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Grand opening of Rep. Canales’ District Office in Edinburg set for 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10

Featured, from left: Val LaMantia Peisen, Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Rick Villarreal, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who also serves as Chair, House Committee on Transportation. This image was taken on Monday, December 2, 2019 during the third annual Christmas Bash & Toy Drive, hosted by Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, and his wife, Lorena Sáenz González, at the Embassy Suites in McAllen. 

Photograph By ISMAEL GARCIA

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The grand opening of Rep. Canales’ District Office in Edinburg set for 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

A formal grand opening for the District Office of Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has been set for Tuesday, March 10, 2020, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Edinburg Chamber Depot, located at 602 W. University Drive, leaders for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce have announced.

In general, the District Office is where a lawmaker and his/her staff can meet with individuals, most often their constituents, in or near the legislator’s hometown. All Texas state legislators have an office at the Texas Capitol, at at least one District Office.

The event has been nicknamed the “Sunset Social”, a reference to Canales’ appointment on Friday, December 20, 2019, by Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, to the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. 

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is a 12-member legislative commission tasked with identifying and eliminating waste, duplication, and inefficiency for more than 130 Texas state agencies.  The Commission questions the need for each agency to look for potential duplication of other public services or programs and considers new and innovative changes to improve each agency’s operations and activities. The Commission seeks public input on every agency under Sunset review and recommends actions on each agency to the full Legislature. In most cases, agencies under Sunset review are automatically abolished unless legislation is enacted to continue them.

Canales also serves as Chair of the House Committee on Transportation.

There is no charge to attend the gathering, which is open to the public, but the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce officials are asking individuals who plan to show up to RSVP them by calling (956) 383-4974 or via email at [email protected].

According to his legislative website:

Canales was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 to represent District 40, which encompasses the heart of Hidalgo County. The cities within District 40 include Edinburg (Hidalgo County county seat), Elsa, North Pharr, San Carlos, La Blanca, Faysville, and portions of McAllen and Weslaco.

In 2019, Canales was appointed by Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen to serve as Chairman of the powerful House Transportation Committee, the first Latino to hold that position. As the Chair of the House Transportation Committee, Canales oversees Texas’ highways, airways, waterways, and railways, which are vital to the economic prosperity of the fastest-growing state in the nation. Chairman Canales also serves on the Land and Resource Management Committee. 

In his time in the legislature, Canales has focused on transparency and open government, passing several pieces of legislation to ensure the public’s right to know how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent as well as the right to have their voice heard at local governmental meetings. Canales has a long history of fighting for public schools, current and retired teachers, and ensuring that students are given the opportunity to succeed. Canales has also been a leader on criminal justice reform, filing and passing legislation aimed at eliminating a modern debtor’s prison system to make certain that state resources are being utilized efficiently. 

Canales completed his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of The Incarnate Word and his law degree at St. Mary’s School of Law. Upon passage of the Texas State Bar Exam, Canales opened his own law practice in Edinburg, where he lives with his wife, Erica E. Canales, and is raising five children: Juliana, Terry Andrés, Caleb Ezra, Trigo, and Catalina. As he often shares “I’m an attorney by day, a representative in the afternoon, a chairman during the night and a father, a husband, a son, a brother and a friend sometime in between.”

He also presents daily updates to the public through his Facebook, which is available online at:

TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY OFFERS OPTIONS FOR SCHOOLS CONSIDERING LONGER SCHOOL YEAR

As part of its school finance overhaul, the 86th Legislature last year provided a funding incentive for schools to extend their school calendar for up to 30 days beyond the required minimum operation time. 

Education Code sec. 25.081(a) requires school districts to operate for at least 75,600 minutes, and districts commonly adopt a 180-day calendar to meet this requirement.

As enacted by House Bill 3 by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, Education Code sec. 48.0051 provides half-day formula funding for districts and charter schools that want to add up to 30 days of half-day instruction for students in prekindergarten through grade 5. To qualify for the funding, districts must provide the required minimum minutes over the course of at least 180 days of instruction.

The new law states that students may not be required to attend school for any extra instructional days added under the funding incentive.

Under the new law, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) must assist school districts and open-enrollment charter schools in qualifying for the funding. As part of its ongoing video series on House Bill 3, the agency presents options for campuses to extend their school year based on the school’s goals for the extra days.

