Voters across the Dallas area will go to the polls on May 9 to elect mayor, city council members, and school district trustees. If you want your name to appear on a ballot, you should know that the filing period for candidates begins today. (Photo by iStock)

Photo by iStock

10:00 p.m. No official statements yet from either District 2 candidate, but I will repeat what I said at the beginning of this evening: District 2 has been incredibly fortunate to have four people who were ready and willing to take on the ultimate volunteer task of sitting on the school board. Your district may be weird and misshapen and have a hole in the middle, but you have lots of heart and tons of people who want the best things for Dallas ISD.

In the very near future, the board will be talking about things like elementary school suspensions, property taxes, and bids for upcoming bond projects. These three new trustees – Jaime Resendez, Audrey Pinkerton and Dustin Marshall will have to hit the ground running. Good luck, and godspeed.

9:30 p.m. Mita Havlick beat out Suzanne Smith to be in this runoff by 50 votes. She was beaten tonight by 42 votes. Still think your vote doesn’t matter? (more…)

DISDd22016runoffToday Dallas Independent School District voters in District 2 will finally choose who will represent them as school board trustee. Will it be Mita Havlick, or will it be Dustin Marshall? Also up for runoff is the seat for Dallas County Community College District 4.

If you still haven’t decided, here is a rundown of our D2 and election coverage:

Polls will be open until 7 p.m. Consider taking a few minutes to go vote while you’re out doing your Saturday activities. We’ll be back here later tonight to discuss the returns.

Photo courtesy Erin Johnston

Early this week, a hot and heavy discussion broke out on a Lakewood-centric Facebook page regarding the Dallas ISD district 2 runoff between Dustin Marshall and Mita Havlick. At the time, third place finisher (by only 50 votes) Suzanne Smith indicated that she preferred to stay  publicly neutral.

That has apparently changed. This afternoon I received a call from the Marshall campaign to let me know that Smith had decided to publicly endorse Marshall after all.

An early indicator that the two were ideologically closely aligned was the fact that Marshall (post-election) adopted Smith’s action plan for the district that she rolled out during her campaign. He began including it in campaign materials shortly after he began tweeting it and using it in Facebook posts on his campaign site.

The two released a joint statement, which follows:

In a joint statement, Suzanne Smith announced today that she cast her ballot in the runoff election for Dustin Marshall. She fully endorsed Marshall’s candidacy and encouraged all of her supporters to get behind him as well.

Smith’s endorsement follows several public statements by Marshall indicating their shared belief in early childhood education, improved parental engagement, and a focus on social and emotional health. Several of these tenants were captured by Smith in her campaign “Action Plan” which Marshall has since used in his campaign material.

Smith stated, “Dustin has run a positive campaign focused on issues that matter to all of us. He has even wholeheartedly supported my Action Plan. This approach best mirrors my own and will ensure that we improve our schools for ALL children in District 2. While Mita has done a lot for her own neighborhood, her campaign has alienated many voters…her negative messaging is moving us in the wrong direction. We have to make sure the RIGHT person gets this job and leads us in the right direction. That person is my friend, Dustin Marshall.”

“I am humbled and honored to have Suzanne’s support,” stated Marshall. “Suzanne has been a great advocate for the kids of our city, and I appreciate her endorsement in this important runoff election. We share a common philosophy about how to improve educational outcomes for our kids. We both believe in recruiting, hiring, developing, measuring, and rewarding great teachers. I hope that Suzanne’s supporters will come out to the polls to show their support for this shared vision.”

Early voting continues through Tuesday, June 14. Election Day is Saturday, June 18. To access more about the district 2 race, click here.

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…)

Nathan adams Elementary is one of three bridge plan schools that got a last minute reprieve today. Seagoville High wasn't so lucky. (Photo courtesy Dallas ISD)

Nathan adams Elementary is one of three bridge plan schools that got a last minute reprieve today. Seagoville High wasn’t so lucky. (Photo courtesy Dallas ISD)

On March 26, 2015, the Dallas Independent School District board of trustees voted 9-0 to approve a bridge plan that would start a first round of renovations for public schools that would culminate in several waves of renovations, provided the district could get a $1.6 billion bond package passed.

That night, trustee Eric Cowan reminded the beneficiaries – Lakewood Elementary and Stonewall Jackson Elementary in particular – that a bond election would be coming because there were many more schools with many, many needs. His vote, he said, would be a leap of faith, an exercise in trust that the supporters of those schools would help get the bond passed.

Fast forward to now and that bond election did indeed pass. But last week, it looked like some of those schools that were prioritized for the bridge plan would have to wait for their renovations. As the news made the rounds, parents began to organize and both District 2 school board candidates sprung into action.

The four schools who faced a longer wait were Lakewood Elementary, Stonewall Jackson Elementary, Nathan Adams Elementary and Seagoville High. 

“I learned last Thursday, May 12th of the recommendation to delay Bridge Plan projects on 4 schools including Lakewood Elementary and Stonewall Jackson,” District 2 candidate Dustin Marshall said on Facebook. “I strongly disagree with this decision made by the administration, and I have been working diligently with several parent leaders to change the outcome of this decision.”

