Monday, January 31, 2022

OUSD considers closing up to 13 schools permanently, school board member says

I learned about this tonight from one of my doctoral students here at UT. I am glad to see the community organizing to protest this. An important concern is making a decision like this during a pandemic when families and communities have little access to schools.

Even just considering this hurts and its hurtful.

-Angela Valenzuela

OUSD considers closing up to 13 schools permanently, school board member says

Updated 12:25PM
OaklandKTVU FOX 2

Parents react to Oakland schools being considered for elimination

The Oakland Unified School District is considering as many as 13 schools to close permanently at the end of this school year, although the list, and decision to close any schools, is still tentative, according to the Oakland Unified School District. KTVU's Emma Goss reports.

The Oakland Unified School District is considering as many as 13 schools to close permanently at the end of this school year, although the list, and decision to close any schools, is still tentative, according to the Oakland Unified School District. 

On the potential chopping block are predominantly elementary schools, according to a preliminary list provided to KTVU by OUSD school board director Mike Hutchinson. More schools could close or merge the year after.

A spokesperson for OUSD noted that the final list, which may be trimmed down, won't be public until the end of the week. 

Additionally, the reason for drawing up a list of schools to consider closing or merging came from a Jan. 12 Board of Education decision, which tasked the OUSD superintendent and staff with creating a consolidation plan. All of it is tentative for now.

The Board of Education will hear a presentation on Monday with full details on the proposal to eliminate certain schools. The board will vote on the proposal in a special meeting Feb. 8. 

Hutchinson is asking why these decisions are being made so quickly.

"There's a real question about why these schools, why now, and how is this proper during a pandemic with no community engagement at all?"

Parents at La Escuelita Elementary, a k-8 school in Oakland, are already gearing up to protest potentially closing the school, with a parent meeting set for Thursday, according to Sanela Osmancevic, whose daughter is a third-grader at the school

"We are going to organize because this is an amazing school," Osmancevic said. "We love it, it's close to our home, we know the whole community, it's not ok."

A Facebook Group called "Oakland is Not for Sale" is already active, sharing a flier encouraging people to form a car caravan on Feb. 1 and 3 in protest of the school closures.

Among the schools on the list to consider closing at the end of this year: five elementary schools, two middle schools, two k-8 schools, and one high school. There are also continuation and alternative high schools listed and two elementary schools may merge.

The issue of school closures is not a new one in Oakland. 

The district has long faced budget shortfalls and under enrolled classrooms. Communities have also opposed closing schools in their neighborhoods despite the fiscal realities. 





Carl Munck

Parker (k-8) elementary

Grass valley

La Escuelita (k-8)


Hillcrest (6-8)

High school:

Community Day

Continuation and alternative high school



Street academy


Highlands (k-5) and RISE (Tk-5)



Horace Mann


Manzanita Community




Accord Elementary and Encompass Elementary

Think College Now and International Community School

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Dr. Emilio Zamora, UT Professor in History, Appointed to the Clyde Rabb Littlefield Chair in Texas History

Great news! So happy to present the truly excellent news of my husband, Dr. Emilio Zamora, receiving an endowed chair at the University of Texas at Austin! You can learn more about his work from his page at the UT History Department, as well as from his Google Scholar profile. 

Very few scholars ever get such high-status recognition like this that provide valuable resources for meritorious scholars like Emilio that allow them to continue with, and deepen their, work to which they have committed their lives. Although I am, of course, biased, this couldn't have happened to a better scholar, particularly at this time when our histories and identities are under attack. So happy for, and proud of, you, Emilio! 

-Angela Valenzuela


The University of Texas at Austin has appointed Emilio Zamora, Professor in History, to the Clyde Rabb Littlefield Chair in Texas History, effective Fall 2022. An endowed chair is one of the highest honors that a university can bestow on a faculty member. Dean Ann Stevens from the College of Liberal Arts announced that the appointment recognizes “extraordinary scholarly accomplishments and service.” Other institutions have recognized Dr. Zamora’s extensive record of scholarship and service to his profession and Mexican and Latino communities. These include: the 2017 Scholar of the Year Award from the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS); the 2017 NACCS Tejas Foco Premio Estrella de Aztlán Lifetime Achievement Award; the 2018 Award of Excellence from the City of Austin’s Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center; the 2019 Ruth A. Allen Pioneer in Texas Working Class History Award from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies, Collin College; and the 2021 Roy Rosenzweig Distinguished Service Award from the Organization of American Historians. 

