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…)