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Arlington school board spars over holiday to honor Chavez

11/01/2012 11:30 PM

11/01/2012 11:44 PM

ARLINGTON -- Approval of a new policy about student use of digital devices took a back seat Thursday night to a more confrontational discussion and vote by Arlington school trustees regarding the 2013-14 school calendar.

The point of contention was the calendar committee's recommendation to eliminate a May 2 holiday and move two bad-weather makeup days to the end of the year so that school could end a few days earlier.

Trustee Gloria Pena objected, proposing instead that the calendar not be approved until more community input could be gathered regarding ending the May 2 holiday.

"There are people in the community who want a Cesar Chavez holiday," said Pena, who has long supported naming the early May holiday after the workers' rights advocate.

"I just don't think community input should be shut down. Shutting people out is not the solution."

John Hibbs countered that community input is always in play.

"I haven't received three e-mails on this on the entire time I've been on the board," he said.

A vote followed on whether to pull the proposed calendar for more community input. Pena and Tony Pompa voted yes, but the other five trustees voted against.

A subsequent vote to accept the calendar as written was approved 6 to 1, with Pena opposing.

Interim Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos said the larger issue of recognizing Hispanic contributions would be honored.

"We will get community input as part of our strategic plan," he said. "I think Ms. Pena is right: We haven't had a lot of community engagement. In the spring semester we will hear, on a wider scale, feedback on our schools. Our schools and principals are already preparing for that."

One community voice was present on Thursday. Richard Gonzales spoke in earlier open forum in favor of a Cesar Chavez holiday on the Arlington school calendar, citing the dedication of the Cesar Chavez National Monument and the naming of a U.S. Navy ship after Chavez as a trend of marking his contributions.

Technology issues

As far as technology, beginning in early 2013, students in Arlington schools will be able to bring their own laptops, netbooks, iPads, iPod Touches, smartphones and e-readers to class.

The board passed the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) policy 6-1.

The dissenting vote was by board president Peter Baron, who is a teacher in the Grand Prairie school district.

"I'm disappointed," Baron said. "I'm surprised we don't have a line of teachers sitting there saying, 'Put me in, Coach.' I haven't heard from teachers groups complaining about it either."

Arlington schools already have district-owned technology devices for students to use, but studies have been cited showing that many students are more comfortable and do better if they use their own devices for their class work.

Some trustees felt the board was over-regulating the policy.

"It's not our decision," Bowie Hogg said. "It's the principals'."

Language was added that specified that the technology program will ultimately be administered at the discretion of teachers and principals.

Also the board hired an Austin firm, HillCo Partners, to lobby for the district at the Legislature. Shirley Jinkins,

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