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Wednesday , November 14 2018
Home | Tag Archives: El Paso ISD

Tag Archives: El Paso ISD

Video+Story: EPISD Begins Bond Work at Historic El Paso High

Students, staff and alumni at El Paso’s oldest high school came together on Thursday morning under the landmark columns of the Lady on the Hill for a ceremonial turn of dirt to mark the start of construction that is part of the 2016 EPISD Bond.

The District will spend nearly 20 million to upgrade instructional space at the school, taking into careful consideration the historic architecture that has become trademark of El Paso High School and the community as a whole.

The 2016 Bond project at El Paso High includes the construction of a new fine arts building with state-of-the-art instructional space for art, band, choir plus a recording studio and art gallery. Other upgrades include the installation of a new elevator and renovations to classrooms, bathrooms and window treatments.

“What we have here at El Paso High is a truly unique combination of modern learning facilities with historic architecture,” said Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera. “I know the community is excited to get amazing new spaces that will respect and enhance the beautiful Trost building our city loves so much.”

The District also is in the process of assessing the beautiful façade of the historic building to determine which upgrades are needed.  An architectural firm already is performing the study and should have a report ready by January.

Principal Mark Paz, surrounded by his fine arts students, thanked the community for the passage of the 2016 Bond – knowing that the new facility will be a source of pride for current and future generations of Tigers.

“I cannot begin to tell you just how excited this campus is for the 2016 Bond Project to get started,” he said. “We have a lot of programs to be proud of on this campus, but our fine arts programs have never been stronger or more popular among our students than they are right now. This new fine arts addition will ensure our students are able to compete at their full potential and enjoy a state-of-the-art facility for generations to come.”

Freshman Mariana Jo Silva stood amongst her theater peers at the steps of the 102-year-old building excited about the possibility of performing in the new fine arts building.

“Our school really appreciates the new building,” said Silva, who also marches in the Tiger band.

“Being in theater makes me feel confident and helps me get ready for the real world. I’m glad people are working together and making the commitment to doing this for the kids.”

Choir director Tim Thompson whose students kicked off the ceremony with the National Anthem looks forward to the completion of the building – especially the recording studio.

“It’s going to mean everything for our students – more room to practice and rehearse and to do sectionals. For band and orchestra, the kids won’t have to practice sectionals in the hallway. It’s going to mean a lot for an already award-winning program to do even better.”

The bond project balances maintaining the historical presence of El Paso’s first high school while offering new and upgraded facilities to keep up with 21st century learning.

“There are just a lot of benefits across the board for this bond,” Paz said. “Upkeep to the historical frame of the outside of the original building is just much needed but will be in-line with the historical facade. All of the three main buildings will have that same look with modern twists and upgrades. But if you’re driving by on Schuster, you would see a universal theme.”

The fine arts project begins construction in the coming weeks with an expected completion of fall 2020. Construction also will begin this month on new tennis courts. One of the first projects of the $668 million bond was the new turf, which was installed last summer 2017.

“We will have many more of these ceremonies in the coming months.  Our bond is going on overdrive right as we had scheduled,” Cabrera said. “We are going to deliver on our bond promises throughout EPISD by 2021. We are excited to start working.”

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy   |  Video by Angel Dominguez / EPISD

Story+Gallery: EPISD Students Celebrate 5th Annual ‘Read Across the District’

Students throughout the El Paso Independent School District paused in unison at 10 a.m. on Friday morning to pick up a book and celebrate their commitment to literacy and their love of reading as part of the annual celebration of Read Across the District.

For the fifth consecutive year, students have celebrated this unique activity in every corner of EPISD. This year’s kick off was hosted by Rosa Guerrero Elementary School.

“It’s such an honor for us to be able to showcase the passion for literacy that exists here at Rosa Guerrero Elementary,” said Principal Jill Crossley. “Books play an important part of our education process, and our students are embracing them and making them part of their every-day life.”

Local celebrities, civic leaders and district personnel visited different schools throughout EPISD to help lead reading efforts.  From local television reporters, politicians, military personnel and even a masked luchador, many El Pasoans came out to support Read Across the District.

