DISDd22016runoffSo we’re still working on getting District 2 representation on the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees because basically nobody voted in the election. Less than five percent voted in the election in May, forcing a runoff between Dustin Marshall and Mita Havlick.

Remember this map? This is the map that showed how poorly people showed at the polls. Less than 50 votes separated Havlick from Suzanne Smith in the May election. Less than 50 votes may very well decide this runoff, too, which is asinine.

Early voting starts today and lasts until June 14. Election Day is June 18. For information – including polling places – on early voting, click here. For information on voting on Election day, click here.

Now, in the meantime, I thought I would provide a brief primer on the two candidates. A previous rundown is here, but I reached out to both candidates last week with a quick second set of questions to augment the information found in the rundowns and in other responses from Dallas Kids First (Marshall, Havlick) and the Dallas Morning News, as well as responses at Turn and Talks (Marshall/Marshall podcast, Havlick/Havlick podcast).

My questions and each candidate’s answers follow. None of the responses have been edited. (more…)

As a school board member, sometimes you get accolades, but mostly you get phone calls. So many phone calls. (Photo courtesy Dallas ISD)

As a school board member, sometimes you get accolades, but mostly you get phone calls. So many phone calls. (Photo: Courtesy Dallas ISD)

So, you want to run for school board.

First, I need to know if you’ve recently suffered a blow to the head. No? OK. Are you aware it’s an unpaid position that requires you to pretty much be on call 24/7? Yes? Did you know people will tweet you, comment on your Facebook wall (and probably your spouse’s, kid’s, or even mother’s wall), email you, call you, and even track you down while you’re eating dinner to vent their spleen? And trust me, they rarely if ever do all that if they just want to pat you on the back and tell you did a good job.

You’re aware of all that? Then I got nothin’. I mean, for real, there’s nothing in the world that would convince me to run for school board, so more power to you.

However, having covered more than my fair share of school board races, and having talked to voters extensively about what makes them decide which candidate to vote for (it’s not that hard because barely anyone votes), I have come up with a few things you should know if you want to run for school board.



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…)

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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.


Photo courtesy Miguel Solis

Photo courtesy Miguel Solis

A conversation with Miguel Solis will leave you pretty freakin’ pumped about education in general, and Dallas ISD in particular.

A few weeks ago, before the holidays, I met with the Dallas ISD school board president for coffee and a frank discussion about the public perception problems DISD has. One of the first things I told him was a personal anecdote that kind of, in my opinion, illustrates the problems the district faces.

When my son was born, I found myself up a lot late at night, trying to amuse myself during feedings. I drifted to Babycenter, which is basically a virtual mom’s group where you can find moms with kids the same age as yours, kids with similar learning difficulties or allergies, people who are facing infertility, etc. I found myself eventually entrenched in the mom’s club for my son’s birth month, and when some of us got closer and migrated over to Facebook, we stayed friends.

Flash forward two years or so, and someone in our group says they’re moving to the Dallas area, and asks about neighborhoods and schools. I relay the nascent information I’ve gathered about DISD, and pertinent links. Almost immediately, the dogpiling began. “You don’t want to send your kids to DISD. There are gangs there,” one person said. “You can’t send your kids to DISD, they won’t be able to go to college,” said another. “You can’t send your kid to Dallas public schools,” still another chastised. “The schools are just no good.

As I told this story to Solis, he nodded, not unfamiliar with the things I had been told. “When I asked them to show me concrete proof of that,” I concluded, “Nobody could. They couldn’t tell me why they thought the schools were bad – they just did.”

Solis gave me a big old grin, and with that, we settled in for an almost two-hour discussion about where Dallas public schools are going. We discussed how nobody ever talks about how education is just as vital to the infrastructure (and attracting corporations) as water lines, roads and electricity. We talked about people actually being discouraged by their real estate agent from buying a certain home because it was in Dallas schools – even though the schools in question were consistently receiving high rankings by the TEA. We discussed his hope (and mine too, really) that people could look past the political wrangling that sometimes marks the coverage of the district’s board meetings, and look at (as I have suggested in other posts) the schools in their feeder pattern, where the real magic happens.

How do you address all that? Well, jump with me, won’t you? (more…)