Message regarding EPISD's rightsizingPosted by Juan E. Cabrera on 8/23/2019
On Tuesday, the EPISD Board of Trustees reaffirmed the difficult, but necessary decision to continue the District’s “Rightsizing for the Future” program. For the last six years, EPISD has grappled with decreasing enrollment due in large part to suburban sprawl and aging neighborhoods in the core of the city. This is not a problem unique to our District. Most urban school systems in the country today struggle to find ways to remain sustainable and responsible to the taxpayers that support them.
EPISD wants to make one thing clear: both Zavala and Douglass elementary schools are safe learning facilities for students. They have been studied by researchers from the University of Texas at El Paso and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality who have determined that contamination is not a factor anywhere on either campus. Contrary to false claims and unfounded rhetoric, EPISD has allowed researchers to come onto these schools to perform soil samples and health studies. The studies done by the researchers showed no danger for students, even in areas targeted by protesters as toxic places.
Protesters also have used rhetoric harmful to students by claiming Zavala and Douglass students underperform and that those schools are therefore unsuitable for consolidation. Those claims are hurtful and false. I stand proud with the teachers and students at Zavala and Douglass who continue to improve their academic attainment every year. In fact, this year both campuses earned TEA accountability grades that equal a B. We know that with our continued support, the schools will do even better this school year.
We want to also dispel a false claim that Zavala and Douglass are overcrowded following the consolidation with Burleson and Beall. That is simply not true. It is also untrue that our classrooms are packed with more than 30 students. In fact, it is against state rules to have more than 22 students per classroom in grades kindergarten to fourth.
We understand the concern and sadness that communities may face as schools are closed. Closing a school is a difficult process — one we wish we didn’t have to consider. Simply put, however, we must make these tough decisions in order to survive and continue to give our students access to high-quality teachers and life-changing educational programming.
Emotions ran high at Tuesday’s school board meeting when school closures were discussed. We respect everyone’s opinion and voice. The impact of these decisions is something we take seriously and to heart. Ultimately, we must all remember that we are here for the same reason: to take care of kids. We begin and end each day with that sole purpose in mind. While we respect the diversity of thought and discussion, we must remain united in our focus on our student’s education. Divisive language and hateful messaging only derail our mission and hurt students in the end.
To the families in all our communities, we want to make this pledge: The education, health and safety of your children is and will remain our top priority.
La Mesa Directiva de EPISD el martes reafirmo su decisión difícil de continuar con la Iniciativa Dimensionamiento Para El Futuro. Por seis años, EPISD ha sufrido una baja en inscripciones debidas especialmente al crecimiento suburbano de la ciudad y el envejecimiento de los fraccionamientos en el centro de El Paso. Este no es un problema único a nuestro distrito. La mayoría de los distritos urbanos en el país se ven en necesidad de buscar maneras de mantenerse sostenibles y fiscalmente responsables a los derechohabientes que los apoyan.
EPISD quiere hacer una aclaración: las primarias Zavala y Douglass se encuentran en estado saludable y libre de contaminación. Esto lo sabemos gracias a estudios por parte de la Universidad de Texas en El Paso y la Comisión de la Calidad Ambiental de Texas, que han determinado que la contaminación no es un factor en cualquier parte de cualquiera de los dos planteles. Al contrario de afirmaciones falsas y retóricas infundadas, EPISD sí le ha dado acceso a científicos hacia nuestras escuelas para que estudien la salud y el suelo. Los estudios que se hicieron enseñaron que no hay algún peligro para los niños, ni siquiera en áreas supuestamente tóxicas que han sido el blanco de protestas.
Los protestantes han también usado retórica que daña a los estudiantes de Zavala y Douglas al insinuar que los estudiantes de estos planteles no rinden académicamente y que por eso no se deberían combinar las escuelas. Esas palabras son falsas y dañinas. Me siento orgulloso de los maestros y alumnos de Zavala y Douglass que continúan mejorando su enseñanza año por año. De echo, este ciclo escolar pasado, las dos escuelas obtuvieron una calificación de B por la Agencia de Educación de Texas. Sabemos que con nuestro apoyo podrán mejorar aun más.