At Guerrero, celebrity readers included Board President Trent Hatch, The Cat in the Hat and one of El Paso’s most beloved cultural icons: dancer and educator Rosa Guerrero, for whom the school is named.

Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera said Read Across the District is one of the premier events in the District, because it highlights the EPISD’s efforts to improve literacy at all grade levels.

“Access to education starts with reading and we know that our students can thrive if they have the desire to read,” Cabrera said. “I know that in the five years this event has been organized, we have instilled the love of books on thousands of kids.  To me, that is a worthwhile cause that will have a long lasting effect.”

Story by Gustavo Reveles |  Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

EPISD’s Cabrera Finalist for Urban Superintendent of the Year Award

EPISD Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera is a finalist for the Council of the Great City School’s urban superintendent of the year title that recognizes excellence among educational leaders in school districts that serve large cities in the United States.

“Mr. Cabrera has helped transform EPISD into a District of Innovation that is recognized nation-wide as a place where forward-thinking teaching and learning are a priority,” said EPISD Board President Trent Hatch. “Under his leadership, we have seen unprecedented growth in student performance and we are on a clear path to modernize not just instruction but also our facilities.”

The Council named Cabrera among one of nine finalists for the Green-Garner Award, which is the organization’s highest recognitions for urban school superintendents.

Cabrera is vying for the award along with superintendents from Denver; Miami-Dade, Fla.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Pittsburg, Pa.; Dallas; Memphis, Tenn.; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; and New York City.

The Council acknowledged Cabrera’s role in improving student performance over his tenure in EPISD.  Cabrera was a driving force in introducing the popular New Tech Network of project-based instruction into the District and helped expand the rigorous International Baccalaureate program from one high school to three other campuses – including the first middle school IB programs in the county.

This year, the Texas Education Agency’s state accountability standards showed the District is top in Region 19 and third in Texas for the number of high-performing schools.

“We are building the best EPISD in the history of El Paso, and I am honored to be part of the team that is making this happen,” Cabrera said. “All this success would not be possible without exemplary teachers and an outstanding staff who care deeply about the children of our city.”

A winner will be announced during the Council’s annual fall conference on October 25 in Baltimore, Md.

EPISD Students to Present at TEDxElPaso

Six EPISD students will share the stage with local and national leaders to share their ideas and present their platforms during the 2018 TEDxElPaso conference Saturday at the El Paso Museum of Art.

The six students, who earned their spot on the conference by presenting their ideas before a panel earlier in year, will share the stage with well-known speakers like Congressman Will Hurd, advertising executive Leslie Wingo and muralist Cimi Alvarado.

Representing EPISD at TEDxElPaso are:

  • Abigail Carrasco, Dia Ganjegunte and Lilly Luttrell from Brown Middle School;
  • Alyssa Quesada from Burges High School; and
  • Mia Milliorn and Kiyoshi Ito from Coldwell Elementary School.

The students are part of EPISD’s emerging TED Ed Clubs, which help prepare students to become public speakers and present ideas in the style of the world-famous TED Talks.

“Our objective for TEDxElPaso is not only to contribute to the global clearinghouse of free knowledge, but also to inspire you to make a dent in the universe and leave your own unique footprint,” said curator David Michael Jerome, who called the event a day that is devoted to ideas.

On Saturday, EPISD students will speak on a range of topics that include the role bees play in our environment, the importance of listening to children and happiness in our lives.

“My TED Talk is going to be about how I feel about the disadvantages and advantages about me personally being the middle child,” Coldwell’s Kiyoshi Ito said. “So it’s sort of like I’m interviewing myself and I’m telling it to other people. I learned how to be a more fluent speaker.  Being in TED Ed has also helped me to get over stage fright and be able to talk in front of a big crowd.”

The TED Talk Club also taught his classmate, Mia, how to project her voice and become a better speaker.

“I’m going to be talking about the voice of the young and how politicians or even your mom or dad should be listening to what you have to say because we are part of this world for a reason,” said Mia, also a Connections student at Coldwell.

