Dallas ISD

Photo courtesy Dallas ISD

From staff reports

If you still haven’t nailed down pre-K yet, and you have a three or four-year-old, Dallas ISD has news: There’s a good chance you can find a spot anywhere in the city, no matter what your income is.

Just before the July break, the district’s board of trustees approved a program that would extend the pre-K program to include more children by raising family income limits and offering scholarships. 

The district’s Racial Equity Office and the Early Learning department said the new policy would help address structural racial inequities and bring the successful early-learning program to more families.

Currently, the state has six eligibility requirements for families to qualify for free pre-K centered around circumstances like special needs, income, and language. The new Dallas ISD policy gives three new potential qualifiers. (more…)

Dallas ISD will likely ask voters to approve a 13-cent property tax increase in November, its first in almost a decade. (Photo by Flickr/Stuart Pilbrow

Dallas ISD will likely ask voters to approve a 13-cent property tax increase in November, its first in almost a decade. (Photo by Flickr/Stuart Pilbrow)

Hooboy. I’ve gotten some heated emails about the Dallas Independent School District’s announcement that it would be asking voters for a 13-cent increase in property taxes come November.

And I get it. But I also think that many of the folks that emailed me, or that I’ve seen railing against it on social media, have only read the headline. Why do I think this?

Because frankly, all they know is that it’s going up. They can’t tell you how much. They can’t tell me how the measure will be structured. They can’t even tell me if the current rate is too high, or too low.

So it’s clear we need to unpack this. If you want some excellent reasons and information, Eric Celeste and Corbett Smith have already outlined quite a bit. And let me say upfront that as a homeowner, I’m not too jazzed about my bill going up. But as I’ve said elsewhere while hiding in my car from my family while recording a podcast, education is infrastructure. And we have to start treating it like infrastructure.

I know we just passed a bond. But if you do or don’t recall, many felt that bond election should’ve included a small tax increase then, to expand pre-K. It didn’t, because people felt that if a tax was attached, people would vote no on the whole thing.

But if you read no other paragraph than this, read this one: You do not have to vote yes for the entire 13-cent increase. Yes, everyone that knows what’s going on in Dallas ISD would like and hope you do vote for it. But three proposals will go to the voters: a 5-cent increase to fund pre-K expansion, a 4-cent increase to increase the college prep program that will ensure that more district graduates graduate with two years of free college under their belts, and a 4-cent increase to fund teacher pay increases and incentives for some of the district’s best educators that agree to go some of the district’s lowest-performing schools.  Again, that totals 13 cents. But you don’t have to vote yes for all of it (but seriously, you should). (more…)

Voters across the Dallas area will go to the polls on May 7 to elect trustees for districts 2, 4, 5, and 7. (Photo by iStock)

Voters across the Dallas area will go to the polls on May 7 to elect trustees for districts 2, 4, 5, and 7. (Photo by iStock)

Now that the date to file to run for a trustee seat in Dallas Independent Schools Board of Trustees has passed, I thought we could talk a bit about who is running, and how and when endorsements will begin to shake out.

First, the candidates. Districts 4, 5, and 7 are part of the general election. District 2 is a special election to fill the seat vacated by Mike Morath, who has been appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to helm the Texas Education Commission.  Election day for the school board will be May 7, with early voting from April 25 to May 3.

In District 2, Suzanne Smith, Mita Havlick and Dustin Marshall will vie for the vacant seat. In District 3, where current trustee Nancy Bingham announced she would not be running again, three people have filed to run – Omar Jimenez, Jaime Resendez and Camile White. Marquis Hawkins and Linda Wilkerson-Wynn will join incumbent Lew Blackburn in running for the District 5 seat, while Audrey Pinkerton and Isaac Faz are running for the District 7 seat currently held by board president Eric Cowan, who announced he would not seek another term. (more…)

Photo by Bethany Erickson

Photo: Bethany Erickson

“I get 15 minutes of recess, now I want 100 minutes,” an adorable student told Dallas Independent Schools trustees last night as several of her peers also stood up to talk about how recess would help their school day.