Quiero también negar un rumor falso de que las escuelas Zavala y Douglass se encuentran sobrepobladas después de su consolidación con Burleson y Beall. Simplemente eso no es cierto. Es también falso que nuestros salones en esas escuelas se encuentran con mas de 30 alumnos por maestro. Las reglas del estado nos prohíben tener a mas 22 niños por aula en los salones de kínder a cuarto grado.
Entiendo la preocupación y también la tristeza de las comunidades de Burleson y Beall. La clausura de escuelas es una decisión difícil — una que deseamos no tener que hacer. Sin embargo, tenemos que tomar decisiones difíciles si queremos sobrevivir como distrito y poder ofrecerles a nuestros alumnos el acceso a maestros capacitados y programas educativos de alto nivel.
Nuestras emociones estuvieron a alto nivel el martes durante la junta de la mesa directiva, cuando se discutió el cierre de escuelas. Después de todo, este es un tema difícil. Quiero agradecerle a la mesa directiva su liderazgo durante este proceso.
Respetamos la opinión y voz de cualquier miembro de nuestra comunidad. El impacto de estas decisiones es algo que tomamos muy a pecho. Pero al final, debemos recordar que estos todos aquí por la misma razón: para cuidar a nuestros hijos. Empezamos y terminamos todos los días que una sola meta. Y aunque respetamos la diversidad de pensamientos y discusión, tenemos que seguir unidos en nuestra meta. El lenguaje divisivo y lleno de odio solo hace que nos distraigamos de nuestra meta educativa y daña a los estudiantes.
A todas las familias y comunidades de nuestro distrito les quiero dar esta promesa: La educación, salud y seguridad de sus hijos es, y seguirá siendo nuestra prioridad mas alta.
Learning starts from Day 1 in EPISDPosted by Juan E. Cabrera on 8/15/2019
The first day of school is a special time for our students and teachers. This week, I was elated to share in that excitement as I visited classrooms throughout the District to help give our kids and employees the welcome they deserve.
What a treat it was to see students of all ages reconnect with friends and make new ones at the schools that will serve as their second home for the next 180 days. As superintendent, I am proud to see that our employees — from the educators in the classrooms to the support personnel in the cafeterias and buses — were more than ready to start the year right.
This year, the theme of our back-to-school efforts is “EPISD Rocks.” And what resonates about that slogan for me is the fact that, just like artists, educators do their job because they find inspiration in it. Without a doubt, the kids of El Paso motivate us to give the best of ourselves every day. This was evident in every school I visited over the last two days.
Even on the first day of instruction, every student I approached was eager to share with me what they already had learned from their teachers. Visiting classrooms left me impressed by our team of teachers who work diligently to create innovative learning strategies and instructional spaces that help every single one of our students thrive.
As we move forward with the 2019-20 school year, I invite parents and community members to join our teachers and employees in celebrating education in El Paso. Without a doubt, our students are our most precious resource. EPISD is proud to be the leader in instructional innovation in the U.S.-Mexico border, and we welcome any partner who wishes to help us meet our goal of providing the highest-quality education to the children of El Paso.
Let’s have a wonderful school year, EPISD! EPISD Rocks!
Let’s celebrate the spirit of El Paso and EPISD as we start the school year.Posted by Juan E. Cabrera on 8/11/2019
The start of classes in the El Paso Independent School District marks a bittersweet time in the history of our district. As always, we are excited and happy to see our students inclassrooms, but it comes at a challenging time in our history. Our sole and unifying purpose is to serve our students and give them the high-quality education to which they’re entitled. However, there is no denying that we are all starting the 2019-20 school year with a heavy heart.
On Aug. 3, El Paso was senselessly attacked by a hate-filled individual determined to shatter the spirit of what makes El Paso and EPISD so special.
We are devastated, we are hurting, but we are not broken. While the out of town coward aimed to destroy the culture that ties all of us, his actions instead helped us come together to build a more unified El Paso! Our students, employees, parents and community partners have shown the world what it means to be an El Pasoan — what it means to be #ElPasoStrong
So today, using that strength that has come to define us, we begin the school year and continue to persevere and thrive. There is no better way to fight ignorance, hate and racism than with education.