Her talk required some research and practice to ensure her voice could be heard.

“When I got into it I didn’t really know much about it so I watched the news and I looked at websites,” she said. “I was really shy and I would talk like really whispery. To practice, they had the class stand in the back of the room so I had to be louder and show my voice because my TED Talk is about my voice.”

Mia and Kiyoshi’s teacher Christina Mier has seen how much the students have grown from participating in TED Talks.

“The program provides them a platform. These students have stories to tell and it is amazing how they really do want their voices to be heard,” Mier said. “Programs like TED Talks develop their presentation literacy and gives them that opportunity to just organize themselves, improve their skills and really just put it all on the stage.”

EPISD started the TED Ed Clubs in 2016. In 2017, 13 campuses from elementary through high school participated in the program with the eventual goal of establishing a club at every EPISD campus.

“The TED Ed Club curriculum matches components of the Active Learning Framework and New Tech,” said Esther Hughes, a facilitator for innovation who also coordinates the clubs. “It inspires members to work together to discuss and celebrate creative ideas.”

Last May, the students in the clubs presented their TED-style talk in front of a crowd and were rated on a variety of categories including delivery, idea, enthusiasm and audience awareness by representatives from TEDxElPaso. The top presentations were selected for this week’s talks.

“We are so grateful to TEDxElPaso for this partnership,” Hughes said. “Students who are selected to present are given coaching opportunities on how to present their talks.  They are exposed to influential civic- and business-minded leaders in the community who, in turn, always express what amazing students we have here at EPISD.”

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

El Paso ISD’s PSAT/SAT Day Looks to Help Students be College Ready

On Wednesday, high school students and eighth-graders throughout EPISD will participate in SAT School Day, a District initiative to create more pathways to college.

“The SAT School Day initiative is vital to our students in grades 8 through 12 because it allows them to practice and maximize their score on exams that can help open up a world of collegiate and financial aid opportunities,” said Richard Couder, College Readiness facilitator.

All seniors will be taking the SAT while students in the eighth-grade, freshmen, sophomores and juniors will take the PSAT. All testing will happen at the students’ home campuses.

“This year, our superintendent challenged all of our high school students to spend a minimum of eight hours practicing on Khan Academy prior to the SAT School Day,” Couder said. “Research shows that just eight hours of practice can raise student scores by 90 points on average. ”

The test for eighth graders and freshman (PSAT 8/9) differs from that of the sophomores and juniors. While the test itself for 10th and 11th are the same, the juniors’ test is the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholar Qualifying Test) to determine National Merit Scholars.

Students have been preparing for the exam by logging on to the Khan Academy for tips and practice questions.

For those taking the test on Wednesday, EPISD provides the following tips to prepare for the test, courtesy of Khan Academy:

The Night Before:

  • Relax!There are a lot of good reasons NOT to study the night before Test Day. Marathoners don’t go for a run before Race Day, and mental marathoners like you shouldn’t study for more than an hour on the day before you take the SAT. Your brain needs to rest in order to do its best. Read a book or hang out with a friend or two.
  • Avoid screen time.You’re going to need to get a good night’s sleep, and bright screens (televisions, phones, movies) will wake up your brain and make it more difficult to drift off at an early hour.
  • Have a healthy dinner.Drink lots of water and load up with complex carbohydrates, just like marathon runners do: potatoes, pasta and rice are good choices here, as well as protein and vegetables.
  • Organize your bag for Test Day.The night before is the time to put your ID, admission ticket, pencils, calculator, batteries and other gear in a bag by the door.

Test Morning:

  • Wake up early and have a healthy breakfast. Here are a few good choices: eggs, toast, cereal, bagel, fruit, juice, cheese, milk.
  • If you drink coffee or tea, then stick to your routine. If you don’t drink a caffeinated beverage every day, though, Test Day isn’t the time to start. You need calm, slow-burning, consistent energy today.
Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Graphic by Martín A. López  – EPISD

El Paso ISD Student Artists to Show Surrealist Work Through October 27

The EPISD Fine Arts Department presented the K-12 Student Art Exhibit “Dream a Little Dream” Surrealist Expressions, opening Thursday night at the International Art Museum. The opening was attended by hundreds of people.

