McCallum says farewell to faculty members

Whether they’ve been here for three years or 30, departing faculty members have been important parts of the campus community. Here are interviews with five teachers who won’t be returning next year, in which they reflect on their favorite memories of McCallum, their favorite things about teaching in general, and their plans for the future.

Seniors cut to the core of the matter

High school can be a confusing time. You have to decide what extracurriculars you want to participate in, if you want to play any sports and worry about your grades all at the same time. The biggest choice of all, however, comes when you fill out your first choice sheet, deciding what classes you will take during the upcoming school year. Deciding between Advanced Placement courses or regular, on-level courses can be very stressful. Most people will tell you that AP classes are the right move, because they are more challenging and will better prepare you well for college, along with allowing you to leave the class at the end of the year with a potential college credit. On the other hand, some people feel that taking all AP courses when you already know that you want to go into a field like art, film or music, doesn’t make very much sense, and can be a source of unnecessary stress.

For many years at Mac and elsewhere, the choice of course level was binary: AP or regular, but with the introduction of dual credit classes from ACC and UT, the choice has become a lot more complicated.


One person who has seen the advantages of taking AP course is senior Skel Gracie, who feels that AP classes have opened doors for her in the future.

“I took mostly APs in high school,” Gracie said. “I’m glad I did because I think it will make college a lot easier financially. I’ll also be able to take more interesting classes, instead of something like U.S. history. I honestly wish I had taken more college-credit classes, because taking all of those classes in college gets really expensive.”

I’m glad I [took mostly AP classes] because I think it will make college a lot easier financially. I’ll also be able to take more interesting classes.”

— Skel Gracie

AP classes can be difficult because many students are also involved in some sort of extracurricular, either on campus or off. For Gracie, it’s technical theatre.

“For me, tech theatre has taken up a lot of time,” Gracie said. “But that’s just because I do every single show. Tech theatre is good, because you don’t have that many in-school requirements. You only have to take Art l, Theatre l, and Tech Theatre all four years.”

While students may place a higher priority on extracurriculars, colleges will pay attention to what sort of classes you take in high school.

“For me, it was really helpful to be able to say that I had taken lots of college-level courses,” Gracie said, “especially in things like interviews for scholarships; it was good to have some added clout.”

Gracie feels high school is all about finding where your priorities lay.

“I would suggest to any underclassmen that they try at least one AP class and see how they like it,” Gracie said. “But pay attention to your stress levels and figure out what you personally prioritize. For me being in a bunch of extracurriculars wasn’t super important to me, but being in high level classes was.”


When it comes to college credit in high school, ACC isn’t the only option. Last year, the University of Texas rolled out a new program at McCallum called OnRamps. It currently is limited to only a few classes, but some students have already found some success within the program. In addition to her AP classes, senior Skel Gracie took OnRamps English her junior year.

With OnRamps, you have a little bit more freedom to write about what you find interesting.”

— Skel Gracie

“I was also looking for a break from the conventional AP-style way of approaching books” Gracie said. “I always felt like our interpretation of the book, or whatever we were reading, was kind of forced on us, and didn’t leave much room for other interpretation. I feel like with OnRamps you have a little bit more freedom to write about what you find interesting.”

The core of the OnRamps class offered at McCallum is writing, and, as Gracie explains, that can really come in handy later. “It definitely made me a much better writer, and that has helped a lot with things like college essays, or the writing portion of the SAT,” Gracie said. While there are some benefits to taking an OnRamps class at McCallum, it is not without its challenges. “One thing that I really struggled with was reading stuff online, because so much of the class is on the computer. Honestly, if you don’t thrive in online classes, I wouldn’t recommend it.”


ACC dual-credit classes allow McCallum students to take a class at ACC, or with an ACC professor, and get college credit for the course, while also getting credit for the class at McCallum. For example, someone could take United States history at ACC, get college credit for the class, and also get high school credit. ACC classes are ideal for people like Liv Arden, who have a busy schedule and need their classes to be flexible.

A lot of my ACC classes were online. There was a test once a week, and you were just expected to complete the notes on your own.”

— Liv Arden

“A lot of my ACC classes were online,” Arden said. “It was honestly pretty laid-back; there was a test once a week, and you were just expected to complete the notes on your own. I really liked it because if I was traveling I could just log onto my computer and do my classwork, even though I’m out of the country.”

One thing that appeals to many students about taking ACC classes during the school year or over the summer is the possibility of an off period your senior year.

“I was friends with a lot of seniors when I was a junior, and it was really nice for them to be able to sleep in or leave a period early,” Arden said.

Of course, ACC courses come with their own set of challenges.

“It can be difficult to stay focused,” Arden said, “especially if it’s over the summer, just because it’s kind of unstructured, and you have to really motivate yourself to do well. If you are someone who needs the school setting to really focus, then it might be a challenge.”


Of course, taking all AP classes isn’t the only route you can take. For example, senior Liv Arden decided that instead of plunging headfirst into AP classes, she would take a mix of both APs and regs.

“I think it’s really important to have your own time in high school,” Arden said. “I think people get way too wrapped up in schoolwork when they take all APs. Generally, I think it’s a good idea to take at least one regs class to give yourself a break.”

People get way too wrapped up in schoolwork when they take all APs. Generally, I think it’s a good idea to take at least one regs class to give yourself a break.”

— Liv Arden

Arden, however, is in a situation that necessitates less homework.

“I work two jobs, so I don’t really have time after school to get my homework done after school,so regs is a better choice for me,” Arden said.

Arden recognizes, however, that there are some drawbacks to this approach.

For a long time I thought that colleges caring about what sort of classes you took in high school was a myth, but now I know that it definitely isn’t. I got rejected from Santa Clara University, and they said it was because I didn’t take enough AP classes, and even though I had good grades, it didn’t seem like I was challenging myself, so that’s definitely something I regret.”
Arden also regretted not being as involved beyond the classroom.

“Another one of my big regrets in high school is not getting really involved in an extracurricular,” Arden said. “I feel like, in high school, it’s important to do some things just because you like them, not because of the grade, and colleges really like to see that too. Exploring your interests in high school is really the only chance you get, because by the time you get to college, everyone has already settled into their hobby or sport, and has been doing it for a few years, so you’ll be behind.”

Summer senior portrait day is Aug. 6

CLASS OF 2020: 1st Photo Texas will be on campus on Tuesday Aug. 6 to take cap and gown portraits and also the tux and drape photos that will appear in the 2020 yearbook.

Sit for your portraits while your summer tan is still at its peak.

We will draw names from the seniors who sit for summer-session portraits to see who wins a 2020 yearbook and one of the two one-block senior yearbook ads were are raffling off.

There is no charge for sitting for the portraits, but you can purchase additional poses with a second background for $20.

To sign up for a time, click on the image or on this link.

Lehman retires after 51 years at Mac

After six decades in the science classroom, 51 of them at McCallum, Robert Lehman, chemist extraordinaire, is officially retiring.

Knight archives, 1971 and 2019.
Robert Lehman’s Knight yearbook portrait in 1971 and in 2019.

Lehman confirmed with MacJournalism today that he will not return to Mac in the fall, saying he will miss interacting with students terribly but not the bureaucracy that comes with teaching in an urban public high school.

Science department chair Nicole Sorto said that when she heard that Lehman had chosen “not to work for AISD next year,” she was saddened.

