I will be honest – I’ve been dreading this snapshot for the District 7 election. It’s the final one, and every day that has passed has only made me more nauseous when I look at how nasty the Dallas Independent School District’s District 7 race has gotten. It’s gotten bad enough that I’m actually going to move the “my two cents about District 7” feature of these snapshots that usually goes at the end up here, up top.
It’s that bad. And if I sound cranky, it’s because I don’t like having to devote a perfectly good story on what I’m about to devote a perfectly good story on. Very little grinds my gears, but this is one of those things.
Let me start by saying both District 7 candidates — Audrey Pinkerton and Isaac Faz — are smart people who want to be the person who takes over the seat currently held by board president Eric Cowan, who announced he would not be seeking another term. Both, as you will see, are quite qualified to be a trustee, and have spent time trying to make their corner of the world a little better than they found it.
I’ve been covering politics in general and school board elections in particular for a long time. I’ve seen some low-down, dirty things in the course of my career. But not in a school board election. It’s like people have forgotten what the job is about. People have gone plumb goofy.
In case you missed it, much hay has been made by Pinkerton’s supporters (and yes, I know it’s them because I have eyeballs and can read Facebook comments) that Isaac Faz is expecting a bundle of joy with a principal of a school that is within the boundaries of District 7. The two consenting adults are not married.
How much hay? Enough to pay for an anonymous flyer that spills the details and raises the question of whether it’s a conflict of interest.
No. No, it is not. And those folks knew it, and if they didn’t they have no business campaigning for anyone until they know how to email or call the Texas Association of School Boards themselves and ask. This is the ultimate LMGTFY (by the way, that took me exactly 30 seconds to find). Yes, he will have to abstain if her employment status ever comes before the board, if he is elected. That’s how nepotism rules work.
But more than being dirty politics, this is concerning for a different reason: So many children who attend Dallas ISD schools come from non-nuclear families, non-traditional families because it is no longer 1958. What message do we send to them with this folderol? That the only familial situation their representative at Ross will accept as worthy of goals and aspirations is a married mother and father? To those teen parents who are busting their butts to graduate and aspire to even bigger things, is this really what we want to tell them, that having a child out of wedlock effectively neuters any aspirations you may have? These broader implications are what trustees have to think about, and Pinkerton already apparently unintentionally offended some with a mailer that seemingly criticized single parents or people who had no children.
And not for nothing, but this is the sort of thing that keeps great potential trustees from ever running in the first place.
And OK, Audrey Pinkerton’s camp swears she had nothing to do with these shenanigans. I’ve only met her (and Faz, for that matter) once when I attended the Dallas Kids First interviews of both candidates. She seemed nice and warm, and I do believe that she wants this unpaid gig for the right reasons. But if she had no clue this was going down, she needs to take time now to control her message — and her messengers. This brand of below-the-belt negativity doesn’t make anyone look good.
Dallas ISD — as I keep mentioning — has a very real poverty problem. That poverty problem is so pervasive that it touches every single bit of policy these trustees will look at. We are in a state that spends almost the least per student in the country, consistently in the bottom five states. We are battling the long-reaching, long-lasting effects of systemic racism that has resulted in concentrated areas of poverty and multi-generational undereducation. There are so many things we could be talking about, but we aren’t.
Both candidates need to make it crystal clear to their supporters that they intend to have a civil contest. I’ve been monitoring social media in all races, but the rancor surrounding this race in particular is troubling. I am happy that people are passionate, but my dearest wish is, as I said on Thursday when I published the District 2 snapshot, these passionate people would then start volunteering at our schools. There are so many ways all this passion could be harnessed for something productive and good, and I hope all these folks can find it in their hearts to roll up their sleeves, step away from the keyboards, and go ask their local principal what they can do to help.
For the record, if the situation had been reversed, I still would’ve written this. I think that when adults lose sight of what the goal should be — making sure every child in Dallas ISD walks across the stage with a diploma that ensures they are workforce ready or college ready — that focus on the grown-ups and what is best for them can creep into policy decisions, which makes for lousy decisions for the small humans we’re supposed to be focused on.
So talk about who the candidates donors and endorsers are, and what that means to you. Talk about their voting record. Talk about things they’ve campaigned about in the past. Debate their policy statements, the font choice of their campaign materials, or even whether toilet paper should be installed over or under. But families should be off limits.
And now, the snapshot. I have broken down each race and assigned a mathematical value to key endorsements for a final score. Early voting begins Monday and lasts until May 3, with Election Day on May 7. For information on early voting, click here. To see our snapshots of districts 2, 4 and 5, click on the links provided.
The scoring system goes a little something like this: Experience, I think, should be given some weight. So a candidate’s incumbency is assigned a number value of one. Endorsements should matter, too, so each one those are also given a value of 1. I considered six sets of endorsements in this system, largely because the organizations providing them have a regular history of endorsing candidates. Those endorsements are The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Kids First, Educate Dallas, the NEA, Alliance AFT, and The Real Estate Council PAC.
In this race, there is no incumbent, so there will be a possible score of 6 (DMN, DKF, Alliance AFT, NEA, TREC and Educate Dallas).
Total score: 5/6
Isaac Faz is a life-long resident of Oak Cliff and is a Dallas ISD graduate. He attended Dallas County Community College, the University of Texas at Austin, and Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston. He is currently the associate vice chancellor for public & government affairs with Dallas County Community College District, has served as Co-Chair of the Future Facilities Task Force and was a Leadership ISD fellow. He also worked in the Obama administration with Ron Kirk in the trade office. He also serves as Vice President of the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association and is a past fellow of Leadership ISD and the State Bar of Texas LeadershipSBOT.
Alliance AFT +1
Total score: ⅙
Audrey Pinkerton owns a commercial construction firm and is a dedicated volunteer with CASA. She is a product of Dallas ISD, graduating from the Thomas Jefferson feeder pattern, and attended SMU, the University of Texas and Northwestern University. She has been on the PTA for her children’s schools and was in Leadership Dallas’ Class of 2004. She was the president of Project SEEE (Science Enrichment in Elementary Education) and founded a school fair in North Oak Cliff to showcase the educational options for the area. Some of her activism regarding Dallas ISD extended to campaigning against the 2015 bond election, although more recently she seems to have moderated her stance, listing the bond’s passing as a success for the district in a Dallas Kids First questionnaire.