Monday, November 29, 2010

Dallas ISD Trustees should be more accountable to the public - not less

In 2008, I was re-elected by the good people of District 6 to serve a 3-year term ending in May, 2011. Of course, there was nothing on the ballot for the voters to approve that would allow me to extend my own term.

While it may be tempting to rationalize extending my own term for good reasons, I find it unacceptable to do so in light of personal experience showing how power will be abused.

In 2007, the Texas Education Code stated in plain language that school Trustees could not extend their terms of office after December 31, 2007.  In spite of that clear restriction, on November 20, 2008 - one year after the clearly stated deadline - Dallas ISD Trustees extended their terms and canceled the May 9, 2009 school election.

To listen to the Thursday, November 20, 2008 Board discussion on extending Trustee terms to 4 years (Item #6 under items pulled for a separate vote) , Click Here.

Why Rush To Violate State Law - November 20, 2008

I requested the assistance of the Texas Commissioner of Education in obtaining an opinion of the Attorney General to clarify what had already been confirmed by the Legal Office of the Texas Secretary of State - that the December 31, 2007 deadline applied to all Texas school districts.

After the Texas Attorney General issued an Opinion (GA-0712) on April 30, 2009 that Dallas Trustees had no authority to extend their terms after the clearly stated December 31, 2007 deadline, some Trustees still attempted to minimize the importance of the decision.  The decision was not accepted as simply the "right result" that must be followed.

We have had two elections since the Opinion of the Attorney General was issued - November 3, 2009 and May 8, 2010.  Neither election would have been held without the Attorney General's Opinion upholding the Texas Education Code.  Three new Trustees were elected who would not have been able to run without an election.

This time the deadline is December 31, 2010.  I believe it is sufficient for a Dallas ISD Trustee to serve 3 years.

Dallas ISD Trustee - 3-year term
Dallas City Council - 2-year term with 8-year term limitation
Texas State Representative - 2-year term
U. S. Congress - 2-year term

Dallas  ISD Trustees are already less accountable to the public than the Dallas City Council, Texas State Representatives or members of the U.S. Congress.  In the same 6-year period, these elected officials are accountable to the public in three elections, while Dallas ISD Trustees are currently accountable to the public in only two elections in six years. 

Public service is a privilege given by the citizens who elected us. 

Three-year terms make Trustees more accountable to the public. Four-year terms make Trustees less accountable to the public.  Four-year terms also make change in governance more difficult.  The opportunity for other citizens to serve is also reduced.

A four-year term will give more power to Trustees and less power to the public.

Elections matter and democracy wins when public officials must stand before citizens for re-election.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Magnet Fair on Saturday, Dec. 4

Parents and students are encouraged to attend the district’s Magnet Fair on Saturday, Dec. 4 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Skyline High School, 7777 Forney Road to receive information regarding the application process, the general program requirements, the timeline for the selection process and a schedule of each magnet school’s open house. 

Beginning Dec. 6, the magnet school application for the 2011-2012 school year will be available at 

On last Thursday, November18, 2010, Dallas ISD Trustees adopted an updated Magnet policy EGA (Local).  The vote was 8-1.  

I voted against the revised policy due to concerns about equity and fairness for all students.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) adopts public school finance plan

TASB Headquarters Austin
At the fall meeting of The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), the Board of Directors  re-affirmed approval of the TASB School Finance Plan adopted in September.

Passionate discussion during the Saturday, November 13, 2010 Austin board meeting revealed TASB Directors are committed to investing time and resources to help Districts learn more about the proposed School Finance Plan.  It replaces the current Target Revenue and two tiered formula systems with a simpler single-tier guaranteed yield plan.   No school district loses revenue as a result of the TASB plan.
  •  Find out the history and resources regarding current issues facing school finance on TASB's site -  Click Here.
  • To learn about the TASB School Finance Plan and see a video that introduces and explains it - Click Here.
  • To see the TASB plan frequently asked questions - Click Here. 