In addition to elevating Professor Zamora’s prestige as a historian and public intellectual, the Clyde Rabb Littlefield Chair in Texas History provides support for his research agenda which include two forthcoming books: a high school textbook on the history of Mexican Americans in Texas that he co-edits with Professor Andres Tijerina and co-authors with Drs. Sonia Hernández, Amy Porter and Guadalupe San Miguel; and a translated and edited study of En Defensa de Mi Raza, a two volume work (1936-37) by Alonso S. Perales, arguably the most influential Mexican American civil rights leader of the twentieth century and the principal founder of the League of United Latin American Citizens. The endowed chair is named after a major benefactor to the University of Texas, Mr. Clyde Rabb Littlefield (1931-2018), a command historian with the U.S. military, a member of the advisory board for the University's Center for American History and a respected member of the university community. When asked to comment on the appointment, Professor Zamora stated, “I am honored, of course, but I especially appreciate the recommendations by Professor Daina Berry, the Chair of the History Department, and Dean Ann Stevens. More than that, I share the honor with my family, Dr. Angela Valenzuela, my supportive life partner, and my Mexican cultural community that I respectfully represent and serve.

Please visit Dr. Zamora's UT History Department profile.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Stress, Hypervigilance, and Decision Fatigue: Teaching During Omicron," by Katy Farber

Education in our state is in crisis. This gripping Edweek piece authored by teacher Katy Farber does a good job of illustrating just how hard things are for teachers right now. This is so incredibly concerning, particularly in light of recent news reports on many Texas superintendents quitting their jobs together with teachers not staying beyond their first year

Let's consider positive structural changes to the teaching profession right now. Among other things, we need to reduce the number of standardized tests that they are required to administer currently. This robs children and teachers of precious instructional time. Low teacher salaries are also a culprit, as well as working conditions. They need more time to prepare instructional units and to enjoy the healthy lifestyle that they need and deserve.

My daughter is a music teacher and feel like I have a front-row seat to this crisis. She would echo everything expressed in this piece. If you have a child in school, be sure to show love to their teachers. And to their principals and office staff, too! 💗

-Angela Valenzuela

Stress, Hypervigilance, and Decision Fatigue: Teaching During Omicron

And, no, “self care” isn’t the answer
By Katy Farber — January 24, 2022

“I have no words to describe what it is like to be a teacher right now.”

That is what I tweeted at the end of a day earlier this month, sitting on the couch while COVID-19 cases surged everywhere. As a writer and a teacher, I had no words to describe what was happening.

After sitting down to write this essay, I found a few words.

Teachers are in hypervigilance mode. We have been for the past two years. Teaching already had problems with attrition before the pandemic. And now? Those problems are all magnified, and we’ve added hypervigilance, times 10.

Teachers’ nervous systems have been in overdrive, firing constantly, during this pandemic. At first, way back in 2020, we were consumed with getting kids what they needed for remote learning. And then we had to figure out how to lead remote learning meaningfully. How do you use a new modality to deliver instruction? Why didn’t that student show up on screen today? Am I even being effective?

Then we went back to school in person. There were a lot of new protocols to follow. Many were unmanageable—including limited or no planning time, daily cleaning, physical distancing in small classrooms, open windows on cold winter days, no touching each other or surfaces. We got used to wearing masks for seven hours at a time. (Tell me, again, why it’s so hard to wear them at the grocery store?)

Our students were happy to be back in school. We went about trying to care for them, to provide joy, learning, and belonging in a fractured society, during an ongoing health crisis. This fall, life loosened a bit, and we carried on, teaching as best we could with restrictions in an environment that was constantly changing. We thought the worst was behind us.

As teachers, we heard a lot about self-care, in suggestions to practice mindfulness, yoga, or gratitude. It was our responsibility as teachers to “self-care” our way through this pandemic. But better outcomes happen when we change systems. For example, teachers can’t take “care” of ourselves unless we are given daily prep time or enough sick time to care for a family member that has to quarantine.

With the spread of omicron, the first week of the new year felt like a year. The virus is ripping through communities. Staff and students are getting sick. Almost everyone I know is a close contact. The hypervigilance we feel for the safety of the students in our care and our colleagues is at an all-time high. But now, there are fewer protocols in place and no plan for if or when to go remote. We are in a lion’s den with no clear directions about how to get to safety.

Our bodies and brains are in a constant state of hypervigilance at every level:

How can I keep my students calm, happy, safe, and protected? From guns. From abuse. From hunger. From a virus. This feels impossible, but we try and try each day to help them feel OK in a world that feels far from OK.

How can I best support my students who are stuck at home because of illness or quarantine? What is the best modality for each family? Remote? Printed packets? And all this while trying to also teach in person, while filling in for sick colleagues, while wondering if I am going to get sick next. How will the school run if I do call in? The worry never stops.

Hypervigilance bleeds into our home lives as parents and caretakers. Are the kids OK? Are they depressed? Do we do sleepovers? Good for mental health, bad for a possible spread. Do we see our elders? Good for mental health, bad for a possible spread. Do we test? Do we pose a threat? The hamster wheel goes round and round.