“Those words were so difficult for me to hear,” Sorto said. “Mr. Lehman hired me and has been my mentor and friend for 26 years; he is and will continue to be in my heart and with me each day as I walk through the halls and teach my kids. He is embedded in the fabric of McCallum High School.”

[Robert Lehman] is embedded in the fabric of McCallum High School.”

— Science department chair Nicole Sorto

It is fair to say that there simply is no way to overstate the truth of that statement.

Even before his half-century of teaching at Mac, Lehman was in the McCallum picture.

As a senior at Travis High School in 1953, Lehman attended the first Battle of the Bell between Mac and Travis, the rivalry game that has persisted through 66 years.

According to Sorto, Lehman started teaching at McCallum in the 1967-1968 school year. After 51 years teaching at Mac, he has taught thousands of Knights, including multiple generations within the same McCallum families.

Dave Winter
WHEEL POWER: Chemistry teacher Robert Lehman is the portrait of concentration during Carey West’s second pottery-wheel throwing session during the Maculty’s Teach Your Passion in-service this morning in the Art 3 classroom in the MAC.

One of those former students, surgeon Mark Thomas posted this message to the MacJournalism Facebook page on the occasion of Lehman’s 82nd birthday in August:

“After four years of medical school, five years of residence training and over 20 years of surgical practice, I still remember his class and some of his dry sense of humor.”

In an exclusive interview with MacJournalism earlier this year, Lehman described how it was that he chose to become a teacher.

“Chemistry was my major, and I was going to work in oil,” Lehman said, “but they did not hire anyone who was not in the military, so I went to work in teaching, and I liked it, so I stayed with it. Chemistry is everything, you can not name something that does not deal with it, and students tend to like it better because it is hands-on.”

Lehman said chemistry wasn’t just the students’ favorite science course to take but also his favorite to teach.

Chemistry is everything, you can not name something that does not deal with it.”

— Science teacher Robert Lehman

“I’ve taught most [science classes], but I like chemistry best. It’s a blend of everything. There is not a set answer, they can change. You may think you know everything about chemistry, [but] come to find out there are 60 different answers and 60 different ways to do it.”

That’s a different answer for each year that Lehman has taught science.

All of us at MacJournalism wish Mr. Lehman all the best in retirement and in all of his future endeavors.


Hosack makes debut as Mac principal

May 28. The day the teachers and students had been waiting for since the moment principal Mike Garrison announced on April 11 his plans to retire at the end of the summer.

There was chatter among the group of about 25 or 30 parents catching up on their brief tastes of summer vacation, talking about future plans and whispering about the big new change. The speech began, and McCallum’s new principal dove right in, addressing topics from the daunting challenge of filling Garrison’s shoes to her main philosophies in leadership to her love and admiration for McCallum students even though she hasn’t met them yet.

Please know that I am coming in respecting the work that [Mike Garrison] has done. I’m not here to rock your world and turn you on your ear.”

— interim principal Brandi Hosack

And then, without hesitation, she answered the huge, long-awaited, most anticipated question of the evening. The audience members leaned forward, on the edge of their seats.

“It’s pronounced ho-zik. It’s a good strong Czech name, which means you say it nothing like it’s spelled. Just pretend it says z-i-kat the end, and you’ll get it right.”

With nine years of administrative experience and 10 years in public-school teaching, Brandi Hosack is joining the McCallum community with much prior experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M in kinesiology and biology and in educational administration from the University of Texas, marking her journey as an Aggie, a Longhorn and now, a proud Knight.

For most of her professional life, 14 years, she worked at Akins High School, moving from student teacher, to softball coach, to full-time teacher for several years. She then taught briefly at Samuel Clemens High School in Schertz near San Antonio, and returned a year later to Akins as science department chairwoman, assistant principal, academy director, interim principal and eventually principal.

Many Akins students and teachers recognized her positive impact on the school.

Dave Winter
Hosack joked that her three young sons, ages 5, 6 and 7, might on occasion be seen tearing through the Mac hallways and that they thought their mom’s job was pretty lame. But then she added that her perspective as a parent who wants the best for her children made her a better principal.

“She created a campus community that was very open and communicative and productive and also career-oriented, and those were all very positive.” said Akins Class of 2019 graduate Bethany Bissell, a news editor for the Akins newspaper, The Eagle’s Eye, who will be attending LSU in the fall. Bissell added that Hosack stressed the positive aspects of the school and mirrored those qualities in her leadership at the school.

“She really valued transparency and compassion, and it was very refreshing,” Bissell said. “I remember she shook hands with students a lot; she made it a priority. Whenever I would see her around campus, [she would] stop students and speak to them and interact with them positively. It was very nice.”

Something that was really great about Hosack was that she cared a lot about forms of student expression. And she really saw the value in student press and the vitality of our service and because of that we got to operate more or less freely. That was really great. ”

— Bethany Bissell, Eagle's Eye editor, Akins Class of 2019

Bissell also addressed some of the positive changes that Hosack she made to the school during her time as Akins principal, including the Restorative Justice Program, a disciplinary system that Hosack installed. “That was something that Hosack cared a lot about,” Bissell said.

According to Stephanie Valle’s November 2015 story posted to the Eagle’s Eye Online, the purpose of the restorative justice program was to deal with discipline issues in a way that helped the student solve the problems that caused the misbehavior to occur rather than focusing on the punishment for the misbehavior. A key strategy in the program was the listening circle where all affected parties would sit in a circle, and each person, including the student who committed the infraction, could propose ways to make right what had gone wrong.

The program’s key purpose–to provide avenues to improve communications between stakeholders at the school–was a major theme that Hosick stressed in her initial conversations with the faculty and the community. Her success in doing just that led Bissell to offer this assessment.

“I don’t want to sing too many praises, but I think that you [McCallum kids] really lucked out in terms of your new principal.”

The faculty at Akins also recognized her strong leadership of the school. Journalism teacher and newspaper adviser David Doerr agreed that Hosack was an excellent communicator.

“She’s really good at listening to people,” Doerr said. “She makes decisions with how it will impact everyone in mind, not just, you know, immediate repercussions.”

Dave Winter
New interim principal Brandi Hosack, right, chats with retiring science teacher Richard Whisennand after Hosack met with the faculty on the morning of May 28. Whisennand told the Shield on multiple occasions over the years that students need to know that their teachers care about them before they will work hard for them. It is a theme that Hosack stressed in both meetings on May 28 and in her interview with The Shield‘s Elisha Scott.

Doerr also said that she was approachable and available to her teachers.

“I never felt afraid to go to her with anything, like a question,” he said. “It really was an open door policy. Sometimes you hear that, and it’s just a saying, but in her office, her door was open and you could just go in and talk to her quickly. It wasn’t like she was hiding behind a secretary or anything.”

Doerr said that Hosack also valued pride in the school, both from herself and the students.

“She wasn’t shy about her love for the campus and sharing that with the community, and making sure the students felt that way too,” Doerr said, adding that the signature hashtag on her Twitter account during her days as Akins principal was #besthighschoolontheplanet. “She really seemed to care and wanted students to be proud of their school. … She was out there, she was always going to events, she had a really good presence, walking around campus she would be happy to interact with students. I remember being at an assembly, or a pep rally, and students just shouting “We love you Ms. Hosack!”

She was always going to events. She had a really good presence. Walking around campus, she would be happy to interact with students. She came across well, I remember being at an assembly, or a pep rally, and students just shouting, ‘We love you Ms. Hosack!’ ”

— Akins journalism teacher David Doerr

Doerr also brought up another unique system put into action by Hosack called the “Academy Cup.” He described it as a sort of competition between different faculty members in different academies within the school. It would occur on a holiday where the students had off, but the teachers still attended the school day.

