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Home | Tag Archives: EPISD

Tag Archives: EPISD

El Paso ISD teachers, staff find unique ways to stay in touch with students

From the open top of a Jeep, to TikTok videos and selfies with signs at home, El Paso ISD teachers and staff – like many of their counterparts across the country – are finding unique ways to stay in touch with their students during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Earlier this week, Brown Middle School counselor Julie Black sent a socially-distant message of love to her students from her Jeep as they picked up their curbside meals.

“The connections between myself and my kids and parents need to be maintained,” she said. “I wanted to show them they are worthy of my time and love always. I am craving to make those human connections more than ever and I think my kids are feeling the same.”

In addition to the social distance greetings, Black and other school counselors are available districtwide, even if remotely.

“Talking about your feeling always has a positive outcome,” she said. “Do not feel ‘odd’ asking for help. We are all in this together.”

She initially tried to reach out to students through TikTok with her first “We Love you” sign but wasn’t sure of its success.

Tippin Elementary School Principal Gina Rodriguez-Núñez | Photo courtesy EPISD

Then there’s Tippin Elementary School Principal Gina Rodriguez-Núñez.  From the living room of her home, she displayed a special message via social media for her students and all EPISD students: we miss you and can’t wait to see you again.

The reunion – a virtual one at least – will begin Monday, March 30 as EPISD begins their distance learning program known as ‘EPISD@HOME.’

District officials spent the latter half of the week issuing iPads to any family with students in grades kinder through fifth who do not have either a home computer, laptop or tablet at home.

Throughout the district, while cafeteria workers toiled to feed the students at more than 50 sites, staff and employees made sure the children knew they were loved and missed.

Black put it best, simply saying “I truly love my kids, I miss them and soon we will be back at school together.”

EPISD approves end-of-year stipend for employees

The El Paso Independent School District on Tuesday approved the distribution of a spring stipend that will give qualified employees between $250 and $500 in additional pay in June.

The Board voted unanimously to complete the two-step stipend proposal that was announced last summer. The proposal called for a winter stipend that was paid out in December and a potential end-of-year stipend that depended on the District’s fiscal standing in the spring.

“We are beyond happy to say that, in spite of the uncertainty that surrounds us given the COVID-19 pandemic, we are in solid financial ground and are able to bring some good news to our employees,” said Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera. “This end-of-year stipend will help our employees cope. We hope this brings some relief as we face difficult times ahead.”

Under the guidelines for the stipend, qualified employees who are approved to work an average of more than 20 hours per week will receive $500 on June 15. Qualified employees who are approved to work 20 hours or less per week will receive $250 on that same date.

To qualify, EPISD personnel must be permanent employees (not temporary) on or before May 1, 2020 and remain employed at the time of disbursement of the stipend on June 15.

Board President Bob Geske said the move to approve the end-of-year stipend caps a year of positive movement in salary and employee compensation in EPISD.

“After years of budgetary constraints and sacrifices, we were able to give our employees a salary increase, two stipends and a new health insurance program that is saving them money,” he said.

“We know our employees work diligently to improve the lives of our students, and we want to continue moving forward in compensating them fairly and appropriately.”

Author helps students embrace love of reading in English, Spanish

A giant paper snake curled around the Tippin Elementary School library entrance welcomed Southwest children book writer, Joe Hayes for bilingual story hour in honor of National Book Reading Week.

The award-winning author known for his bilingual writing, sat down with fifth-grade students during a rainy afternoon in the Tippin library to tell the seemingly innocent story of a boy who went to buy some salt. Hayes visits several EPISD schools each year to share his love of reading and storytelling with students.

The Arizona-born author learned Spanish as a child through lessons from his Mexican-American friends. At Tippin, he made the children chuckle when he told the story of how a friend tricked him to tell a teacher “callate la boca” (shut your mouth) thinking it meant “I really like you.”

It was his love for Hispanic culture that pushed him to study folklore and inspired him to write his most beloved children’s books, “La Llorona,” “El Cucuy” and “My Pet Rattlesnake.”

