Project M.A.L.E.S. helps EPISD meet social and emotional needs of students

Over the last 3 years we have launched initiatives to assure that our students are ready to tackle a changing world and a global economy. Active-learning and student-focused engagement will help us improve student outcomes, but we also know that learning cannot happen without recognizing the social and emotional needs of every child.

To this end, we are partnering with CASEL, placing a focus on building relationships with our students and have also implemented Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). PBIS is a proactive approach to creating evidence-based strategies that will create supports or systems that give school personnel the capacity to use effective interventions to enhance academic and social behavior in all students.

In addition, two years ago we added Project M.A.L.E.S. (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success) to our district portfolio of programs. Project M.A.L.E.S. was created at the University of Texas at Austin and piloted in EPISD and two other Texas school districts, with partners in 13 institutions of higher learning (including the El Paso Community College). The program intends to instill college-bound behavior among Latino males at the middle-school and high-school levels.

Through Project M.A.L.E.S., about 1,000 students in our 11 high schools and 17 middle schools were identified to participate. They were paired with an EPISD adult mentor whose focus is on building a strong relationship with the student so that they can have a positive adult connection at school.

Mentors are instructed to establish a strong social and emotional connection with the students. Once that connection is made, and through their middle- and high-school careers, students will be made aware of college-readiness opportunities by their mentors.

Campuses will structure these mentor-mentee relationships as they best fit their needs and communities. In the end, however, the goal of this program is to provide the emotional support that some students need to make the transition from public school to college.

I’m sure you will agree that our role as educators goes beyond the classroom. Project M.A.L.E.S. is one of the initiatives we are implementing to make sure that we fulfill that role.

Have a great Fourth of July holiday and thank you for all you do for our kids!

EPISD District of Innovation among the first to be approved

The EPISD was officially recognized by Commissioner Morath as one of the first Texas school districts to earn the District of Innovation designation.

Out of more than 1,200 school districts in Texas, only eight have earned this distinction.

EPISD is proud to lead this important work and take advantage of this opportunity created by the 2015 Texas Legislature with HB 1842. I am proud of our district, our trustees, our community and our teachers’ organizations for leading the state in this innovative work. The flexibility offered by HB 1842 will support our work to build flexibility in our schools that will benefit all our 60,000 students.

As a District of Innovation, EPISD will have more freedom to allow us to establish unique academic and extra-curricular programs, and bring unique school designs and progressive educational reform to El Paso.

I invite you to read the District of Innovation Plan and find out how the changes will benefit our community and our students.

Our district is on the rise. We have a great team of teachers, staff, administrators who are supported by professional and progressive trustees who are aligned in ethical leadership and focused on student success and student outcomes.

Last week, the Board of Trustees adopted a balanced budget that continues the District’s commitment to fiscal responsibility, while providing a moderate pay increase to our employees. The trustees also raised the minimum wage in the District to $10.10-per-hour. The new budget also allows for the continued expansion of our New Tech programs, the hiring of fine-arts teachers and also provided for additional technology purchases.

These steps demonstrate the high value we place on our employees, technology and programs. Led by our trustees, we are seeking a conservative approach to methodically improve programs and compensation while we continue to reduce district-wide operational costs.

I also am very proud of our community partners, who just recently helped us achieve these milestones:

  • The Council on Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development (CREEED) will provide $100,00 in teacher scholarships for dual-credit certification.
  • Government Employees Credit Union of El Paso (GECU) has committed to open a branch at Coronado High. This partnership will offer students instruction on personal finance, job training and potentially job experience.
  • One of our most exciting innovations in the area of early childhood education is our partnership with the YWCA of El Paso, which will create more learning opportunities for our youngest students in pre-kinder around the district.
  • Finally, Verizon chose EPISD as 1 of 8 districts across the country to receive 3800 4G iPads at 5 middle schools. This tremendous award is valued at over $3 million dollars and will align with our PowerUP initiative.

The momentum is swinging in EPISD’s favor and we ask you to join us on this wave of positive momentum. The I AM EPISD spirit is spreading across the district as everyone works to improve our schools by excelling in their roles. Teachers, join us this summer for one of the many training opportunities we have planned for you. Parents, keep up with us on social media and help us keep your children engaged in their learning over the summer. You deserve a District that is on the forefront in education, and so do our students. Together, we will become one of the premier school districts in the nation.

My best to you and your families. Have a safe and restful summer.

Juan E. Cabrera

Twitter: @jecabrera12

Former Board Manager returns to EPISD

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It’s such a pleasure to return to the El Paso Independent School District and serve the children of our community once again. Serving as one of the five members of the Board of Managers that was appointed by the state to move the District forward was a challenging but rewarding experience. And now, as the newly-appointed Deputy Superintendent for Finance and Operations, I am ready to continue working on behalf of the students, employees and taxpayers of EPISD.

Things have changed since I first was appointed to the Board of Managers three years ago. My colleagues and I came in with a strong group of community leaders to help rebuild and restructure the administration, which at that moment had been plagued by uncertainty. I was happy to bring to the district my expertise in public finance, school budgeting and financial management.

And while my time as a Board Manager had been my most high-profile position with EPISD, my journey with the District started many years before that. I first joined EPISD as the Budget Director in 1997 and later become Executive Director of Finance, Budget and Accounting until 1999. I continued my career in school finance when I become the Associate Superintendent for Finance at the Gadsden Independent School District, and then moved on to the City of El Paso where I was the Chief Financial Officer for several years.

A little more than a year ago, I left the city to take a financial management job in the private sector.

I am excited to return to EPISD and to public service. In this new role, I will not only oversee the District’s financial side of the house but also the operational one. EPISD Operations includes the facilities, maintenance and transportation. We will continue to streamline our systems and operations in order to be fiscally responsible and equitable. Ultimately, the more efficient and strategic we become, the more we will be able to invest in our academic programming, teachers, staff, and our most important resource — our students.

The District has experienced tremendous transformation under the leadership of Superintendent Juan Cabrera, and I am excited to be part of his administration.

—Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria, Deputy Superintendent for Finance and Operations.