All school employees eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations

All Texas school employees and child care workers are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations. The change comes after President Joe Biden urged every state to make vaccinating educators a priority. Biden's goal is to get first doses in arms of school employees by the end of March and to every adult by early summer. Vaccination remains voluntary, but school employees will be given priority access at sites throughout Texas along with residents previously eligible under Phases 1A and 1B. CVS, H-E-B and Walmart are among the pharmacies partnering with the federal government to vaccinate Texans. Click here to find other providers in your area.

Because demand continues to outpace supply, many school districts are working with health providers to help their employees get vaccinated. For example, Arlington ISD sent staff a sign-up sheet for slots on Monday.
Securing appointments should get easier by month's end now that the FDA has approved the use of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine in the U.S.
TEA: Masks required unless school board votes to rescind

Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state's mask mandate would be lifted effective March 10, despite objections from health experts and education groups, including TCTA, who say the action is premature. In response, TEA said masks are still required, unless a school board votes to change district policy. Based on media reports so far, it appears many districts will keep mask mandates in place ahead of spring break to give school boards time to meet and discuss the issue. TCTA reminds members that those wishing to provide input to their school boards have the right to sign up and speak on any agenda item being considered.

We have all the latest state and federal guidance in our COVID-19 FAQs on 2020-21 Education Issues. This week we updated guidance on student assessments, including TELPAS, and LPAC responsibilities. While this information is not legal advice, we hope it helps answer questions you may have about COVID-19's impact on schools. Members who have specific concerns or questions should call the Legal Department at 888-879-8282.
Join us Saturday to earn 4.5 hours of CPE credit
All TCTA members are invited to join us Saturday (March 6) for three free 90-minute continuing professional education sessions:
  • At 10:30 a.m., TCTA's lobby team will review current events at the Capitol and our legislative priorities.
  • At 1 p.m., member David Walker will discuss National Board certification for teachers and how that relates to the teacher incentive allotment.
  • At 3 p.m., TCTA staff attorneys will talk about COVID-19's impact on teacher contracts, rights and benefits before taking audience questions.
Preregistration is required and space is limited to 500 participants in Zoom (overflow will watch via live stream). If you previously registered for these sessions as part of TCTA's 2021 Virtual Convention, you do not need to register again, the links are on TCTA's convention page. If you are unable to join us Saturday, session recordings will be available for viewing by March 15.
Convention delegates elect statewide officers

State President Twila Read of Grand Prairie presided over TCTA's 2021 Virtual Convention last week as delegates elected statewide officers and authorized TCTA staff to begin the process of reviewing and updating TCTA's governance documents. The following members were elected to two-year terms on TCTA's Executive Board:
  • Eleanore Malone of Tyler, president-elect
  • Jennifer Hutchinson of Hays Cons., Governance Committee chair
  • Cristal Isaacks of Levelland, Legislation Committee chair
  • Debra Helbert of Lamar Cons., Membership Committee chair
  • Sharron Wood of Little Cypress-Mauriceville, Professional Rights & Responsibilities Committee chair
  • Joyce McCurdy of Wichita Falls was elected to a one-year term as Curriculum & Instruction Committee chair to fill a vacancy.
New terms begin June 1 when Sherry Miller of Killeen takes office as state president for 2021-22.

Several District Coordinating Councils also elected district directors:
  • District 1: Carmen Garza of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo
  • District 3: James Garcia of Victoria
  • District 4: Dawn Hopkins of Lamar Cons.
  • District 9: Holly Lucas of Wichita Falls
  • District 13: Natalie Tatsch of Gonzales
  • District 15: Brec Espinoza of Brownwood
  • District 16: Christina Johnson of Amarillo
  • District 19: Scott Berkenpas of Socorro
Ruben Chavez of Edcouch-Elsa and Stephanie Granado of McAllen were elected as Directors-At-Large for terms beginning June 1.
Morath briefs House Public Education panel
The House Public Education Committee held its first meeting of the session Tuesday, kicking off with a briefing from Education Commissioner Mike Morath. School employees were stung last week by a conversation among senators implying that some school districts may not have tried hard enough to retrieve missing students. But Morath noted that he has heard from educators and parents and believes that they are working extremely hard to get students to attend and engage.

Sen. Lucio filed a TRS sunset bill last week that includes recommendations from a recent review to improve operations at TRS. Things continue to move slowly in the House and Senate, which are both adjourned until Tuesday.

Throughout the session, you can find daily Updates from the Capitol and track key legislation related to education in our Bill Summaries.
TCTA gets quick response from TEA about TELPAS

On Feb. 24, TCTA sent a letter to Commissioner Mike Morath expressing member concerns and requesting that he clarify to the field that TELPAS writing samples do not need to be handwritten, and that the TELPAS testing window be extended. On Feb. 25, TEA updated its Spring 2021 Assessment Guidance doing exactly that. The TELPAS window was extended until May 28. Click here to read more.
Miguel Cardona takes office as U.S. Secretary of Education

In a 64-33 vote on Monday, the Senate confirmed lifelong educator Miguel Cardona as the next head of the U.S. Department of Education. He was sworn in on Tuesday. As Education Secretary, his first priorities are getting teachers vaccinated and reopening schools nationwide that have been closed amid the pandemic.
Coalition seeks teacher input on workplace bullying, COVID

The National Workplace Bullying Coalition is seeking input from teachers about workplace bullying amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The research study focuses on the relationship between teachers who experience workplace bullying and the symptoms of anxiety, depression, intention to leave, workplace dissatisfaction and burnout. Participation is voluntary and surveys should be completed by March 15. Click here to take the survey.
Abbott appoints SBEC members for new terms

Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed Kyrsten Arbuckle and Melissa Isaacs and reappointed Rohanna Brooks-Sykes and Emily Garcia to the State Board for Educator Certification for terms set to expire on Feb. 1, 2025. Additionally, he appointed Bob Brescia for a term set to expire on Feb. 1, 2023. The board develops certification and continuing education requirements and standards of conduct for public school teachers. Click here to read more.
  • March 17 is St. Patrick's Day.
  • March 31 is Cesar Chavez Day.
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