All EPISD students were encouraged to participate in this art show and share their surrealist stories and dream-like imagery with their peers and with our community.

The art show currently displays close to 300 pieces in all mediums and categories: drawings, paintings, sculptures, prints and collage.

In addition to the student art exhibit, our young artists who attended the opening reception received the opportunity to enter an art supply raffle where many of them won color pencils, acrylic paints, drawing pencil sets, paper tablets, pastels and much more.

“The Surrealist exhibition is one of our most popular events due to the fact that student get a chance to “dream” and produce magical artwork to share with our community. Surrealist expressions went beyond the walls of the art museum the day of the opening,” said Fine Arts Visual Arts facilitator Rosa Aguilar.

Teachers, students and staff attended the opening reception dressed in their dream like or surrealist attire to support the young artists.

“The art exhibit shows a chronological order from elementary to high school level work. The audience is able to view the growth not only in technique and skill but also in the complex storytelling and concept of surrealism. I encourage all of our community to stop by and view the incredible creativity of our students, the quality and craftsmanship of this art show has set the tone for the rest of our EPISD art exhibits,” Aguilar said.

The exhibit will be on display from October 4-27, 2018 at the International Art Museum, located at 1211 Montana Avenue.

Story and photo by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

EPISD Students get Nuggets of Wisdom From Chick-fil-A Leadership Program

For Chick-fil-A, it’s not all about cooking chicken. The fast food franchise has teamed up with area high schools to serve up some nuggets of wisdom through its Leader Academy.

The nationwide Chick-fil-A Leader Academy engages students in monthly Leader Labs with a focus on important leadership skills that they will use to create student-led community impact projects.

Franchise owners throughout El Paso have adopted neighboring campuses to offer the Leader Academy. Burges, Silva Health Magnet, Coronado, Franklin, El Paso, Chapin and Andress are among the high schools sponsored by an area Chick-fil-A in EPISD.

“Our vision at Chick-fil-A is to make a positive impact on the lives of others and so we believe that our youth are tomorrow’s leaders,” said Joy Martinez, who owns the Airway location with her husband Anthony Martinez. “It is important to invest our time and energy so that we can give them the tools that they will need to be better equipped for the world tomorrow.”

The Martinez’s kicked off the 2018-19 Leader Academy at Burges High School on Friday with 30 students at an orientation for the year-long program. The day began with some ice breakers, an introduction to the curriculum, a boxed lunch with the famous Chick-fil-A sandwiches and a visit from Cow, the restaurant’s mascot.

The curriculum taught in the academy focuses on servant leadership – a style deeply rooted in the Chick-fil-A organization and modeled by its founder, the late S. Truett Cathy.

“Our servant-leader spirit, in which we put others first, really comes from a sense of mission to serve others with compassion dignity and respect,” Joy Martinez said. “The same compassion dignity and respect that we would want others to offer us. We want to encourage all Chick-fil-A Leader Academy students and help them in any way that we can because Anthony and I had many mentors, family members, friends who encouraged us and believed in us and helped us in our journey.”

Last year, Burges’ project created a more inclusive environment for special education students in the Community Readiness Classroom (CRC), nicknaming them “the cool kids.”

“I think this year we will just make a larger impact and keep growing the relationships we already have,” said senior Lailani Chehedeh. “I’m really excited to see the way the new students start and the way they end. Last year, even for myself, just being able to see the way I grew and began understanding different types of people and just growing relationships was really a unique experience.”

Student Activities Manager Ruth Bohlin saw the leader academy as a great opportunity for Burges students to develop virtue and civic responsibility.

“While we have our leader academy kids go through the curriculum, they also have an opportunity to build relationships with our CRC kids,” Bohlin said. “And that in itself was a wonderful opportunity for each of them – both enriching for the CRC kids and the leader academy kids.”

Joy Martinez saw first-hand how successful the program was at Burges last year.

