EPISD Bond moving along to benefit students

episd-carmenarrieta-candelaria-copyOn November 8th, the El Paso Independent School District received a significant vote of confidence from the community it serves. On that day, the voters approved a bond program that will fund a $668.7-million modernization of EPISD. The bond will help the District modernize most of its high schools, replace and fix outdated facilities and right-size the number of campuses EPISD currently operates. The bond also would fund a large technology investment at the middle-school level and provide money to help pay for security upgrades and new school buses.  In other words, the voters in EPISD felt it was time to invest in their schools at an unprecedented level.

I want to thank the El Paso community for the show of confidence it has given the District. We understand we have a hard task ahead of us as we work to complete the projects we communicated to the public. But we also know that we have assembled a team of dedicated, ethical and, best of all, highly prepared individuals who will help bring these projects to reality.

Throughout the informational campaign that preceded the election, we heard from many people who were aware of the needs the District faced and supported our schools in their effort to become better prepared to educate future-ready students. We want to thank these parents and residents for looking at the big picture and understanding that the investment that is about to be made into our schools will have a tremendous impact on the future of our neighborhoods and communities.

We also met individuals who expressed concern about the Bond, especially given the recent history of mismanagement in the District. We also wish to thank them for reminding us of the work that we need to do to regain the trust of everyone in El Paso. Under Superintendent Juan Cabrera’s leadership, EPISD has made strides in becoming a District that performs with ethics and character. We also have established new and improved policies and practices that create transparency in our operations so that the residents and taxpayers can feel more at peace knowing that their money is being used properly.

EPISD is moving forward with plans to begin the implementation of the 2016 bond. Already, our staff is working arduously to get a head start on the preparations that often come with the start of construction. The Board of Trustees has given the Administration up to 5 years to complete all Bond projects, and we intend to meet that aggressive timeline. As we await the selling of bonds and the selection of architects and builders, we know there is some work we can already be doing in house to help get those projects underway.

We also have taken three significant first steps in the implementation of the Bond Program:

  1. The Board of Trustees has approved the creation of the Bond Oversight Committee that will charged with providing an additional layer of accountability to each and every construction project. This committee — which will be made up of taxpayers and stakeholders who do not work for the District — will review documents, tour construction sites and provide key recommendations to the Board of Trustees.
  2. The Board of Trustees has entered into negotiations with the Jacobs Engineering Group for a contract that would manage all construction in the 2016 bond. Jacobs will help EPISD stay on time and on budget with all bond construction, and they also will help maintain an online tracker of bond projects that taxpayers and residents can review.
  3. The District has also approved the first issuance of the bonds in the amount of $200,000,000. These monies will move the bond program forward and allow the District to implement many of the short-term projects such as technology and playgrounds as well as hire the architects that will work on the brick and mortar projects.

As we head into the holiday season and reflect on the year that is about to end, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the EPISD community for the trust it has placed on all of us. We promise to keep you, and the 60,000 students in our District, on top of our minds as we push forward with the task of making EPISD a modern and future-ready school district.

Happy holidays! Have a wonderful break!

Carmen Arrieta-Candelaria

El Paso ISD

Deputy Superintendent

Finance & Operations

Thank you, El Paso!

Thank you, El Paso, for this momentous and historic win for our community and the children of EPISD!

Last night, you took a bold step forward with us in trust and partnership in acknowledging that it’s time to leave the past behind and focus on our future.   This decision is a vote of confidence for the work that is being done in our classrooms by our teachers, devoted staff and Leadership — all with the common goal of improving the quality of education and quality of life in El Paso.

Because of your support, EPISD will continue the work of transforming our instructional platform and modernizing our learning environments to help students reach their potential.   Over the last three years, the work of rebuilding our schools has been our primary focus.   Now the work begins anew as we see this vision take shape in the form of new and improved schools.

We thank the El Paso community for embracing our vision. Thank you, to the Board of Trustees for taking this courageous step.  We are committed to continuing with transparency and community involvement. This has been a bedrock principle for this Board and Administration.

Now let’s get out there and get to work!

See you at the polls. Vote!

It’s difficult to believe that we have completed the first two months of school and the end of the calendar year is fast approaching.