 TASB supports a school finance system that:
  • provides districts with an adequate amount of state and local funds to prepare students to achieve rigorous academic goals, covers districts’ rising operating costs and funds state and federal mandates;
  • gives school boards local control over the tax rate and access to more golden pennies without voter approval;
  • provides formula-funding to close the equity gap among districts as soon as possible; and
  • attributes statewide property value growth back to the school finance system.
Exhibit 1:  A Visual Comparison of the Current School Finance System and the TASB Plan
Exhibit 1:  A Visual Comparison of the Current School Finance System and the TASB Plan
TASB supports state funding that includes, but is not limited to: 
  • career and technology (CTE) courses, beginning in middle school, that allow students to meet the state’s graduation requirements;
  • free prekindergarten programs for either a full-day or for more student groups, at local district option;
  • curricular interventions and programs to help at-risk students; and
  • construction and renovation of public school district facilities to meet the state’s growing student population.
TASB opposes the diversion of taxpayer dollars to private schools, including vouchers, tuition tax credits, and other such programs funded with public tax dollars.

TASB opposes the use of the Permanent School Fund for open enrollment charter school facilities.

TASB Directors represent large and small districts throughout the state and promote educational excellence for all Texas school children. 

My initial committee assignment will be Budget and Finance.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Texas Association of School Boards poll shows support for public schools

(Austin) – Eighty-eight percent of Texans agree that Texas’ public schools need more money from the state, a 12-point increase from March 2004, according to a survey recently commissioned by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) and conducted by Texas Poll. Only 10 percent disagree that schools need more money and 2 percent don’t know.
Of Texans polled who have children attending public schools, 89 percent believe Texas’ schools need more money from the state. Even an overwhelming majority of Texans 60 years of age and older—66 percent—say the state should provide more funding to schools.

Texans also say they are willing to pay higher taxes to get more funding for public schools. The Texas Poll asked if they would support higher taxes to help fund new school buildings, higher teacher salaries, and smaller classes. Responses were favorable in all categories.

In other findings:
  • A majority of Texans—60 percent—also agree that Texas public schools are better than schools in other states.
  • Sixty-three percent of Texans agree that Texas public schools are doing a good job educating a challenging student population.
  • Most Texans—81 percent—also agree that Texas public schools are burdened with federal requirements.
  • Fifty-nine percent of Texans say Texas public schools are doing an excellent or good job in preparing students to succeed, compared with 40 percent who say fair or poor.
The poll, conducted by the Texas Poll in July 2010 for TASB, surveyed 1,000 adult Texans by phone in a random sample of active phone exchanges statewide.

For a full report on the survey Click Here

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Community signs support beam at ceremony for Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary School

 Senator Royce West gave remarks

Parents, retired educators and community leaders joined Dallas ISD officials today to mark the end of one journey and the beginning of another for young students in Wilmer, Hutchins and near-by city of Dallas areas.

The event  was part of a "topping-out ceremony," where guests lined up to sign a support beam to be  placed in the roof of the school, scheduled for completion by summer 2011.

Located in the city of Dallas, the new school was designed to serve 800 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. There will be 34 classrooms operating in an environmentally sustainable design which utilizes life-cycle building materials, reduces water and energy consumption and depends on more than 200 geothermal wells drilled 250 feet deep for its heating needs.

Guests were able to see the framework of the new school, as well as an eight-foot-tall display of building materials, siding and windows.   This made it easier to envision the structure where children will soon come to  learn, develop, grow, experiment, and play.

Musical performances were provided by two schools:  the Whitney M. Young Elementary School Chorale, Vicky Brooks , Director and the Birdie Alexander Elementary School Choir, Nelda Washington, Director.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa expressed appreciation for the successful 2008 Bond passage which made it possible to build this and other new schools.

In his remarks, Senator Royce West praised the district's progress in the southern sector of Dallas and gave assurance of future support for school success.  Hutchins Mayor Artis Johnson encouraged community involvement and participation at the new school. Deputy Chief of Operations Phil Jimerson outlined project details and  the construction time line.

Southeast Elementary Learning Community Executive Director Shirley Ison-Newsome served as mistress of ceremonies.

The topping-out ceremony for Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary School helped to "raise the roof" on expectations for Dallas ISD students who will attend this new school.

We appreciate State Board of Education member Mavis Knight, Wilmer Mayor Jeff Steele, University of North Texas Dallas President John Ellis Price, Larry Johnson representing Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, and former Dallas ISD Trustee Robert Price for their attendance and support.

Thanks to all who came out to participate on a bright fall afternoon filled with the sunshine of a glorious new day for young students.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary School topping out ceremony

District 6 - Topping Out Ceremony
Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary School
7475 J.J. Lemmon Road
Dallas, Texas 75241

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 2 p.m.

