Congrats to all the graduating seniors! We welcome Westwood High School Principal Mario Acosta to the show as well as student leaders and musicians from both McNeil and Westwood High Schools in #atxd6
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Well, Hello, Austin! Hello Callbackers. Hope you enjoyed a little bit of the clip from the video I put together to congratulate all of our graduates, our high school graduates in this crazy and ridiculous time. You can find the full video on my Facebook and YouTube pages the same video channels where you are watching, right now. Take my name off the corner. There, you all know who I am. It is a special edition of the Claw back. We are talking to folks from Westwood and McNeil high schools, their graduation ceremonies have occurred, their diplomas are being delivered; the end of the school year, entering into a pretty crazy unknown future. I'm looking forward to this conversation, but first, let's dig in a little bit to the latest on the crisis. I'm gonna share, as I've done a few times before, we will jump into this - and myself a little bigger there. Here's the city's website that has all of the information you need covering COVID-19. You can see all the languages; you can see the self-assessment, because the city is providing free public testing, if you qualify, so you can see that. And then, of course, the dashboard and all of the other related information AustinTexas.gov/ COVID19. Here is the dashboard which has been updated a few times. It's really good information: You can see the new cases reported per day. You can see hospitalizations per day; breakdown by race and ethnicity. We're still having a pretty dramatic disparate impact on the Hispanic community in terms of hospitalizations. A lot of work can be done to try and rein that in and get that back to something that is a lot more fair and reasonable. And then on the ZIP code chart. This is the dashboard that covers Travis County plus City of Austin. So when you see the map here, you can see the ZIP Codes going up into Williamson County, but it's only counting the cases from those ZIP Codes that are in Travis County / City of Austin. So it's a little confusing. And then when you go over to the Williamson County: Here's the dashboard provided by Wilco. Their URL Wilco.Org/ Coronavirus Here's their dash. And you can see that they do kind of the reverse of that, where they show the cases all across Williamson County and the city of Austin, but only the WilCo part of the City of Austin. And only because the universe has to make things as complicated as humanly possible ZIP Codes cross the County line. So 78750 is probably a good example. You can see it has a very few that might even be zero. Although on Wilco side, it doesn't give you the exact number- you come back over here. Zoom in 78750 goes way into Travis County, 19 cases across 78750. So if you live in these District 6 ZIP Codes you can rely upon the data in the city's provided dashboard, but if you live in Williamson County, and you live outside the city – which 78729 and 78717 both have that reality – you're probably gonna have to flip a little bit back and forth to get a full answer. But nonetheless, all the data is being published and in as real time as we possibly can. You can see that the dashboard for the City of Austin updated just last night. Something else I wanna show: the city is looking at reopening some of it's own services. Now we've shown you this chart before the risk-based guidelines, and you can see the different stages, but I wanna point out today is that first column. I'm gonna make it a little bigger. Let's see how do I do that. There. That first column: That's determined by the seven-day average of hospital admissions linked to the virus. And we've been at stage three since this chart was put together about a week, two weeks ago. And you can see in the dashboard, we show hospitalizations per day, but we're not necessarily showing that specific 7-day rolling average. I've asked the city staff to put that together. But I actually have a chart, because in the press release you can find on the city's website, AustinTexas.Gov/COVID19 and you scroll down, you can see that they have published that data in a static chart. Again, I wanna get it on to the dashboard for you, and you can see that line - Now, I'm colorblind, so I assume that it's a green line, But Don't @ me if I'm wrong on the color. You can see that the new hospitalizations that's seven-day rolling average is hovering between eight and 12. And when you go back to the chart, you can see that keeps us at stage three. So when and if those hospitalizations decline, and we get that rolling average under 5, we can start to reopen more. However, if cases go up, and we cross the threshold at 19, we get into 20, which isn't even on this chart - a little bit far away. Then we might have to go up to stage four, and have additional requirements. And again, the thing I wanna point out is that the requirements are different if you're a higher-risk individual or a lower-risk individual. High risk being over 65 or over 60, I think over 60 is where the CDC talked about it. Or if you have a complicating health condition. Those folks, If you are one of those folks, or you are related to or friends with, if you have a loved one in that category, it's absolutely critical those folks stay isolated stay cocooned as much as possible. That's where the epidemiologists say you really see hospitalizations start to get out of control - are in those high-risk individuals. But low risk individuals