As the father of three, I share with many of you the concern for the safety of our students. I have heard from many parents who are concerned about sending their children to school and away from the comfort and safety of their own homes. I want to reassure our parents that the safety and security of our students and employees is a top priority.
From the day I arrived at EPISD, 7 years ago we began a dedicated focus to increase our efforts to improve school security and to create safer learning environments. This is personal for me. From 2010-2012 when we lived in Austin, my family personally experienced three separate school threats that resulted in school lock-downs at our elementary and middle schools. It was gut-wrenching to wait for hours on 3 separate occasions to hear that my wife and children were safe.
My commitment to safety is clear unwavering and has only become stronger over the years. We have made many improvements we cannot discuss publicly but please rest assured this is a TOP priority. From close circuit cameras at every school to improved school entry security we are committed to a continuing effort to add more security protocols to support our efforts and our police force.
Our EPISD police force works hand-in-hand with local, state and federal authorities to train campuses, identify real and perceived threats and adjust our plans of action to better prepare for what we hope will never come. On Monday, I also will send me daughter to one of our schools and I do so confident that we have done everything possible to secure our schools. I can assure you, as a parent and superintendent of schools, if there was any indication of a threat, I would be the first to cancel classes.
Today, we want to allow our children to be children. School is about routine and normalcy. We know that getting back to their school friends and teachers will be part of the healing process for our children, and our community. There’s nothing like the hope and excitement of a child on the first day of school to remind us all of what’s truly important.
We want our kids to take advantage of all that school has to offer. And this school year, we are adding many more options for students and families.
One of the most impactful changes is the addition of all-day pre-kindergarten at 25 sites throughout the District. For decades, we have offered pre-kinder courses to children ages 3 and 4, but have done so only for half-day sessions. State funding this year will allow us to expand to full day classes, which we know will have a lost-lasting effect in our students’ academic development.
I’m also excited to announce the opening of our Small Learning Communities at Bowie High School. Bowie has already shown tremendous success with New Tech over the past several years. We are replicating the model with two other focus areas — sports medicine and global industries. Every ninth-grader entering Bowie this year has chosen one of these Learning Communities as his or her high school focus. By the time they graduate, these students could earn certifications and college credits in physical therapy, entrepreneurship and business courses. I look forward to seeing our Bears thrive and lead the way in innovation!
Over the summer, construction moved full speed ahead with our Bond 2016 projects. Please be mindful of construction zones at schools as classes resume. The modernization of EPISD will help us meet the academic and extracurricular goals of our students in a much more effective manner, but doing so will require us to put up with some noise and work zones. We ask for your understanding and cooperation. In the end, it will all be worth it.
As you can see, there is a lot of things to look forward to during this school year. Thank you for being part of the EPISD Family. We are happy to have our kids back. Have a great year!
EPISD Teachers: Let's show strength through hard timesPosted by Juan E. Cabrera on 8/5/2019
Back to School is normally a time of excitement and joy for our district. This weekend, as many of our teachers were getting ready to return to work to start the 2019-20 school year, our community was confronted with the unimaginable. A mass shooting occurred in our beloved El Paso.
On Saturday, as many of our parents and students were out shopping for school supplies, an outsider came into our city and carried out one of the deadliest attacks on our freedom and way of life. In the end, 22 members of our community lost their lives and at least 26 others were injured at a Walmart that sits just blocks away from several EPISD campuses.
This senseless act turned what is normally a time of new beginnings and anticipation into one of mourning.
Today, when our campus personnel return to work to start the school year, they will be greeted by old friends and familiar faces. Sadly, some of those people that mean so much to us will be facing unthinkable pain and sorrow. We now know that the EPISD Family has been touched by this tragedy and that the victims of the attack were family members and friends of some of our students and employees.
We as a District will support our employees and the community in their time of need. In times of tragedy, El Pasoans and the EPISD Family do what we always do: come together and pull through.