Everyone is invited.

Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary School

Sunday, November 7, 2010

US Department of Education issues updated guidance on bullying

The U.S. Department of Education recently issued updated guidance to educators on dealing with bullying in schools.  The guidance, issued in the form of a letter to schools, colleges, and universities from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, clarifies when bulling may violate federal anti-discrimination laws.

The guidance was issued after two high-profile student suicides, which police say were the result of bullying.  While this latest guidance makes clear that current laws enforced by USDE do not protect against harassment based on religion or sexual orientation, they do include protection against harassment of members of religious groups based on shared ethnic characteristics, as well as gender and sexual harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals.

The White House and USDE also announced that they will take additional steps to address bullying and harassment in schools.  

Early next year, the White House will host a conference to raise awareness and equip young people, parents, educators, coaches, and other community leaders with tools to prevent bullying and harassment.  

USDE also plans to hold technical assistance workshops around the country in early 2011 to help educators better understand their obligations and the resources available to address harassment and bullying on school and college campuses.   

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School groundbreaking celebrated by community

Rev. Dr. Zan Wesley Holmes, Jr. speaking at a ...REV. DR. ZAN WESLEY HOLMES, JR.

Jimmie Tyler Brashear Elementary School Glee Club performs

Senator Royce West speaks for elected officials

Rev. Holmes and Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes, III
T. W. Browne Middle School Students and Rev. Holmes

Sen. Royce West, Rev. Holmes, Carrie Holmes, County Commissioner John Wiley Price

Supt. Hinojosa, Rev. Holmes, Carrie Holmes and Savannah

                 Official Groundbreaking Ceremony

For Immediate Release: November 2, 2010

School honors community leader, features green design

DALLAS Parents, students, community leaders and elected officials turned out in large numbers Oct. 29, for the groundbreaking of Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School, Dallas Independent School Districts fifth event of the 2008 Bond Program.

      "The new school will improve the community and students lives," said School Board Second Vice President Carla Ranger, who serves District 6.  "It is very fitting that we have named this 21st century middle school in honor of Rev. Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. who served this community extremely well over several decades and made Dallas a better place for us all."

      The new three-story school located at 2910 St. David Dr. will serve 1,250 students in sixth through eighth grades. Opening in 2012, plans for the 195,000-square-foot building include nine science classrooms, three ESL and two world languages classrooms as well as softball, baseball and football fields. Architectural plans feature a number of sustainable design elements that will reduce water consumption by 35 percent, include a geothermal HVAC system, improve energy efficiency and take advantage of natural lighting.

      While we focus on creating the best facility to prepare our students for the future, it is important to remember we have responsibilities for safeguarding our planet and resources for the next generation, said Superintendent of Schools Michael Hinojosa. Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School will be a school building that seamlessly merges both ideals to create a learning environment capable of supporting our natural environment.

       West Secondary Learning Community Executive Director Cynthia Goodsell welcomed the crowd to the ceremony. The T.W. Browne Middle School Leadership Cadet Corps presented the flag and the Jimmie Tyler Brashear Elementary School Glee Club performed Gloria Estefans Get On Your Feet.

      Deputy Chief of Operations Phil Jimerson reviewed project details and the construction timeline. Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, former State Board of Education Member Eleanor Conrad and Friendship West Baptist Church Senior Pastor Frederick D. Haynes III reflected on Holmes leadership and the many lives he has positively influenced.

      The school is named to honor Rev. Zan Wesley Holmes Jr., retired SMU theology professor, civil rights leader and Pastor Emeritus at Dallas St. Luke Community United Methodist Church where he served for 28 years. Holmes was tapped in 1968 to complete the unfinished term of the late Joseph Lockridge, the first African American elected to the Texas House of Representatives. Subsequently, Holmes played a key role in the desegregation of Dallas schools as a member of the Tri-Ethnic committee that negotiated the school districts court-ordered desegregation plan, and he also served as the first African American member of the University of Texas Board of Regents.

      AECOM is the project manager of the new school, Rogers-OBrien serves as the general contractor and the architectural firm of Perkins + Will designed the building.

      The next bond-related event is a topping-out ceremony for Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary School, set for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9, at 7475 J.J. Lemmon Road.