“As someone who spearheaded advocacy in favor of the IBP because of my concern over unsafe and inadequate facilities, I am deeply vested in having the IBP projects move forward in the original timeframe to which the District committed,” Mita Havlick, another candidate, informed her supporters. “No child should have to learn – and no teacher should have to teach – in a classroom that doesn’t meet basic standards for safety and comfort.”

Marshall indicated that he had also been in meetings with current trustees and Dallas ISD administration and had also  “set-up introductory discussions with a third-party construction firm (not involved in the bidding process) to verify that the initial bids are in line with market conditions.”

Havlick’s note indicated that she had been in communication with both chairs of the Lakewood and Stonewall Jackson Site-Based Decision Making committee, as well as “four of the eight current trustees.”

And just this morning, Lakewood Elementary Expansion Foundation supporters were contacting members of the media and sending out bulletins to LEEF members and Lakewood parents to keep them apprised of events as they unfolded.

“Lakewood Elementary’s bids were approximately $3.5M over the allocated $9.47M for construction costs,” LEEF said in a call-to-action distributed this morning. “Note that there were four bidders on the project and therefore we can feel confident that the overages are due to ongoing high construction demand affecting market pricing.”

But almost as quickly as the bulletins were sent out came word that the district had reconsidered its position.

“Although bids for these Bridge projects came in well over budget due to market conditions and other factors, the recommendation is to reject and rebid (the) Seagoville High School addition and go forward with the other elementary school projects, Nathan Adams ES, Lakewood ES, and Stonewall Jackson ES, per the bid evaluations,” Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said in a memo today. The memo also revealed that the Seagoville High School project only received one bid at close to $400 per square foot, which was “significantly higher than current values in the North Texas area.”

Why are the bids coming in so much higher? “The Contractor industry has suggested that the cost overruns are due to an unanticipated large number of attractive projects in the area (a possible bubble of construction activity), a lack of subcontractor labor availability, a lack of material availability (notably concrete), and competition from the private sector that lacks the governmental controls established to protect the District,” Hinojosa wrote in the memo.

The additional funds needed to meet the overages will likely come from remaining 2008 bond funds, Hinojosa proposed. In the meantime, the district will apparently begin working on efforts to market future projects (including the now back-to-the-drawing-board Seagoville High) better by meeting with construction industry organizations and their members.

With the bidding process kicking off for the first tier of schools in the 2015 bond package, this could throw a real monkey wrench in the budgeting process. While nobody at the district has said so, many parents of students in tier 4 and 5 schools, which will not see renovations for quite some time, are worried about whether overages will eat into their respective and worthy projects as well.

More on that later.

Voters across the Dallas area will go to the polls on May 9 to elect mayor, city council members, and school district trustees. If you want your name to appear on a ballot, you should know that the filing period for candidates begins today. (Photo by iStock)

(Photo by iStock)

Just your friendly reminder that tomorrow is Election Day in the area for 53 different races, including four seats on the Dallas Independent School District school board and three seats on the Dallas County Community College District board.

I think I’ve been pretty clear about why it’s important to vote in school board elections. Something around 10 percent or less of the city votes in these elections, which means many of us are willing to let virtually anyone decide something as important as the trajectory of the workforce we will be able to offer employers in years to come. Even if you don’t have children in Dallas ISD, you have to be able to wrap your head around the fact that if we fail to adequately educate our children, we have failed to adequately educate our workforce, which means it becomes harder and harder to attract and retain jobs to the city.

In short, this vote is about economics just as much as it is about human rights and education and everything else it’s about. It’s about your city, and the path you want to demand from it.  (more…)

Photo courtesy Flickr/Johann Dreo

Photo courtesy Flickr/Johann Dreo

A whole lot of ugly politics has happened during the last few weeks of this school board election. And if you’re like me, you’re dismayed by the antics of people you respected, worried about whether this signals a new round of hostilities at board meetings, and probably just flat out tired of it.

You may even have decided not to vote now.

I’m not in the business of telling you exactly who to vote for. We’ve provided snapshots of each race and their endorsements, but those in no way should be construed as endorsements of any candidate.

But I’d like to tell you a story – one that if you go to the same church I do, you may have already heard told masterfully from the pulpit. But it’s a true story, and one that has become my guidance when thinking about decisions I have to make regarding Dallas ISD – whether it be who I vote for trustee or recommendations I make as part of the Site Based Decision Making Committee I’m on.

(more…)

Voters across the Dallas area will go to the polls on May 9 to elect mayor, city council members, and school district trustees. If you want your name to appear on a ballot, you should know that the filing period for candidates begins today. (Photo by iStock)

Voters across the Dallas area will go to the polls beginning today to elect school district trustees in four districts. (Photo by iStock)

Just a friendly reminder that early voting in the Dallas Independent School District school board election for districts 2, 4, 5 and 7 begins today.

During early voting, you can vote anywhere in Dallas County. Early voting will continue until May 3. Election Day for these races is May 7. (more…)