Just hours after first responders first made it on the scene, EPISD employees — from police officers, custodians, cafeteria workers, counselors and MacArthur administrators working on Saturday — answered the call to provide services and help. This weekend EPISD opened its doors and hearts to the victims of the attacks. I want to particularly thank the MacArthur community for rallying behind the impacted families. EPISD makes me proud, but never more than this weekend when we worked around the clock to support those who were caring for the families.
Over the next few days, as we prepare our schools to welcome our students back to class, I want to ask you to give one another an extra hug. Extend a helping hand to anyone who may need it. Ask a stranger how they’re doing.
Most importantly, seek help if you need it or guide students and adults to services if you feel they can use them. In addition to our EPISD Counseling Staff, the following agencies are available to help: Emergence Healthcare Network at 799-1800, El Paso Center for Children at 565-5021, and the El Paso Behavioral Health Services at 521-2450.
Together, we will grieve and persevere. After all, we are #EPISDProud and #ElPasoStrong.
New compensation package best in decadesPosted by Juan E. Cabrera on 6/19/2019
EPISD strengthened its commitment to recruiting and retaining high-quality educators and personnel on Tuesday when the Board of Trustees approved an unprecedented compensation and benefits package. Simply put, the salary increase and benefits package our employees will receive during the 2019-2020 school year is the best one we have offered in decades.
On average, every teacher in the District will have a salary increase of 6 percent from their base pay. Our starting teacher salary also was increased to $50,556. The Board also awarded a 5 percent increase from mid-point to all other employees in the District, including our deserving hourly employees.
Something that sets EPISD apart from other neighboring Districts is the system of stipends the Board approved on Tuesday. Every eligible full-time employee will receive a winter stipend of $750 (eligible part-time employees would receive half that amount). We project that enough funds will be available to also provide employees with a spring stipend of $500, and the Board has already preliminarily approved that funding.
We are able to provide this robust package not just because of the new funding awarded to the District after the 86th Texas State Legislature, but also because of the work our staff has put into making sure EPISD is one of the leanest and most efficiently-run school districts in the state. After years of cost-cutting and austerity, our commitment to provide high-quality instruction to children while remaining fiscally responsible to our taxpayers is paying off.
It’s also worth noting that the benefits package approved by the Board last night includes something our employees have been desired for years: a new self-funded healthcare option. Thanks to our status as a Texas District of Innovation, we are able to offer a new self-funded health insurance option that gives our employees and their families more choices at affordable prices. This plan will include $500 in employer-provided funds in an HSA if you select the high-deductible option. Open enrollment begins June 24 and ends July 31. Please visit our Benefits page for more information and a schedule of informational sessions, and check out the video below explaining how we came about this plan.
There are other great nuggets in this compensation and benefits package that will improve the quality of life of our employees. For instance, we are increasing the starting pay for school nurses and bus drivers in order to be more competitive in the area. We also are reassessing our staffing tables for custodial services and increasing their contracts to 12 months — all with the goal of giving our campuses the proper care and attention they deserve.
I am beyond proud of the work our staff put in to make this salary and benefits package a reality. I know I can speak on behalf of the Board of Trustees when I say that our employees deserve this and much more.
Thank you EPISD for constantly working to improve the lives of children. Your commitment to this community is inspiring. Have a wonderful summer!
2018-19 was a school year of successes.Posted by Juan E. Cabrera on 5/24/2019
It’s Graduation Season at EPISD! We are so excited to celebrate the hard work of our seniors starting today and through Tuesday. Graduation is the culmination of 12 years or more of hard work, dedication and a commitment to lifelong learning. Congratulations, EPISD graduates!
To watch graduation ceremonies live, go to www.episd.org/live.
Graduation ceremonies help us cap a year of unprecedented growth and achievement. In every corner of the District, students are performing at higher levels than ever before, and preliminary figures show even more improvement this year.
As we head into the summer, I wish teachers and staff a restful break. We are so thankful for the work you do to help us improve the lives of students. Have fun, relax and reenergize during your well-deserved time off. We’ll be ready for you in August in anticipation of an even greater 2019-20 school year.