Before COVID-19, I sometimes struggled with simple decisions at the end of the teaching day, like what to make for dinner, what shampoo to pick. This is called decision fatigue. But now? The decisionmaker part of my brain is currently tapped out.

Some nights, we can’t turn our brains off because from the minute we got up to the minute we hit the bed, our nervous system was on high alert.

Teachers have dealt with every scenario at school—physically, emotionally, intellectually. That’s why our loved ones sometimes see an empty stare at the end of the day. We teachers have used up all our energy for decisions, protection, care, safety, emotions at school. There is often nothing left at the end of the day. No tolerance for big toddler tantrums, long conversations, negotiations with tweens and teenagers, making plans and logistics. We are often unable to respond to the needs of our own families with active, compassionate listening, decisionmaking, or planning.
The hypervigilance continues well into the night with emails and texts. Close contacts. New cases. Changing plans. Substitute plans and shortages. New protocols. We nervously check our phones for news of cut pensions, wildly increasing COVID-19 cases, crowded hospitals. We try to sleep. But some nights, we can’t turn our brains off because from the minute we got up to the minute we hit the bed, our nervous system was on high alert.

Nature helps. Meditation helps. Rest helps. It still feels like holding up a tsunami with our hands and a snorkel mask. We can only do it for so long.

And this is what I am experiencing in a highly vaccinated state in New England with strict mask requirements in schools. I cannot imagine how much worse this sense of dread, doom, and fear is in states where largely unvaccinated students and staff members are not wearing masks.

I worry about my colleagues. How many incredible people will we continue to lose to attrition; to mental illness; to diseases related to stress, inflammation, lack of sleep; to a delayed surgery, delayed treatments? Or to COVID?

I worry about missing moments with my daughters, time I won’t ever get back. I worry about the times I might be there physically while my mind is still working.

Op-Ed: Removing Indigenous concepts from ethnic studies sends a terrible message to California’s students

Glad to see that the LA Times published this op-ed by Sean Arce, Theresa Montaño and Guadalupe Cardona. This is indeed such a terrible decision and needs to get reversed. Don't we all want to promote unifying, community-building values in this current moment of division and polarization? To deny this is to cave-in to the very forces of division against which In Lak'Ech speaks.

This in no way signals religion, but rather a philosophy or cosmology. Native people's didn't even have a word for "religion" until the Europeans came along and insisted on it as part of their assimilationist campaigns that continue into the present. Such irony that this move by liberal leaders in California yet again reinscribes these age-old projects of empire.

-Angela Valenzuela

Op-Ed: Removing Indigenous concepts from ethnic studies sends a terrible message to California’s students

A student’s presentation for their ethnic studies class on display in a Los Angeles classroom.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)


Removing the Indigenous concepts In Lak’ech and Ashe from California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, on the false premise that they are religious, sends a message to all of the state’s students, especially those who are Chicanx, Black and Native, that their cultures are not worth fighting for.

Last September, the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation and three San Diego parents sued the California Department of Education and the California State Board of Education, claiming that In Lak’ech was an Aztec prayer and Ashe was a religious chant. The suit argued that including texts that involved these concepts in the state’s recommended ethnic studies curriculum violated the Establishment Clause of California’s constitution. Last week, even though they denied the allegations and did not admit to any liability, the defendants settled the case to avoid further litigation. They agreed to excise both affirmations from the model curriculum and communicate those deletions to districts, schools and education boards.

The Californians for Equal Rights Foundation, a group that has worked against ethnic studies and anti-racist initiatives in San Diego schools, claimed that one of the In Lak’ech texts referenced in the recommended ethnic studies curriculum was an “Aztec prayer.” That poem, written by Luis Valdez and often used in California ethnic studies classes as an affirmation promoting values such as respect and empathy, is based in Mayan philosophy, not religion. The lawsuit also argued that an Ashe affirmation in the model curriculum was a religious chant, even though Ashe is a concept that refers to the power to effect change that comes from the Yoruba in Nigeria.

There is legal precedent that argues for including In Lak’ech: In Arce vs. Douglas, an Arizona case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that suppressing Indigenous knowledge constituted “racial animus” against Chicanx/Latinx.

Prior to last week’s settlement, less than 9% of the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum was dedicated specifically to Chicanx/Latinx studies even though 55% of California’s K-12 students are Chicanx/Latinx. Eliminating the In Lak’ech Maya poem and Ashe African affirmation from the curriculum demonstrates both the lack of knowledge that leaders have about those cultures and a disinterest in standing up and fighting for students’ educational well-being, especially Black and brown students. This erasure of Indigenous knowledge is not new — American education is steeped in historical bias and racial trauma.