“It was kind of late in the year to do a lot of professional development, so instead of having us cooped up in classrooms we were out doing like american ninja warrior type physical challenges, or other types of fun competitions like karaoke or something else.”

But Doerr said that Hosack’s time at Akins was not all fun and games. She dealt with several school security concerns during her time at principal, experience that might serve her well at McCallum given the social media-driven school security concerns that Garrison had to deal with in 2018.

“She had to deal with a lot of [safety concerns] around our campus in those three years,” Doerr said. “You know, we had a lockdown last year and she had to deal with that, she had a way of making people feel safe in those kinds of turbulent situations.”

According to the Eagle’s Eye Online, Akins was put on lockdown on Feb. 22, 2018, after a former student made a terroristic threat on the campus. Students stayed in their classrooms for about three hours until the suspect was apprehended and arrested at a shopping center near the Akins campus.

Dave Winter
Hosack is interviewed by rising sophomore people editor Elisha Scott. While Hosack has a track record of supporting student expression and using her Twitter account to promote the school’s image, she also said that parents and faculty must work together to teach students how to be responsible about using social media.

Prior to that incident, according to the Eagle’s Eye, in October 2016, Hosack dealt with a social media-fueled threat to the Akins campus when an Akins student was arrested after posing as a clown and posting messages that threatened violence against Akins students.

“I will always go to the side of caution,” Hosack told Brenda Amaya-Rangel and Stephanie Valle of the Eagle’s Eye Online. “I don’t think we could have possibly taken it more seriously and if anything continues to occur we will take that seriously, too.”

She was always willing to talk, like if you didn’t want to talk to a counselor, she’d be fine with talking to you. She would put down whatever she was doing so y’all could have a conversation.”

— Tillery Larson, North Forney Class of 2019

Hosack final comment in the interview suggests the governing philosophy she will bring to a similiar situation should it occur at McCallum in the future.

“My No. 1 job is to keep kids safe before we can do anything else,” Hosack told the Eagle’s Eye Online. “Kids have to be safe on campus. Very close behind that is to make sure that they are receiving the best education possible, but I can’t do one without the other. As much as social media is ruling the world I need parents to know that I am going to do whatever it takes to make sure the kids are safe on this campus 100 percent of the time so if that means I have to send out a letter and be really honest and say this is what’s going on then that is what I will do. If that means that I have to lock us down to make sure we are in a safe place that’s what I am going to do. If I have a decision that I have to make, I’m going to go with what is the best thing to keep kids safe. I’m going to take whatever precautions are necessary to make sure (the kids) are safe so that (parents) don’t have to worry about anything when (their kids) come to school.”

Hosack left Akins after the 2017-2018 school year and moved to suburban Dallas in order to deal with some family matters. During the 2018-2019 school year, she served as the principal at North Forney High School, about 30 miles east of Dallas. One North Forney student, Class of 2019 graduate Tiffany Larson posted to her Twitter account that despite only being principal for one year, Hosack had been “by far … the best principal North Forney has ever had.”

Larson said that Hosack immediately improved the climate at North Forney by making it a friendly environment. Larson said that Hosack tried to create an open campus, to eliminate school uniforms and she starting putting up posters all over the school to promote respect of individual students. Two of the posters, Larson remembered read “No doesn’t mean convince me” and “It’s OK to not be OK.”

“She was very mental health aware of her students,” Larson said.

Hosack’s greatest asset, Larson said, was her own character and personality.

“She’s very fun to be around,” Larson said. “She makes every place that you’re with her fun, whether she’s … at a football game and [trying to] make sure everybody’s OK, or she’s just in the cafeteria. … She was always willing to talk, like if you didn’t want to talk to a counselor, she’d be fine with talking to you. She would put down whatever she was doing so y’all could have a conversation.”

When asked how long she intends to stay at McCallum, Hosack answered simply forever.’”

According to Doerr, Hosack was the same way at Akins.

“She would make herself available,” he said. “She had an open-door policy, I never felt afraid to go to her with anything, like a question, it really was an open door policy, like sometimes you hear that and it’s just a saying but in her office her door was open and you could just go in and talk to her quickly.”

The respect that Hosack showed to individual students and teachers, Larson said, Hosack also extended to each school organization.

“The band [at North Forney] doesn’t usually get recognized,” Larson said, “and she actually did. She would recognize the band, she would talk up about them. It wasn’t so football-team driven. It was like, ‘We have other extracurricular things like theater; we have band; we have dance, and she’d keep us all updated on what those groups are doing. It wasn’t just about the sports teams.”

While Hosack made an impact at North Forney, she made it clear that she longed to be back in Austin.

“Once you’re in Austin, you can’t really go to Dallas. You can go Dallas to Austin, but you can’t really go the other way around,” she said jokingly during her speech to the community. “They referred to me as the Austin hippie the entire year there, and they are absolutely right. I am, and I’m proud to be so. … I’m glad to be back home.”

Madelynn Niles
When asked about specific concerns at the community meeting, Hosack mentioned that the faculty needed to work with parents to protect students from social media and substance abuse and that she wanted to make sure that all classroom activities were focused on teaching core objectives not just encouraging class participation.

When asked how long she intends to stay at McCallum, she answered simply “forever.”

She continued by saying, “I plan to stay forever. I don’t take on the job of interim to be a short-term event. My intention is to become the principal of McCallum and to keep pushing forward for a long time. For a long time do I plan to be a McCallum Knight.”

Perhaps in part because hopes to be McCallum principal for the long haul, she made it very clear in both sessions that her first priority is to observe the school as it is.

I was surprised that her language was as social and warm regarding the students, and I thought that was really delightful.”

— Parent Lisa Alverson

“I think that for me to be a good leader, I first need to listen,” she told The Shield. “There is a lot to learn from Mr. Garrison. I am good friends with him, and I’m telling you what, I think he’s top notch. Please know that I am coming in respecting the work that he has done. I’m not here to rock your world and turn you on your ear — I am here to make sure that I take the time to get to know you, to build a relationship with you… and to make sure that the success continues.”

“I certainly can’t fill his shoes, but I will try to do my best to do his work justice and make sure that I do him proud.”

Hosack also made it clear that relationships with the students and faculty are a priority of hers.

“My goal is to have a relationship with every person in this building,” she told The Shield. “There’s a lot of people in this building; that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to know each other by name right off the bat. But to have the relationship, for students to know that they can come to me for any reason that they need to, my door is literally open to them, and for the staff to know what I’m about. I have no surprises, I have no hidden agenda, I have very positive intentions for this place.”

Larson predicted that those intentions will become clear to the McCallum community soon enough.

“[Hosack] will come in with a very driven attitude,” Larson said. “She will start to change things as soon as she can, but they’re never bad changes. She will just try to make everything to the best of her ability, and she always tries to get student input. She’ll send out little surveys like, ‘What would you guys think about this?’ or ‘Was this OK what I did?’ She would do stuff like that.”

For their part, the parents who attended Hosack’s initial meeting seemed to appreciate her warm welcome. “She is high energy, she seems enthusiastic, she seems very aware of the fact that she’s got some big shoes to fill at McCallum, and she seems up to the job,” MAC mother Bergan Casey stated. “In many ways, she is [the] opposite [of] Garrison, not just in gender but in philosophy.”

