Crazy Texas Weather closed schools…and the city

Just last week, Texas had some crazy winter weather. On Monday, we enjoyed a high of in the upper 60s. It was perfect weather for San Antonio’s march to honor Martin Luther King Jr. (San Antonio hosts one of the largest marches in the country every MLK day.)

The next day, our high was 29 (but felt like 14 with wind chill). Yes, a cold front moved in Monday night and with it came freezing rain. Now, much of South Texas is not prepared for freezing temperatures or icy roads. Cities and counties around here do not have sand trucks or snow plows. (They do have a few trucks that can spray an anti-icing agent on the roads.) None of us have snow tires and the majority of drivers do not know how to drive on icy roads. Luckily for us, severe winter weather is a rarity in South Texas.

By 4 p.m. on Monday with the sun still shining, our school district cancelled school for Tuesday. So did all the other 16 school districts in San Antonio as well as the colleges, court house, city and county offices, and a wide range of companies, both big and small. My husband even closed his law firm and opted to work from home.

This is what happens when we get ice on the roads. The city shuts down. Yes, San Antonio (the 7th largest city in the U.S.) and the rest of South Texas become the brunt of a lot of jokes about our panic and what many Northerns consider an overreaction.

 

Tuesday started out by 4 a.m. at freezing and as the day progressed the temperature continued to drop, reaching a low of 26.  Freezing rain and sleet were steady throughout the morning and early afternoon. We had icicles hanging from our roof and plants. North facing windows became a sheet of ice as did my back deck and patio table.  San Antonio has many overpasses and bridges which froze over. Overall there were 230 accidents reported between midnight and 4 p.m., but it would have been much worse if so many of the drivers hadn’t stayed off the road.

Wednesday morning, we woke to 27 degree temperatures and ice still on some of the bridges and highway interchanges. But the majority of the roads were fine. School resumed and by mid-morning the ice was gone. After 32 hours below freezing, the temperature warmed up to 46 by late afternoon. And the temps kept rising over the next few days until by Saturday we were back up to the upper 60s again.

So, for one day, San Antonio and area communities closed. The bad thing about missing school due to a Winter Freeze Day is that the day must be made up. It means that the kids lose getting President’s Day off in February. But they did enjoy having four day weekend here January. Now it will probably be another couple of years before we have to worry about this crazy winter weather again. Or I could be wrong. It did after all snow in December.

Attending Texas PTA Leadership Seminar

Once again, I joined the thousands of women and men who attended the Texas Parent-Teacher Association Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Texas last month.

This is the third year I have attended the conference. (Last year was in Dallas and the first year I went to it was in Houston.) We typically send four officers to the conference but since this year it was in our hometown, we opted to send six officers and four committee chairs to the conference.

There were classes to fit every interest level – from the basics of how to do your position (Treasurer, Parliamentarian, President, Fundraising, Secretary, etc.) to PTA issues (how to deal with contentious meetings or other drama, expanding membership, getting volunteers) to parenting issues (Lice, cyber bullying, talking about sex, online safety) and even personal things such as what to cook for dinner and how to save for college.

For the past two year, I held the position of Treasurer, and that was the focus of many of the classes that I took. This coming school year I will be vice president in charge of parent education and programs.

I did not see many classes specifically dealing with my new position, so I just chose classes that interested me or ones I thought could help our PTA.

Here are the Classes and Discussion Groups that I attended.

Classes

Ha! Ha! Help! Parenting with Humor – I took this one purely for my own enjoyment. This was offered last year, and people raved about it. It was a good presentation by a humorist and mother. It was all about how when we yell, our kids win so she parents with humor. It gets her point across without a raised voice.

You Want It When? – Again, a personal choice rather than one that will help me in my job as VP. And again, another excellent speaker. This course was all about prioritizing your time. I knew a lot of the techniques, but it is nice to pick up a few pointers and be reminded of how I should balance my family, work and volunteering.

