VOTE ART1

Before we start on District 2, let’s get this out of the way first: Are you going to vote for school board and city council elections? Did you know that right now you can vote pretty much anywhere in the county, making it super convenient to vote on say, during your lunch break?

I bring this up because every May it seems like I have to guilt everyone into voting, and still — hardly anybody does. But boy howdy do people have an opinion about Dallas ISD and how it’s run — but somehow for some of you, those opinions aren’t motivating enough to head to the polls.

Does that say something about the strength of your arguments? I don’t know. But I do know it’s a crying shame that less than 10 percent of all voters make decisions for 100 percent of us. Maybe we should work on changing that this year?

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Dallas Builders Association

Students at Skyline High School’s construction trades program had the chance to meet with members of the Dallas Builders Association this month as part of the DBA’s initiative to work with Dallas ISD. (Photo courtesy Dallas Builders Association)

A few months ago, Dallas Builders Association president Michael Turner of Classic Urban Homes voiced a desire to address a need for more skilled workers by working with Dallas ISD to train and mentor students.

In February, Turner began to reach out. “We have builders that are willing to mentor high school kids,” he said then, calling the push to work with local schools “probably my biggest initiative.”

And in a few short months, Turner is beginning to see that come to fruition. In March, he and Dallas Builders Association executive officer Phil Crone met with Doug Palmer and Cody Seabolt, instructors with Skyline High School’s construction trades program. (more…)

The board of Dallas County Schools met today in a special called meeting. Among the agenda items were strong hints Superintendent Rick Sorrells will no longer be with the agency.

The board of Dallas County Schools met today in a special called meeting. Among the agenda items were strong hints Superintendent Rick Sorrells will not be with the agency. (Photo courtesy Dallas County Schools)

Embattled school transportation provider Dallas County Schools may have been able to continue its relationship with Dallas Independent School District, but as early as this morning it seemed its superintendent could be the most recent casualty of a recent spate of very bad news.

DCS, which provides busing for Dallas, Carrollton/Farmers Branch, Highland Park, Irving, Aledo, Cedar Hill, Coppell, DeSoto, Lancaster, Richardson, Weatherford and White Settlement school districts, called a special meeting today.

The agenda included two ominous items –  “Consider Appointing an Interim Superintendent” and “Consider Defining Requirements and Authorizing Search for a Permanent Superintendent.”

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Hawthorne Elementary will be moved up on Dallas ISD's revised list of campuses that will be improved as part of the 2015 bond program. (Photo courtesy Dallas ISD)

Hawthorne Elementary will be moved up on Dallas ISD’s revised list of campuses that will be improved as part of the 2015 bond program. (Photo courtesy Dallas ISD)

Some Dallas schools may see themselves move up or down the proposed list of bond projects, it was revealed at a recent budget workshop.

It’s been almost two years since the most recent bond package was approved by voters. It’s been a little more than three years since the Parson’s Report detailing the needs of every campus in the Dallas Independent School District came out. 

And largely because of this, new chief operations officer Scott Layne and his team began taking a closer look at the original bond projects slated for improvements or expansions, as well as some of the new construction projects. And as a result, he presented a new timeline for projects at a recent school board budget workshop — one that re-prioritizes based on decay or program need.

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The Dallas Builders Association would like to address the dire shortage of skilled workers by a potential innovative partnership with Dallas ISD.

The Dallas Builders Association would like to address the dire shortage of skilled workers by a potential innovative partnership with Dallas ISD.

If you’re building a new home, or are a builder, this will come as no shock to you: It’s taking longer to get the job done, and it’s more expensive.

In fact, at a recent annual meeting, National Association of Home Builders economist Robert Dietz said this shortage was actually holding home construction growth back.

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The fight over school funding will commence in the Texas legislature soon - but no bill is filed just yet.

The fight over school funding will commence in the Texas legislature soon, but no bill is filed just yet.

This week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott donned yellow scarves and held a “School Choice Week” rally in Austin.

“I hope and I urge that that law reach my desk,” Abbott declared. “And when it does, I will make the choice to sign it and authorize school choice in the state of Texas.”

Across the country, the nation spends about $1 billion per year to send students to private schools.

A bill (and nobody knows for sure what it will look like because it hasn’t been filed yet) will likely easily pass in the Texas senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats (who are largely opposed) 20-11. Less clear is if it could pass the House, despite the fact that there are 95 Republican members and 55 Democrat members.

Why? One reason, I suspect, is because while private schools are abundant in more urban areas, in more rural parts of the state public school is the only available choice. Will the potential of vouchers lure private and charter schools further afield? That remains to be seen. But I imagine that support for choice is a little more tentative in areas where the public school district is the sole provider of education, where constituents may be reluctant to cut back on that funding even more.

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Photo courtesy Dallas ISD Foster Elementary School will host a open house for parents and community members interested in Spanish language immersion tonight from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Photo courtesy Dallas ISD
Foster Elementary School is, preliminarily, an “Excelling” campus under Dallas ISD’s new School Performance Framework announced recently.

Last week, I wrote about the cockamamie A through F rating system. In a throwaway line, I mentioned talking about vouchers. But before I do that, I need to back up and talk about SPF.

No, not the sunscreen (although you should wear some, my doctor says). This is something that I think gives a much better picture of where your neighborhood school is when it comes to progress.

Now, full disclosure, I’ve known about the School Performance Framework for Campus Success for a couple months now. It was embargoed, so I couldn’t write about it. And I did want to wait to see how everything would shake out with the state ratings, too. (more…)

HightlandParkHS

Even Highland Park ISD scored a C in a category in the state’s new A through F ratings system.

It’s been about a week since Texas released its first “what-if” A through F grades for school districts and schools — a measure adopted by the last Texas legislature, ostensibly as a way to tell parents how their district and schools were doing.

And in that time, 219-and-counting school districts have adopted resolutions against it. Why? Largely because even typically high-performing schools are getting Ds and Fs in at least one of the categories that formed the overall grade. For instance, the Highland Park Independent School District, where nearly every kid goes to college and the overall tally of scholarship dollars earned by a graduating class is routinely worked into the commencement speeches, scored a C for postsecondary readiness.

Dallas ISD earned a B in the same category. In addition, the district earned a D in student performance and Bs in student progress and closing the achievement gaps between poor students and their peers. The district earned a B overall. (more…)