Meeting with District 1 and EPISD at Tippin Concerning Traffic

So I know that everyone is wondering what happened. I can try to summarize as best as I could.

We had most of the heavyweights there:

District #1 Rep. Peter Svarzbein
EPISD District #6 Board Member Freddy Khlayel-Avalos
EPISD Chief of Police Manny Chavira
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen
EPISD Chief Quality Officer Alan Wiernicki
EPISD Assistant Superintendent Elementary Schools Dr. Blanca Garcia
Tippin Principal Mrs. Rodriguez Nunez

We were a smattering of parents, news people, and interested community members. A lot of parents couldn’t attend because of the short notice of the meeting. It was a closed meeting so there wasn’t a video or a live feed for the community members to see.

Chief Quality Officer Alan Wiernicki started off the meeting by introducing everyone and complimenting the audience on our engagement. He didn’t know what happened at the school and apparently gave permission for the school gate to be painted after damage was done by the driver that crashed, without being told what it was for. To his credit as soon as he heard, he did come out and speak with Principal Nunez and staff as well as to us parents. At that time, he told us, he believed it was a parent issue and that if we slowed down for the approx. 15 minutes of pickup/dropoff, then it wouldn’t be an issue. He reiterated that view again in this meeting.

I started off by introducing myself and explained what my concerns were, which was that the dangerous driver was allowed to come back the next day and was seen driving with his front window shades up. I called the El Paso Police immediately while it was in progress and was told that someone would come out, followed up the next morning and was then told no one was sent out because it wasn’t their jurisdiction, but EPISD police. I also was concerned since there had been deaths at Tippin and another elementary school and that no one was charged or held responsible for both situations and was concerned since there were no updates as to the status of the driver and if he was charged.

I reiterated that because of the incident and past incidents, I don’t feel safe and wanted a police presence at pick up and drop off because it helps slow drivers down and since by law, police have to witness an incident in order to charge someone, how would we as parents make sure that someone would be cited when dangerous situations arise like the incident on video.

EPISD District #6 Board Member Freddy Khlayel-Avalos spoke then and started to ask the Chiefs about their staffing numbers and what feeder routes they went into. Then District #1 Rep. Peter Svarzbein chimed in about high taxes and how we approved a bond last year that allowed them to maybe put a community police force into play but they’re still working out the plans. EPISD District #6 Board Member Freddy Khlayel-Avalos and Chief Greg Allen spoke about how they train police members here, but then lose them when they transfer out to other cities.

Um…why aren’t we implementing contracts for training? I know in Texas noncompete agreements are legal and allowed. Why are we utilizing resources to train officers that leave? That seems to be a big problem so shouldn’t they solve that? That’s a big reason that they gave to us as to why they are short staffed and couldn’t provide the officers needed. EPISD Chief Chavira also started stating statistics about how many other activities like fights and pulling over for warrants etc, delay the one officer on the Westside to come to Tippin since they have to reallocate their limited resources.

EPISD District #6 Board Member Freddy Khlayel-Avalos said something then that rankled the parents including myself, stating that in one of the schools, the kids aren’t “privileged” enough to have parents that drive them to school and that they have to walk across the 10 FWY. He asked, who do you think should be allocated the limited resources. Every parent basically answered back, why is that even an either or choice? It should be both-it has nothing to do with privilege.

A parent then spoke up and said that her son was at Franklin high school and was run over by a car in the parking lot. It was over 3 weeks ago. She had to take him to the ER and now has a medical bill. She’s tried to speak with anyone about the case, just trying to even get the name of the driver and hasn’t been followed up on or given information. The EPISD Chief of Police Manny Chavira commiserated and said that it shouldn’t happen, but that again their resources were limited. I don’t think she ever got an answer as to who to contact to get closure or information. I mean, she was remarkably composed, since her SON WAS RAN OVER and no one has responded. It just seems like it’s an ordinary thing for these powerful people at the meeting to hear and dismiss.

Both EPISD and EPP police chiefs started speaking about how long they’ve been in El Paso, and what they’ve witnessed, and how this is the 3rd or 4th meeting about traffic. Chief Allen stated that 66 people or so have been killed in accidents this year and that people aren’t mad until it happens to them and he’s been trying to get the help necessary but that the prior city hall fought him on resources and made him make do. Honestly, to my ears, it just sounded very political and shifting blame to others. I asked where the bucks stops at then. At the end of the day, they are the only ones able to cite offenders, they had over 50+ citations at Tippin alone the times they were here the last couple of weeks. They stated that it helps because the fees for a citation is around $400 after everything is added in. That should surely help with budgets and make people more aware of how they are driving. Win win.

EPISD District #6 Board Member Freddy Khlayel-Avalos said that he understands our frustrations, that he’s a parent as well with 2 kids in EPISD and if he had another, that one would definitely go to Tippin. He said he has seen the parents drive here and that some were more concerned if their kids were masked than safety.

At that point a parent kinda exploded out of his seat and asked the question that everyone was waiting for: what happened to the driver who was in the video? Was he charged? Why wasn’t he named, since he was an adult and the information was public? What does masks have anything to do with this meeting which was addressing the reckless driver? This was addressed at Freddy; it was an ad hominem argument. I learned a new word today with that.