“What I noticed was that the energy, the spirit and enthusiasm was just remarkable – truly remarkable,” she said. “Seeing the cool kids just have so much fun and feel the love was just so heartwarming. You saw all these students come together and bring a ray of sunshine to the lives of kids.”

Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

Video+Story: ‘Make Your Move El Paso’ Offers Free Health, Meditation Classes

Two of EPISD’s premiere middle-school programs are joining forces to create a one-of-a-kind mental and physical health expo aimed at helping students and adults exercise both the body and the mind.

Ross Middle School exercise program Rossfit, along with Henderson Middle School’s nationally-recognized chess team will put together the first Make Your Move El Paso Fitness Festival from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 29, at Chapin High School, located at 7000 Dyer Street.

Free classes in yoga, weightlifting, nutrition, dance and meditation will be offered throughout the day by area fitness experts and local gyms.  The event also will feature chess classes and a chess tournament featuring the nationally-ranked Henderson chess team.

“This is a great opportunity for the community to learn more about living healthier lives while getting a taste of the different exercise options available in our city,” said Bobby Macias, Make your Move El Paso coordinator. “We are encouraging parents and students to join us to experience this workout of the mind, body and soul.”

Among the gyms offering classes: RKU Athletics, Peak Fitness, Casa de Yoga, Get Lifted, CrossFit 915 and Push Fitness.

Participants are asked to sign up online and once there, searching for Make Your Move El Paso classes.

To view a poster with more information on the event, click here.

Author: Reneé de Santos  |  Photo courtesy of Rossfit – EPISD

Video+Story: El Paso ISD Students Try Exotic Fruits, Veggies During Farmer’s Markets

Students of all grades — and some teachers and parents, as well — had their palates tempted with exotic fruits and veggies that were rich in colors and taste last week during one of EPISD’s Farmers Market activities.

While the Clardy cafeteria served some tasty baked chicken nuggets, officials from Labbatt Food Services handed out trays of an array of what seemed like strange produce, including stringy and salty sea beans, bright-red dragon fruit and colorful purple cauliflower.

Labbatt, a food distributor for EPISD, sent representatives from San Antonio to explain the origin of the delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables.

“I think this opens their eyes to new items and allows them to learn about new cultures and what other countries eat as far as fruits and vegetables,” said Eireanne Robertson, produce specialist with Labbatt.

The Farmer’s Market visited Clardy, Burleson and parents at Aoy elementary schools.  The program is part of EPISD’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program, which offers healthful snacks to students in selected schools twice a week in their classroom.

The taste of the tiny South African pineapple was familiar to them but paled in comparison to the size of the fruit easily found in local grocery stores.

Orange, purple and green cauliflower seemed unusual but the texture and flavor appeared not so different.

“I thought I wasn’t going to like it but tried it and it was delicious,” said second grader Abigail Valles, who initially thought the green cauliflower was broccoli.

Many students ate up all the samples while others left a few bites. One first grader, his mouth still tinted red and purple from the passion fruit sample, cleaned his plate.

“I like this one,” he said with the string of sea beans hanging from his mouth.

When asked if there anything he didn’t like, he responded with a smile: “¡Me gusto todo!” (I liked everything!).”

Robertson found that most kids enjoyed trying the sea beans.

“They’re very salty and that’s why I think the kids liked them so much,” she said.

Labbatt’s samples sat among a display of even more unfamiliar fruits to give students a visual appreciation for produce such star fruit, kumquats, passion fruit and colored carrots.

“We really want to expose them to new items,” Robertson said. “I think they’re excited to see the other varieties that we brought to show them like the star fruit and the different colored carrots because they look cool.”

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy  |  Video by Raymond Jackson – EPISD

Video+Story: EPISD’s ‘Sensory Rooms’ help Autism Spectrum Students Get Ready to Learn

Students on the autism spectrum at Lincoln and several other EPISD schools can now benefit from research-based sensory rooms — converted classroom spaces that feature sound, light and tactic devices that provide comfort and lead to more effective learning.

The rooms are available for students on an as-needed basis and can be used whenever teachers sense a trigger that may impact learning in a student.