Hayes became a pioneer of English and Spanish storytelling when his push for bilingual print books proved successful and well-received across the nation.

“When I first started, there wasn’t basically anything really in Spanish available,” said the children’s author. “That’s why I got started … it reminds people of the origin of these stories.”

Tippin students laughed and covered their eyes when the boy in the story encounters awkward interactions with a man with one eye and a newlywed couple.

“Everyone takes something different away from a story,” Hayes said. “Being able to listen and create a story with their imagination while they hear it is what motivates me to continue visiting schools.”

The children’s author acknowledged the pressure fifth graders might feel about choosing a career path.

“Don’t get in a big panic because you don’t know what you’re going to do when you grow up,” Hayes said. “Maybe you’ll be like me and just keep your mind open and let life show you.”

Story by Liliana Gonzalez  | Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

Aoy celebrates Statistics in Schools Week with Census activity

As this week was National Statistics in Schools Week, students at Aoy took the opportunity to learn more about how the facts and figures from the U.S. Census help schools and communities like theirs.

Officials from the El Paso office of Census 2020 visited the Segundo Barrio school to helps students learn more about how the population of the country is counted and how those numbers impact their family.

Students kicked off the lessons by doing a singalong about the importance of having a complete count in the census before breaking off in small groups to have a hands-on activity about population shifts.

“They’re learning statistics, math, social studies and even civics using these important lessons,” said Aoy teacher Alejandra Escalera. “But they’re also learning about how important participating in the census is, and they can take that message back home to their parents.”

Aoy is a community being targeted by Census officials in order to increase participation in the count.

Photo courtesy EPISD

Census Day is April 1, and the city is expecting a celebration to kick off the counting of El Pasoans. The online version of the census will open on March 12.

EPISD is partnering with the Census Bureau and the Paso Del Norte Complete Count Committee to help spread awareness about the upcoming count.

The goal is to have broad participation in the census and help secure adequate funding form the federal government to El Paso.

Census results help determine representation in local, state and federal legislative bodies, and also factor in the dissemination of billions of dollars in funding into states and communities.

Several EPISD schools are planning activities around the census, and many campuses will have mock census counts on April 1.

Story and photo by Gustavo Reveles

Unidos Special Olympic Games bring student athletes of all capabilities to Burges

More than 700 athletes from throughout the El Paso Independent School District participated in the Unidos Special Olympic Games Thursday at Burges High School.

For the first time, the games included an event that brought together teams of students with and without disabilities.

“EPISD students in the middle- and high-school levels participated in an event called the Unified Relay,” EPISD officials shared. “[it’s] a race that brings together one student with a disability with a peer without one to compete as a team.”

Athletes from elementary, middle and high schools competed in different track and field competitions as well as other fun activities, all with the intent of providing students with the opportunity to engage in sporting events.

The games provide students the chance to engage in more inclusive sporting events and show unity as a student body.

Check out the EPISD Photo Gallery for more great shots from photographer Leonel Monroy

Telles Academy opens food pantry to benefit area students

A new food pantry organized by the El Paso Independent School District in partnership with El Pasoans Fighting Hunger will kick off this week to help families in need.

After seeing a call for food assistance, Raymond Telles Academy organized a fresh food pantry will operate from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. every other Friday starting this week at the schools Central El Paso campus.

The pantry will serve the families of students at Telles, as well as those from EPISD’s College, Career & Technology Academy and the Region 19 Head Start program adjacent to the Telles/CCTA. The campus is located at 2851 Grant in the building that once housed Houston Elementary School.

To qualify, families must complete a registration form and participate in a one-time nutrition class available between 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. before the Telles food pantry opens every other Friday.

“Students started coming in asking for food for their families,” Telles’ parent liaison Elsa Torres said. “They are worrying about what their families are going to eat for the weekend, and we know that students can’t learn if they’re hungry or concerned about meals.”

Torres and the Telles social worker Ari Medina quickly saw the high number of students struggling with food insecurity and organized a small food pantry with donations from teachers that fed at least 80 people.

