Approach and Priorities
I am strong believer in data. As a management consultant at Bain & Company, I developed a strong appreciation for research and analysis. But I also recognize that data is the plural of anecdote – and to truly understand the situation behind the numbers, one needs to spend time in the schools intensely listening – talking with parents, community members, teachers, administrators and children. Only through building a full picture of the situation, can I help make the best decisions for the District.
I have worked hard to be an effective bridge builder on the board. Divisions between adults only hurt kids. I pledge to continue to do everything in my power to foster and maintain positive working relationships on the board and within the administration based on mutual respect and trust. I will nurture these relationships by being a respectful listener and a sensitive communicator who is attentive to the needs of ALL DISD kids.
Educating our students well is the primary job of Dallas ISD. During my tenure in office, Dallas ISD has excelled in this vital responsibility.
Across the education spectrum, from lower to upper grades, Dallas ISD has seen strong and consistent gains for our students, with a 14-percentage point increase in achievement during my tenure on the Board of Trustees. Since 2015, 35,000 additional students are performing on grade level and being prepared to succeed in life.
This massive growth did not happen by chance. Thanks to interventions such as the expansion of PreK, 3rd grade reading scores alone have rocketed up 12 points. Additionally, while the vast majority of urban ISD’s are seeing declining enrollment, Dallas ISD has managed to grow its PreK program by more than 3,000 students. This creates additional revenue for the district from the state, and more importantly, provides Dallas ISD students with a much-needed head start on their education.
As result of the efforts of my colleagues and myself, as well as the administration, Dallas ISD has been recognized as the fastest growing/improving school district in Texas, outpacing the growth in Austin, Houston, El Paso, and across the state of Texas.
In fact, during my tenure, we shrunk the gap between Dallas ISD the State by 50%!
At this rate, Dallas ISD will be one of the best school districts in the entire state of Texas within the next 5 years – surpassing Austin ISD in the next 6 years. My next term will be focused on continuing to provide the leadership necessary to sustain that trajectory.
District 2 specifically has seen tremendous improvements, especially with respect to narrowing racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.
In District 2, 3rd grade reading has increased 8 points while simultaneously decreasing the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged students and their more wealthy counterparts by 5% (or shrinking the size of the achievement gap by 13%, while it was growing in other parts of the district.)
The achievement gap between Caucasian and African American students has decreased by 5 percentage points, or 11%, and between Caucasian and Hispanic/LatinX students by 8 percentage points, or 20%.
Continuing to increase outcomes for students within Dallas ISD is my highest priority. While Dallas ISD has made remarkable gains in recent years, there is still significant work for the Board of Trustees to ensure our teachers and principals have the tools necessary to continue their inspiring work changing and shaping the lives of our children.
I am passionate about providing our best teachers with significantly increased compensation. Identifying and rewarding our best teachers enables our students to benefit from their continued presence in our classrooms, rather than leaving the industry or moving to administration in order to earn better pay.
- The Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI) is one of the most advanced teacher compensation systems in the country. Created in 2014 with significant input from teachers in the district, TEI has transformed our district by identifying our great teachers and allowing them to earn higher pay faster.
- With TEI, Dallas ISD knows exactly which teachers are most effective in the classroom. Among those high-performing teachers, increased compensation and autonomy has enabled the district to retain over 90% of them.
- Traditionally, teachers have been paid based on years of service, regardless of outcomes, and while starting salaries were often competitive, the small raises they received each year meant that after an entire career in the classroom they would end up making a relatively small amount more than where they started. With TEI, great teachers can earn more and faster. TEI aims to retain our top talent and does so by offering a clear path for high-performing teachers to make more than $90,000 within six years.
- TEI is the foundation of Dallas ISD’s success over the last few years. With this system, Dallas ISD has become an acclaimed model for school district’s throughout the country. Last year, the Texas Legislature passed sweeping public education legislation geared towards incentivizing every district in the state to model Dallas ISD’s systems of accountability and compensation.
I support the continued expansion of our magnet and choice schools to help families throughout the district find the ‘best fit’ school for their children. These schools continue to draw a significant amount of families back to Dallas ISD and offer a variety of options including Montessori, single-gender, Talent and Gifted, dual language, leadership, International Baccalaureate and more.
- Each of our choice schools is thoughtfully designed to provide their students with a specialized experience and area of knowledge. Attendance is often designed to provide a socio-economic mix of economically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students. Studies show that diverse experiences and backgrounds enhance the overall learning and benefits all students.
- DISD is home to numerous successful and highly desirable choice schools.
- Dallas ISD data shows that roughly 30% of attendance at each choice school is comprised of students who were not previously enrolled in a Dallas ISD school. Increasing student outcomes and the types of schools and opportunities that our district can provide families continues to rebuild Dallas ISD’s brand and reputation in the community. We are bringing more students back into our schools which means a more enriching environment for all students and additional funding for our schools as a result of this increased attendance. School choice programs are essential to the continued growth and improvement within Dallas ISD.
I know that investing in our schools and facilities is an investment in our children. Dallas ISD has strategically planned the allocation of available funds for improvements throughout District 2, with many complete and others on the near horizon.
To learn more about what the district has in store for our facilities, check out the plans for the proposed 2020 Bond Program.
I have led the district through major reforms to better support our students with special needs and improve communication and trust with parents. Our most vulnerable students deserve the most dedicated, compassionate and enriching experience. To ensure I was an effective advocate for this community, I convened a Special Education Advisory Committee of advocates, parents, teachers, and SpEd experts in mid-2018. The group came up with several recommendations and I have been working to implement many of these ideas:
- A renewed dedication to this student population required a new vision and leadership. Under my leadership, the district has restructured and transformed the leadership team that oversees the Special Education program. Increased accountability, transparency and responsiveness are essential for our parents and students that entrust the district each day.
- Improved communication is the foundation for the reforms underway in Special Education. Parents of students with limited or no communication abilities deserve to know and understand the days and activities of their children just as much as any other. Continuous feedback and parental involvement only benefits the students and program and is essential for Dallas ISD’s renewed vision for Special Education. The new SpEd department leadership has already set up 11 events for Parents in the month of January alone. Find more information on that here.
- I was able to successfully get a pilot test pushed through in the 2019-2020 budget to test the creation of a new District position. This position is a Campus Level SpEd expert and ARD Facilitator. I believe every school in the District needs this position, but to make sure that the new role is effective, DISD launched a pilot to hire this position at 10 high need campuses in 2019 and evaluate the results in preparation for a possible broader rollout for the 2020-2021 school year.
- Following a recommendation from my Advisory Committee, I have proposed a Board Policy amendment that will allow Parents to audio record their ARD meetings so that those families who may have communication barriers can listen to the audio from those meetings multiple times and request additional help in translation as needed. This will help to ensure that the parents and the various members of the school community are aligned about how best to intervene in a child’s educational journey.
- Following a recommendation from my Advisory Committee, I have proposed a Board Policy amendment that will require Video Cameras in all Special Ed. contained classrooms. State Law already requires that the district must place a camera in any SpEd classroom when it is requested by a parent. My policy recommendation preempts the requirement for a parent to make this request. These cameras will help to protect our most vulnerable children, will help build trust with parents, will protect teachers against wrongful accusations, and will ensure that every adult who comes in contact with a child has that child’s best interest at heart.
- At my recommendation, the District has begun the process of creating a District-Wide Special Education Advisory Committee to provide suggestions for improvement to the Administration. Each Trustee will be making appointments to this Committee.