TEA advises local school leaders to first decide on their goals, which could include mitigating the drop in student achievement over the summer months known as the “summer slide,” providing shorter, intermittent breaks to allow teachers to work with struggling students, or building non-instructional time into each school day for student recess and teacher planning.

In the video, the agency outlines three possible options for revising a traditional school calendar, including:

• Using a voluntary summer program of up to 30 days to target remediation and enrichment to better prepare students for the upcoming school year and help families save money on child care costs;

• Creating an inter-sessional calendar with intermittent breaks placed strategically throughout the year during which certain students could receive targeted remediation and a shorter summer break that would minimize the summer slide risk for all students; and

• Redesigning the school day and extending the school year into the summer to provide more non-instructional time each day for additional student recess and enrichment (art, music, physical education) and more teacher planning time.

TEA says in the video that research shows that a full-year redesign will lead to greater student achievement by offering elementary students more “brain breaks” and teachers more time for collaboration and curriculum development.

The agency is offering $5 million in planning grants for schools wanting to extend their school calendars. Awards of up to $125,000 will be made this spring to help districts fund a project manager to plan for a redesign and build family support for calendar changes, TEA says. Districts that receive those grants could receive an additional $25,000 this fall to implement their revised calendars.

Districts are encouraged to test calendar revisions at selected campuses or try different options at several campuses. The requirement that districts start their academic calendar on the fourth Monday of August remains, although many districts have voided this requirement by organizing as districts of innovation.

Supporters of extending the school year say that adding days to the school year would reduce the drop in student achievement levels that often happens during the summer break, especially for lower-income students who may not have the opportunity to attend camps and other summer activities that provide learning opportunities. Supporters say the funding for additional school days could be used to increase teacher pay and provide more instructional time to cover the required learning standards.

Critics of extending the school year say that adding days to the school year would interrupt the traditional summer break, which is an important time for children to rejuvenate and for families to reconnect and go on vacation. Some children will lose access to other important learning opportunities through traditional summer activities outside of school, critics say, and summer camps, tourism, and related industries could be affected.

SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE MUSIC FACULTY CONVEY REALITY OF THE HOLOCAUST TO VALLEY SCHOOLS

STC Music faculty convey the reality of the Holocaust to Valley schools

Recounting the suffering of his own grandparents who were survivors of the Holocaust, South Texas College Music faculty Dr. Michael Gersten says he immersed himself in some painful memories in order to bring the realization to light for Valley students.

A grant from the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission enabled Gersten, along with music faculty from STC to perform the work “Hate, Hope, and Healing: Exploring the Holocaust Through Music” at Valley high schools.

There were only two other organizations to receive the grant, including the Dallas Holocaust Museum and the Anti-Defamation League, both of which are large organizations with a national reach.

The result is an attempt to immerse the audience in the human emotion of the tragic history of the Holocaust. The musicians performing the piece used the opportunity to enable students to walk away with a greater understanding of the responsibility everyone has in preventing acts of hate against all people, according to Gersten.

“My grandparents were Holocaust survivors so this is very personal,” Gersten said. “There are far too many examples in the history of the world where innocent people suffer because of hatred; hatred because of someone’s religion, their race, or just who they are. This is about one specific example in history where this happened.”

The performance, which includes an original movie with a live soundtrack performed by STC music faculty and a guest artist from New York, was presented for students at Sharyland High School, PSJA Memorial High School, PSJA Southwest High School, and IDEA College Prep McAllen. 

The grant, along with matching funds from the STC music department, enabled STC to perform at zero cost to the schools.

“Hate, Hope, and Healing: Exploring the Holocaust Through Music” is an immersive, emotional presentation that follows the experiences of three men and women who survived the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany and their collaborators during the Holocaust.  

The multimedia presentation includes survivor interviews with archival photos and videos. A Bisl Klezmer performed the live soundtrack.

A Bisl Klezmer is the name of the group specializing in traditional Jewish music comprised of musicians Melanie Haskins, and Mike and Meredith Gersten. STC faculty Patrick Hopkins also performed.

“What we should all take from this, I hope, is that you really listen to these stories and not think of them as dates and names in textbooks, but real things that happened to real people,” Gersten said. “I hope you will remember these stories as you live your lives and think ‘what can I do to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again’.” 

For more insight into the performance, please visit https://www.mikegersten.com/hope for more information.

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Janet Elliot and Joey Gómez contributed to this report. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com)

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