Dallas ISD Trustees Unanimous on Name Changes, Racial Equity Resolution

Dallas ISDShortly after the Dallas ISD board of trustees voted unanimously to approve a resolution that many feel is one of the first steps toward healing the animosity some still feel even decades after Dallas ISD finally desegregated under judicial oversight in 1967, they took the tangible step of renaming three schools currently bearing the names of confederates.

Trustees Joyce Foreman and Miguel Solis — often at odds at the horseshoe — worked together to craft the symbolic resolution that outlines a path the district could take after it receives the results from a racial equity audit due early next year.

Before the vote on the resolution, Foreman thanked district administration for moving forward with the resolution.

“This is extremely important to me,” Foreman said. “I hear a lot of talk and a lot of rhetoric about racial equality.”

“I’m hoping all the banter that we hear on racial equity is not just banter,” she said. “Because to me, actions speak louder than words.”

Foreman said that the Dallas ISD needs a policy that will ensure that all children have the same equal access to a good education.

“I want to get our racial equity study back — make sure it is a quantitative study, not just a qualitative,” she added. ““The community is excited that we’re having this conversation. They’re extremely excited.”

Board president Dan Micciche agreed that the resolution is important. He also took the time to point to ways he felt inequities could be better addressed, such as a Tax Ratification Election to provide more funds to the 44 schools the district has deemed at risk.

“I also agree that actions speak louder than words,” Micciche said. “Those actions include things like funding, they include things like changes in the discipline policy and the recess policy.”

“I’m very supportive of this,” he added.

The board unanimously passed the resolution, and also unanimously approved the new names for Stonewall Jackson Elementary, Cabell Elementary, and Robert E. Lee Elementary schools.

In September, the board voted to require four schools named after confederates to change their names. At the same meeting, trustees voted to give the schools until February to hold community meetings to seek input on new names and then present those new names to the board.

Stonewall will now be known as Mockingbird Elementary, Cabell will become Chapel Hill Preparatory, and Robert E. Lee will become Geneva Heights Elementary.

“There’s a fourth school, Johnston Elementary, which is not ready,” Micciche said. “They can certainly take until February if they need it.”

Not every school was on board, but district administrators and trustees said they felt that the schools did a good job seeking input.

“From day one, I have said, what the community wants, is what I will support,” Foreman said.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said that he was proud of the way the district and campuses worked with the community.

“They all rallied behind this, and followed a process,” he said, adding that they “involved the stakeholders to find something that everyone could support.”

“I think it reflects well on the district and on the school communities,” Micciche agreed.

“I think all three of these changes says something about DISD, where we are as an institution,” Solis said. “This is bold leadership by Dr. Hinojosa. This is bold history by this board.”

Stonewall had some of the most vocally opposed community members, but trustee Dustin Marshall credited principal Melanie Mans for her leadership in bringing all sides together.

“I have heard uniformly across the community that Principal Mans really did a spectacular job in a difficult situation,” he said.

Trustee Edwin Flores said that Cabell and its principal, Fabian Hypolite, similarly sought a broad array of community input before settling on its new name.

“The community overwhelmingly chose Chapel Hill Preparatory,” he said. “It will also align with Marsh Prep, which the school feeds into.”

The parents and community surrounding Lee Elementary began their conversation about a name change first — long before the district began examining the subject, Marshall pointed out.

“I am very appreciative of their leadership,” he said, adding that while the name changes were unpopular with several groups, it was “nevertheless the right thing to do.”

The other big news of the night came in the form of what the district believes is a first-of-its-kind Two-Way Dual Language Talented and Gifted vanguard academy on Bruton Drive, which will be open starting in the 2018-2019 school year.

Trustees approved the new school unanimously, and trustee Jaime Resendez — whose district the new school will be in — was nearly giddy.

Stephanie Elizalde, deputy chief of school leadership, said she had been doing some research, and cannot find another school like the proposed school anywhere in the state.

“It would be the first of its kind in the state,” she said. “We will have native Spanish speakers and native English speakers learning together in a gifted and talented curriculum.”

Year one would have less than 200 students and would start with grades four, five, and six.