In our third installment looking at the Dallas Independent School District’s school board election, we will be looking at District 5, which includes Oak Lawn, Wilmer, West Dallas, Hutchins and parts of east Oak Cliff. Incumbent Lew Blackburn, Marquis Hawkins, and Linda Wilkerson-Wynn are running.
One of the highest-profile issues facing District 5 right now is the condition of South Oak Cliff High, and where it will fall in the tiered system that determines when schools tapped to receive bond money for repairs, improvements or replacement – as well as whether repairs and improvements are enough for the aging structure that is, much like many other schools in the district, suffering from years of deferred maintenance.
And just as a reminder, I am breaking down each race and assigning a mathematical value to key endorsements for a final score. Because of the volume of candidates, I’ll be featuring one race a day through Sunday. Early voting begins Monday and lasts until May 3, with Election Day on May 7. For information on early voting, click here.
The scoring system goes a little something like this: Experience, I think, should be given some weight. So it 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, Educate Dallas did not endorse a candidate, so there will be a possible score of 6 (DMN, DKF, Alliance AFT, NEA, TREC and incumbent).
Alliance AFT +1
Total score: 3/6
Lew Blackburn has been a trustee for 15 years, and is a product of Dallas ISD, graduating from Franklin D. Roosevelt High School. He has Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master’s in Educational Administration from Texas A&M University-Commerce and a doctorate from The University of Texas at Austin. According to his district biography, he joined Dallas ISD in 1986 as an instrumental music teacher before serving as an assistant principal in the West Dallas area, and his career also includes stints at the Texas Education Agency and principal positions in Goodrich, Texas, and Duncanville, Texas, as well as adjunct positions at various local colleges.
Dallas Kids First +1
Dallas Morning News +1
The Real Estate Council +1
Total score: 3/6
After graduating with an undergrad degree from Morehouse and a master’s degree in public education from Cornell, Marquis Hawkins rolled up his sleeves and got to work – first in Houston as a teacher, and then with Dallas ISD’s human resources department, helping with the selection process for teachers and principals. When he resigned and began work as a consultant, he continued to work with students through his volunteer work with the district, as a tutor with Reading Partners, and as a mentor in Big Brothers Big Sisters. He now also serves on the boards of CitySquare, the Oak Cliff YMCA, Young People For, and Network For Teaching Effectiveness.
Total score: 0/6
Linda Wilkerson-Wynn is a community activist who has run for school board several times, as well as Dallas City Council. It is unclear if she is actively campaigning.
My two cents on District 5: Experience is a good thing. Stagnation is not. It will be interesting to see how voters see Blackburn’s request for another term after a 15-year stint. Will they respect his years of service and his longstanding relationships, or will they be irritated by his perceived complacency when it comes to things like advocating for South Oak Cliff High and his lean back when it comes to programs that would benefit his district’s schools like Urban Teachers, which he voted against? He has the backing of both teachers unions, will that be enough?
And then there is the latest issue – the matter of his inclusion in a lawsuit filed Thursday against the district by former district human resources director Tonya Sadler Grayson. She is suing the district for wrongful termination and is including Blackburn in particular because she alleges he sexually harassed her. He has denied the claim.
Marquis Hawkins brings a lot to the table. He has made it his business to understand the work needed to steer an urban district like Dallas ISD, and has shown a commitment to students. He was spoken of in glowing terms in his endorsement from the Dallas Morning News as well.
At the end of the day, Dallas ISD is an urban district with a high student poverty rate. The district needs people that understand what that means and want to be at the forefront of policy that will allow each student to succeed and graduate either workforce ready or college ready.