“We had a family that came in who needed food, so they filled out the application, and they were able to get food for these couple of days and told them to come back for our grand opening,” Torres said.

According to Feeding America food data, nearly one out of four children and one out of every seven adults in the state of Texas struggles with hunger.

“Unfortunately, some live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have the money saved for important things like a car repair, which takes them to school and work,” Torres added. “So a lot of times they have to make a difficult choice: groceries or things like car repairs.”

The school transformed an empty classroom into a small grocery store with colorfully decorated sections dividing the food items, and fundraised to purchase refrigerators and freezers to offer families meat and dairy.

“I had a young mom who had just had her baby when she came in,” Torres said. “She was grateful for what she said was our little store and she did a little ‘shopping.’”

The pantry was stocked for its initial week with the help of many people at Telles. Security guards, custodians, paraprofessionals and even student helpers moved a truck-full of food from a trailer into the pantry.

“It makes me happy to think how people have kindness in their heart to unite and do this for students,” said eighth-grade student Michelle Gabrieles, one of the students who helped stock the shelves at the pantry.

Telles Academy and CCTA teach students from different areas of the city and struggle with transportation. Medina hopes that having access to food options at their school will allow them to stay healthy.

Families can fill their bags or carts with organic sandwich bread, frozen meat, canned fruit and vegetables and fresh produce and will have access to bilingual healthy meal recipes.

“The students are very happy, so grateful. It’s a very rewarding service we are providing here,” said Medina, the social worker at the school. “We want to make the food pantry homey so that everybody can feel welcomed here.”

Story by Liliana Gonzalez | Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

Putnam administrator named Region 19 Assistant Principal of the Year

The top assistant principal in all of West Texas is Putnam’s Hillery Smith, who was recently named the Region 19 Assistant Principal of the Year.

The title gives her a chance to be named the 2020 Texas Assistant Principal of the Year.

“It is an honor for me to represent my school and the District, which was given me numerous opportunity to serve the K-12 community of El Paso” said Smith. “I was raised to value education as the foundation of a meaningful life, and having the chance to share these values as an educator and an administrators is truly a blessing.”

The peer-based award is given by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association and recognizes assistant principals for their commitment to student learning as evidence by exceptional school leadership.

Smith began her career at EPISD 23 years ago after earning her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and later completing her master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of Texas at El Paso.

“Our entire campus promotes kindness, teamwork and support every day,” she said. “It makes for more than just a memory for our kids … It makes for an enriching experience.”

Her talent as an educator gave her the opportunity to open and teach at three schools who were at the time new in EPISD: Kohlberg, Tippin and Lundy elementary schools.

During her tenure at EPISD she has as a second-grade teacher, a staff member in the professional development center, a curriculum writer and an instructional coach.

“Public education provides children a gateway to opportunity and success. As an elementary educator, I strongly believe that it is essential to ignite a passion for learning while students are young, to inspire and motivate them through graduation and into post-secondary success.”

Story by Liliana Gonzalez  |  Photo by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

New internship offers Silva students glimpse into mental health career opportunities

Eight Silva Health Magnet students began exploring careers in the mental health field this school year with a new internship program at the Paso Del Norte Child Development Center.

The seniors started the internship in February under the guidance of the center’s registered behavioral technicians doing rotations in applied behavior analysis, an evidence-based therapeutic intervention for children with autism.

“This program is a stepping stone for the pathway for the registered behavioral therapists, so it really gives them a foundation where they can see where it can build into,” said Denise Galvez, Silva magnet coordinator. “A lot of our students are interested in working with kids, or in psychiatry and mental health, but we hadn’t really had that opportunity because it’s more difficult to get into. This is opening our doors to something new.”

The program is available to seniors enrolled in the HST Practicum II course, which allows them to identify a healthcare career and shadow a professional in their field. The seniors first completed online modules independently before they began the internship.

“I originally wanted to be a psychiatrist because I’m interested in mental health,” said senior Emely Muñoz. “There’s not enough focus on mental health, it’s all physical health. If you’re physically sick, you obviously go to the doctor but if mentally sick, nobody wants to go to the doctor. They’re too afraid because of the stigma.”