Dallas ISD Trustee Dan Micciche took up the cause last month, and while students didn’t get 100 minutes last night, trustees did vote (7 for, 1 abstaining) to require 20 minutes of recess for the rest of this year, and 30 minutes beginning in the next school year.  (more…)

Any adult of a certain age (cough) can tell you about recess at school. I remember having three recesses – two quick 15 minute excursions outside in the morning and afternoon, and about 30 minutes or so at lunch.

Occasionally you’d get in trouble and have to sit on a square – but you were still outside. At the time, it seemed obvious that sending kids outside for breaks helped them learn. There was no science needed to discuss it – it was just universally accepted that recess was important.

But then, something happened. I’m not sure when (although some attribute it to increased high-stakes testing), but when I asked kids about recess recently, I got a lot of blank looks. When I first started asking about it, I thought maybe they used a different word now – after all, we don’t call pipe cleaners pipe cleaners anymore, and sitting Indian style has become “criss cross applesauce” or something. I’m elderly, so maybe there’s another name for recess, right? Maybe they call it “outdoor learning,” or “physical matriculation” or “a hard reset” or some other newfangled phrase that means “send the kids outside and let them have a learning break.” (more…)

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Michael Hinojosa, courtesy Dallas ISD

To nobody’s surprise, the Dallas school board voted 6-1 to approve the hiring of former Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa to his old post permanently. He had been serving as interim superintendent of Dallas public schools since June.

The lone dissenting vote was Joyce Foreman.

Hinojosa will be paid $350,000 a year, and will still collect his $200,000 per year pension. He did choose to eschew some perks, such as cell phone allowance, health insurance and car allowance, board president Eric Cowan told the Dallas Morning News Monday, prior to tonight’s called meeting.

 

Photo courtesy DISD

Photo courtesy DISD

For $1.6 billion, Dallas ISD says it will build nine new and replacement schools, add almost 300 more classrooms, expand space for pre-K, as well as new science and technology labs. But before that can happen, the district has to sell everyone on a bond election to raise the money.

I’m not going to tell you how to vote, but I’ll tell you how I’m going to vote in the November 3 bond election for Dallas public schools. And furthermore, I’ll tell you why.

A few months ago, I literally drove from one end of the district to the other. I stopped at schools in every single feeder pattern and noticed a common thing – portable buildings. Have you ever been inside one? They’re often nearly windowless, they’re completely devoid of charm, and we also subject our elementary students to walking to them in all the elements.

Almost every single campus has ‘em. One campus has almost 20. And no, this bond election won’t end the scourge of portable buildings, but it will give some feeder patterns and schools some much-needed breathing room through re-opening and building new schools and renovating and adding on to existing schools. It will make sure that students have the opportunity to learn STEM skills in cutting-edge labs. It will make sure that we have enough space to address the ever-growing need for pre-K space.

And the latter, I promise, is something we need to invest in especially. Want to see test scores go up? Improve early education. You’ll have to pack your patience, but when the reading and knowledge gaps are addressed early and kids are reading at grade level by third grade, organically test scores can improve. It’s not rocket science, it’s simply putting the cart and the horse in the appropriate places. (more…)

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So, you probably feel like you should be keeping an eye on the school board meetings. But those meetings, you hear, can be marathon sessions of wrangling and hyperbole and you have a four-year-old to put to bed. You have sleeping to do. You have a life to live.

This is probably why I got so excited this weekend when I met with Melissa Higginbotham of Dallas Kids First, and she showed me the group’s latest endeavor – a school board vote tracker. The last school board meeting is already up and ready to go, complete with how your trustee voted on each item on the agenda, which items got moved from the consent agenda for more discussion, and whether the item passed. They’ve also taken the time to note certain measures they feel are important – usually ones that impact students and teachers.

(more…)