I don’t have to know you yet to love and care about you. I don’t have to know you on a personal level. I love who you are and I love what you’re about and I love that we’re going to get to go on this journey together.”

— Interim principal Brandi Hosack's message to Mac students

Another parent, Lisa Alverson, agreed with these positive initial reactions. “I was surprised that her language was as social and warm regarding the students, and I thought that was really delightful,” she said. “I love Mr. Garrison, and it will be hard, but fortunately, like they were careful to say, she will be respecting the leadership that he used at the school, and not try to not overstep what he did, but polish it in her own special way.”

At the conclusion of her interview, she was asked what she wants the McCallum kids to know.

“I’m going to say something to them that’s probably going to be a little strange,” she said smiling. “ I’m going to tell them that I love them, because I don’t have to know you yet to love and care about you. I don’t have to know you on a personal level. I love who you are and I love what you’re about and I love that we’re going to get to go on this journey together.”

She spoke in extreme detail of how much she admires McCallum and how honored she feels to begin this new adventure. Her speech to the community had an emphasis on this gratitude: “I know how special this place is. I absolutely do know that, and I am blessed beyond measuring to be a part of it. I had quite a few phone calls the other day when the news came out that it was going to be me, and everyone single person said, ‘you are lucky,’ and I said “yes, I know.”

In some ways that assessment makes her challenge even an even greater one. How do you improve upon something that is already pretty great? It’s a challenge she seems ready to embrace.

“You are all already rock stars. Now — how do we possibly put polish on that?”

–with reporting by Anna McClellan and Elisha Scott, transcription by Ellen Fox and Anna McClellan

The story of a scout

“On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.”

If the Scout Oath expresses the guidelines for being an ideal Scout, it also seems a good place to start to describe the character of one Scout: senior Beatrix Jackman. She’s strong, both physically and emotionally; resilient and committed to paving the way for those who might come after her. Despite her interest and commitment to scouting, until recently, she was forbidden from earning the highest rank in the scouting program, the Eagle Scout rank, due to her gender identity as a transgender woman.

As a woman, Jackman was not eligible to continue as a Boy scout until Feb. 1 of this year when the organization formerly known at Boys Scouts of America changed its name and allowed girls to join the Boy Scouts. Allowing girls ages 11 to 17 to join BSA completed a transition for the organization that was first announced in 2017. Girl members have been able to join Cub Scouts since 2018. According to an Feb. 1 article published in The Hill, more than 77,000 girls have joined the Cub Scouts since girls were eligible to join.

For Jackman, the new gender admissions policy solved what had been, to that point, an unsolvable dilemma: to be true to herself and remain a Scout, she could either hide her gender identity or practice lone scouting. Neither solution was acceptable to her.

“I stopped for a while,” Jackman said. “I wasn’t going to hide who I was anymore, and [doing it alone] isn’t what [scouting] is about.”

[I came back] to partially lead the way for other girls like me, but also because I was almost done, and I want this closure.”

— senior Beatrix Jackman

Jackman became involved with the Boy Scout program in elementary school, joining the troop stationed at her school, Highland Park Elementary. She joined because she wanted to make a difference in her community and heard that Boy Scouts was the best place to do so. As she got older, and began to realize who she was, Jackman’s participation in Boy Scouts was compromised. She left the organization for many years, only becoming affiliated this year after the change to Scouts BSA.

“[I came back] to partially lead the way for other girls like me, but also because I was almost done, and I want this closure,” she said.

The new inclusive policy of the Boy Scouts of America, now Scouts BSA, came as a surprise to the public. The Boy Scouts have been iconic in American culture for more than 108 years. Boys ages 11 to 17 join in order to learn lifelong skills of leadership, wilderness survival and adaptability. The highest achievement for the committed scout is becoming an Eagle Scout. To earn Eagle status, the scout must earn 21 badges and complete a unique, personalized Eagle Project that positively affects a community and involves at least two scout-chosen and scout-led volunteers.

Though the Boys Scouts of America has been recognized for the skills learned by its participants and the lifelong friendships that are made between scouts, the organization, like most its age, has faced controversy in the past for restricting its membership. The organization allowed troops to be segregated until 1974, despite public school segregation being declared unconstitutional in 1954.

Jackman is choosing to work with an organization called PFLAG or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an organization with over 400 chapters that supports families and friends of the LGBTQ community through counseling, education and policy change.”

Until 2014, the organization banned all atheists and those not willing to subscribe to their Declaration of Religious Principles. In 2012, the Boy Scouts of America were under fire for upholding a 1980 policy that echoed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, excluding openly gay scouts but allowing those who were closeted about their sexuality. At the time, the organization claimed that homosexuality went against it code of conduct. On May 23, 2013, the organization’s national governing body voted to allow boy members regardless of their sexual orientation.

While change is always difficult, the change to admit girls into the Boy Scouts has been particularly contested both inside and outside the organization. The Girl Scouts of America has criticized the move, extolling the merits of single-gender environments for girls. The Girls Scouts even sued the Boys Scouts when the organization changed its name.

The external debate was mirrored by an internal one within the organization. A former Eagle Scout, who wishes to remain anonymous to preserve current relationships, described his initial opposition to allowing girls into the organization: “When I first heard the name change, it was in the news. My mom and I were really against it. We aren’t really happy because I had worked through this and earned my Eagle Scout under the name Boy Scouts of America. I really wanted to represent that.”

Another former Eagle Scout, who also asked to remain anonymous, echoed these concerns. “I was a little skeptical at first because it’s called Boy Scouts. And there’s also The Girl Scouts. I agree that there are flaws, and I think it should teach the same things as the Boy Scouts teach, but the whole point of Boy Scouts was centered around being led by boys.”

Both Eagle Scouts specifically mentioned the Girls Scouts as an already existing alternative scouting option for girls and said that their objection was held by many Boy Scouts. Despite these objections, however, the national leadership of Scouts BSA pressed ahead with the policy change.

“I could not be more excited for what this means for the next generation of leaders in our nation,” said Michael B. Surbaugh, the chief scout executive of Scouts BSA said in a Feb. 1 press release. “Through Scouts BSA, more young people than ever before—young women and men—will get to experience the benefits of camaraderie, confidence, resilience, trustworthiness, courage and kindness through a time-tested program that has been proven to build character and leadership.”

In 2018, the newly named Scouts BSA agreed to let all genders in their organization starting in February. On Jan. 31, an 18-year-old Jackman received an extension to complete her Eagle Project. Scouts age out of the organization when they turn 18, but an extension allows the scout six extra months in the program.

“It let me work on my stuff for six more months,” she said. “It started in February, and it is officially April. The clock is ticking.”

Since Eagle Projects require so much time, coordination and effort, many scouts choose a cause that impacts them personally. For her project, Jackman is doing the same, making what she calls “self soothing kits” for struggling LGBTQ youth. She is choosing to work with an organization called PFLAG or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an organization with more than 400 chapters that supports families and friends of the LGBTQ community through counseling, education and policy change.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX: The donation box , located to the right of the front office doors, is accepting donations for PFLAG to benefit Jackman’s Eagle project. The preferred items are new, unopened and unexpired. Ideas for donations are listed on the donation box. Photo by Ellen Fox.

She chose to work with them because of their large reach and resulting impact. Jackman’s inspiration for her self-soothing kits comes from personal experience. “I have depression,” she said candidly. “I went to DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), where self soothing kits were taught.”