Autism researchers say rooms with these features, which include swings, light shows, sound machines and other tools proven to relax students in the spectrum, provide students with a safe haven.

“It helps them to calm down before a behavior escalates,” said teacher Katonna Lagua. “We have the lights off and we have the disco ball and the little stars will come out. It just gives them a sense of calm.”

Students typically stay in the room, which is limited to two students at a time, for 15-30 minutes based on the need of the child. The various stations offer areas representing motion, sound, visual and feel/touch to feed the child’s sensory diet.

“Before re-entering the classroom, we want to make sure that the child is calm,” Lagua said.

Lincoln is one of five campuses that have sensory rooms to benefit students with autism. Newman, Herrera and Moreno elementary schools have a similar space while Richardson Middle and Guerrero Elementary are building theirs now.

“This specific equipment and tools in this room really help our students to self-regulate, self-modulate, organize their brain and what’s going on within their sensory system in order to be a lot more productive in the classroom and increase their attention to task,” said occupational therapist Ivette Benore, who has trained teachers on the equipment.

“This is what we call a sensory diet, which is activities that are needed throughout the day to keep them in the just right level of alertness in order to be able to learn in the classroom,” she added.

Initially, teachers guide students to the equipment until they figure out by themselves the stations that meet their sensory needs. Some students might climb on the giant swing for linear or circular motions, while others might jump on a special beanbag or crawl under it.

One Lincoln student last week made his way to the corner of the room and hunched over a platform offering a slight vibration. He gazed at the bubbling tower surrounded by mirrors, watching it change colors while listening to the subtle sounds of the bubbles.

“Autism is very broad and no one’s autism looks the same, so what may be a sensory need for one child may be different from another,” Lagua said. “Investing in a sensory room like this at the schools that have autistic children is a wonderful.”

The room is designed specifically for students in autism units and access to it is outlined in each child’s Individualized Education Plan. Other special-education students may use the room as well if their education plan calls for it.

Teachers can control the different sound effects and visuals on the wall, with oceans and the rainforest being the most popular.

“Our kids have a sensitivity that is at a different intensity than a typical student,” Benore said.  “It is a different perception and interpretation of their own system and how it is working in relationship to the sensory stimulus in their environment.”

Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy | Video by Angel Dominguez/EPISD

EPISD’s Rivera Elementary Honored as One of ‘America’s Healthiest Schools’

This week, El Paso ISD’s Rivera Elementary was named one of America’s Healthiest Schools by the Alliance for Healthier Generation in recognition of the campus’ commitment to student well-being.

Not only was Rivera one of only 461 schools in all of the United States that were selected to the list, the elementary is the only El Paso County school to be named to the list.

“Serving the children of our community goes beyond providing quality teaching and learning in the classroom,” Principal Cindy Contreras said. “Rivera has made health a priority for every student because we know that a successful student is one that thrives academically and in life through healthful choices.”

The honor was based on a rigorous set of criteria that includes the availability of nutritious foods and access to quality and innovative physical-education opportunities.

Rivera was recognized for the following criteria:

  • Meeting or exceeding federal nutrition standards for school meals and snacks.
  • Offering daily breakfast.
  • Implementing district wellness policies and updating progress annually; and
  • Providing students with at least 60 minutes of physical education per week to ensure physical activity throughout the school day.

“The Healthy Schools Program has served over 42,000 schools. Each one recognizes the academic, social and behavioral benefits of prioritizing student health,” said Brian Weaver, Chief Programming Officer at the Alliance for Healthier Generation. “We are proud to recognize the exceptional efforts of Rivera Elementary School for serving as a best-in-class example of what it means to create healthier environments for both students and staff.”

Rivera is one of more than 40,000 schools in the United States that participates in the Healthy Generation’s Healthy Schools Program.  The no-cost service provides training, resources and technical assistance to schools that wish to have a positive impact on their students’ health.

Story by Gustavo Reveles Acosta – EPISD

EPISD Day School for the Deaf Offering Adult American Sign Language Classes

Inside the parent engagement room at Hillside Elementary School a few parents gathered to hone their skills in sign language. They reviewed common signs for foods and a rather important word to remember: coffee.