transmit the virus. So it's not that if you are in a low-risk category that you can just kinda do whatever you want. We all have to be in this challenge together. I wanted to show that part of the reopening plan that City staff put out this morning, this morning, hot off the presses, includes reopening parts of the public library, parks and animal services and other ones, are listed as well, but I wanted to highlight the library because we've been getting some specific questions from constituents about the library and when library services can start to resume. We've been in phase one from the library closed. Phase two where you can if you have library materials, if you've checked out stuff from the library, the book drops have been closed. Well, those are gonna reopen starting June 1st; so you can start to return the library materials that you've been holding on to and you can see that there are precautions being taken for that. And then on June 8th, we will see phase three come into play, which will provide for curbside library service, and we're gonna start this program at 10 locations across the library department, but both of the locations that serve District 6: Spicewood Springs Library kind of our main D6 library, and the Millwood Library, which is in District 7, but close to D6 neighborhoods - Both of those libraries are listed on the curbside roll-out. So that will start to happen on the 8th, and you can go to the library Website Library. AustinTexas.gov and you can see the curbside pickup FAQ and how it's gonna work. Go to website and reserve your materials, you'll be able to get access to our library services now that we've got a plan and a path to do it in a way that is as safe as possible. I know there's a lot of folks who have been interested in getting access to the library services again, and I have definitely been receiving your emails, and so I wanna just thank everybody for their advocacy and especially thanks, City staff for being on top of that and getting some of these services back into our community, so we can continue to protect ourselves; we can continue to isolate and stay at home as much as we can; and do it a little maybe a little bit easier with some library books and the library materials. So thanks again, to city staff for that.
Alice Zhang & Anirudh Madyastha
Alright, I wanna bring up my first set of guests, representing both Westwood and McNeil High Schools. We have Alice Zhang and Anirudh Madyastha. Got it! From our two of the three biggest high schools serving District 6. Hello Alice, and Anirudh! Hello Council member! Thank you so much for having us. Yeah. Thanks for thanks for coming on the show. I wanna start: both of you are very involved in your high schools. Alice: Why don't you start; just let folks know who you are, and what you've been up to in your senior year. Hi, I'm Alice. I'm a senior at Westwood High School. Well, were graduated now. Last year, I was the student body President, Student Council, I was heavily involved in the debate program as well. And throughout my senior year, that's basically what I've been focusing on besides college apps. Debate, huh? Alright. I'm gonna keep it - be very careful how we conduct this interview. We don't need to have - I never took debate. It turns out a lot of politicians don't take debate. That's why they're terrible debating. Alice, Thank you and thank you for joining the show! Anirudh, how about you? What have you been up to at McNeil? Besides my commitments to my cross-country and soccer teams at McNeil, I also had the privilege to serve as the President for McNeil's Chapter of Health Occupation Students of America or HOSA, which is like a medical organization for future medical professions, which turned out to be a pretty insane job, considering the time we're in, the climate we're in. It's started off just like every other year but as this global pandemic started coming through and becoming more and more prevalent, our role in the campus and the community became more and more important. Engaging our members to be active while still being safe with this pandemic became a job that we had to do. That has gotta be a pretty fascinating case study to have in your senior year -of a health occupations society - to experience this during a global pandemic. I was graduating high school as a computer science guy during Y2K. Do you guys even remember what Y2K was? Yeah… I've had like two people explain it to me, and I still don't really understand it! HA! Well, that was what was happening when I was finishing High school as a computer science guy, so it was a hot topic and ended up not being a thing. Pandemic: Is a thing. But I would say, I'm gonna get messages if I don't say it, you know we all have- there's a lot of tech industry in this part of the city, and why Y2K wasn't a thing, is because tech workers solved it. It's not that it wasn't a thing. It's- tech worker solved it, and you know if we had a minimally functional federal government, that may have been the case with the pandemic, too. But so tell me, Alice, Why don't you start? Tell me what explain for folks what you've experienced in this last semester of your senior year and just how everything has changed for you. Yeah. So our second semester started off pretty normally, like we would read, or like, my family, we would read about the news, and be like, 'Oh, I'm sure we'll be fine?' Right, but then by February, March, we realized that our seniors probably gonna get cut off pretty early, and we were all holding on to the hope that, 'Oh, maybe it'll be okay until March or