Knowing firsthand the struggles of a transgender kid, Jackman aims to use her project to give struggling people, who were in a place where she’d previously been, the support she found helpful.

Jackman’s biggest obstacle currently is a lack of donations, which she relies on to create the kits. She asks that students bring donations to help her complete her project and benefit a marginalized population in Austin at the same time. Jackman would like items for self-soothing kits to put in a donation box located in front of the main office. Jackman suggests, “bath bombs. Soothing stuff. Self-soothing not necessarily self care. Self-soothing is like chocolate.”

Jackman is thankful for the Scouts BSA name and policy change, as it gave her a chance to get the closure she needs.

I wasn’t going to hide who I was anymore, and [doing it alone] isn’t what [scouting] is about.”

— senior Beatrix Jackman

She supports the inclusive stance of the new Scouts, saying that being a part of a close-knit troop is the most important benefit of scouting. For Jackman, the strong group connection comes with good and bad.

“I think that the group mentality is important, but it also causes change to be slower because the people in charge don’t see what’s happening unless someone says something,” she said. “There’s a pressure, I feel, in large groups to not say that something’s bothering you because of social pressures.”

She added that there are smaller indicators that the group’s change is still a work in progress. “They haven’t updated everything,” Jackman said. “Their calls systems and a lot of stuff still say the Boy Scouts of America.”

Jackman remains hopeful that Scouts BSA keep moving toward full integration for all troops under the Scouts BSA umbrella. While she’s optimistic for the group’s long-term future, she also acknowledged “it’s a process.”

Renaissance woman Russo captures 11 ILPC individual achievement awards

For this week’s #TuesdayTop10, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate the achievement of one of our own, first-year staffer Bella Russo. We have previously reported that MacJournalism  earned 63 individual achievement awards at the annual Interscholastic League Press Conference spring journalism convention on May 4-5. Russo earned (or was on a team that earned) 11 of those 63 awards. That’s 17 percent of our total earned by one very versatile staff member.

Russo was able to achieve such individual distinction by having a significant role in everything we do here at The Shield. We knew from her performance as a photojournalism rock star as a freshman that she could take great photographs, but she has done than and more. She has written well. She has designed well. She has illustrated well.

She earned ILPC awards in all of these areas. We thought she deserved a shout-out for being awesome at everything so here it is: a #Tuesday Top 10 (OK #TuesdayTop11 but who’s counting?) featuring the ILPC-award winning stories, designs, cartoons and photos of the one-and-only Bella Russo. We are very lucky that she is on our team.

First place, 5A Print Feature Photo

Bella Russo
5A FIRST PLACE, print feature photo
DO YOU REMEMBER (THE 21st NIGHT of SEPTEMBER)? Sophomore Addie Seckar-Martinez and her Blue Brigade teammates dance with pink hoops along to music played by the band during the halftime show at the LBJ football game on Sept. 21 at Nelson Field. Photo by Bella Russo.

First place, 5A Print Cartoon

Bella Russo
5A FIRST PLACE, print cartoon
Since the Robin Hood plan began in 1994, AISD has paid more than $3 billion into the program. Cartoon by Bella Russo.

Second place, 5A Print Photo Portfolio

Bella Russo
5A SECOND PLACE, print photo portfolio
McCallum senior Emily Freeman presents a two-minute speech in defense of McCallum’s fine arts programs to a packed cafeteria during a budget stabilization task force meeting on Nov. 7. Freeman was one of four speakers who presented public comments at the meeting. Photo by Bella Russo.

Bella Russo
5A SECOND PLACE, print photo portfolio
BREAKING THROUGH: In the Knights’ season opening 21-20 Taco Shack Bowl victory over Anderson on Aug. 30, Cole Davis runs the ball for a huge gain for the Knights that would set up a 16-yard Darius Lewis touchdown. Prior to that drive, the Knights were trailing by 13 points when the Knight defense stopped the Trojan offense on the Knight 1-yard line. By winning the game, the varsity football team broke the 8-8 tie between the two teams for the number of total wins in the series. Keeping with tradition,Taco Shack owner Orlando Arriaga was there to give the winning team the trophy, which has been McCallum for the past three years. Photo by Bella Russo.

Third place, 5A print headlines (with Jazzabelle Davishines and Kristen Tibbetts)

5A THIRD PLACE, print headline writing
Bella Russo, Jazzabelle Davishines and Kristen Tibbetts

Third place, 5A online student cartoon (we aren’t sure which one of these won)

Bella Russo
5A HONORABLE MENTION, online student artwork/cartoon
This stream of distractions not only prevents deep thinking but also the deep feeling that allows us to connect emotionally with others. Cartoon by Bella Russo.

Bella Russo
5A HONORABLE MENTION, online student artwork/cartoon
The academic rigor of senior year may prepare students well for college, but it does not do them any favors when they are applying to college. Cartoon by Bella Russo.

Third place, 5A online entertainment photo

Bella Russo
5A THIRD PLACE, online entertainment photo
SHINING SAWYER: Sophomore Helena Laing leads the tap ensemble as her character Peggy Sawyer in the “typewriter” dance for the finale dance. The dance move is done four times throughout the show and consists of the tap dancers moving their arms at 90-degree angles up and down while tapping their feet out to the sides back and forth. Photo by Bella Russo.

Third place, 5A print entertainment photo

5A THIRD PLACE, print entertainment photo
COVER PHOTO: The pre-professional dance company performs the number “Onsent(i)c” at the fall dance concert on Saturday, Oct. 27 in the AISD Performing Arts Center. The number was inspired by the #MeToo movement. Originally scheduled to occur in the McCallum Arts Center, the show was moved to the AISD after two fires left the MAC unable to host the show last weekend. Photo by Bella Russo.

Third place, 5A sport page design AND honorable mention 5A sports feature story

Bella Russo
5A THIRD PLACE, sports page design AND
5A HONORABLE MENTION, print sports page design

Honorable mention, 5A print in-depth feature package (with Jazzabelle Davishines and Diamante Diaz)

HONORABLE MENTION, print in-depth news/feature package
Bella Russo, Jazzabelle Davishines and Diamante Diaz

Honorable mention, 5A print sports feature photo

Bella Russo
5A HONORABLE MENTION, print sports feature photo
Surrounded by her teammates, Naiya Antar leads the crowd in a cheer at the Mac vs LBJ game. Although the game was lost 48-7, Antar says that she always has a good time no matter what the score. “To see the crowd going crazy over the football players and then get pumped up when they see us cheer, it’s really fun.” photo by Bella Russo.

It’s time for the Shield senior class survey

Seniors: It’s time. No, not for finals or graduation but for us to finish the last issue of The Shield.

We need your help to make this year’s senior section pullout an accurate reflection of the Class of 2019.

Take this survey by Monday at midnight, and we’ll do what we can to make sure your voice is included in our year-end summary of your senior year.

To take the survey: CLICK HERE.

Shield repeats as Online Pacemaker Award winner

On Sunday, April 28 at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Anaheim, Calif., the Shield was awarded a 2019 Online Pacemaker Award. The Shield is one of only 18 staffs in the nation to receive this award. A Pacemaker is a very prestigious award in the world of journalism, and is widely considered to be a high honor for all high school publications.

It’s nice to know that all the work that me and Mr. Winter and everyone else that helped getting the website to where it is today paid off.”

— Shield Online co-editor in chief Steven Tibbetts

Publications that enter are analyzed by a group of judges on criteria such as “coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership, design, photography and graphics,” according to the NSPA website.