The parents, who are among the 35 families with children enrolled in the Regional Day School for the Deaf at Hillside, smiled as they motioned coffee – which uses both hands together to look like an old coffee grinder with the top hand making a cranking motion.

Teaching sign language to parents and the community has become extension of the service they provide to support the education and culture of the deaf community.

Free sign language classes are offered at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays in the Hillside cafeteria.

“We’ve been providing the free sign language class for over 20 years here in our community,” said Jason Lilly, Regional Day School coordinator. “You have people that may have lost their hearing that are attending the class to learn sign language for themselves. We have parents, aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters that come to the class because they have a family member who’s deaf or hard of hearing. Some come just because they want to learn sign language.”

April Finlay wants to become more proficient in signing to help her daughter Ashley, who is new at the Hillside the Regional Day School for the Deaf.

Photo courtesy EPISD

“I want to be able to stay ahead of my daughter in learning sign language,” said the mother of the 3-year-old student. “I’ve heard that like if you don’t start taking sign language classes, that your kids will surpass you and then you’re going to fall back on ways to communicate. She wears hearing aids but if the hearing aids go out, I want another way to communicate with her.”

Finlay’s in-laws also are deaf, which gives her another reason to learn sign language.

“I think it’s fascinating to learn another language,” she said. “I want to keep learning more languages and this is one of them.”

Nearly 80 families are part of the Regional Day School for the Deaf at four campuses, Hillside and Bonham elementary schools, Ross Middle and Burges High.

Lilly encourages parents and other family members to join the free hour-long class, which is offered for both intermediate and beginners. The drop-in classes are free and participants can attend the Monday classes at their leisure.

“The language does progress and builds on itself so consistency is important,” Lilly said. “It’s so important for their families to learn sign language for their child’s development. Think about all the things that happen outside of school and all the language that occurs at home and out in the community. If that grandparents or other family member signs, then it gives that child a better chance of really understanding what’s going on.”

Finlay has enjoyed learning sign language simultaneously with her young daughter.

“It’s just been such an eye opener and it’s opened a lot of doors for my daughter,” she said. “Sign language has actually given words meaning to her.  I see that her speech is developing along with the sign language. I want to keep up with her, to be able to keep that communication going.”

For more information on the American Sign Language classes for adults, please contact the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf at EPISD at 915-230-2842 or email them at

Three EPISD Seniors Named Semifinalists for National Merit Scholarship

Three of the four National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalists in El Paso County announced this week are EPISD seniors.

“The National Merit Scholarship Program has for decades exemplified academic excellence and college readiness among high-school students,” said EPISD Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera. “We are proud that Melchor, Malcolm and David are continuing the long-standing tradition of excellence EPISD has had in producing semifinalists and scholars in this very selective program.”

The National Merit Scholarship organization, which manages this prestigious and sought-after program, said around 16,000 students throughout the country were named semifinalists and are vying for more than $31 million in college funding.

The EPISD seniors who were named finalists this week are:

  • Melchor Herrera from Franklin High School
  • Malcolm Lyn from Coronado High School
  • David Mullings from El Paso High School.

To qualify for this honor, students must score in the top 1 percent of students in their state on the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which measures a person’s abilities in critical reading, math problem solving and writing rather than their existing knowledge.

More than 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar title.

Story by Reneé de Santos | Graphic by Martín A. López – EPISD

EPISD Focuses on Dad’s Role in Education via “Take Your Dad to School Day”

In a scene to be repeated throughout EPISD this week, students walked hand and hand with their dads down the halls at Logan Elementary to give their fathers a glimpse of their daily lessons and routines.

The students brought their fathers with them to school for the Strong Father “Take Your Dad to School Day” initiative.

Elementary campuses throughout EPISD will be participating in a similar event, which begins with classroom time and ends with a group activity for the dads.

At Logan, prekindergarten and kinder students sat eating breakfast with their dads before going to class while older students lined up with dad on the blacktop.