She’s enjoying the experience and it has solidified her desire to enter a mental health career even if it isn’t as a psychiatrist.

“Now, I’m experiencing applied behavior analysis. I never knew about until now and now I’m thinking I’d love to be doctor in behavior analysis,” Muñoz said. “I’m still between the two but I’m really considering this.”

Senior Estefania Varela likes the fact that the program offers a certification.

“This gives us more opportunities to look at other health fields,” Varela said. “I’ve never done anything like this before and I thought it was interesting to get involved and see something other than careers in the hospital.

Paso del Norte Child Development Center Executive Director Al Velarde, who also is the vice president for the EPISD Board of Trustees, said his team worked closely with Silva to offer this opportunity. It is being offered at no cost to EPISD.

“One of the things that has been so difficult for Silva is to find programs willing to allow high school students deliver direct service to clients,” he said. “With our program, the Silva students will be delivering interventions alongside our RBTs and gaining valuable experience as they move towards their futures.”

Velarde and his team have been working with UTEP and they have agreed to open a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst Master’s Program to be able to meet the extreme shortage in the city. The BCBA is the lead therapist among a team of technicians who leads the interventions for clients.

“The best thing about this partnership is that any student who enters the program can graduate with their registered behavior technician certificate and become eligible to work as an RBT at any clinic that offers applied behavior analysis upon graduation,” Velarde said. “With UTEP opening the master’s program, these students can work in the field and obtain their Board Certified Behavior Analyst accreditation in El Paso.”

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

Video+Story: Las Palmas Del Sol donates bleed-control kits to EPISD

EPISD is training educators and students to control bleeding in case of lifesaving situations with Stop the Bleed kits donated by Las Palmas Del Sol.

Last week, representatives from Las Palmas Del Sol, along with students and EPISD administration, unveiled the bleeding control stations at Chapin High School.

The kits will be available at all EPISD campuses and include tourniquets to stop hemorrhages, dressings to pack wounds, and special bandages to protect against collapsed lungs.

“I’m thankful for Las Palmas Del Sol for allowing EPISD to continue our support community in lifesaving situations,” EPISD Director of Health Services Alana Bejarano said.

An individual suffering from blood loss can die within five minutes, and those trained to stop life-threatening bleeding can make all the difference.

“We have seen an incident in our community where a terrible thing happened, and these kinds of kits are important to have available,” Del Sol Medical Center Trauma Medical Director Dr. Stephen Flaherty said.

Last summer, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot signed House Bill 496 into law requiring staff and students in the state to receive training and have access to bleed-control stations.

The Las Palmas Del Sol donation will allow EPISD schools to comply with the new law and help in a bleeding emergency.

Stop the Bleed kits will be centrally located at each campus and will be readily accessible to students, teachers and first responders.

Bejarano said the kits further the District’s commitment to the safety and security of students — a top priority for EPISD.

“EPISD prides itself in providing safe learning environment to all students,” she said. “The bleed-control kits that are now in every single one of our schools will give us one additional layer of response in this effort.”

Story by Liliana Gonzalez  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy  |  Video by Angel Dominguez

EPISD, Ector County ISD present program on shooting response

Communication officials from the EPISD and Ector County ISD shared their thoughts and experiences in collaborating in response to the mass shootings that plagued their communities just six months ago.

EPISD Chief Communications Officer Melissa Martinez and Ector County ISD Communications Officer Mike Adkins presented a session titled “West Texas Strong: How El Paso and Odessa Collaborated to Cope With Tragedy” at this year’s Texas School Public Relations Association conference in Austin.

The presentation outlined best practices in partnerships to deal with emergency situations, especially when it comes to public messaging and notifications.

El Paso was attacked on Aug. 3 when a shooter opened fire at a busy Walmart killing 22 people. The Midland-Odessa area was the victim of a mass shooting on Aug. 31 that took the lives of eight people.

The events shocked the nation and tested the area’s emergency response mechanisms – including those of the school districts.