April after all of our activities are done.' I know I have a ton of friends and organizations like DECA or HOSA, where they have their state competitions or international competitions coming up. And just one by one, they just kept getting cancelled. And by then we realized that 'Oh this second semester is not going to be how we thought it was. Things like prom got cancelled, and then right after Spring Break when they announced that we wouldn't be going back to school. We figured that basically anything that we had looked forward to for the past four years would be cancelled or postponed. And it's just been really different trying to- adjust to online school while thinking about going to College, and graduating, and stuff. As student body President, I imagine that the student Council hearing from students. I mean what have you heard from other students in your role as the leader? Yeah. So we have our Student Council plans things like prom and so we got a lot of concerns from other classmates about whether or not it would still be happening or if it was postponed, things like ticket refunds, and things like that. But other than that. There's also issues like, questions about 'Oh how will the future school years look?' or 'How will we handle online school?' and things like that. And at the end of the day, our Student Council didn't get a lot of the information - either since RRISD and our administration were also working on it at the same time. And so we weren't able to provide as much information as we would have liked, but I'd like to think that we did give them enough support or at least some measure of stability. We did a ton of events to try and reach out to the students and remind them that, 'Hey, we're still here, and we're still student body, and we'll be here to support you!' Well, I've had at least some folks reaching out about the car parade, and I'm glad that we were able to help the seniors do their- get through the process to have the car parade. You know, we're all trying to figure out how to just do this. There's just not a template. Yeah, for sure. And then, what an experience for you to have been student body President during this historic and unprecedented - I mean there's - I mean, write a novel, Alice! I feel like there's a novel in it, where you can just talk about your experience. Yeah. Anirudh, what about McNeil? What were you experiencing on the McNeil side? Yeah, I experienced a lot of the same things that Alice was talking about. There was a lot of uncertainty just going through the campus about all our different traditions and events that were supposed to happen come March, April, May. And I was nervous just because things kept getting pushed back, and maybe postpone. There was a lot of uncertainty, in the entire situation, both just because of how new and how unexpected the situation was. So there was a lot of uncertainty with events like prom and graduation. I was personally a little nervous with whether we'd end up getting a lot of kind of watered down substitutions of these events that wouldn't really serve to truly honor all the hard work that our classes put in, and rather just kinda like a replacement. However, what I did see, is that a lot of the things the district managed to do, we're actually really valuable. I felt especially with the event they put on at the Palace. I honestly felt it was a lot of fun. I had a great time there with my family, and I feel like it was a really good way to honor the students in a way that was safe, but still made them feel like they were part of something great, part of something that's gonna go down in history. Well, congratulations to you both for graduating in a very crazy time, and you know, I can imagine that that you've heard a lot of speeches and a lot of people talking to you about what all of this means, and of course, we're all making it up. Nobody really knows what any of this is going to mean, but I will say, being the graduating class during this time is a badge of honor that you all get to wear the rest of your lives. And having to be flexible, having to adjust, having to re-invent things on the fly: These are skills that will that will put you ahead of the game for your future careers, for your time in College. Nobody would have wished this, but I think you are gonna, you're gonna do great. And I'm really proud of you, and so congratulatory for your success In graduating high school. Before you go, tell us where you're headed next! Alice? Oh, yeah. So I'll be at Harvard in the fall. Whoa! Not really sure if Online or not, but we'll see. That's amazing! Congratulations, Alice! Thank you! Anirudh? I'll be attending Texas A&M University. Gig'em, Aggies! Alright! Get him off the show! I knew that was gonna happen! Get! I feel like I have to leave now! I feel like I'm about to get booted off the stage. Ha! I don't have a sound effects! I need sound effects, because well, congratulations, Anirudh. Thank you so much! A&M is a perfectly fine school. What I love about– That's awesome. Congratulations, to you, Alice! That's awesome! Thank you! I work with folks who are Aggies and they're human, just like everybody else. So I know, I know it's surprising. I know it's surprising. That's right. That's right. Well, congratulations to both of you and thank you for spending some time with me and being on the show today. Yes. Absolutely. Thank you Very much, Council member. Thank you. That was pretty awesome, and how cool that we got to have a little College reveal there at the end. Kudos to Anirudh for being on the spot with the hat reveal!