The 2016-17 school year already has been monumental. El Paso High celebrated its 100th anniversary. More than 18,000 high school students took the PSAT and SAT as part of a district wide college-readiness initiative. Bowie High School dedicated its gymnasium to sports icon Nolan Richardson. And, finally, the Board of Trustees called for a historic bond referendum.

Yes, it’s already been a busy year. We have amazing teachers and District employees who day in and day out stay focused on our No. 1 goal: ensuring the academic success of students in EPISD. As I remind myself and staff often, we exist only for that one goal — to help students succeed.

We have visited with hundreds of people over the last several weeks and participated in nearly 200 meetings aimed at informing our community about the vision for the future at EPISD. I am grateful and humbled by the many who want to be part of the renaissance at EPISD.

Of course, we have also heard from some who have expressed concerns. We value and respect their opinions. We have worked diligently to build a transparent district. Transparency includes maintaining an open dialogue with our community and being willing to hear all sides. It’s when we all come together to be part of the solution that will truly move forward and prosper.

We are humbled by the support of our community and thankful that the work that is being done by our teachers and students is not going unnoticed.

Some of the groups who have recently supported our efforts are:

  • The El Paso American Federation of Teachers and the El Paso Teacher’s Association, two groups that together represent the bulk of the educators in EPISD.
  • The Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, which represents the region’s business community.
  • The El Paso Firefighters Association Local 51, which represents hundreds of El Paso Fire Department employees and retirees.
  • The El Paso County Medical Society, an important group of healthcare professionals.
  • The Greater El Paso Association of Realtors, which represents real estate professionals in charge of attracting home and commercial buyers to our region.
  • The El Paso Times editorial board, the largest media company in the region.
  • Elected officials like Congressman Beto O’Rourke, State Sen. José Rodríguez, state Rep. Cesar Blanco and elected state Rep. Lina Ortega

I want to thank all of you for your hard work and commitment. Our community is taking notice of the transformation. You can be proud to wear the I AM EPISD badge. I know I am.

We urge the voters to learn more about the Bond and to head to the polls in an informed manner to cast a vote in this election. You can find more details about the Bond election on www.episd.org/episdbond

See you at the polls!

Relationships: The Key to Success

The key to success is having strong healthy positive relationships. What is a “positive relationship”? It is the correspondence between two variables (Trochim, 2006). In our case, the variables are individuals who surround us at work and home. Those variables are coworkers, supervisors, spouses, children, parents, siblings, friendships, and students. Let’s stop and think of those we most value. Why do those stand out? Perhaps because they mean something to us. They add value to our life. High or low value between the relationship is the concept that differentiates between positive and negative relationships (Trochim, 2006). Within the social emotional spectrum lies the awareness of our emotions and relationship skills. We can also define those relationships who we prefer not to interact with often. We must work on managing our emotions and making healthy choices in what we say and what we do for those brief moments that may seem eternal.  All of us deal with others on a daily basis but in the educational field, the most significant individuals are our students.

We all want successful, healthy friendships that we can turn to when we most need them. We definitely appreciate relationships with significant others to share our lives with. We want to connect with our own children and ensure they can come to us in challenging as well as celebratory times. We want to count on our parents to be good listeners and have them to lean on when times are tough. We want civil gatherings at family reunions. We want to be invited to gatherings and we know who we would and who we wouldn’t invite to our own. Why, because relationships are important. They are the essence of our survival. We may survive on an island with a face painted on a ball but then again, we wouldn’t know for how long.

So let’s evaluate our relationships with students.

Students also need someone to turn to, someone they can share their everyday life with, someone to connect to in good times and in bad. They want someone to listen and someone they can lean on. While some have stability, many do not. Even those of us that do have it, need more of it. Building positive relationships with students will enhance their emotional, physical, social, and mental state, hence creating successful well-rounded lives.

Challenge yourself to enhance a relationship today. Add value to someone’s life and in turn, they will add value to yours.

 

Connie Loya

Student Success Coordinator

School Leadership Operations

 

View: Rita Pierson – Relationships

https://youtu.be/aw29ecpDpoM

Safety and security important to teaching and learning

Quality teaching and learning requires more than great teachers and eager students. We know that instruction is enhanced when students, teachers and parents know their schools are safe and secure.