“This is a situation you never want to be in,” said Martinez. “But when tragedy strikes, it is important to collaborate and work together with your colleagues so that our respective communities – our students and parents – get the information they need to stay safe and feel supported.”

Story and photo by Gustavo Reveles – EPISD

Art teachers get training, auction off art for EPISD Foundation

Visual arts teachers don’t have wait for inspiration to hit. Instead, they cultivate it during hands-on workshops EPISD Fine Arts Department develops to help them be successful in the classroom.

And this time around, the art pieces they craft during the workshops will help raise funds for scholarships and teacher grants benefiting the EPISD Education Foundation.

EPISD Visual Arts Facilitator Rosa Aguilar said the District has made strong investments in the development of fine-arts teachers by creating strong professional learning communities and scheduling full-day staff development days for art teachers.

This investment is something educators appreciate.

“It’s nice because in our class and at home we don’t have time as an artist,” said Guillen Middle teacher Jasmin Ayala. “And now that we do, it feels good to grow.”

Daniel Szwaczkowski, a first-year teacher at Franklin High, took studious notes of different styles and approaches to painting and drawing.

“I usually work larger scale and I haven’t painted like this in 15 years,” he said. “What I’m learning here today is a tool I can take back to the students.”

The lessons the teachers learn during this training will do more than just help them become better instructors. The art they produce will be donated and auctioned during the upcoming EPISD District Address on April 2 at the Centennial Club.

Proceeds will go toward funding student scholarships and classroom grants aimed at helping teachers with innovative instructional ideas.

Story by Liliana Gonzalez  |   Photos by Leonel Monroy – El Paso ISD

#ElPasoStrong inspires book of poems and prose by Jefferson High students

The tragic events of August 3 served as inspiration for a book of poems that captures the emotions and thoughts of Jefferson students and their impressions of how it changed the city forever.

English teacher Jim Riddle compiled the collection of poems in a book titled “915 #ElPasoStrong! A Silverfox Response to the Walmart Shooting” in hopes that they one day would appear on the shelves of Walmart and the very store where the 22 lives were lost among other locations.

“I asked them at the beginning of the year ‘do you think you would like to write something and I’ll put it in a book for you,’” Riddle said. “We can get it to the world and you can do something absolutely extraordinary during your high school career. You can show your grandchildren that you’re a published author.”

Riddle also worked with ESOL teacher Jose Ramos to include the poetic works of his English-learning class in their native language. Riddle is currently working on getting the book published and available for wide distribution so that more can read this generation’s viewpoint.

“Their voice makes a difference,” Riddle said. “Some of the things they write about will blow your mind. They have profound things to say throughout the book.”

He points to a few class exercises that helped get the creativity and words flowing onto the pages – sometimes examining thoughts of “when will El Paso change to be the same again” to “do we have to make racism wrong again?”

The book is filled with a gamut of emotions – from anger to sadness to fear. But much of the sentiment focused on the El Paso Strong feeling that blanketed the city after the tragedy.

“We all represent El Paso,” said junior Mia Ortega. “We have a voice of how we represent our city and ourselves. Our poems show we love our city. We love each other and we respect each other.”

Her poem “Stranger” captured the sentiment of the city and the evil never known before that day.

A stranger came to this place

A place where we embrace all race

That stranger had a gun

And many people had to run”


Blood on the ground

Many people all around

The loss of families and friends

We can never make amends


The president brought up the wall

And treated us like useless dolls

To activate the whites who have hate

And so a stranger knew where to locate


Walmart was a big place that had equality

Now it’s covered and protected by authority

Parents and children went for supplies

But some came back with painful cries


When Walmart open’s back up

We have to keep our heads up

Even though when we close our eyes

We can still hear the cries


We can still visualize

Where the bodies lie

Where our hopes nearly died

Including our El Paso pride


But one thing that can never be taken

Or even bring back that Satan

Our beliefs in our Community

Have brought opportunity


To believe that we are strong

For the president to be wrong

To know where we belong

That we are all El Paso Strong

Junior Andres Pippin also shared his thoughts of what it means to be El Paso Strong in his “915 Stands” poem but went a step further by changing his football number to 22 to honor the lives lost on that tragic day.