2018 EPISD Penny Swap: Thank you for your support!Posted by Juan E. Cabrera on 11/7/2018What a great day to be part of the EPISD Family!El Pasoans on Tuesday voted to support public education and EPISD. The 2018 EPISD Penny Swap was approved, giving the District $7.5 million in additional state matching funds without at tax increase. On behalf of the students and employees of the District, I want to thank the community for their continued backing.The results from Tuesday night show that El Pasoans believe in education, believe in EPISD, and wish to provide our children with the highest-quality services possible. That speaks volumes of the amazing work happeing in our classrooms, and the type of community in which we live.In fact, the figures show just how much the residents of the District believe in education and the work EPISD educators are doing. Take these figures:
This is a strong mandate that lets us know we are on the right track!Because of declining enrollment, EPISD faces budgetary finances in the upcoming year. The 2018 Penny Swap will not fix that, but it will give us the opportunity to continue to build on the successes we have experienced over the past five years.The additional $7.5 million in state matching funds will help us continue programs like New Tech, International Baccalaureate, dual-language and the Active Learning Framework. It also will have a great impact on our full-time employees who will receive a $750 stipend this coming December. Part-time employees will get half of that amount.I am so blessed to lead such an amazing district of dedicated teachers and employees. In the spirit of the season I will be donating my holiday stipend to the EPISD Education Foundation.Thank you again for your support and confidence in El Paso. Together we will continue to make this District into the best EPISD we have ever had!
- In the 2015 Penny Swap election, about 7,100 voters voted in favor of the Tax Ratification Election;
- Last night, more than 42,000 voters favored the 2018 Penny Swap.
Comments on unfounded rumors regarding a visit by the U.S. Secretary of Education to EPISDPosted by Juan E. Cabrera on 10/18/2018
This week, several members of the EPISD Family received an email from Ross Moore, President of the El Paso Federation of Teachers and Support Personnel, falsely accusing me of orchestrating a visit to El Paso by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Moore’s statements are false and blatant lies meant to further his attack on the amazing work our educators are doing in our schools.
I want to be clear on this matter: EPISD has had no communication with either the U.S. Department of Education or Secretary DeVos regarding a visit to El Paso. Further, EPISD has no indication that a visit by Secretary DeVos is planned in the near future or at all.
Any presumption that my staff or I are involved in a plan to host Secretary DeVos – especially a presumption that is meant to malign my work and my reputation – is untruthful. I ask that Moore retract his email and issue an apology to the District for spreading information that is incorrect and disparaging. In the future, I hope we can find a partnership built on honesty and trust that can benefit our community.
That said, if Secretary DeVos, any senior official or Cabinet member does pay a visit to El Paso, we as a District should take the opportunity to showcase the exemplary work happening in our schools, and then strongly advocate for additional support and funding for public education.
EPISD is one of the highest rated urban school districts in the country, and we have plenty of which to be proud. If any national figure comes to EPISD, we will show them why the District is one of the premier school organizations in the country … politics aside.
Full Statement to the El Paso Times regarding AFT position on the 2018 Penny SwapPosted by Juan E. Cabrera on 10/4/2018
The El Paso Independent School District continues its informational campaign to share facts and figures about the 2018 Penny Swap with the voters. State election laws prohibit the District from advocating for or against the referendum and commenting on the El Paso Federation of Teachers stance may constitute a violation of that rule. Therefore, EPISD will not comment on that issue.
However, the District is compelled to respond to some of the inaccurate statements referenced in the Federation’s email to its members, which also was shared with media.
EPISD’s Bond 2016 is on time and on budget, with construction on major projects already under way at Crockett Elementary and other contracts up for Board approval as early as this month. The compact with the voters the EPISD Board approved before the Bond 2016 election remains in place, and the District is on track to meet all of its promises to the public. Voters can track the progress of the bond by visiting the Bond 2016 Dashboard that is available on our website at https://www.episd.org/episdbond2016.
