The Lack of Leadership in Texas

Below are my opinions on reopening schools in Texas:

  1. Governor Abbott has showed a complete lack of leadership throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic. In June parroting trump, “Schools will fully open in the fall”. Keep in mind that this announcement in the middle of the 7 worst days Covid-19 to that point. Following this announcement, the number of active cases and deaths continued to rise. At this point, instead of being a parrot, he should have been a leader, stepped up and made a statement to this effect. “ALL SCHOOLS IN TEXAS WILL DELAY THE START OF SCHOOL UNTIL SEPTEMBER 8TH. DISTRICTS WILL CONTINUE TO DEVELOP MULTIPLE PLANS FOR REOPENING. THOSE PLANS WILL INCLUDES OPTIONS OF ONLINE INSTRUCTION, IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION OR A HYBRID MODEL. BETWEEN AUGUST 17TH-24TH EACH DISTRICT EVALUATE THEIR OWN SITUATION TO DETERMINE WHICH MODEL IS APPROPRIATE FOR THEM.

 

  1. As part of the September 8th start date, all UIL activities would also be postponed until a “Health Advisory Committee” can be formed at the state level (such as they did in Colorado) to evaluate the safety issues of sports in the near future. Do they need a modified calendar? Do they need to play at all?

 

  1. State level officials should provide broad guidance then leave the final decisions to the local leaders based on the situation in a particular county/city. In Harris county, there has been to much politics being played. The Harris County Judge has tried to take a pro-active approach to dealing with this situation, but has constantly been overruled by leadership in Austin. The contrary opinions from Austin are based on politics, not science. The Judge is a Democrat, the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General are all Republicans.

 

  1. Austin has to stop threatening school districts with withholding funding if they don’t open for 100% in-person instruction. Be supportive and provide the needed resources and guidance that are needed. It goes back to each district making the best decision for their situation. Twenty percent of the people in Texas are school children and staff. By keeping that 20% separated it has helped keep the number of positive cases and deaths down. When this 20% begin to assemble, there will be a definite spike in the number of cases.

 

  1. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) needs to take any form of testing off the table. All STAAR testing should be cancelled until such a time when a majority (over 75%) of all school children can return to a normal routine in-person instruction. We don’t know how long this will be. It might be one school year, it might be two or three, it is undetermined at this point.

 

In the end, the lack of leadership at the state level has led to prolonging and in fact exacerbating the situation. Early on the Harris County Judge attempted to imposed a mask order only to be overruled by the governor. If that mask order been allowed to stand, then it is likely the numbers would have been lower. The second failure was the rate of reopening following the shut down in April. The governor chose to begin the reopening just before Memorial Day. Many people saw this a “all is normal” signal and just ran to gather in bars and beaches. To add more fuel to the fire, the death of George Floyd sparked protest across the country. The protest created many large crowds, some wearing mask and social distancing, with some not following those safety guidelines. Following these two events, the state should have tapped the brakes on reopening the state, but they didn’t, they continued to open more businesses and increase the allowable capacity to increase.

Now as we struggle to fully open schools, much of the blame lies at the feet of Governor Abbott. If he were truly a leader, rather than parrot, then we would be much closer to opening schools or playing football on Friday nights.

In the coming weeks, we will see if he is capable of leading. Is he capable of making decisions that are beneficial to the people of Texas, not just placating to the party he represents? Is he capable of allowing local governing bodies including County Judges, Mayors, and School boards to make decisions that are best for their particular situations? Only time will tell, but past evidence would lead to some skepticism.

David R. Taylor

31 Year Teacher, Coach, and Principal

 

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