EPISD Chief of Police Manny Chavira said that the driver was charged with hitting the gate on private property and that was basically it. They couldn’t use my footage to charge him with anything else or the next day when he was also seen driving recklessly because an officer had to witness it. I then stated, “exactly, how are we to hold people accountable or prevent this from happening when it can happen with impunity and without serious consequences since we don’t have an officer available?”

Another mom chimed in that when Charisma (the mom who died in the Tippin parking lot) was killed, the man who caused that was banned from the school. Tippin Principal Mrs. Rodriguez Nunez corrected her and said that he wasn’t, so even a death didn’t merit that type of safety measure to assure parents that the offender wouldn’t go on campus again.

At this point Chief Allen started up again with the feeder pattern and why we couldn’t have an officer available when asked why we couldn’t have officers like Reyes school. Rep. Peter Svarzbein stated that we could do a study again like Polk did when asked why there weren’t any speed bumps in front of Tippin Elementary, but warned that the neighbors could come out against it like how it happened with Polk. I then asked baldly if it was a funding issue. They said it was but that they’re trying to get together more resources since the bond passed. Freddy stated something about the Westside pays the highest taxes and subsidizes the rest of the city and that when we’re asked to pay $100 more, we’ll revolt and complain. I told him that if we actually got results and progress was actually seen, I don’t think that we would complain, but when incidents happen like this and we’re just told we don’t have enough resources, it doesn’t help the argument to pay high taxes. What exactly are we paying for?

I explained I might have a funding source which I found at the TEA site which allows us to maybe hire on more since Leander ISD did:

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) adopts an amendment to §61.1016, concerning hazardous transportation
funding. The amendment is adopted without changes to the proposed text as published in the October 2, 2020 issue
of the Texas Register (45 TexReg 6864) and will not be republished. The adopted amendment reflects statutory
changes resulting from House Bill (HB) 3, 86th Texas Legislature, 2019, by updating a cross reference and lowering
the rate for high-risk-of-violence walking areas from $1.08 to $1.00 per mile.
REASONED JUSTIFICATION: Texas Education Code (TEC), §48.151, allows a school district to apply for up to
10% of its regular transportation allotment in additional funding to transport children who live within two miles of
their campus but are subject to hazardous traffic conditions or a high risk for violence when walking to and from
school. To be eligible for funding under the statute, districts must adopt a board policy that identifies specific
hazardous or high-risk-of-violence areas for which the allocation is requested. In determining these areas, districts
are to consult with local law enforcement agencies and must obtain law enforcement records that document a high
incidence of violent crimes. Districts may use all or part of additional funds to support community walking
transportation programs.

https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/21_02_61-1016.pdf

https://www.leanderisd.org/hazardousroutes/

The state provides funding for public schools to bus students to and from campuses that are two miles or more from their home. In Leander ISD, families living closer than 2 miles from their assigned school are in the “Not Eligible for Transportation Zone,” or NETZone. Students in the NETZone are only provided bus service if their route to school is rated as hazardous.

Routes in the NETZone automatically qualify for bus service when they meet any of the following criteria:
crosses an arterial street (as defined by the municipality’s roadway plan) or highway without controls (stop sign, crosswalk, traffic signal or crossing guard);
aligns alongside a road with a speed limit more than 45 mph; or
crosses a railroad crossing.

They immediately jumped to the conclusion that I meant bus routes and that there also we have a lack of drivers and also crossing guards. At this point we were going around in circles with parents and concerned community members pointing out that we can’t police the other parents, and the officials stating that they have limited resources.

EPISD Assistant Superintendent Elementary Schools Dr. Blanca Garcia and Tippin Principal Mrs. Rodriguez Nunez then stated that they have a plan to maybe get a staggered drop off schedule where it will relieve the congestion around Tippin. It’s not something that parents will like, since it might delay drop off and siblings would have to be in charge of their younger sister or brother while waiting for pickup, but it was a start. They’re going to meet on it and discuss some more.

District #1 Rep. Peter Svarzbein stated he will ask the city council what we can do with the extra police cars we have and maybe have a community policing initiative. Freddy Khlayel-Avalos said that he would bring the new Superintendent here to hear our concerns as well. I asked if maybe we can start a parent safety panel, but that we need direction since we don’t know what is needed. EPISD Chief Quality Officer Alan Wiernicki closed out the meeting thanking everyone and stating that he was proud of Tippin’s staff and the principal since they really put themselves out there to help see to the kids safety and that we’re lucky since most schools don’t have that level of involvement. We all agreed and clapped but afterwards, when the parents had time to talk outside, we wondered again why the school staff have to step up in that way instead of our paid officials with the training and power to actually do something?

I’m happy that the District and EPISD took the time to meet with us and heard our concerns, but as Chief Allen and Officer Alan Wiernicki stated in the meeting, it just seems like more of the same meetings that took place a few years ago. To me it seems that little has changed since we’re back addressing the same issues but now with different concerned parents. That makes me wonder how it will be like a few years from now, since the changes offered seem to only affect the staff, students and parents, and not really change the patterns of the police officers or officials, and this afternoon, on the news there seemed to be an altercation caught live at school pickup….to be continued.