Our next guest, as we normally do, we're gonna bring on a musician. And of course Kate Messer, who is my musical director of the show, has been been bringing on some pretty amazing musical talents, but I'm excited to have today, a student musician joining the show for the first time, I think. And so I wanna bring on Magda Riha! Magda, Thank you for coming onto the show. Thank you for having me. So you're a sophomore at Westwood is that right? I'm going into my Junior year. Going into your Junior year. Yeah. So so not having to worry about graduation, What has your experience in you know, finishing your sophomore year during this time? What has that been like? Well, it's been hard. I definitely know that a lot of people have a harder, cuz you know Juniors are looking into colleges, seniors are leaving. And I think the hardest part was that a lot of my friends this year were seniors, so I don't get to see them again, and they're going off to college. And that was really hard, but our senior plays at the end of the show got cancelled, and I was supposed to act in one. And then we had a lot of end-of-the- year things, just to say goodbye to everybody, that we aren't gonna get to do, and that's been the hardest part, I think. Yeah, that's a real shame, but but you all have your own music career, in addition to being a new junior at Westwood High School. You perform, you also write songs? Is that right? Yes. So when did that start for you? I mean I can't even imagine! Well my family's really musical. So I've been you know involved in music since I was really little, and then I started writing my own songs about two-and-a-half years ago. Wow. that's awesome. Oh my gosh. I'm so jealous. I wish I could do that. So, but you're not just a solo act. You're in a band. Tell me about your band? I am we're called Cold World, and we started pretty recently. It's with a friend of mine from Westwood and two people from McNeil, and they're all amazing - like really talented, musicians and great friends. And then we've done one. We've played a gig at a place called Texas Mist, and we hope to do more after the pandemic, but we haven't been able to practice for a while, and that's really hard. That's pretty amazing. You said you were also gonna be in the plays? You're also an actress? I am, yes. What have you been in? A lot of school shows? I'm also in the ZACH Acting Conservatory, and I work with an ensemble called Changing Lives. Wow. Does that qualify, you as a triple threat? It does. I'm not a great dancer, though, so it's a bit shaky there. We're not gonna we're not gonna ask you to dance. But I do wanna thank you for coming on the show and being willing to grace us with your music. Why don't you tell us about what you're going to sing, and then take it away. Alright, so the song that I chose is one that I wrote pretty recently. It was a couple of months ago. It's called "Little Dreamer," and it's about growing up and how scary that is, so I thought it would be perfect to play now, because everything's just going really fast right now. Alright! Go for it! Okay! Imaginary friends turn to real ones, Flying carpets to fancy cars, Got tired of finding constellations, So we turned off all the stars, but I still remember when I was just a little girl, and I thought I owned the whole world, I fit it in the palm of my hand, But I was just a child, A Little Dreamer running wild, I'm done reading old nursery rhymes, I read Chapter books instead. Now I color inside all the lines, Has imagination left my head. No, cuz I still remember when I was just a little girl, I thought I owned the Whole world, I fit it in the palm of my hand. But I was just a child. A Little Dream running wild. Now is the time to grow up. I know this isn't Neverland, there's no Peter Pan. I can't just let things go. It's hard. It's hard. My childhood wasn't long enough. When I was just a little girl, I thought I owned the whole world, I fit it in the palm of my hand. Yay! That was amazing! You're so talented, Madga. I'm so impressed! Thank you! Got your Instagram for the band and for your music. If folks want to find more music from Cold World where should they go? We don't have much out right now, cuz we're pretty new We do have videos of all our performances on our instagram, so You can check and if we bring more out, it will be there. Thank you For joining the show and sharing your music with all the folks who are watching, and good luck in your Junior year! Thank you! Thank you, Magda. It's amazing. We have such talented, talented kids in District 6. I'm very proud of all of them, and not just singing, but acting, and performing. It's pretty amazing!