Many ethnic studies teachers feature In Lak’ech and Ashe in their classrooms to establish a sense of belonging, especially for Chicanx/Latinx and Black students. The removal of the concepts delivers the message to Chicanx/Latinx and African American/Black students that their communities’ knowledge and cultures are illegitimate and unworthy of defending. Notably, Chicanx/Latinx, Black and Native youth constitute the majority of California’s K-12 students but remain subject to a Eurocentric curriculum.

Passing AB 101, which requires California students to take an ethnic studies course prior to high school graduation, was a promise to honor the historical and cultural experiences of Chicanx, Latinx, Black, Asian and Pacific Islander, American Indian and other communities of color. As long as the In Lak’ech and Ashe concepts being taught do not reflect or promote discrimination against any person or group, or teach or promote religious doctrine, they are within the parameters of the legislation.

The majority of California’s student population should not have their cultures subject to erasure every time litigation is threatened. In the end, if our educational leaders remove key principles and concepts from the model curriculum instead of fighting for their inclusion, no matter how long or costly the court battle may be, they are essentially denying California’s students an authentic ethnic studies education and, in this case, dishonoring Indigenous legacies.

Sean Arce is an ethnic studies high school teacher in Los Angeles, the co-founder of Tucson’s Mexican American/Raza Studies Department and a plaintiff in the 9th Circuit case Arce vs. Douglas. Theresa Montaño is a professor of Chicana/o studies and a practitioner and activist in ethnic studies. Guadalupe Cardona is a secondary educator in the LAUSD.

4 Dallas-area campuses named National Blue Ribbon Schools

This is the 2nd time that Trini Garza High School, headed by principal Dr. Macario Hernandez wins national Blue Ribbon school. In 2018, the school won National Title I Distinguished Award as captured in this earlier post on the school's accomplishments that delves into why they are so successful: Dallas early college campus singled out as one of the nation’s top schools for low-income students

That piece references the importance of having teachers that come from the community. Dr. Hernandez himself is a member of this community. This aligns with a growing research literature that points to the power of community-based teachers to educate the children in their own communities.

You did it again, Macario. None of this happens without excellent leadership—and to do so in the throes of a pandemic is no small thing. 

I hope you get a promotion. You're amazing! 

Felicidades! Congratulations!

-Angela Valenzuela

4 Dallas-area campuses named National Blue Ribbon Schools

The coveted honor recognizes schools for high performance and closing achievement gaps.

Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy was just recognized as a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School for the first time since 2014. It's one of four Dallas-area campuses that received the National Blue Ribbon School honor Tuesday.(Emil Lippe / Special Contributor)

Four Dallas-area campuses received National Blue Ribbon School honors Tuesday, recognized for their high performance and work to close achievement gaps.

The schools, among 26 receiving the status in Texas, were Dallas ISD’s Trinidad “Trini” Garza Early College High School at Mountain View and Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy; Mesquite ISD’s Porter Elementary School; and Christ the King Catholic School in Dallas.

The program selects campuses based on either how well students perform on standardized tests or how much progress they make in closing achievement gaps among student groups.

Students at Garza and Gilliam typically earn college credit while completing their high school diploma as well.

The majority of those at Garza will be first-generation college students, principal Macario Hernandez said. Among its 431 students, 88% are Hispanic and about 8% are Black. More than 85% come from families that are struggling financially.

The honor is “validation for all the hard work of our teachers and our students and our parents,” Hernandez said. He added that the status is a celebration for the teachers and students who persevered despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school staff values students’ home culture, racial backgrounds and lived experiences, he said, which allows teachers and students to build relationships that transform the experience for the entire campus community.

“It’s a family that really builds on each other’s strengths,” Hernandez said. “Humility and valuing and respecting and working with people with compassion and empathy can go a long way.”

Gilliam principal Gayle Ferguson Rodgers said the award is proof that a school can perform at high levels despite its at-risk population.

A majority of its students, most of whom are Black or Hispanic, also come from low-income families.

“This award is a celebration of everyone’s efforts as we do our mission here at Gilliam, which is to have college access and success for all,” she said.

Ferguson added that being named a National Blue Ribbon School “wasn’t a goal,” but that the school’s community only focuses on delivering on its mission every day.

The staff’s commitment to the school’s vision “Every Child. Every need. Whatever it takes.” became abundantly clear for Porter Elementary Principal Leeann Englert when she began working at the Mesquite school. She credited parents for pushing the school to meet high expectations.

“The campus exudes this vision in every conversation they have and in every decision they make,” she said in a statement. “Everyone is deeply invested in the success of our children.”

The schools join more than 9,000 others that the National Blue Ribbon Schools program has recognized in the past 39 years.

“I commend all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a written statement. “In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children.”

The four local campuses are among 302 public and 23 private schools honored across the U.S. on Tuesday.

The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.

The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative, with support from The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, The Meadows Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University and Todd A. Williams Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News retains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.