In regard to the employee stipend that is proposed as part of the Penny Swap, it is important to note that Ross Moore, the President of the Federation in El Paso, publicly spoke in support of a uniform stipend as opposed to a percentage. Administration recommended a percentage of salary, which would have meant a higher stipend for most teachers. Mr. Moore also met with members of the board and administration during the budget process to discuss the needs and challenges of the district. EPISD continues to make employee compensation a priority but must remain fiscally responsible as it faces further cuts in state funding because of a decline in enrollment. It’s not in the best interest of the District to commit to fund perpetual salary increases when the financing from the state is, at best, unknown. Mr. Moore had been part of budget discussions, including conversations about school closures, in the spring in order to collaborate on long-term solutions. It is disconcerting that now Mr. Moore has chosen to take a position against the district and discount recommendations and decisions in which he took part and of which he was fully aware.
Instead of concentrating efforts and energy on continued negative attacks, I invite Mr. Moore to focus on the great strides and accomplishments made at EPISD in the last five years. Our teachers and students are now, more than ever, performing at higher levels by using research-based approaches to education. The proof is in the headlines. EPISD this year received a high B mark in the most recent Texas Education Agency ratings, outpacing most urban school districts in the state. EPISD was also the top district in Region 19 for the number of schools that earned all available performance and growth distinctions from the state during the 2017 school year. In just one year, our students surpassed our five-year Algebra I student outcome goal. EPISD is regularly used as a model in Dual Language across the nation. Those who choose not to acknowledge these successes are choosing to turn a blind eye in order to fulfill their own agendas.
EPISD has tried for five years to work with Mr. Moore but he is set on his own course which is not aligned with our student outcomes. Thankfully, our educators are blocking out the distractions. We are focused on innovation and improving classrooms and our results are 100% proof we are on the right track.
EPISD is leading the region and the statePosted by Juan E. Cabrera on 8/31/2018
The students in EPISD are making historic academic gains and the proof is in the results of this year’s accountability ratings. Texas Education Agency data shows EPISD in No. 1 in Region 19 for the number of schools that have earned all available distinctions in 2018. Not only that, but EPISD ranks third in the state for that same distinction.
Our focus on Active Learning and 21st century teaching is having a strong impact in the education of our children.
The amazing things that are happening inside each and every one of our classrooms is working, and the efforts by our students and teachers are translating into results that show we are well on our way to build the best EPISD in our history.
The TEA’s new accountability ratings and the numbers show a great turnaround in the way our schools are performing. I am so proud to be part of the EPISD family of educators that has taken on the task of giving our 58,000 students a world-class education. Thank you, teachers and staff for choosing EPISD and for embracing the innovative and forward-thinking approach to learning that is now the hallmark of our instruction.
Take a look at our results:
TEA gave EPISD a rating of 86, or a B (Recognized), based on the tremendous growth our students have made over the last five years. Our scores rank first among the large urban school districts that serve mostly low-income families — that is quite the feat.
Data also shows that all traditional campuses in EPISD meet state standards, and that schools from every corner of the District will earn the top score — an A (Exemplary) —when the TEA officially releases letter grades for campuses in January.
This is a vast improvement in student performance from where we were five years ago. Using effective, modern and — most importantly — ethical approaches to education, we have been able to perform at higher levels than ever before. Our educators have always had the skills and commitment to do what is right for children, and I am proud to say that they have taken the lead in guaranteeing that all students, regardless of the ZIP code in which they live, have access to top-notch programs that will help them be successful in life.
The numbers the District received are complex and our team of data analysts have been working hard at interpreting what it all means. In the end, we find amazing stories of success throughout EPISD.
Take for instance the number of students tested in Algebra 1 who scored at the college-ready level in 2017. The rate for that year is 19 percentage points higher than in the year before. That is amazing!
As I mentioned before, EPISD is also top in the region for the number of schools earning all available distinctions. These distinctions measure proficiency in core subject areas and track growth in important areas like college readiness and closing the learning gaps among students.
Help me congratulate the 11 schools that earned all distinctions. They are: El Paso, Silva Health Magnet and Chapin high schools; Wiggs Middle School; and Hughey, Lamar, Milam, Collins, Cielo Vista, Polk and Green elementary schools.
As we move forward with the 2018-19 school year, we will continue our focus on Active Learning that provides effective teaching instead of test preparation. I commend our teachers for their hard work, and I congratulate our parents, as well as community partners like CREEED, the New Tech Network and engage2learn for being extraordinary allies in our efforts to make EPISD the premier school district in the region.