“It means a lot,” senior sports editor and online co-editor for the Shield Steven Tibbetts said. “It’s nice to know that all the work that me and Mr. Winter and everyone else that helped getting the website to where it is today paid off, and it shows that we are doing a good job.”

It has taken a great deal of hard work on the part of the Shield staffers, and contributions from many members of the staff to get the website to where it is today. Consistent posting on a daily basis is part of what leads the Shield to recognition on this level.

“Mainly I try to post something every day,” Tibbetts said, “and make sure the posts are formatted correctly. I also keep up with the sports schedules and scores that we have on the website.”

You look at the other websites that are out there, and it’s mind-blowing how good they are. And you can say, ‘Our website is in that group.’ That’s about as good as it gets.”

— MacJournalism adviser Dave Winter

This is the second Online Pacemaker Award that the Shield’s website has received. The first was given to the publication in April of 2018.

The staff of the Shield was also honored to be recognized among other very talented schools in the nation.

“You look at the other websites that are out there,” Shield adviser David Winter said, “and it’s mind-blowing how good they are. And you can say, ‘Our website is in that group.’ That’s about as good as it gets. I really respect the talent of the other winners, and to be in that group feels great.”

The many hours of work that the Shield staff members have put towards the website have been leading up to this, and it is an honor to have that work recognized.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Winter said. “Really it’s just like anything else, when you’re putting a product out there, and you want to feel like what you’re doing matters to people and that what you’re doing is at a high level. To have the the people that are setting the standard look at your work and decide that you’re at the top level with all of these great schools in the country, it’s just incredibly gratifying to know that all of the work you’re doing is producing what you are hoping it will produce.”


MacJournalism captures three Star Awards, including online Gold, plus six Tops in Texas honors

MacJournalism had a good weekend at the 2019 ILPC spring journalism conference at UT. On Saturday, the combined staffs of the Shield newspaper and Knight yearbook combined to earn six Tops in Texas awards and 63 5A Individual Achievement Awards. On Sunday, MacJournalism won three Star Awards in the same year for the first time in school history. The Shield Online was one of two scholastic websites to win a Gold Star Award for online newspapers. It was the first Gold Star for the website in its young history. The print newspaper won a Silver Star, and the yearbook won a Bronze Star. Senior co-editor-in-chief Sophie Ryland won the Dewitt C. Reddick Memorial Scholarship, worth $1,000.

To win a Tops in Texas award, a student journalist or group of student journalists must first win a first-place awards in their for their UIL classification. McCallum is a 5A school so all of the six Tops in Texas award winners essentially won first place twice. First, they won first place in 5A, then they won first place in competition with the other first-place winners in the other five UIL classifications.

We have to verify this but we are fairly sure six is a school record, certainly the best that McCallum has achieved in the four years at Mr. Winter has served as adviser.

The weekend of state journalism competitions started off well with sophomore Bella Russo and junior Kristen Tibbetts representing MacJournalism in the feature writing competition at the UIL State Academic contest. Tibbetts placed fifth among 5A competitors, making her the first McCallum student journalist to place at UIL State during Mr. Winter’s tenure as adviser. The final competition of ILPC weekend also went well for McCallum as sophomore Caleb Melville captured first place in the on-site photography competition for his three-image photo essay about photojournalist John Moore’s Sunday keynote address. Junior staff reporter Stella Shenkman earned honorable mention honors in the same competition.

The complete list of MacJournalism winners is listed below. Click the hyperlinks with each winner to see the winning entries. We did not link to the current yearbook winners. That’s a surprise for later this month. 🙂

2018-2019 ILPC Conference

Star Awards

Gold Star, The Shield Online

Silver Star, The Shield

Bronze Star, The Knight

Dewitt C. Reddick Memorial Scholarship

Sophie Ryland

Tops in Texas Winners

Charlie Holden, print infographic/sidebar

Charlie Holden, print news page/spread design

Madison Olsen, online general news photo

Madison Olsen, print general news photo

Margaret Olson, yearbook captions

Sophie Ryland, Madison Olsen, Tomas Marerro, Jasmine Barerra, Kristen Pacotti and Robert Hall, online multimedia package

2018-2019 5A Individual Achievement Awards

First place

Elena Henderson and Kennedy Schuelke, yearbook sports feature story

Charlie Holden, print infographic/sidebar

Charlie Holden, print news page/spread design

Gregory James, current yearbook story

Caleb Melville, online sports feature photo

Madison Olsen, online general news photo

Madison Olsen, print general news photo

Margaret Olson, yearbook captions

Margaret Olson, Townes Jones, Abigail Salizar, current yearbook club/organization-focused spread

Bella Russo, print cartoon

Bella Russo, print feature photo

Sophie Ryland, Madison Olsen, Tomas Marerro, Jasmine Barerra, Kristen Pacotti and Robert Hall, online multimedia package

Mia Terminella, entertainment page/spread design or entertainment page/spread design (we aren’t sure)

Kristen Tibbetts, print news feature


Second place

Ian Clennan and Gabby Sherwood, current yearbook student life-focused spread

Coco Clouse, Gabi Williams and Kien Johnson, current yearbook academic-focused spread

Grayson Cruise and Steven Tibbetts, online news writing

Gregory James, online news feature

Mira MacLaurin, current yearbook sports-focused spread

Caleb Melville, print sports action photo

Julie Robertson, print page one newsmagazine design

Bella Russo, print photo portfolio

Sophie Ryland, print news feature

Sarah Slaten, online personal opinion column


Third place

Emma Baumgardner, Ian Clennan, Charlie Holden, Gregory James, Kien Johnson, Mira MacLaurin, Lily McCormick, Madison Olsen, Bella Russo, Sarah Slaten and Kristen Tibbetts, online photo slide show

Jazzabelle Davishines, print news

Jazzabelle Davishines, Bella Russo and Kristen Tibbetts, print headlines

Anna McClellan, print sports feature photo

Grace Nugent, online sports feature story

Bella Russo, online student artwork/cartoon or online student artwork/cartoon (we are not sure which one won)

Bella Russo, online entertainment photo

Bella Russo, print entertainment photo

Bella Russo, sports page/spread design

Sarah Slaten, online personal column


Honorable mention

Aly Candelas and Sophie Ryland, online video story

Delaney Carter, Madison Olsen and Audrey Sayer, yearbook multitopic spread

Risa Darlington-Horta, print photo portfolio

Jazzabelle Davishines, Diamante Diaz and Bella Russo, print in-depth news/feature package

Selena De Jesus, print sports feature photo

Diamante Diaz, print editorial page/spread design

Ellen Fox, print entertainment feature

Evelyn Griffin, online news writing

Zoe Hocker, print cartoon

Gregory James, online sports feature photo

Gregory James, current yearbook photo portfolio

Anna Marceau, yearbook club/organization photo

Lily McCormick, Madison Olsen, William Wilson, yearbook infographic

Jacqueline McLellan and Celeste Montes de Oca, current yearbook people section spread

Madison Olsen, print feature photo

Madison Olsen, yearbook photo portfolio

Madison Olsen, yearbook sports feature photo

Julie Robertson, print sports news story

Bella Russo, print sports feature photo

Bella Russo, print sports feature story

Sarah Slaten, print personal opinion column

Sarah Slaten, Kristen Tibbetts and Olivia Watts, print photo story

Mia Terminella, entertainment page/spread design or entertainment page/spread design (we aren’t sure)

Kristen Tibbetts, print editorial writing

Kristen Tibbetts, print sports feature story

Steven Tibbetts, print sports news story

Steven Tibbetts, print sports column

Janssen Transier, print feature writing or print feature writing (we submitted two stories and one won so you pick your favorite)

ShowMe ILPC Spring Convention On-Site Contest

First place

Caleb Melville

Honorable mention

Stella Shenkman

Teacher’s rally cry: ‘Fund Our Schools’

Hundreds of teachers and public education supporters rallied on a Monday at the State Capitol building. The crowd grew larger every minute as more joined in the Red-for-Ed rally, which reached Austin on March 11. Buses gathered around the Capitol, carrying with them teachers and students from as close as neighboring Austin ISD schools to as far as hundreds of miles away.

State officials have made public school finance the priority of this legislative session in Texas, and educators said that they want to emphasize that real-school finance reform begins with a significant increase in public education funding.

The legislative Budget Board has determined that at present, the state pays for only 38 percent of the Foundation School Program–the basic school finance plan–while local property taxpayers pay 62 percent. Adjusted for inflation, per-pupil spending in Texas has dropped by 20 percent since 2008, which is the largest drop of any state during that period, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Grayson Cruise
Lunch At The Capitol: While rallying, teachers from all around the state gathered for lunch in various places around the Capitol, listening to each other’s stories and reasons for being at the march, taking photos and eating with their new friends.

The event kicked off at 11 a.m. with a series of speeches then moved to lunch and a second rally that afternoon at 1:45 p.m. Everyone down at the Capitol had just one thing on their minds: future students simply needed better-funded teachers and custodians.

There were also precursor events, like a band playing on the Capitol’s front steps, and carpools with fellow teachers. Meanwhile, within the walls of the Capitol, reporters gathered in the Speaker’s Committee Room with the leaders and speakers that would be primary voices at the rally throughout the day. Speakers included Harlandale ISD bilingual teacher Aissa Velazquez, president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers Louis Malfaro and president of the Texas State Teachers Association Noel Candelaria.

In the morning, they spoke to cameras, not people in order to reach those who could not make it to the rally in person that day. Afterward, when the bustle and band quieted down, educators and presidents alike took the spotlight and set the stage for their ralliers.

Everybody cheered as Candelaria and Malfaro, among others, took the stage. They all collectively spoke in protest of the average Texan teacher salary of $53,000, which is $7,300 lower than the national average. They expressed their concern about the $5,000 pay raise that will be afforded only to teachers and librarians if the bill is passed as currently written. Speakers vehemently pled with legislators to expand the scope of the raise to include all staff workers and custodians because, as they pointed out, all employees work together for students.

Furthermore, everyone at the rally expressed opposition to the system of “merit pay,” which changes teacher and staff pay to be based off a system that considers factors like test scores and student attendance. Finally, they were advocating the use of the Texas Rainy Day Fund, a emergency fund that attendees believed should be dipped into to address current critical issues.

Grayson Cruise
Posters for Protest: Staff members, teachers and students stand with one another, waving cleverly made signs to show just how much they want higher pay for those working in schools, showcasing specific aspects of existing issues and how they should be changed.

“Millions of the country’s public schools kids are educated in Texas, and by next year, this state is expected to have $15 billion in rainy day funds available to invest in public schools,” Weingarten said. “Ask any educator or any parents what $15 billion could mean for kids, for teachers and for schools, and they’ll tell you it means: safe, welcoming, high-quality public schools for every kid in Texas, not just some. It means holding charter schools accountable when they don’t meet the needs of kids. It means art, music and language programs, school counselors and nurses, new textbooks and salaries for educators that mean they don’t have to work two and three jobs.”

He added that legislative accountability is essential when it comes to school reform.
“Here in Texas and everywhere around the country, we want our public schools to be at the center of our communities; we want our teachers to be able to teach,” Weingarten said. “We want our elected leaders to fund our future, and to mean it when they say they want to invest in our kids. And we’re going to hold them to it.”

Teacher pay was a central topic to those in attendance. Most non-teacher staff members, like Sybil Hunter, who works in Houston ISD, are only paid on actual school days and cannot find other jobs during the summer to pay needed expenses such as bills and groceries.

Texas American Federation of Teachers president T. Louis Malfaro stands at the pedestal in the Speaker’s Committee Room. To the left of him are speakers—Austin ISD kindergarten teacher Traci Dunlap and Houston ISD support professional Sybil Hunter. “Everything is bigger in Texas,” Malfaro said, “including the number of kids in our public schools, and the number of students who are disadvantaged and need extra support, so we need a big, bold investment in our future. And we’re also asking legislators to recognize that what’s good for educators is good for the students they teach, so that means making sure our school employees can earn a dignified living and can afford to be healthy and ready to inspire our kids to achieve.”

Hunter said that as a result they are often left stuck and dependent on other family members or friends to aid them, if they weren’t doing that in the first place, what with the already low-pay they get.

Hunter said that some legislators also are ignoring the important role played by all school employees, not just educators.

“It takes a team to educate our kids, so to promote pay raises just for teachers doesn’t recognize the hard work of bus drivers, counselors, nurses, teacher aides and all the other folks who are critical in making sure our students succeed,” she said. “My co-workers and I struggle with wages that are nowhere near what it takes to survive in Houston, and yet we don’t ever get the support and recognition we need to keep giving it our all every day in schools.”

According to the Brookings Institute, as many of 40 percent teacher in Texas work second or even third jobs n order to feed their families and make enough money to live, especially in the bigger cities. The poor pay also dissuades qualified teachers from choosing or remaining to be teachers.

Traci Dunlap, an Austin ISD kindergarten teacher, has had to get a second job in the past in order to work as a teacher and is once again considering it due to the low pay.

Dunlap also reminded legislators that misuse of standardized testing is yet another issue that should be addressed because it erodes the values of the teaching profession and the ability of kids to think both critically and creatively. Instead of actually teaching them how to be successful, she said, she spends her time preparing them for future tests.

“I’m not even teaching a grade tested by STAAR, yet I’m spending the majority of my time assessing students with tests and even prepping them for the standardized tests to come,” she said. “My colleagues and I also face the prospect of being paid according to how well our students perform on the STAAR test, which isn’t designed to evaluate teachers. We need a real pay raise, not merit pay.”

Grayson Cruise
PRESIDENT ON PEDESTAL: Texas Amercan Fedederation of Teachers President Louis Malfaro stands upon the pedestal outside the Texas Capitol, speaking into the microphone. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten to his immediate right.

Those at the rally were very respectful of speaker Aissa A. Velazquez, a Harlandale ISD bilingual teacher, and her personal story. She said her poor salary has made her school health insurance unaffordable for her and her family, forcing them to deal with several medical hardships.

“My health insurance plan was so expensive and coverage was very little, to the point where we dropped it,” she said. “Even with insurance, our family always faced bills in the mail because of the high deductible. Our premium kept rising, year after year, and the higher it went, the less our policy covered. Our family was facing a monthly premium of $1,400 and a $5,000 deductible. We were being robbed. Now, we are saving that $1,400 a month in our own family health savings account, and we are hopeful in the Lord that all will continue to go well for us.”

After all of the speakers were done stressing the significance of the Rainy Day Fund and its usage in helping public educators and their staff all across the state, the rally was over, and those attending had an hour to break and get inside the Capitol, which proved no easy task.
At around 1:45 pm, inside the Capitol’s rotunda, Malfaro and Candelaria led the avid supporters who were crowding the rotunda with various songs and chants that advocated change with school funding and helping Texan children grow up with the resources they need.

It was a breathtaking sight (and sound), with over 200 people all singing in unison. Everyone had lost their voices by the time it was done, and with that, the rally was over for most at the Capitol.

Response to response training mixed

The events of Feb. 14 at McCallum are still lingering in the minds of many students. As rumors spread that the friend of a recently arrested MAC student was going to open fire on the school, panic ensued, leading to low attendance and increased caution throughout the school.

In the aftermath of that incident, the administration stated that it is not going to stand around and wait for the next active shooter scare. Instead, they would take action to better prepare students, staff and everyone else on campus in case a future situation like the events of Valentine’s Day occurs in the future.

“We’re always thinking about campus safety,” assistant principal Andy Baxa said. “We’re also thinking about what we can do to make our campus more secure moving forward.”

On Thursday, March 7, exactly three weeks after the rumors spread, teachers, administration, office staff and custodians filed in to the cafeteria at 8:45 a.m. for mandatory critical response training. The training was lead by Amber Gardner and Grant Burnett, two officials from the AISD emergency management bureau, joined by Lieutenant Rodney Anderson of the AISD Police Department.

Elisha Scott
During the student safety training on March 6, Junior Marisa Goodson asks Burnett a question.

The training was a response to the threats made to McCallum on those few nerve-racking days in February. Although the training did not exclusively focus on an active shooter situation, it was a major part of it. The Shield has previously critiqued the fact that school officials only conduct fire and lockdown drills once a month, during the same 22-minute time period at the end of first and fifth periods; because there has never been any training for an active shooter situation, the events of Feb. 14 left students and teachers even more concerned for their safety.

“My initial reaction was confusion and nerves because no one really knew what was going on,” sophomore Harper Cummings said. “I didn’t know what to do [in the case of an active shooter] and I don’t really now [either]. I don’t think you can really know what to do until it happens.”

In response to these threats, AISD set up the critical response training to better inform the staff of what they are to do in these situations. The officials talked through a PowerPoint presentation listing off the different scenarios and subsequent procedures before receiving questions from the audience of teachers.

“Critical incident response training is required statewide and nationally now,” Gardner said. “We provide it for staff members, specifically so that they are brought up to speed on what’s happening currently and how they can prepare.”

The biggest thing we do as a campus is educate, make sure everyone knows to be mindful and to be vigilant, and notify us because [the students] are the first line.”

— assistant principal Andy Baxa

Monday through Thursday of the following week, each grade, on their assigned day, filed into the MAC theater to hear the presentation. Students were shown the same PowerPoint before being able to comment and ask questions.

“It’s just very important to try to be proactive on these trainings and just get everyone’s minds in the emergency preparedness world,” Burnett said. “This is the age we live in now [so] you can’t freeze when these things arise; you need to have a plan.”

Many teachers found the training to be helpful, informative, and they were glad to see something being done to further the safety of the school. It allowed them to ask any questions they had and address their concerns.

“I think that in the wake of situations that have occurred that it’s in the district’s best interest to do everything they can to prepare us for any situation that occurs,” world history teacher Greg Anderson said. “The training that we received today did give some additional pointers, but what they’ve been showing us and asking us to do has, in my five years at McCallum, been very different and much more proactive.”

Following the threats, some teachers talked to their students about what they would do in an active shooter situation. Some even took this opportunity to talk to administration about possible changes they wanted to see to the future of safety training at McCallum.

“[My students and I] had a couple of conversations after recent events,” Anderson said. “I take it very seriously and their safety is very important to [me], And [so is discussing] the dangers of rumors and the dangers of loose talk on social media, especially in this day and age, [because they] can be just as dangerous as an actual threat as we saw play out.”

The school has already made many changes to the campus and its environment. After a massive shooting on Feb. 14, 2018 at a high school in Parkland, Fla., left 17 people dead and more seriously injured and traumatized, McCallum implemented its own program: LOCK. Students experience the LOCK program every day when they choose to take an outdoor route to class and find the door they’re trying to use is locked.

“We have taken steps over the last couple years to make our campus more secure,” Baxa said. “That started last year when we started instituting the LOCK program [for] more awareness. If you see something, say something [and] make sure we keep our doors locked.”

The biggest advice I’d have for students is just try to go about your life, live your life, don’t live in fear of what’s going to happen, enjoy your day, enjoy your time. But at the same time, be mindful of your surroundings, be mindful of who and what’s going on around you and be nice to people.”

— Andy Baxa

LOCK requires that outside doors be locked at all times during school hours unless designated to remain unlocked, that all classroom doors automatically lock when closed, that students be made aware of who to call (an administrator) in the case of suspicious activity and also that they be made aware of emergency procedures. Although it’s left students all over campus knocking on doors for someone to left them back in, the LOCK program was deemed necessary by the district and by the MAC administration.

“I’ve actually already seen very positive changes on this campus,” Anderson said. “The policy of locking doors [and] of the teachers wearing their badges,” Anderson said. “These seem like very simple things, but they make a big difference; if you don’t have identification, you have not been approved to be in the building.”

The administration wants students to know, however, that the best thing they can do is to say something when they see or hear any suspicious activity so the appropriate people can handle it in a timely manner. It is important for them to know as soon as possible when the school might be in danger so action can be taken to neutralize the threat.

“We want [students] to come to us with any threats even if you don’t think it’s credible or don’t know if it’s credible,” Baxa said. “The biggest thing we do as a campus is educate, make sure everyone knows to be mindful and to be vigilant, and notify us because [the students] are the first line.”

The merits of see something, say something were illustrated on March 15 when a student alerted McCallum administrators that another student had made a threat on the McCallum campus via social media. The AISD police investigated the threat, identified the student and detained the student for questioning.

Although Officer John Yoder declined to comment further due to concern of breach of confidentiality, he gave the same advice to students.

“The best advice I can give [students] is, if you see something, say something,” Officer Yoder said.

Some staff members, however, took issue with the actions taken to prepare students for hypothetical attacks on the campus. They don’t believe it’s necessary to focus on training because it raises anxiety levels.

“I feel OK about [the lack of active shooter training] because I think the chances of that happening have been proven to be well below 1 percent,” U.S. history teacher Oakley Barber said. “I think that all this attention we’re giving to active shooters and school shootings, while to some degree sensible, is also contributing to this epidemic of anxiety.”

Barber believes that being prepared is important but that we shouldn’t continue to dwell overly on these events and threats, as it instills fear and anxiety in students about coming to school.

Baxa wants to spread a similar mentality to students when it comes to balancing anxiety and preparedness. He is taking action to prevent rumors and threats from affecting the McCallum community in the future, but he also doesn’t want students to worry for their safety because it does create so much negativity and chaos.

“The biggest advice I’d have for students is just try to go about your life, live your life, don’t live in fear of what’s going to happen, enjoy your day, enjoy your time,” Baxa said. “But at the same time, be mindful of your surroundings, be mindful of who and what’s going on around you and be nice to people.”

Anderson believes that addressing safety issues is a necessary step toward safety but regrets the heightened anxiety that he acknowledges is a consequence.

“I’m sorry that this is even a thing that we have to talk about,” Anderson said, addressing the students. “I’m sorry that this is an aspect of your youth, of growing up in this time period because it shouldn’t be that way.”