Dr. Mario Acosta
Our last guest for today is the Principal at Westwood High School and someone I've been able to work with through my work as a Council Member, Dr Mario Acosta! Dr Acosta, Hello. How's it going, Jimmy? Good to see you! Thank you for taking some time out to to come on the show today. Yeah, I'm actually at Westwood. Go ahead. Can you hear me? Yes, we can hear you. Yes, we can hear you fine. So what's up at Westwood today? Well, we're actually giving out diplomas right now as we speak and so forgive me, I'm in my work clothes, and we've got 680 seniors We've been trying to push through the doors today! That's amazing and again, Thank you so much for taking a moment out to to join me on the show here and talk to everybody. I can't imagine what it's like to be the principal during this time. Of course, we talked to two of your students on the show You also have had to do a lot of work with parents, which I can empathize with - might also have been a challenge. What Tell everybody what it's been like being the principal of Westwood during this time. Yeah. Well, things are different. I think you heard from our kids and they explained to you that just everything's been different. I know you know you heard Alice say that our community is very accustomed to being in the loop and knowing all the information. And I work really hard as the principal to try and make sure that our community knows everything that's going on. But this has been a difficult time, because I know that the community wants answers that I don't have. And I'm sure you as CM can relate to that. The mayor is making decisions; you're waiting for the governor, and on down. And so one of the challenges has been just for a community that is accustomed to being in the loop and in the know, we weren't always able to give them information until we had it. So as you can kinda hear that in our kids right, there was a little bit of frustration and uncertainty from the kids about wanting to know about prom, wanting to know about the end of baseball season, and soccer season, and all of the plays and and the performances, graduations, just so many things that in the school year. So it was a it was a little hard on the community where I couldn't provide the answers, but as you know, Jimmy, working with this community, is just the people are so fantastic. Everybody was so understanding, our parents have been so collaborative, and they're so very understanding you know, the parents, that we're giving them the information best I could. I worked really hard to keep everything organized for them, and I would put out weekly updates for them, so hopefully we were able to keep them looped in enough, but you know, there's just - Even to this day, people wanna know what August is gonna look like, and I don't have the answer to that. So it's just it's being patient and trying to get them as much information as we can. That is very similar to the experience that we're having and there's just not a template for this, and so we're all trying to figure out in real time: How to do the best by the community, and get good information out into the public. We had the Round Rock ISD Board President Amy Weir on the show about a month ago, kind of in the Middle of a lot of those questions being asked. I think for the for the most part, Austin has done a great job, RRISD has done a very good job. Our region's doing okay I compared to some other parts of the state even We've held it together, We've acted like a community, so I'm proud of that work, and I'm proud of you, Dr Acosta, Westwood like all the high schools that serve District 6 have been such great centers of learning, and home for community. It is the center of community for a great number of folks in this area. Talk about handing out your diplomas today. How have the seniors held up? How have their academics and how have you been able to accommodate the teachers to make Sure they hit that runway at the right speed. Yes, sir, that's been and really I do want to give all of the credit to our teaching staff and our counseling staff. You know we were able to get our seniors across the stage at the same rate that we are accustomed to. And if you know anything about Westwood High school, we graduate 99.8 percent of our kids. And so we've had the same success rating graduating senior class of 2020. Of course credit to the kids for staying plugged in down the stretch, but I really really- Jimmy,we have to at this moment, I wanna take the time to acknowledge our teaching staff and our counseling staff, because it got really difficult