Heads of public institutions and elected officials must listen to the opinions of students and educators on how to deal with the crises emerging from the pandemic, including how to recruit future teachers, the panelists of the Regional Forum said on Tuesday. San Antonio Education 2022.
Panelists discussed “post-pandemic challenges facing public school leaders in Bexar County” at the 7th Annual San Antonio Report Forum at the Witte Museum. Communities In Schools CEO Rey Saldaña delivered a keynote address at the luncheon, following the presentation of the 2022 Education Champion Award to Shari Albright, President of the Charles Butt Foundation.
The report’s co-founder, Robert Rivard, moderated the lunch discussion between Marisa B. Pérez-Díaz, representative of the State Board of Education District 3; Ericka Olivarez, Principal of CAST Teach High School; Jordana Barton-García of Barton-García Advisors; and Inga Cotton, founder and executive director of San Antonio Charter Moms.
One of the biggest challenges public school leaders face is recruiting the next generation of teachers, while school districts struggle to adequately staff classrooms, Olivarez said. But CAST Teach has 115 eighth-graders who want to pursue a career in education and will take classes there once the school opens in the fall.
Olivarez said school leaders need to listen to students and educators to find solutions to issues related to the pandemic.
“We really need to tune our ears and listen to what teachers and students are saying about school systems. We have to listen and then act,” she said. “We have to stop thinking we have the solution, but really listen to our educators, and yes, that takes time. It’s an investment, but we have to spend that time listening to what they have to say about how we need to change and reinvent school.
Some of those issues include national and state political narratives that have spilled into classrooms and meeting rooms, typically around mask mandates and teaching about race and sexuality, Pérez-Díaz said. She said these narratives are politically driven by elected officials who want to stay in power.
“They’re ready to say anything, and in the process we’re dismantling what public education has the potential to do,” she said. “If more educators in this state and in this country were politically engaged, we would be completely different.”
Olivarez agreed, saying staff and students should not shy away from these political conversations, but engage in them. She wants students to see the political side of education careers and show them what it’s like to work in the State Capitol and the Texas Education Agency.
“We can set aside time for our students and teachers to learn how the political system works, to learn about the history of education in our country, to San Antonio, to learn how we got to where we are. ,” she said. “They can help us transform it. They’re going to be the voices we need to listen to, and so we need to teach them that power.”
But often getting the opinion of educators is an “afterthought” for political leaders, Pérez-Díaz said. She highlighted the TEA’s recently formed Teacher Vacancies Task Force. Of the 28 committee members, only two are teachers, although the agency later announced that it would create an additional panel of teachers.
“Classroom educators for whom policies have a direct impact are often second thoughts,” she said to applause. “That can’t happen anymore. They need to be part of the conversation from the start.