“El Paso is one of the most loving and caring cities,” he said. “There’s less crime and not too much to be afraid of here and for us to go through this.  I want to represent the people who lost friends and families and have a daily reminder of this.”

He felt it important to contribute to the collection and be a voice for his generation.

“We know how adults have reacted to it but it’s important that we know if kids are still feeling afraid, feeling vulnerable or maybe kids don’t like going to the store anymore because this happened. But for us to speak out loud is for us to represent that we live for the 915. We live for El Paso.”

Story and photo by Reneé de Santos &  Leonel Monroy – EPISD

Mary Arnold named new principal at Aoy Elementary

On Thursday afternoon, officials with the El Paso Independent School District announced the appointment of Mary Arnold as the new principal at Aoy Elementary School.

Arnold has served as assistant principal at Aoy since 2015 after spending years as a classroom teacher and school counselor in several EPISD campuses. She replaces former principal Anabel Tanabe, who left the district last year.

“Aoy is one of our legacy schools and I am pleased that we have found a great leader in Ms. Arnold,” Superintendent Juan Cabrera said. “I am sure her experience, coupled with her understanding of the community around Aoy, will help teachers and students continue the positive achievement record at the school.”

Arnold has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas at Dallas and master’s degrees in counseling and educational leadership from Webster University and the University of Texas at El Paso.

Her classroom experience began as a tutor at Moreno Elementary and then as a second grade and kindergarten teacher at Crockett Elementary, where she later served as a counselor.

Arnold is a former Crockett Teacher of the Year and a graduate;her appointment is effective Thursday, February 20th, 2020.

Story by Gustavo Reveles – EPISD

Tom Lea students get special Valentine’s Day cards in response to Walmart tragedy

More than six months after the tragic attacks on El Paso, students throughout the country continue to shower EPISD schools with positive messages, support and even chocolate bars.

Tom Lea Elementary — which gained local and national recognition following the August 3 shootings after fourth-grade teacher Teresa Garrett asked the country on Facebook to send her students notes of support, garnering thousands upon thousands of mailed-in letters — is once again at the center of this love fest.

Missy Pint, a Kansas City high-school teacher, arranged for every Tom Lea Elementary student to receive a “sweet note” just in time for Valentine’s Day. Pint flew to El Paso last week to help deliver the sweet valentines to the nearly 900 students at the Northeast school.

“I felt appreciated … like I have friends from somewhere else even though they’re not with me here,” said Tom Lea fourth-grader Caiden Slider.

Pint, who created the Sweet Note Project several years ago to make sure no one felt left out on Valentine’s Day at retirement homes and homeless shelters, expanded her program to include students who have been victimized by mass shootings, including the one in Parkland, Fla.

Here in El Paso, the students at Tom Lea were treated with fun, positive Valentine’s Day cards with handwritten messages like I love you to the moon and backWithout you the world won’t be complete, and You are a treasure to the world.

Fourth-grader Gabriella Samaniego said she appreciated the note and the candy.

“I felt loved and that I have friends who support me in everything that I do,” she said.

Garrett hopes that students learn from Pint’s act of kindness to pay it forward.

Story by Liliana Gonzalez   |   Photos by Leonel Monroy  – EPISD

Cheerleading makes triumphant return to Charles Middle School

After a hiatus that lasted years, cheerleading returned to Charles Middle last school year and it already is making a huge impact in the sport.

The Charles Charger cheer squad this weekend competed in the 2020 Americas Cup Cheer Competition where they don first place in the novice division.

“All of us at Charles are very proud of these students who have come so far in such short time,” said Principal David Zamora. “The young ladies on the squad hold themselves to very high standards both in the classroom and out of it.”

Besides from training for competition, the squad supports all Charger sports teams and perform at special events.

The team is coached by Krystle McClain, the current Charles Teacher of the Year.

Story by Gustavo Reveles – EPISD
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