solis

As a Dallas ISD school board trustee, Miguel Solis (here shown at a water balloon party at Foster Elementary) has advocated for thousands of children. Now he advocates for one little girl — his daughter, Olivia.

As any parent can tell you, from the first time you discover you’ll be one until well, forever, a huge piece of your heart is never yours alone anymore. And from the first wail in the delivery room — or meeting, in the case of adoption, this phenomenon occurs: that part of your heart is suddenly at its most vulnerable, existing outside your body.

And any parent can tell you, your worst fear is that something will happen that you can’t fix for your child. Dirty diaper? Easily fixed. Forgotten lunch? OK. Shoes that pinch your feet because you’ve had another growth spurt? Let’s go shopping, buddy.

Life-threatening medical emergency? Terrifying. (more…)

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Downtown Dallas stakeholders, along with Dallas ISD trustee Miguel Solis and Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano, presented Focus on Teens with a $2,250 donation to help provide the necessities for the thousands of Dallas ISD homeless students that utilize the district’s drop-in centers (photos courtesy Tanya Ragan/Wildcat Management)

As the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of providing Christmas cheer for family and friends — and it’s equally easy to forget that not everyone will have a home to go to for the holidays.

Such is the case for the thousands of Dallas ISD students — estimates are anywhere from 3,000 to 6,500 — who are homeless.

As we’ve talked about before, even the most prosperous high schools in Dallas ISD have students experiencing need. Without the district’s drop-in centers, which provide things like clean uniforms, food, and toiletries to students (as well as filling other emergency needs), these students would find it much more difficult to stay in school. (more…)

Dallas electionsFourteen Dallas City Council seats and three Dallas Independent School District trustee seats are up for grabs on May 6. I’ll start saying this early — as I always do: It can cost somewhere around $1 million to hold an election, and in most May Dallas elections, we see less than 10 percent of voters turning out to vote.

And it really couldn’t be much easier. Check and see if you’re registered to vote here.  If you’re not, you can click here to register. If you vote early, you can vote at any early voting polling location in the county – so on your way to work, during your lunch break, on your way home, or even on a Saturday. The last day to register to vote is April 6. Early voting begins April 24 and will continue through May 2 for all Dallas elections.

The last day to register to vote is April 6. Early voting begins April 24 and will continue through May 2. You can even vote on a Saturday or a Sunday.

(more…)

Photo courtesy Dallas ISD Foster Elementary School will host a open house for parents and community members interested in Spanish language immersion tonight from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Photo courtesy Dallas ISD
Foster Elementary School is, preliminarily, an “Excelling” campus under Dallas ISD’s new School Performance Framework announced recently.

Last week, I wrote about the cockamamie A through F rating system. In a throwaway line, I mentioned talking about vouchers. But before I do that, I need to back up and talk about SPF.

No, not the sunscreen (although you should wear some, my doctor says). This is something that I think gives a much better picture of where your neighborhood school is when it comes to progress.

Now, full disclosure, I’ve known about the School Performance Framework for Campus Success for a couple months now. It was embargoed, so I couldn’t write about it. And I did want to wait to see how everything would shake out with the state ratings, too. (more…)

Photo courtesy Flickr/Arul Irudayam

Photo courtesy Flickr/Arul Irudayam

I’ve been working on this deep dive into national and local policy and data regarding discipline for almost a week now, ever since trustee Miguel Solis introduced a proposal to ban most suspensions at the pre-K through second grade level, and place a moratorium on them in the third through fifth grade level at a recent Dallas Independent School District board of trustee briefing.

I’ll be honest – I’ve been reading ahead. I’ve been reading ahead since taking a series of classes on the state of public education, an activity that predates last week’s board briefing by a whole year. I’ve been waiting for someone to address this.

Sometimes, I forget that other people aren’t raging policy wonks who consider US Department of Education materials and other data light reading, so the pushback surprised me. The meeting yielded a whole lot of “who moved my cheese” responses. The comments on subsequent stories written about that meeting yielded much more.

But it was a response from an actual teacher that tells me we all really could benefit from not only a good dose of reality but also a whopping dose of “how did we get here.” I hope to provide some of that today by sharing what I’ve learned about suspensions and elementary students. (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…)

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…)

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Saturday morning, the Mister, Tiny and I drove over to Ellis Field house to attend the DISD magnet school fair.

We left kind of stunned. A good stunned, though, because even with our two years of research and question-asking and review seeking, we were still surprised by the sheer volume of choice offered to families who attend Dallas public schools.

In fact, even if your kiddo isn’t even at the point of attending school yet, I recommend you go to next year’s fair, just to start getting the lay of the land and – even more so – to have a tangible way to visualize the myriad of ways your child can learn.

Our original plan had been to just make a beeline for the two schools we were interested in – Dealey and Harry Stone. We did go there, and asked plenty of questions (more on that in a minute), but then we spent another half hour or so milling around. Vanguard schools for STEM and fine arts. International Baccalaureate schools out the wazoo. Law magnets. Engineering magnets. Leadership and communication magnets. You name an interest, and there is a way to address it.

In fact, a teacher at Skyline High wanted me to make sure our readers knew that free transportation is available to all magnet, vanguard and montessori schools. “Make sure they know!” she said. (more…)