Another day another danger zone.
The coach in the road makes it look like the school has help on the busy road. I wish the news would have clarified that a gym teacher has to take his own time to help with the traffic in the street because it’s that dangerous!
This was on the same day the board was there meeting with the parents to discuss safety. There wasn’t any police that afternoon at pickup.🤦‍♀️

The coach directing the traffic was almost hit and said that there was a car that again drove on the wrong side of the road. Police wasn’t there again to witness it.

One of the videos is HERE

11/18/21

Here’s the followup…

I’ve sent in this email and please message me your email if you want to be added to the communications.

First off I’d like to thank everyone who attended and for their input and discussion.

This email is to not only follow up but to hold us all accountable for what we can all do moving forward.

The first thing I wanted to note was that on the day of the meeting, at pickup time, there weren’t any police presence that my husband or others could see. There was another incident.

The coach directing the traffic was almost hit and said that there was a car that again drove on the wrong side of the road. Police weren’t there again to witness it. Telemundo and other news agencies were able to capture some of it and some parents spoke to the coach afterwards and he told us that he witnessed another car driving on the wrong side of the road.

One of the videos is HERE

It’s getting ridiculous and we need to ACT.

Some of the ideas discussed and I would like to see moved forward:

District #1 Rep. Peter Svarzbein
*Was going to speak with the city council about getting a study done for the street in front of the school to get speed bumps (Bear Ridge).Was also going to find out if we can implement a community watch program with the unused police vehicles.

*The City of El Paso won a $200K LOVE YOUR BLOCK Grant that could help us implement safety features. HERE is the article.

I was at the virtual meeting where they announced it and it would not only be money but would pay for the volunteers.

Step 1: Identify the Public Problem
Love Your Block addresses a public problem that aligns with the priorities identified by the mayor or city chief executive. This could include such things as preventing or eliminating blighted properties and increasing greenspace, public safety, and helping people who are at risk of losing their homes keep their homes. Experience indicates that the most successful Love Your Block programs are those in which the chief executive understands and appreciates the program and deploys city resources to ensure its success.

The whole Program is outlined HERE

EPISD District #6 Board Member Freddy Khlayel-Avalos
*Was going to follow up with Ms. Nunez and look at the VA for viable job candidates for the crosswalk positions.
*Look at busing options for the school.
*Was going to brief and introduce us to the new Superintendent.
*Please address and follow up on the suggestion sent in by a member of the community:
Good morning, Just for starters I thought that rotating teachers with “after school duty”. I’ve seen plenty of other schools in different states that have this (ie. bus duty, funneling kids where they need to be, crosswalk duty etc.) I know they say it’s a funding and/or budget issue but buses buses and buses. If kids live within 2 or 3 miles of the school they should bused home. This school wasn’t designed for 600 (approx) kids to be picked up from school at the same time. And lastly, a staggered released schedule for the kids.
Kinder release: 2:55
1st and 2nd: 3:05
3rd and 4th: 3:15
5th: 3:25
These release time could rotate or be fixed. All or just one of these would help a great deal. My opinion, I believe the bus issue would fix it all. I’ve never seen a school until moving to El Paso that 90% of the kids get picked up. 90% “should” be bused home. The city needs to fix this asap. There’s a definite budget for it, but the city doesn’t want to reallocate the funds. I hope this gives some ideas. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking this. Again thanks for your involvement and take care!
Thank you,
Mark Stevens

EPISD Chief of Police Manny Chavira
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen
*Follow up with the lady whose son was hit at Franklin High school.
*Going to look into the community program with the patrol cars.
*Would send officers when available.
*Maybe implement a Do Not Compete or contract so that officers can’t just get trained and leave after, utilizing our resources.
*Work with us on identifying specific hazardous or high-risk-of-violence areas for which the allocation is requested. In determining these areas, districts are to consult with local law enforcement agencies and must obtain law enforcement records that document a high incidence of violent crimes.
Getting hit by a car is pretty violent and we’ve already had a death and injuries and also I believe one of the chiefs stated that in 2 weeks Tippin got over 55 citations at maybe $400 per ticket?

EPISD Chief Quality Officer Alan Wiernicki
*Would follow up on all the initiatives.
*Help parents and the community form a Safety Patrol like outlined HERE

Help look into the TEA’s new program linked HERE and HERE

Texas Education Code (TEC), §48.151, allows a school district to apply for up to 10% of its regular transportation allotment in additional funding to transport children who live within two miles of their campus but are subject to hazardous traffic conditions or a high risk for violence when walking to and from school.
Districts may use all or part of additional funds to support community walking transportation programs.

EPISD Assistant Superintendent Elementary Schools Dr. Blanca Garcia
Tippin Principal Mrs. Rodriguez Nunez
*Would meet and discuss and implement a staggered release schedule.

Parents will meet and be engaged and would like a follow up meeting next month to see what progress is made. I will be available to speak with anyone and help out.

Let’s all be part of the solution. Thank you!

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