Parents send us their very best every morning and as a District we make a vow each day to educate and look after the children of the community. That’s why it is a priority for EPISD to do what it can to create safe learning spaces.

This week the District had focused on informing the public about the proposed upgrades to safety and security the 2016 EPISD Bond election would fund if the voters decide so.

These upgrades include lighting upgrades at every EPISD school. This is the type of lighting that keep our parking lots illuminated and safe for our teachers who work past dusk and students whose extracurricular activities keep them on campus until late.

Every school also would get new motion sensors to trigger lights to go on when teachers and students walk the halls of the campus. Again, we feel appropriate lighting can help us bring another layer of safety to our schools.

The District had made a significant investment in installing the Raptor System in all of our schools. The Raptor system runs the identification cards off all visitors through different criminal databases so that campuses know just exactly who is trying to access the schools. But Raptor functions only if visitors to our schools are funneled through the front office. The Bond would fund the replacement of perimeter fencing at several schools.

I invite you to learn more about the safety and security aspects of the Bond by logging on to www.episd.org/episdbond. You can also watch the informational video below:

Bilingualism is Brain Food!

I wanted to share this exciting news clip with our amazing “I am EPISD” staff and educators.  At EPISD we believe that bilingualism not only expands cognitive abilities, but is also an economic differentiator for all of our students, which helps them prepare to work in a global economy.

Additionally, dual language, when implemented in our two-way model, fulfills our goal of driving “Active Learning” across the district.  Two-way dual language not only helps our students learn from one other, but it also can teach them how to collaborate with their peers to meet their learning goals.

I know it has taken a tremendous amount of work by many of you to make this dream a reality.  And while we are not yet fully-implemented at every school, we are well on our way to building a Dual Language District!

Many thanks to our amazing school leaders and dual-language teachers for all their energy and efforts to create a Dual Language District.  Special thanks to our progressive trustees for believing and investing in our dual language programs. Most importantly, thanks to our community for supporting this initiative.

To watch this great story on the benefits of bilingualism, click the video below:

Juan

Social Emotional Learning in EPISD

Happy New Year!

By now we are in our second week of school and our enrollment, programming, and quick wins are on a roll. Thank you for attracting and retaining more students to EPISD. This week we are featuring our School Leadership Operations Department and introducing our Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Blog. This department spearheads three key initiatives aimed at improving school culture and climate as well as developing student personal and interpersonal competencies. Additionally, it leads and supports family engagement efforts district-wide. 

The department is led by Ray Lozano, Executive Director, and is supported by three coordinators focused on supporting all schools in the implementation of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), as well as the multi-year implementation of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and at-risk minority male student mentorships at all traditional high schools and all middle schools. The three coordinators are: Sandra Montes-Uranga, Leadership Support Coordinator; Connie Loya, Student Success Coordinator and Velma Sasser, Student Success Coordinator.

The School Leadership Operations Department works closely with the Guidance and Counseling Department, led by Manuel Castruita, on the implementation of SEL and student mentorship. Mary Beth Farkas serves as the liaison between the two departments and has been instrumental in aligning SEL support efforts.

We are partnering with the Collaborative for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (CASEL) for the purpose of conducting an on-site needs assessment of the District’s readiness to implement social-emotional learning. CASEL is an internationally recognized organization that serves to build capacity and awareness in addressing social-emotional needs of students and adults. They have helped us facilitate attainment of the goals outlined in our EPISD 2020 Strategic Plan. In short, Initiative 2 of the strategic plan outlines an ambitious vision to implement SEL programming district-wide by the year 2020. 

This is truly an exciting time in the history of El Paso ISD! The Board of Trustees and Superintendent Cabrera have mapped out a vision that addresses academic outcomes while also placing equal importance on the social-emotional development of our children. Research indicates that students with a strong, positive relationship with their teachers have better performance. Conversely, a punitive approach to challenging behaviors can undermine the quality of teacher-student relationships. 

Mr. Lozano and I will be blogging stories, suggestions, and research on social-emotional learning (SEL). Stay tuned to our SEL_BLOG, as we know a high touch is crucial to high tech students. Today‘s students need teachers to model warmth and empathy. 

Ivonne Durant
Deputy Superintendent of Academics and School Leadership