
Ways for school business officials to build relationships with board members
Michael Juech, assistant superintendent of operations at the Howard-Suamico School District in Wisconsin, outlines three ways in which school business officials can develop meaningful relationships with their board members. Speaking during a session at the Association of School Business Officials International’s Annual Conference & Expo in Portland, Oregon, he championed helping board members to better understand school finance, showing how their decisions impact students, and even visiting other districts with board members. “If they’re informed and they’re educated, they can make true change, which ultimately impacts all of us — and more importantly, it impacts our students,” Juech asserted.
U.S. public school infrastructure under mounting pressure
As schools across the nation get older and more desperate for repairs, the funding gap is also getting wider. The American Society of Civil Engineers last year gave the condition of America's 100,000 public school buildings an overall grade of D+. About half of U.S. school buildings are half a century old, the report noted. The money spent on fixing or building U.S. public schools falls woefully short of what's needed to get buildings up to standard, according to the latest "State of Our Schools" report by the 21st Century School Fund, the International WELL Building Institute and the National Council on School Facilities. In 2016, public schools were underfunded by $46bn a year, the report said. By 2021, that annual deficit had grown by $25bn. "We're getting to a critical stage now," lamented Mike Pickens, executive director of the National Council on School Facilities. "Some schools date back to World War II."
Once-segregated Marfa school designated a National Historic Site
The House of Representatives approved The Blackwell School National Historic Site Act Tuesday to make the site of Blackwell School in Marfa a national park site. Once signed by President Joe Biden, the act is intended to preserve and honor the history of the half-acre site in West Texas, advocates say, where generations of Hispanic children received a segregated education from their white peers. The bill was pushed by U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales of San Antonio and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican. “We must work together in Congress to paint a more accurate picture of how this country came to be. And that picture is not complete without including the history of Mexican Americans,” Gonzales said in a statement. “For decades, the Blackwell School has been an important piece of history for Marfa, west Texas and Mexican Americans across the country. Establishing the Blackwell School as a National Historic Site will cement its rich, complicated legacy for generations to come.”   While there was no state law that mandated separate schools for Hispanic students, many Texas school districts, including in Marfa, segregated students, according to the Texas Historical Commission.
Should high school football de-emphasize hard contact?
Education Next carries a transcription of a recent conversation between Pedro Noguera, the dean of the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, and Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, regarding the safety of high school football. One suggestion they look at is switching to a 7-on-7 game that doesn't include blocking, instead emphasizing passing skills. 
Federal cybersecurity grant to be distributed to states
The Department of Homeland Security has announced a first-of-its-kind cybersecurity grant program specifically for state, local and territorial governments across the country. Through two distinct Notice of Funding Opportunities, the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program and the Tribal Cybersecurity Grant Program, combined, will distribute $1bn over four years to qualifying projects. Ultimately, states will decide how and where to distribute funds. At a minimum though, 80% grant allocations must be distributed to local government agencies, which include school districts.
UT delays launch of band for students who don’t want to play The Eyes of Texas
University of Texas administrators have delayed the launch of the university band for students who don’t want to play The Eyes of Texas until at least 2023. In April 2021, UT announced that a new, to-be-named university band that would not play the school’s alma mater or fight song would launch in fall 2022. However, it has now been delayed until after UT hires a new director for the Butler School of Music, expected to be in place next fall. Once it launches, the new band will be an academic for-credit course through the Butler School and will have members focus on leading, directing bands and community engagement, according to last year's media release. The Longhorn Band will still perform at campus events, such as graduation and football games, and will be required to play The Eyes of Texas.
America's best and worst places to be a teacher mapped
New York is the best place in America to be a teacher, according to a new report by WalletHub. Utah held the second spot overall, while Virginia, Vermont and Washington rounded out the top five. The personal finance website compared all 50 states and Washington, D.C., along 24 metrics around opportunity, competition and academic and work environment. The publication factored in salaries, projected teacher turnover and public-school spending per student to determine the most teacher friendly places in the U.S. New Mexico, Arizona, Washington, D.C., New Hampshire and Hawaii are the worst places in America for teachers, according to the report. “Leaders in the community and schools must work to create an environment of respect for teachers and support for their work,” said Rene S. Parmar, Dean of the School of Education at Lehman College within the City University of New York.

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