Cyberbulling, Social Networking, Apps, Sexting & More: How to Keep Your Kids & Schools Safe – Again, an awesome speaker and great material. I sure know how to pick the right classes. I attended this with a friend, and we both agreed we would love to have this lady come speak at our school. (She is 90% booked for this year, and I figure she is out of our price range.) We learned a lot about not just the latest apps and Cyberbullying but how the police handle sexting and cyberbullying. Very informative.

Involving Members and Attracting Leaders  – This class was taught by four PTA members – three from the state level and one from a Dallas area PTA. They really did not have a set speech but rather just talked about the topic and focused on real examples, whether it was something they had done or suggestions from the audience. Another good class with useful information.

Your PTA Got the Crab Mentality? – This speaker discussed the idea that a lot of times we are pulling each other back rather than pushing them toward success. It was a lot about embracing new ideas and challenges. Probably my least favorite class of the bunch but still a good one.

Discussion Groups

Programs, Parents and Infinite Possibilities – This discussion group talked about programs and how to get people involved in the PTA. The good thing is that these are real examples from other PTA school leaders. I was able to get a list of free activities that fall under my job description of both programs and parent education.

Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold – Engaging Families – I attended this one with three other ladies from my PTA. It focused on how to get families involved. Again, it had some good ideas.

It was a fun, informative weekend, and it was awesome to hang out with the other ladies from my PTA who I will be working with this school year. I look forward to next year’s conference.

Two different elementary schools…

OlmosThe neighborhood was run down. The building was older, obviously built decades ago. But the children inside were exuberant and cheerful and not unlike the students at my kids’ elementary school. However, the differences are great as I learned from listening to the family specialist speak.

So many of the kids come from poor families. Many of them struggle to have enough to eat. They rely not only on the cafeteria meals but food sent home in their backpacks every weekend. Without those snacks, many of them would have nothing to eat at home.

These kids struggle with having proper clothing to wear, coming to school without jackets or with shoes falling apart. Some of them live with grandparents or there are multiple families living under one roof. A grandmother explains that she has 8 kids at her home – some her own young children and some her grandchildren.

It isn’t that I didn’t know these poorer conditions, these struggles, happen. It is more that since I don’t see it, I tend to forget these situations exist. My family lives in an upper middle-income neighborhood. We don’t struggle to put food on our table or to pay our bills. Our kids enjoy extra-curricular activities and trips to the zoo, Sea World and the beach.

But just a short 20 minute drive from our neighborhood is this other elementary school. It isn’t even in the poor south side of San Antonio. It isn’t downtown or nestled in the industrial area. It is blocks from the mall where I buy my son’s Star Wars tennis shoes.

This other elementary school at the southernmost part of our school district is the sister school to the elementary school my kids attend. And they are as different as night and day. Ninety-five percent of those at our sister school qualify for free or reduced meals. Ours is barely at 5 percent. Our students ranked first and second in the district on the benchmark testing in January. Not so for our sister school. They are among the bottom of the ranks.

The reason that I am writing about our sister school is not that I didn’t know schools like this existed. But it is one thing to read or hear about them and quite another to visit one. Our PTA board had our monthly meeting at our sister school last month. We sat with parents and grandparents who didn’t speak English. Only 3 of the 8 in attendance had any understanding of English. They were there to support their students just as we are involved in our own school for the same reason.

This meeting was also a chance for our members to see the school that we support with food and clothing drives, to see the place where the presents from our Angel tree go and to see a different side of our city. And it allowed the parents and grandparents from our sister school a chance to see how we run things. Their PTA is very small and not as active as ours.

Yes, we were a little embarrassed at the amounts we threw around when talking about our upcoming fundraisers. As treasurer, I have to give a report at each meeting about our finances. Our accounts sit at over $15,000 which to these people is way more than they could hope to have in their PTA budget.

But as difficult as these people’s lives are we shared one thing in common – our love for our students. And in an effort to help us out for all the help we have given them, they offered up cakes and tamales for our upcoming Spring Festival.

The visit was a good reminder to be thankful for what we have and a reminder to keep donating and supporting those students and families less fortunate than us.