as the kids- you know, there are always children we have to give a little extra help down the stretch as they graduate. It's one thing when they're in the building, you know, when they're here in the building, you can go grab them out of class. You can catch them at lunch. You see them in the hallway, but we didn't have any of those avenues to help the kids so really give all the credit To our teaching staff and our counseling staff who just kept working with kids, kept working with them, kept giving them the opportunities that they needed to, you know, to get the work done. And so yeah, I'm really proud to to let you know that here at Westwood High School, We graduated the same percentage of kids that we are accustomed to on a regular basis. Like I said. It's about 99.8 - 99.9 percent of our kids have graduated. So for all, intents and purposes, we got almost every single senior of 2020. Again, so credit to the kids for staying plugged in and big credit to the teachers and the counselors for making sure that happened, so that was real positive. Now, keeping the teachers you know, teachers going, that was where my administrative team and I had to put in a lot of work in being as supportive, and removing any barrier we could for our teachers, being very communicative with them. I did a lot of just being available, right? Because like you've said many times, there's no playbook. So we're building it as we we're going, so my administrative team and I just tried to be very available for teachers to answer questions, to provide guidance, just to kinda keep their wheels turning, because they were really doing a great job of getting kids through. So the job is not over. Our senior class, you know, is through and it did a great job. We have kids who weren't as successful in the lower grades. We are running some summer school, not a great deal of kids, just a few, but I have an administrative team working together with some teachers to run summer school, to get the rest of the kids through. One of our chief focus, you know where we're focused on here right now at Westwood, is making sure we don't allow any gaps to exist for kids. So we're trying to close all their knowledge gaps, and make sure they get all their credits that they were supposed to get for this year, so that as we move into the uncertainty of next year, we're not also playing catch up for this year. So we're in really good shape here at Westwood. Again, Jimmy, I tell you this, as great as the community is, my staff is equally great. That's teachers, counselors, administrators, everybody else that's on the staff. So I'm a Lucky guy. I tell people, there's not a whole lot that I do at Westwood. It's the staff that does all the work, and I'm just the guy that shows up to answer questions. Well, thank you, Principal Acosta for all your hard work, and the hard work of all your staff, and all the amazing teachers. Many many times I hear those thank yous from the community in my office as well, about the great work that you and your entire staff do for the kids at Westwood. And thank you for taking time out of diploma distribution to join the show. I really appreciate it. Yes, sir. I'm gonna bring up our other guest for a final wave goodbye! Thanks everybody for coming on the show today, and let me get that banner out there since it's everybody. Awesome. Thanks Everybody for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. Anirudh and Alice, good luck in College. Good luck. Thanks everybody. Wow. What a great show! What a great show, and truly congratulations to the senior class of 2020. Like I said I did a longer video for them. You can find that on this Facebook page and YouTube page, wherever you're watching the Clawback, you can find that video as well. I know they're gonna do great things from Westwood and McNeil and Vandergrift High School, which covers kinda at the Leander ISD, which is the 4 Points area, Western side of District 6. Amazing families, amazing kids, amazing staff, and teachers at all of our schools. What a crazy time. But a historic one that will shape our future in unknown ways. There's a lot of other stuff happening. We've got Council meetings coming up. We've got two more in June. We've got Project Connect stuff to work on, but I'm gonna wrap up the show today just with the final congratulations to our senior class. And remember everybody we are still in this pandemic. Please take precautions. Hold on to each other, protect our community, and if you can, and if you're able, stay home!
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