“This is my dad,” Joshua Ellis Jr. said, tugging his dad’s fingers. “My dad gets to stay with me today.”

Dad Joshua Ellis’ twin pre-k boys enjoyed seeing him at their school and especially in their classroom.

“This is my spot,” little Joshua told his dad before the announcements and National Anthem began.

The soldier dads watched their little ones carefully during the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, some guiding them to make sure their right hand was correctly placed on their heart.

“I think it’s great that they get to see their dads are here to support them in their education,” Ellis said. “I was glad to see them interacting with their classmates and teachers. I want to be able to help them improve and know what they are doing.”

At PE, dads and kindergarten students gathered in the multipurpose room to play with beanbags – a lesson in coordination and motor skills. The coach gave instructions to the little ones to toss the beanbags in the air, clap, catching it with another hand.  The dads stood next to their kids guiding them, smiling, playing a little catch and posing for selfies to mark the occasion.

Brian Ault stood back watching his son Steven, who is in the kindergarten collaborative, toss the beanbag amid dozens of his peers.

“I haven’t been very active in his school I’ve just been picking him and dropping him off so this gives me a chance to see him interact with other kids instead of relying on what the teacher says,” Ault said. “I want to have an understanding of what my son is doing and see if there are any issues we need to address at home.”

Alfredo Chavez, who teaches prekindergarten dual language for the 3-year-olds, gathered parents outside his class to talk about his classroom rules and routines.

“It’s important that parents feel comfortable with the school,” Chavez said. “We want to build structure and bond from the beginning to build trust with the parents.

Chavez and the other early childhood teachers have been working on rituals and routines for the little learners since school began last month. “We want them to know we are not a day care. We are an academic settings and we have rules and structures that need to be followed and even rules for the parents to follow.”

Fathers posting photos during “Take your Dad to School Day” this week are encouraged to use #episddads.

Story by Reneé de Santos |  Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

EPISD’s Brown Middle has Texas’ Top School Nurse

Miriam Carmichael’s advocacy for diverse populations of children and their health care needs earned her the 2018 Texas School Nurse of the Year honor.

Carmichael is the third EPISD nurse to receive this statewide honor since the Texas School Nurses Organization the recognition began in 2003.

“I know that Miriam received this honor because she seeks the best possible solution to care for our students,” said Luisa Herrera, nurse educator in Special Education/Health Services. “She is a staunch advocate of students with life and intellectual challenges.”

Herrera, who has worked with Carmichael for 14 years, nominated Carmichael for the honor. In Herrera’s nomination letter, she shared details about how Carmichael has made a difference in the lives of students at the individual campuses she’s served and demonstrated her commitment to improving healthcare for students throughout the community.

“Ms. Carmichael’s compassion, advocacy, leadership abilities and commitment to school nursing will continue to set her apart from other nurses in our professional field,” she wrote.

Carmichael humbly credits the award to the District’s nursing leadership – from health services to the strong collaboration among her colleagues.

“We have excellent nurse leadership and an involved nurse leadership team. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” she said. “All the support and high standards makes for an environment that promotes excellence. I’m just representing them.”

Carmichael notes that of the 16 other state nurses of the year across Texas, two are from EPISD: Christina Maxwell, now serving EPISD students as a speech therapist, and Nancy Haegele, a nurse at Morehead Middle School.

“We have excellent nurses in EPISD,” she said.

Carmichael, who has been with EPISD since 2004, has served as a nurse at Johnson and Burleson elementary schools before joining Brown Middle in 2017. She spent 19 years caring for children pediatric Intensive Care Units at hospitals in El Paso and out of state before joining the ranks of school nursing.

“I found my calling in school nursing,” she said.

Carmichael’s found herself drawn to serving and advocating for students with diverse backgrounds who often are new immigrants, low income, homeless and with special needs.

“Sometimes the school nurses is their main clinic if they don’t have access to other types of healthcare,” Carmichael said. “The school nurse is the first person to see a lot of things – not just medical problems but the kids who are experiencing anxiety, depression and who were having problems at home and their families aren’t able to cope. Sometimes we are the first person to help.”

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD