Candace: Blinkist, a learning app
Claire: Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg and Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons on Hulu
Nichole: Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies, and the Internet on Netflix
Join us as we talk to Candace Hunter about her campaign for Austin ISD board of trustees. We have a far ranging conversation about the current state of public education in Austin and Texas more broadly. Some topics we discuss include the Texas Education Agency and their role in oversight of public schools. We address the teacher shortage in Texas and some of the ongoing reasons for it. We dive into the obstacles that teachers face and the possible solutions. We talk about the pressures of standardized testing and discuss the enormous cost of this system to Texas. We discuss public school finance and the issues that Title 1 schools face. Candace shares her life experience as an educator and how she pivoted during the pandemic to become a teacher of teachers. Candace is committed to public education and public service and has a lifetime of experience to back it up.
Watch the episode here
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Education: Candace Hunter On The Importance Of Public Service, Holding Leaders Accountable And Running For Austin ISD School Board
We have an amazing episode for you all. We are speaking with Candace Hunter. She is running for the Austin School Board for District 1. She has so much knowledge about education. We talked about the teacher shortage, what TEA is, her school board race, and all kinds of amazing things. Nichole, what am I missing?
I think you’ve covered it, but what it is like to be a teacher. She touched on all of the various pressures and why we are in this teacher shortage that we are in, and how long it has been coming. She was super informative. She is an expert on a gazillion things, so sit back and enjoy because she is a great listen and knowledgeable.
Get ready to learn lots of amazing things.
Candace, thank you for joining us. To start things off, can you tell a little bit about your story, who you are, what brings you to us, and as you are going to share about education and all that great stuff?
I’m a native Austinite. I am a fourth-generation Austinite. I am a product of Austin ISD. I have always lived here. I did go away for a little while to school to become a lawyer. My major was Political Science for three years, and then at some point, something clicked. I was like, “I have to tell my parents. They spent three years’ worth of dough on something I’m not going to do.” When I told them I was going to become a teacher, they were like, “Finally. We didn’t know if you were ever going to realize that you should be a teacher.” I said, “Really?”
What kind of law were you going to study?
Criminal Law. I grew up on all of the ’80s legal shows like LA Law and those sorts of things. I wanted to be a lawyer. I super love to be in front of people talking. As a teacher, you have a captive audience, so that worked for me well. After I switched over, all of the struggles I had done in three years of law, getting ready for law school, LSATs and moot court, and then all of a sudden, when I jumped to education, everything just flowed.
I graduated. I began teaching you guys and I was not only teaching. I will always say I was facilitating because every kid that I was in an affluent school came to you ready-made. It’s like add water and mix and you’re done. I then came back home because I was going to have a baby. I stayed home for five years and then I came back. A lot changed in five years.
I wound up at Webb Middle School. I got hired the same year that TEA, the Texas Education Agency said, “This school has failed too much. We got to close it,” and I sucked. I was like the worst teacher ever because I had never taught immigrant students. I had never taught children living in poverty. I didn’t have any of those skills. I sat down and was like, “You were a kid raised in poverty in Austin ISD schools. What did you need?” I became that. That year our school was saved. We scored from 35 to 85 in Social Studies which is what I taught. I was like, “I know what to do. I’m in my groove,” and I have been doing that ever since.
I will tell you as a teacher, I never ever went to a school board meeting. I didn’t have time. I didn’t know what was going on. In 2015, I left the classroom because I had an eighth grader who was on the spectrum. When you have to manage eight different teachers with an IEP, you don’t have time for full-time work.
That’s when I started digging into all of the stuff that was going on. I began seeing the inequities. At first, it was the inequality. That’s not even the same like Brown v. Board, which was supposed to already be changed. That’s one thing that I did, and then it snowballed from there. People were like, “I don’t know how to do this.” I was like, “I think I can help you.”
The thing that turned it for me was the pandemic. Thank you, horrible Coronavirus. People were freaking out about the STAAR test. People were freaking out and I was messaging people. I was like, “I can’t message 800 people. What? How?” My kid was like, “Why don’t you just make a video?” I was like, “We got everything in the house.”
I made a video and I was like, “About the STAAR test, let’s talk.” I was like, “This is going on in Texas.” It became a weekly video series, then I did a podcast with another community member who was like, “Thank you for being a guest. Would you want to be a co-host?” Fast forward to now, that’s where I am, advocate, co-host on a podcast, and now running for school board.
I want to jump back to this a teeny bit before we move too far in the other direction, which I don’t know, Candace, if you and I have touched base on the fact that I was a public-school teacher. It was several years ago. I too never went to a board meeting. I had no idea what was happening at the state level in terms of education in that portion of how everything works.
That’s interesting because now I see the need to know all of those things and be informed and advocate for ourselves if I were still a teacher. It’s so wild to me that I didn’t see it at the time and because it’s such an immersive job, it’s so consuming in all ways. The last thing I had space for and a capacity for was also advocating for the job at that level. It’s so awesome that you are there to be the voice of teachers and for teachers.
This is jumping ahead a little bit. I was going to ask about parents, but for teachers, what do you think teachers should be paying attention to in these school board meetings?
It’s anything that is affecting the school board that’s coming from the state. Generally, in our local school districts and I speak for urban school districts, we are going to be a bit more progressive. There’s not a lot you have to watch. There’s always going to be the contingents that want to burn books or not have Sex Ed in high school even. It’s the general like keeping your eye on what the state is doing. That’s going to show up in your local board meeting because they are going to have to decide how close we want to sail to the edge on this type of item before we get snagged by TEA or even the governor. Those are the types of things.
I wish there were more podcasts that were focused on local. I think every district should have a podcast, honestly. To focus on just that district, so you can tune in for 20 to 30 minutes to find out what’s happening and know, “Now I know what to watch for,” but not every school district has. I know that Dallas has one and Houston might have one. We are the one for Austin, but that’s important. Teachers need to watch what’s coming down from the state because that’s what’s going to play out in their classrooms. The general local things are kept abreast of their PLCs and their staff meetings.
Let’s take a little bit of a step back. Can you tell us what TEA is and what their role is in public education in Texas?
A couple of things to know is that the Texas Education Agency is what you might call in some states the Board of Ed. They are the, “We are going to oversee the Texas education code,” which is what we live and die by in education. They also provide guidance. You would say the legislature is going to set laws into the TEC. After the governor, TEA would be our look to. Something you should know about the commissioner is he is not voted on. He is appointed by the governor, so goes the governor, so goes the TEA commission, and so goes to TEA.
I have never seen a commissioner go, “Thank you for appointing me, but I’m going to do my own thing.” I have never seen that. If you have a very conservative or progressive governor, that’s the kind of education agency you are going to have for that term. We have had Mike Morath for quite some time.In school board meetings, pay attention to anything that is actually affecting the school board that's coming from the state. Keep your eye on what the state is doing. Click To Tweet
Tell us a little bit about Mike Morath. Does he have an education background? How would a governor even go about selecting someone for such an important position like this?
If you’ve ever heard of cronyism, Andrew Jackson started that. For all of the people that supported his campaign, he was like, “Do you want to be a judge? I got you. Do you want to be the head of something? Do you have no experience? Don’t worry about it. You are my buddy. I got you.” That’s exactly what happens even in 2022. It is cronyism.
Mike Morath was on the DISD school board. He has children in school here in Austin. That’s about as close as he gets to education. He wasn’t a classroom teacher. He may have been a sub at some point. I heard somebody say that. I don’t know that that’s a fact, but as far as having someone who’s in it, knows it, and has experienced it from the classroom, administrators, or central office, he is not that person.
Why would you put someone like that in charge of education for the entire school district? Sometimes I have to put my little tinfoil hat on. I will also say that when you have a background because DISD spent a lot of time trying to turn Public Ed into privatization. I call it privateers, and you still see some of that CPN through TEA.
Look at how many charters they approve all the time. They don’t approve of them. The SBOE, the State Board Of Education approves them, and then TEA checks in on them, but not like, “I would like to see.” If you drive around my neck of the woods here in Austin, there’s literally a charter school on every single corner.
We are going to dig deep into charter schools in another episode. I got very curious about charter schools because there was one that was going to come to my neighborhood. I was like, “I don’t know how this is happening.” We didn’t vote on a bond. They didn’t even tell us they were coming. A neighbor found out about it through a commercial map that they happened to find. It was like, “What?” Once I looked under that rock, I was like, “This is another world.” We are going to help folks understand that because that’s another thing that takes some time to dig into. The rest of TEA, how is that staffed and filled out? Are they appointed? Are those positions appointed by Mike Morath as Education Commissioner?
I don’t want to step too far into my depths because I have applied for a job at TEA at one point, but it’s a state agency. You apply for it like you would in the Texas State Library or as you would apply to the Water Quality Board. You apply for certain positions. I would imagine that that’s the closest. It’s just like any other job. We’ll post it, and then you get who you need in there.
The Austin ISD lost someone who used to work at TEA, and so now he’s back over there. Like any other agency, you apply and then you get the job. It’s thousands of positions. There are people that answer the phone. There are people that have specialties and testing in all different kinds of areas. It’s a huge agency.
Can I ask what may be a dumb question? Is there an expectation that each new governor appoints a new commissioner? Let’s say if we were to have a new governor, is there a chance that he could still like Mike Morath and keep him in that position or is it an expectation that each governor appoints their own commissioner?
It’s an expectation. I don’t know if you guys know a lot about the Governor’s Office like all of the secretaries and everybody. My mom used to work for Mark White back in the day. It’s like the president, everybody goes with them. The expectation would be even if our new governor is to be elected, it would be very foolish to maintain the same commissioner even if you like them because there’s so much negativity attached to that person.
We went through that in Austin ISD with the interim superintendent. We are like, “He might be the greatest guy in the world. Don’t pick him because we got a lot of bad feelings about the last superintendent that hired him.” I would hope that the governor would select someone new and someone with a background in education. Even a former superintendent, because to be a superintendent, at some point, you were a teacher. It won’t usually. At some point, you were a campus-level administrator and then a central office administrator.
You’ve come up through the ranks and seen and understand, but to pull some guy off the street and be like, “Hire a bunch of people to tell you what to do, and then you decide which thing to do.” We can see that it doesn’t work. I will say this, he is not totally wrong on everything. The guy has some common sense. I agree with him on a lot of things. He totally gets the teacher shortage thing, but he doesn’t have any good answers for us. With the governor, he couldn’t do certain things during the pandemic. He’s less than scorched earth. I would hope that our new governor would pick someone different.
It’s important for us to pause and note that the person who runs the Texas Education Agency is appointed by the governor. When we say voting doesn’t matter, it does. These statewide positions have such a big impact beyond that specific person. It’s like you are saying, the team they bring with them and the agenda they set forth for these big institutions that we have in this state, so we got to vote.
I want to piggyback on that. This is to say that what was occurring to me as I watched a little video right before we got on of Mike Morath talking about the teacher shortage and the panel that they created to look at that. My thought as we were talking is that it does sound great. I saw the map of the places that they have pulled teachers and administrators from. It looks like it is covering the whole state.
All of that is fantastic, but I hear what we are saying, which is that when you are appointed and you serve at the behest of somebody who has a very specific agenda for that agency, when you listen to the feedback of a panel like that, you are going to be filtering it through that agenda of who you serve. While those people may be giving answers that are amazing and could change the teacher shortage, it is also being filtered through an agenda. It is important to be aware of what that agenda is and listen to the answers that those folks are giving in ways that are open and solution-oriented. Yes, voting.
I want to talk a lot about the teacher shortage but before that, could you tell us about the work that you do and your company? I heard a little bit about you talk about this in a podcast and I was like, “This is such a smart business.”
In 2015, that’s when I jumped out of the classroom because I had to manage my son’s IEP.
Can you tell us what IEP is?
It is an Individual Education Plan. Once a student has gone through the process of being admitted, reviewed or dismissed, which is called an ARD or ARD meeting. Once a student has passed through that process and is then admitted to receive special education services, they are not admitted to special ed. They are able to get a service.
In Texas, if you want to Google that, you’ll see that we have been in trouble for that in a while. While I was doing that, I was mostly at home and then I had to pop up to the school to be like, “Why are you following his IEP? Why is this not happening? Why didn’t you send this homework home? He gets more time. Why are you failing him?” That is a full-time job.
I had an old principal at Martin. He was my old principal from Webb and he was at Martin. He was like, “I have two new teachers that have never taught US History, which is a tested subject.” By tested, we mean those students who take the STAAR exam. He was like, “I need some help.” I said, “Sure. I will come over.”
I was thinking I would come over and help them. He was like, “I can pay you like a tutor.” I was like, “Sure.” I started picking up a few more hours. He was like, “I also have some students who are struggling, and I was wondering if you could work with them.” I was like, “This seems like a job again.” After that year, I was like, “I can make a business out of this.”
That’s when I put on my hat. I started thinking. What they want me to do is come in and teach an educator everything they need to know to start school in four days. That’s a bootcamp. It named itself Teacher Boot Camp. It’s a short intensive course where I come in and work with your teachers and the smart administrators. I’m not hired by a district. I’m hired by individual campuses. I come in and I work with teachers generally in Title 1 schools. If you don’t know a lot about education, you should probably know that the average teacher that you are going to meet is a 20 to 30-something White female. That is not how our schools look.
We have a lot of cultural things that we need to deal with. We have a lot of things that they didn’t learn in their education preparation program. That was the thing I was teaching. On the back end, they would be like, “This teacher is about to get fired. She’s making a lot of mistakes. You got to come in.” At that point, we would be co-teaching and helping them like, “These are the things where you can improve. What do you think about this? Parents are upset because you are not making phone calls.” “I don’t want them to scream at me.” “Here’s how you make a parent phone call.”
It was those simple things systems like, “They are always behind my desk looking for the stapler.” “Why don’t you have an extra stapler at the front of the room and a hole puncher and pencils? You then have your zones. They don’t go behind your desk for anything.” You don’t know what you don’t know. You just don’t. That’s what I have created and it was well. It was one person though. I never scaled it up, and that’s what we are working on now. If I am elected, I will have time to scale it up. I cannot technically or legally work for Austin ISD and be a school board trustee.
Teacher Boot Camp is moving online. You’ll be able to go online and take the course. You will have a weekly call with me. It’s still alive. It’s just not the way it used to look when I was on the ground on campuses. In my last posting, I love Dobie Middle School here in Austin ISD. They were like, “You have eight spots. We have ten teachers. Why don’t you just be housed here? Come to work here every day. That’s what we’ll do.” That’s what I did for the last few years right up into and through the pandemic.
How do teachers figure this out if they don’t have someone like you guiding them?
They don’t and then they quit. It’s what I call baptism by fire. They are like, “Welcome to Austin ISD. This is how you take attendance. This is how you do this, that and the other. Here is your insurance. Here is your leave time,” and all of those things are super important. They do a little mini-SEL and a little mini-cultural proficiency.
What is SEL?
That’s Social and Emotional Learning. That’s where we are getting into more than the content that you are teaching but what kids are dealing with. I would say a big chunk of the kids in our urban school district here in Austin has lived through some trauma. By trauma, I don’t mean like there are gunfights on their streets every day, but that is the case for some kids.
Think about divorce, a parent passing, a parent being incarcerated, a parent that struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, or a parent that’s dealing with their own trauma and is not parenting, so the adultification of young children. I say that across every race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status in our district. There are kids living through this trauma.
We don’t spend time teaching teachers that. A lot of what I do is I sit down and talk with teachers and I say, “Tell me what your perfect class would be,” and then I teach them how to get there. It’s never going to be perfect but I was like, “You are asking for trouble when you allow the pencil sharpener to stay on all class period long.” If you haven’t explained to kids that we are only going to sharpen pencils at the beginning during our transition periods, and at the end, before you go to your next class, then they don’t know. You haven’t modeled that. You haven’t said it.
I always said to people that there’s no way I should be making a living in a district the size of Austin ISD. They have a Teacher Quality Department. We even had a clash at one point because they were like, “Why are schools paying money for her?” They were like, “Are you going to do what she’s doing?” I’m like, “No.” They are like, “Can you take the older 3 through 5-year experienced teacher and she’d take the 0 to 2-year experienced teachers.” They were like, “We don’t have time to do the things that she’s doing.” They were like, “Why are you complaining?”
Then what are they doing?
I don’t want to say that they aren’t doing work. They are doing professional development. I don’t work in that department and I don’t want to speak against them because I feel like they do what they do because that’s their job and there’s somebody over them telling them what to do. There’s somebody over that person telling them what to do, but the person at the top, which should be the superintendent is saying, “Every teacher needs to receive X amount of hours of systems. Every teacher needs to receive many hours.” It’s not 30 minutes, not a half day right before school starts. It’s X amount of hours toward cultural proficiency.
We call it several things, but I think that the best time for people to understand and Google it is cultural proficiency, understanding how to value and teach through with other cultures. I will give you an example. When I was teaching US History at Webb, the kids kept asking me, “What’s going on in Mexico?” “I don’t know. I teach US History.” They kept asking so much so that I had to run a timeline to say, “This is happening in the United States and this is happening in Mexico. Remember Santa Ana?” We only teach the view of the heroes, and we no longer use that word. It’s the heroes of the Alamo. Santa Ana, what was this whole point?Teacher Boot Camp is a short intensive course for teachers. It's everything they need to know before they start teaching. It teaches a lot of things that aren't taught in education preparation programs. Click To Tweet
When I began to look at it like that and talk about it, the kids were more interested in US History because that’s the test they needed to pass because I was valuing their culture. They would love it when I didn’t know a word. I would be like, “Como se de se. Cattle.” I would be like, “Vaca. Mucho, mucho.” No. That’s not how you say cattle.
They were teachers for me also. What’s happening is if you are not getting that learning, then you are struggling every day. Like so many teachers that I have mentored, you are sitting in your car crying at lunch. I remember one teacher. I will not mention her name. She’s a superstar now. I have told this story and a bunch of people have heard it. I would hear a door slam. I would get out of my room to go see what student was slamming a door. There was the teacher leaving the class. I’m like, “No. You can’t leave the class. I know you are upset and angry, but you can’t walk out of the class.”
This was before I did Teacher Boot Camp. I was a regular teacher. “Here’s what we are going to do. You are going to call me and then you are going to come to sit with my class because they are going to be working on something. It’s going to be really chill in there, and then I will go sit in your class. We teach the same subject. No instruction time will be lost.” There’s nobody doing that.
We don’t tell teachers, “Get a buddy immediately.” If you teach the same subject and there’s a kid that’s grinding, send them to that other teacher because they are going to be learning the same thing, but maybe they will be more receptive to that teacher. There’s nobody doing that. The district should have that and they do. They have Professional Development. They have people that will come in and mentor, but there’s no checklist on it. There’s no, “Yes, I have had so many hours of training and understand.” They are even supposed to have time to go watch master teachers. They are supposed to get a day off, like a couple of days to go watch master teachers. It’s like, “We don’t have subs,” so just figure it out.
Granted it was several years ago that I taught, there’s such a gap that you are speaking to between what it is like to be an actual classroom teacher versus what professional development looks like versus what you need. Maybe this is common knowledge or maybe people don’t know. When you are a certified teacher, in order to keep your certification current, you have to do professional development hours every year to stay current. There was a time when you could get a lifetime teacher’s certificate, but that time is over. I don’t have one of those, so good for you. They changed that so that you have to stay current by getting professional development hours every year.
That’s one. Shout out to teachers because they continually stay on their game in terms of being educated about what’s current. However, what you are speaking about is that there’s a real gap between what is required and what teachers need to be functional in classrooms. It can be so overwhelming.
When you were talking about SEL, that made my eye want to twitch because just as I was leaving the classroom was when Social Emotional Learning was starting to enter. For me, I can step back now and see what an amazing push that is. At the time, it was like, “Another thing.” They keep putting things on our shoulders. It was introduced to us right as we were coming back to school. Those few days right before the school year is about to start.
When you want to be in your classroom.
You are dying to set up your classroom. You haven’t gotten to step foot in there yet. You need to set up your classroom, and you are trying to figure out the first week and welcoming kids and figuring out where you are going to have everybody put their school supplies when they come to visit for that first day.
Now, they are putting on your shoulders this whole new thing that you are going to be responsible for teaching. Even if you can step back at that moment to see what an incredible gift that will be to your classroom, it’s so overwhelming that you just can’t. That’s what’s so difficult about it all. It is this gap between what they are pushing on teachers versus looking at each teacher’s needs.
Are you guys familiar with the concept of a wicked problem?
No. Tell us.
A wicked problem is a problem that’s impossible to solve. I am a Star Trek fan. It would be the Kobayashi Maru. It’s not meant to be solved because the factors keep changing. There’s no way you can solve that. There is nothing in education that is a wicked problem. We know the answer, but there’s too much money to be made in a broken system. That is just the fact of it.
There’s too much money to be made in a broken system. We have to have these different groups. That’s why there are so many grants for all of these different programs. If we did what was necessary or if an education preparation programs were a year longer, what I mean by that is you go through all of your college or your alternative, and then you don’t get to go teach at year one.
In year one, you are an intern, and then we give you $30,000 or $40,000. It would not be your salary. You might have to work part-time as a bartender, but we would give you $25,000 or $30,000 a year. You would go work under a master teacher for one year. That year one, when you went into the classroom, you would not be a new teacher and you would have had the chance to see, “I like that. I don’t like that. I want to know about that. I want to do that.”
Instead of having a few months to do your teaching and then having to work a full-time job because you still have to put food on the table because you can’t work for free, we could do that. All of the money that we spend on people like me, Teacher Boot Camp, take all of those contracts and invest those back into teachers and give them that intern salary for that first year.
You were talking about how there is a solution to this problem. I was afraid that where you were going to wind up is that this is a wicked problem. I love that instead, it was like, “This is very solvable.”
There are no wicked problems in education. We know what the issue is and we know how to solve it but again, there’s too much money to be made in a broken system.
That is your quotable for this episode. Grab that, whoever. That is the one.
Who’s making the money?
I would start with me. Anybody that does any education consulting. There is some true education consulting where you need to come in. I used to take this thing. It was called Kilgore training. Do you remember it? That was a long time ago. If you were a teacher in Texas, it was how to read the TEKS, how to realize what you are supposed to be doing. The TEKS are the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. It is what we call our state standards in Texas. It was the course to teach you how to read the TEKS. How did you get out of college without knowing how to read state standards?
How in the world can you get out of your teacher preparation program and not understand how to read state standards? If you go to school in Texas, it doesn’t matter where you are going to go teach, you still need to know the value of how to read state standards. Even if your state uses the common core, you still have to be able to read it and understand the verb, Maslow’s, and all of those sorts of things. How are you not getting that?
There are people making money on teaching teachers after the fact. There’s money for people like me, teaching teacher systems. You do not want to have kids pass a piece of paper by poking the kid in the back. That’s a fight you are about to start. Say, “This is what I would like you to do. When I say go, I want you to pass the paper to the person on the left. How do we pass papers? We hold it out and we wait for the person who is receiving the paper to take it. We do not poke.” This is high school I’m talking about. Not first grade.
Nobody is telling them to pre-think, “When I say go or when I tell you to move,” and then give instructions. We start talking to kids, everybody’s like, “Wait. No. Come back.” We make money because nobody ever taught them that. Intervention and RTI, which is Response To Intervention with students who are struggling is super important. Why do we have interventions? It’s because we didn’t have time to reteach or we didn’t do it well.
There is one methodology. Let’s say we are all teachers. We all teach third grade. This is not compartmentalized. We all teach third grade all of the subjects. Claire’s students, on the last short cycle assessment, all made between 80 and 90. Her kids are zooming. My kids were hovering around the 70 range. We are not too concerned with me but, “Nichole, why is it that over 50% of your class failed this test what’s going on?”
We don’t move on. We now switched kids. We do a reteach day and Nichole’s kids go to Claire. Maybe I keep my kids and then, Nichole, you are going to do an enrichment activity because those kids already got it. Claire, you are going to do a reteach activity, and I’m going to see the middle of midland. Maybe I’m going to reteach with a little bit of enrichment.
That takes time. That takes money. We are rushing to get to the next short cycle assessment. If we did it that way or any other way like a million people have come up with, then we’ll be needing to hire contractors like outside tutors to come in and partners to come in and work with the kids. Those are $300,000, $30,000, $50,000 contracts. Again, too much money to be made in a broken system if you fix it. The well is going to dry off. Not to say those things aren’t needed, but not to the extent that we are milking this cow.
Someone is pushing, not slowing it down. Who is that? Is that the school board? Is that the superintendent? Is that TEA? Who is putting this pressure that is preventing all from being able to correct these problems ahead of time?
It’s the Texas Education Agency, but honestly, it’s George W. Bush. You are like, “What? He hasn’t been governor for a while.” The whole point is that George W. Bush raised high-stakes testing with no child left behind. The whole country runs on that now. It’s not just the state of Texas. It’s the whole country. The only way to know if kids know what they know is for them to bubble some sheets in.
That is not true. If I’m teaching History and my kids can do a final project on the formation of this country and its foibles and great things about it, then I know that my kids would learn that. I don’t have to have this, but if you go with and look and see $86 million, $200 million over however many years with Pearson, ETS, and now Cambium testers.
Those are the testing companies that we have bounced around in Texas for years. Millions of dollars are going to these tests. Do I believe that we need to assess our kids? Absolutely. Do I think short cycle assessments are valuable and end of the 6 and 9 weeks tests are valuable? Yes. I’m an educator. I want to know what my kids know. I know that every day before they go out the door so that we can say, “The Federal Government says, ‘Are you doing well in English and Math?’” We have to have some gauge. We do not have to have the gauges that we currently have and the way we have that.
I want to throw in another theory. I’m not the expert on this panel, but I’m going to throw in too that it is I would imagine that it’s also tied to having people in decision-making positions who are not educators and who have not had significant experience in education. They are going to be open to these privatized solutions that seem like they are the Band-Aid that’s going to fix it all, and no surprise, those are also very expensive.
I was thinking, who put that bug in his ear? Who said, “It’s testing.”
Back in the late-‘50s and ’60s, when we had the race for the moon, it was like, “The Chinese kids are so much smarter than the United States kids. The Russian kids know so much more They got no food but they are going to school.” In our country, no one ever thinks about the circumstances that are different. In China for the most part, back then it was like, “If you don’t show me something by third grade, you are going to be working in a rug factory. You are athletic. You are going to be a gymnast.”
There was no, “Everybody has a chance.” I used to tell kids, and I probably shouldn’t have said this, but I’m going, “This is the only country where you can be a screw-up. There are so many second chances for you in here that you can turn it around. Thank God you live in America.” That is the fact that it’s different. We don’t have, “If you don’t do this.” Our kids have a chance to find themselves. You are gauging them right at the moment where they have no idea who they are. We start in third grade. We want to know if they can read, write and do math.
Those things are important but those end-of-the-year testing. It’s a lot of pressure. The pressure comes from the teachers and families. I taught in Title 1 schools for the most part, and it was always like, “We have to beat the STAAR, rock the STAAR.” It was like, “This is our chance to show the state of Texas just who we are,” and that’s the way it was. It wasn’t like, “The STAAR is coming. It’s a terrible test. It’s so horrible.” Now my kid is like, “What are my STAAR scores?” “You don’t need to know. You are fine. Go enjoy your summer.” She asked me twice and I’m like, “I will tell you later. Ask me later.” She’s a straight A student. She does not need to know what those tests are.There is no such thing as a wicked problem in education. Everything has an answer, but there's too much money to be made in a broken system. Click To Tweet
If you know anything, we all know that the way that you perform on tests is not indicative of your potential.
Why would I give that doubt and that ability to second guess herself for her to say, “I have a 3.94. I’m vice-president of this organization at my school. I’m on track. I’m in volleyball, but I didn’t pass the STAAR.” Why would I do that? Even say, “You didn’t pass it but now they have this thing called approach standard, which means you never pass it, but you got close enough for us to count.”
Approach standards are like, “Good enough.” That should be for me. I like that they have that now, but the test in and of itself is not healthy. If you could prescribe how every school, campus, teacher, or school district would communicate the STAAR, then you might be okay, but you can’t do that. I don’t know if you know this, but you can’t reward kids who do well. You shouldn’t do that. Here are all the kids that pass the STAAR test. We are giving them a gold medal. It’s like every other kid is like, “Okay.” We used to do that. We no longer do that. That used to be a thing that districts and schools would do.
We are going to have an episode where we dig in deep into accountability and testing because that’s another piece to spend some time in. Since we have you with us and you know so much about this, we would love to talk about the teacher shortage. Nichole alluded to this a little bit earlier about the task force that the governor formed. I’m guessing Mike Morath also is very aware of that. We don’t have teachers and it’s a big problem. With your history background, can you tell us, is this a new thing? How was it 5 or 10 years ago? Why is it feel right now we are at a crisis point?
I will say that for Title 1 schools and by Title 1, that’s the Federal code for schools that have a certain percentage of students that are what we call low SES or low Socioeconomic Status. We also call them Eco Dis or Economically Disadvantaged. We are talking about poor kids. When we talk about poor kids, into that category falls Black and Brown, certain Asian groups and then poor Whites. When we look at all of those schools, they have always had a teacher shortage because it’s harder to teach in those communities because of sometimes lack of parent involvement. It’s not always that. Sometimes lack of resources.
There has always been a teacher shortage. I want everybody to understand that because I have taught in Title 1 schools my whole career, except for a very short period when I talked to affluent students. There’s that. Has this happened before? There’s always a teacher shortage. We are always a couple of thousands of teachers short in the United States at any given point, like 15,000 or 10,000 in the whole country, including Alaska, Hawaii, our protectorates like Guam and places like that, or on bases or DOD schools. There’s always a shortage but nothing like this.
In case you don’t know, Houston, the largest district in the state of Texas is down 1,000 teachers. Cy-Fair, the third largest district, is almost 1,000 teachers. Dallas ISD was hovering around 700 and Austin ISD, when I looked, was 568. That is a lot of missing teachers. To the panel that the governor has set up, which is being administered by Mike Morath and whoever he told to go, do it because I’m sure he’s not going to the meetings every time.
That is a beautiful optic. He doesn’t multiply teachers. There are no solutions that they can come up with that will fix things right now, unless you want to do what Florida did and say, “If you were ever at any point in the military, you don’t have to be certified. Start school and you can start teaching at the same time. We’ll figure it out as we go.”
In Arizona, you can say, “Do you want to be a teacher? You are in school. You’ve been there for three weeks. No worries. You can start teaching now, but you need to finish up in about five years.” Those measures are extreme. I want to be careful with this next one, because I don’t want to offend anybody, but I am an old-school teacher. I remember when I started, it was like, “Excuse me. Everybody faces front.” My desk was in rows. I had a chalkboard. I have learned so much and grown so much since then.
As you mentioned, Nichole, SEL that Social Emotional Learning is a whole new way to do things. We should have always been doing that. We didn’t know that, as teachers, we should be doing that. As parents, we always do that. It’s like your kids go through something and you are like, “I know you are upset and you are crying. Use your words. Tell me what it is that you need.” We didn’t do that with third graders though. We were like, “That is not allowed here. We don’t do that in third grade. You are a big boy and a big girl. Get it together.” Now, we are back to, “You seem like you are struggling. What is it that you need from Ms. Hunter?”
We have this new thing called Rehire. It’s like retire and rehire. AISD has opened the door. At first, I’m scared if they didn’t do it correctly, if they muck it up. They are saying, “You retired. You used to teach for 30 years, and you want to come back, come on back.” They can’t come back as they left. They left in 1985 or 1995. I don’t care if they left in 2020. Things have changed and you got to get them up to speed. That is my first concern about the quick fixes that we have. My second concern is international teachers.
Talk about this. I heard a podcast about this once and it was fascinating.
I haven’t, and this is just me sitting in my office thinking about what are the implications of international teachers. When I work every day with middle-class, 30-something White ladies, and I see all of the hurdles that they have to overcome to teach Black and Brown kids living in poverty and trauma, I think, “You bring in somebody from a whole another country that doesn’t necessarily even understand how things work in our country.”
I taught at Reagan, which is now called Northeast. That was the best job I ever had because it’s an international school. I had the United Nations. I had Afghanis and Cubanas. I had everybody, but that helped me work with those parents. I had to learn about each individual culture. I could go to a parent of a kid here in Austin and be like, “This is Ms. Hunter. Today Nichole was not following the instructions and we can’t have that. Someone is going to get hurt.” When I was speaking with my Afghani parents, I would be. “Today, Nichole was not honoring our class. She was very dishonoring of me as an instructor,” and then they would be like, “What?”
Even when I teach my White parents and I speak with Black parents. I’m not speaking for all Black people, but generally, for the most part, our perspective is if there’s a problem, you are going to call me. That’s your job. You are the teacher. A lot of Latin X cultures are like, “Donya, Maestra, you are in charge. You tell me what the problem is.” Whereas in our Eurocentric cultures is like, “I’m up here to find out what’s going on. What do you need? Is there a problem?”
When you put all of that in the same place with one person, they need to be able to do that. That’s a little bit easier if you are native-born to the United States or you have been here for a long time. You’ve learned to ride the ebb and flow of the different cultures, but you’re not. If you are coming from the Philippines or Spain, my concern is that they are like, “Welcome, with no training.” Yes, these are quick fixes, and do we need bodies? One hundred percent, but you got to do it right. If you are coming from another country, I don’t even know if there is a course that exists. I haven’t googled it. Is there like, “Welcome to America. Here’s the American educational system.”
I’m sure there will be a consulting firm that creates one. That’s quite expensive.
I should maybe invent that right now. Thank you. It should be someone who is almost an anthropologist who could speak well to different cultures in the United States and who has studied the different cultures that have meshed here or not meshed because they have not, but the amalgam of what is now the United States. That’s who would probably need to be in charge of that, not me because I have a lot of ideas. I’m nowhere ready to be able to do that. I think that that’s super important, but these quick fixes don’t bring more bodies.
They exacerbate the problem because you are setting people up for failure who are inevitably probably going to quit because it’s too hard and they are crying in their car on any break, and so then they quit and then we have this same cycle of problems.
The worst is they stay, and then they are discontented. One time I was in a class and I asked the teacher when we were done. I was observing and they called me in. It was one of the situations where he was about to be fired. He no longer works in education. It was at a school here in Austin. It’s a very low-income school. It’s the largest Title 1 school. We have 1,200 kids and 89% of them are Hispanic, a handful of Black and White kids, and two more international kids.
At the end of the class, he was teaching sixth grade, which are still babies. I asked him, “Mister, do you like children from this course?” He was so, “You guys don’t know how to do anything. I just explained this to you last week.” I was like, “I want you to consider if this is what you would like to be doing. If this is what you want to do, I can help you do it better. I can help you get that class you may want. If this is not something that you are willing to invest in with time and energy, then I would suggest that you consider another career path.”
People think, “I got my BA, I got a Master’s degree. I’m listless. I can’t find a job doing what I want to do. I am just going to teach. How hard could it be?” It’s great, but they don’t understand how it works. They are like, “I know what I will do. I will go work for a school and get my loan forgiven for five years.” I was telling my teachers in our truth talk, “You have to stay for five years before they will forgive you. Can you make it? That’s the question.”
The teacher shortage problem is a lot bigger. Honestly, I will say Austin ISD has exacerbated it. We wouldn’t need as many teachers if there wasn’t this debacle of essential area redesign. Long story short, the state of Texas Education Agency says, “You have to have so many minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity.”
Our former superintendent went to a campus that was not going on. She was so upset. She scrapped the whole thing of where kids have A, B, C, Art, PE, and Music over a three-day period. She said, “We are going to do PE every day.” That means that we have to hire 55 more Art, PE and Music teachers and 102 Physical Education TAs. “I’m sorry, ma’am. That’s not a thing. There’s no such thing as a Physical Education Teaching Assistant. Do you mean you want to hire another body to do something that you can’t pay another teacher to do? They have no training in the house. They have no training in education and you going to turn them loose with kids every third day. Is what you are saying you are going to do?”
That exacerbated the hiring issue that we have here in Austin ISD. Parents have spoken against the teachers and teachers have spoken against the kids, and kids have spoken against it, but it’s that continual disconnect between what will work. This is where we are. I think about other districts, their problems are not exacerbated by that situation, but they exacerbated the situation by not caring for their teachers’ mental, social and emotional well-being, and paying what teachers are worth.
I have nothing against sports, but I don’t think that you should make millions of dollars for throwing a ball or saying some lines to some music. The fate of America is in the hands of these people, and you want to pay them $30,000, $40,000, or $50,000. There is no teacher that should start teaching in the United States that is not making six figures for the amount of work we do. I say, pay me by the hour. As a teacher, I was always like, “Pay me by the hour and let me get overtime and double time, and triple time for Sunday and double time for Saturday and holidays. Pay me by the hour because I would for sure make six figures at that point.”
I don’t know any teacher who doesn’t work. We all work in the summer. You might take a teeny vacation time, but you are also starting to think ahead for the next year. We would get together as a team too and team plan over the summer. Not to mention the professional development that we were having to attend over the summer. It’s 100%, you were always working. I would have a designated day too, where my husband would pick up my kids so that I could work late. Those are the nights I would work until 8:00, 9:00 or whatever, and then go home and try to catch up. I always brought work home too. It’s not the simple job that so many people try to pretend that it is. It’s incredibly consuming.
That’s how we get people into the business, and then they realize they don’t want to be in the business. Here’s the thing that is most damaging. Like I said, staying is super damaging, but then when you come and you leave in October or you come and you leave in November like, “Stay still until Christmas. At least wait until the Christmas break and leave.” We have that thing.
I will tell you that my daughter spent most of the last part of fifth grade in her room. She spent sixth grade in her room, and then in her first year in middle school, seventh grade, her English teacher came. I do not fault her one bit. If I was in the situation that teachers were in at the beginning of last year, I had to quit too.
She came for one day. My daughter fell in love with her and she was done. They got a sub they had for a couple of months. My daughter thought he was cool. He got a full-time job in Round Rock. They had another sub, and then they got another semi-permanent teacher whom they loved, and then that person left in March. There was some issue with certification or whatever, and then they got a sub and I’m not joking. Three days before school was over, the sub went into labor.
She took the ELA, the English Language Arts STAAR, and she got approaches and that’s a miracle. She did not have a consistent teacher. My daughter is at an affluent school that’s a Fine Arts academy that has resources. Parents show up to do work, PTA, and all that sort of thing. I have a friend, my actual cohost. He would get notices like, “There was no teacher. Your kid sat in the cafeteria. There was no teacher. Your kid was in the gym all day for that class.”
It’s in the middle school. Multiply those 3 or 4 times a week, 5 to 6 different teachers because there are no subs, and the central office is going and setting on Tuesday. That was really cute. Sub for the week. Not on Tuesday, but for a week. Put your job on hold and sub for the week. You’ll be making some different decisions.
This shortage is not going away. There are no quick fixes and all the quick fixes will exacerbate the problem. I don’t know. I have not thought of that. I wake up at 7:00 in the morning. I will wake up earlier than that, but I start at 7:00 in the morning, reading Ed Week and Edutopia, and seeing what the education blogs are saying. I’m on a bunch of different teachers’ Facebook pages to see where teachers are.
If you go on Google and Facebook, there are about 30 new Facebook pages about, “What else can you do besides teaching? How do you take your teaching skills and move them?” I lurk on those to see what the issues are. What are teachers saying? As a teacher, if I would give a kid a test that informs my instruction as someone who potentially or someone who wants to be a school board member, that informs me where teachers are. I am a teacher.
That’s a perfect segue, Candace. Tell us why you need him on the school board.
I feel like you could talk to us for hours and I would be on the edge of my seat for all of it because this information is incredible. We want you to share about your school board race. Can you first tell us, what the school board do? Why do you want to do this?There's always a teacher shortage. We're always a couple of thousand teachers short in the United States at any given point. Click To Tweet
Here’s what you should know in Texas, it’s for $0. In our Texas education code, the way we have set it up and the thinking in Texas is that we want people who care. What that equates to is we want people who are wealthy and can afford to take the time and who are the elite of our society to run school boards because that’s who it is.
Our school board should look like our students, and if you Google any school board in the state of Texas, I’m going to be honest with you, you are going to see middle-class or affluent White people and a lot of women. You see 1 or 2 businessmen, but you’ll see a lot of people who used to be former teachers, stay-at-home moms, and sort of things. Is there anything wrong with that? Absolutely no. If your school district looks like that, then that’s what your school board should look like.
If your school district looks like Austin ISD, in our school board, we have someone who’s Asian. When I say Asian, like from the sub-continent of Asia, we have 3 Hispanics and 2 African-Americans, and then the new interim superintendent is African-American. That is what a school board should look like. In District 4, we have two ladies who are of Eurocentric background. I have no idea if they are English, British or Canadian. They present as White. That’s how I can say it.
I never knew this, but once I started digging in and wanting to do it and help people, I started doing it. That has ramped up since 2020, when people are like, “This is an issue going on in my campus. Can you help us problem solve? This is an issue going on. What can we do? Who should we talk to?” I began being that resource.
I had a great compliment from someone at a union meeting I went to. They say, “You are more of a trustee than some of our trustees.” I was like, “Thank you,” and that’s what I’m going to run. I’m already doing the job. There are some things you know. I can’t go into the executive session. When they have their meetings until 1:30, the ones that we see, I’m with them until 1:30 in the morning. Now that they have opened back up, I’m physically in the room with them until 1:30 in the morning.
When BoardDocs and board docs is an agenda-setting platform that the Austin ISD uses, if you Google Austin ISD BoardDocs, it will take you to the meetings and the agendas. It will show you all of the documents that trustees have to read through so that they can make good decisions. I’m going through all of those things also.
The law, you’ll hear them say like DC local, that’s what Austin ISD. That’s our policy in DC legal. That’s what the Texas Education Code State says we have to do. Sometimes they differ just a teeny tiny bit. You have to and one will say, “You can,” then we will decide if we will. It’s those sorts of things. All of that is found there on BoardDocs.
I’m out in the community at different schools. I have a couple of principals that will tap me and be like, “This is an issue but I can’t say anything. Will you make noise about this?” I’m like, “I’m on it.” I have teachers message me and say, “Our water got turned off and we don’t have water in downtown. It’s taking too long.”
I will call them and be like, “This is Ms. Hunter. Is there a reason that the school does not have bottled water? Do I need to go to Sam’s right now? I will go to Sam’s and get some bottled water and take it to that school if that’s what needs to happen.” As a trustee, you wouldn’t do those things because an advocate has a little bit more leeway of things you can do where you don’t get into too much trouble, but I’m already doing those things. For me, running is leveling up. That’s the next natural progression for me. Why wouldn’t I do that?
Candace, you were so qualified. I want to vote for you but I’m not in Austin ISD. We should maybe say this quickly, the way Austin ISD is broken down is into districts. School races are local but it’s also hyper-local. They also have large members.
Austin ISD, in case you don’t know, we are a district of 74,000 students. We used to be 86,000. That should tell you something. The majority of our students are Hispanic. We have a very small Black population. We have a large international population. Over 100 different languages are spoken in Austin ISD.
We have nine trustees because we have nine places. Seven are what we call single-member districts. We have District 1. That is the district that I am running for. If you live up to Rundberg, crossing over to the west side of Lamar, all the way down, scooting around Mueller, and that’s because of the voting rights acts. If we would include Mueller, the White population would dilute the Black population. Mueller is that little scoop out.
Going all the way to 183 up until the end of where Austin ISD around 969, MLK, going down into Cherrywood. That’s District 1. I won’t go through all of them, but District 2 is going to be your Southeast Austin, going up through Montopolis, coming down there. District 3 catches the side of District 1. That’s going to be your Rundberg. Those schools are Novato and T.A. Brown, and those schools.
District 4, that’s going to be your McAllen, your Lamars. That’s going to be your North Austin, but not quite north. It’s like north-northwest. District 5 and 6, that’s going to be south, southwest. That’s when you start getting into your Circle Cs. That’s when you get into Kiker, Nan Clayton and Bowie. Those schools ride that wave down there. It’s District 7, actually, then 5 is north and 6 and 7.
We have two at large, which are 8 and 9. Every trustee is responsible for the entire district, but the seven single-member districts are hyper-focused on that one. District 1, the district that I’m running for has the most schools. It had 25. We redistricted. It now has 27. That’s because District 1 is in the core. It’s where all of our schools started. As the city moves out, there are less and less schools.
As a voter, when you are voting for the school board, how do you know if someone’s a good candidate?
It’s best to do your research. There are a bunch of candidate forums. It’s like any other election, you want to hear what they have to say. It should be careful and tested. There’s ear candy. They tell you, “I promise you to this and that.” It’s important to know what board members can and can’t do. I will talk about that a little bit later if you guys would like.
What’s super important is to know if your values are aligned with that person. I have not been shy about that. It’s not a secret. Anybody who’s on social media knows because I make videos and talk about different things. I have a podcast. I share my opinion very openly about all sorts of subjects. People who are supporting me at this point, that big first push, those are the people who already know where I stand.
I’m what you would call more of a progressive candidate, meaning that I want to have more of our decision-making process come from information provided by teachers, students, families, and even the people who work on our campuses. I don’t just want people in the central office saying, “Let me tell you how this works.” “No, I want to hear from that person how it works.”
If there’s a problem and we have to do something with custodians, then I want to talk to custodians. If there’s a problem with something, for instance, we have this end-of-the-year test and teachers and campus-level experts say, “Don’t give us this test after STAAR.” The district did it, and the scores were abysmal. We hope that what those scores are telling us is not true. Those kids were through and tired and like, “A, A, B, B, C, C, C.”
That’s what I will spend this weekend doing. I will be looking at STAAR data and I will be looking at a middle of the year data, and end of the year map. It’s the test that we take for benchmarking to figure out because the map test is telling us right now that 9% of African-American students are on or above grade level, and I don’t believe that. I know it’s bad. It’s less than 20%. I know that because that’s what the STAAR is probably going to tell me once I desegregate by race and ethnicity.
Administering that test after kids were tired because STAAR is the stopping place. After that, it’s all fun and games. What the district did when they were like, “No. You can’t give us a test after STAAR.” We have been training these kids for years. They know that after STAAR, “We are free.” They said, “No, we are going to give you one more.” I don’t know if the kids were like, “No. I’m not doing that.”
The only way for me to know that is to desegregate the data and look at STAAR. I will publish that information for everybody for all the parents to see to say, “Yes, this is what it is. Here’s the real deal and here’s what’s going on.” I’m not an expert or whatever, but I can do percentages. That’s the thing. Not listening to campus experts, that’s the thing that we miss out on as candidates. If you cannot personally get in contact with a candidate, which I don’t know why you wouldn’t be able to. You are not that busy. I know that I have an email. If I see something, I’m like, “DM me. I will try to walk you through that.”
I have the privilege of time because I work part-time for ACC and educator certification. I have the privilege of time to do that. I always tell people that I’m gracefully unemployed or underemployed. I stay underemployed so that I can do advocacy. I went to ACC. I will tell you this little side note to do my job or whatever.
I was like, “Thanks for offering me the job. It’s cool. I put a link in the chat. If everybody could click on that link, it would show you statements I have made to the media. It will show you some videos that I have made. It’ll show you some of the advocacy work that I do. If you guys are good with all of that, that’s great. I’d be happy to take this job. If you are not, it was nice meeting you.” I have the privilege to do that because poverty is nothing new to me.
They were like, “We already looked you up before this interview. We know who you are. We are good with what you are doing.” I was like, “Okay,” but a lot of our board members don’t have that leeway. They can’t move because they worked for major employers like, “I want to make this decision.” I don’t know that they are not making that decision independently. I sometimes wonder when you are tied to a particular entity that may or may not benefit our school. Sometimes I wonder about that tension. I’m not saying there has been any ill-doing. I’m saying, I wonder about that tension. That’s a tension that I don’t have.
Speak to them, look up forums, and google them. You can google anybody nowadays. If they have ever said anything in news articles, use the way back machine if they tried to delete things off of there. They are thinking of the way back machine. Go and see like, “That person posted and they said this, that, and the other about public education.” Do your research, but if you can’t, League of Women Voters, thank God for them, they always give you a good synopsis of that person. It’s general, but if you are going to throw a dart, then the League of Women Voters, their guide is very helpful.
Where can we find you, Candace? Shout out all the things.
You can find me personally on Facebook, Candace Hunter. As far as things that are campaign-wise, @HunterForAISD. I’m on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Those are the three main platforms because I’m managing everything myself. Those are the three that I can handle. We are going to have some meet and greets.
If you go to my website and I will hand that to you guys, it’s a long one. It’s through Wix. I will give that to you guys so you’ll have it. You can go there to donate and volunteer with me. We have a sign-up sheet because I do a lot of volunteer work. As a matter of fact, shout out to Austin Voices for Youth and Education.
I was over at Forest Park Apartments. We were giving away food, fans, and all that stuff. On August 4th, 2022, we will be at Dobie doing more good work. August 8th, 2022, we’ll be at Novato. If you want to come with me and volunteer, ask me questions while we are volunteering. I will talk to you. We can do some good work and talk at the same time.
I have one more wrap-up question and I think it’s a fun send-off. Parents are so busy. You are working, raising your kids, trying to keep your head on straight, and not get sick anymore with COVID. What’s the one thing you recommend they do pay attention to regarding their child’s education? If they have ten minutes a week, what should they focus on?
Honestly, if you are super busy and you only have ten minutes, the one thing I would suggest you do with ten minutes is to email your school’s teacher, your child’s teacher. Email that teacher like, “I’m Candace’s mom. I’m checking up on their progress,” and that’s it. Call the principal and say, “I’m checking up. Is there anything that I can do from my work or my stance to help you out?”
That’s a quick thing where you can get like, “We do need more paper towels. We do need somebody to come up and do tardy passes for 30 minutes in the morning.” Maybe if you have that time. I would suggest that you communicate with the people who are the closest to your students. If you want to see what is going on largely, no joke, listen to my podcast. AISD Ex Officio. It’s unofficial. We talk about Austin ISD, but we are not beholden to them. We can say whatever we want.
We are doing this wrap-up segment called Attention Mentions. Mention something that has your attention. If it’s a book that you are into right now, a documentary you saw, or an article. Something that you can’t get out of your mind.
I’m going to change it a little bit. I’m going to tell you about an app that is amazing. It works for people like me who are always out and about and wanting to learn and know. Have you guys heard of Blinkist?
It’s amazing. They have what is called Blinks. The book that I love and have read the entirety of. I have read Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto. I love a checklist. Have you read the book?
I have read 30 pages. I need to finish the book.
What you need to do is download Blinkist and listen. The main points of that book are in what are called Blinks or little chapters. It will give you an overview of the book. It has been curated with the help of the author. If people couldn’t read your book, what is it that you want them to know? They have Brené Brown. They have all of the big authors, and then they make suggestions like what should we make a Blink on?
I don’t have time to sit and read books for hours, but I drive everywhere and I can basically consume 5 or 6 books in the course of a day, and my picking up and dropping off kids. I have Audible. I don’t have time to read the whole thing because I don’t have time to sit and read. I can listen and wash. I’m going to put some Blinks on and do the laundry or whatever. Blinkist is the thing that I cannot stop using. They should give me some kickback for it.
You are a real customer. You are speaking to what they do.
Nichole, do you have anything?
I feel like I always wind up on some show or limited series. The one that I finished is called Web of Make Believe. I’m going to have to confirm the name of it. It is on Netflix. It’s either 5 or 6 episodes, and the first four are individual stories about these, like internet scandals. The last two is a two-part episode, and it is about this guy who committed fraud.
In the course of him getting caught, he does reveal the government surveillance technique that was being used that we didn’t know about, and it was because he knew what the weak link in his system was. Anyway, it was super fascinating and it helped connect what happens on the internet with the effects that happen in real life. It makes that connection well. I was super fascinated by it. I did not intend to get caught up in it and then wound up bingeing it. Claire, what about you?
I’m going to watch that because I need something to watch. I had to come two to mind. I will say it quickly. It’s one related to Candace. I might not finish it, so perhaps I will use Blinkist but I have begun to read Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, which is a great book if you are trying to implement some new habit you want to do. He’s all about breaking it down into the smallest step and building up from there, and it’s great. It’s very practical and systems-oriented and I love it.
The thing that I thought about connected to Nichole’s recommendation was I saw this show on Hulu called Angels and Demons about Victoria’s Secrets rise and fall. It was fascinating. If you need something interesting about this huge American company, check that one out. Thank you, Candace Hunter. I am so excited that you are running. As you mentioned, school board members make $0. You are basically trying to be an elected super volunteer, and I appreciate that because we need that.
I love it, elected super volunteer.
There’s another quotable. Claire, you got the next quotable.
I hope that Austin ISD has you because you would be amazing.
Here’s the beautiful thing, you were already serving. It’s incredible.
We need you to be that decision maker if we can make it happen.
I think that it’s great that I’m running. I tell people all the time, because there are a lot of people that are invested in this, almost more than me or as much as me. I tell them I’m going to do the work, whether it’s from my couch. No worries. It’s not like I’m going to not get elected and then I’m like, “I’m done.” That’s not going to happen. I still have a kid in the system.
That kind of candidate.
Redeeming my faith in public service.
- Candace Hunter
- Austin ISD
- Teacher Boot Camp – Facebook
- Education Week
- Austin ISD BoardDocs
- League of Women Voters
- Facebook – Candace Hunter
- @HunterForAISD – Facebook
- Twitter – Candace Hunter
- Instagram – Candace Hunter
- Austin ISD X Podcast – Apple Podcasts
- The Checklist Manifesto
- Tiny Habits
About Candace Hunter
Candace has been an educator for over 20 years in Title 1 schools. When she’s not educating parents or advocating for public schools she co-hosts the Austin ISD Ex Officio/Unofficial podcast.