Dallas ISD Trustee Candidates Give Elevator Pitches for District

The five candidates vying for two Dallas ISD school board seats would have – in a normal year – already completed their election season.

But this isn’t a normal year, and after the board voted to move school board elections to November from May, the five suddenly found themselves with a lot more time to campaign.

We reached out to all five candidates – Nancy Rodriguez, Alex Enriquez, and incumbent Dustin Marshall in District 2; and Joe Carreon and Alicia McClung in District 8 – to help readers get a better sense of who they are. 

What are some of the issues – even without the pandemic – that impact the children and families in your district?

Marshall

Marshall: Our students face a wide variety of challenges including poverty, hunger, abuse, and toxic stress. Many come from single parent households where Mom or Dad is working multiple jobs just to ensure there is food on the table and a roof overhead. Many of our kids (~3,500+) don’t have a home at all. Our kids bring these challenges with them to school every day. But regardless of their personal circumstances, these kids deserve an excellent education, and it is our job to deliver it. We don’t apologize for our demographics within DISD. We have simply got to do better in preparing our kids for success in college, a career, or the military upon graduation. Although I am certain that our current Board and Senior Leadership team are making incredible strides in improving educational outcomes, it is imperative that we maintain a sense of urgency and commitment to continue that progress. Our kids can’t wait.

Enriquez: The main issue facing DISD, exacerbated by the pandemic, is trust. A District 2 early childhood group leader recently told me that her child’s soon-to-be-school was a question mark in her community, and the reason for that question mark, unfortunately, is a concern for many parents: “The fact that our school is attached to DISD holds people back from believing in our quality.” Even when families make the leap of faith to send their elementary-aged kids to these Blue Ribbon schools, they are soon confronted with doubts about whether they “should” send their kids to District middle and high schools. 

The unfortunate reality is that DISD is facing a crisis of trust: DISD families do not, at the most fundamental level, trust DISD to act in the best interest of their children. In February 2016, DISD had 12,215 Kindergartners, just before Spring Break we had 10,977.

Once we lose a family at Kindergarten, we are extremely unlikely to win them back. We are losing families at an alarming rate, and the District has done little to change perceptions in the last 4 years: our facilities are not improving, the use of class-size waivers has increased, and staff turnover has accelerated. 

I firmly believe that DISD has excellent teachers that provide a high-quality education – I say this on the playground so often that I sound like a broken record. But it is extremely difficult to convince parents that DISD teachers are worth the perceived risk of sending their child to our schools. 

I am running for school board because I understand that the challenges faced by this district stem from this core lack of trust between Dallas families and Dallas schools. I really mean it when I say I believe in DISD. DISD invested in me when I was a student, and I excelled. We’ve tried to have well meaning leaders set the tone, but our community needs leadership that has a strong pulse on the community. We need someone who believes in DISD, is a product of DISD, and invests in DISD as much as DISD invested in them.

Rodriguez: A key problem that we’ve had over the last several years is principal turnover at our schools. The kind of turnover we have had has a very large impact on the culture of a school, on hiring, and on parental engagement as well as on academic outcomes. I think there are a few reasons why we’ve had this issue and one of them is lack of support and another is that many of our principals do not see being a principal as a long-term career goal and it has become a stepping stone to getting a job with the central administration.

School safety is another concern. Throughout our schools, there have been concerns of safety in regards to unauthorized persons having access to our schools. We want to ensure that our children are safe during the school day and that every one that comes into the school has a reason for being there and that they are properly identified before being let in. We also want to be sure that there are plans in case should any emergencies take place.

Lastly, many of the schools in D2 are very overcrowded. We have many schools that have run out of space and it not only has a negative effect on student achievement when we have large class sizes but it can also be a safety issue when the entire school is overcrowded.

Carreon: Recently, Dallas ISD has been defined by innovation and the will to try something new. This is something that our public schools have needed for generations. That said, to uphold the promise of a public education, I believe we must improve in 3 key areas.

College and Career Readiness: Our commitment to kids is a school district that will prepare them for college and a career. This is the promise we make and the promise we must keep.

Preparing our students begins with a strong academic foundation. – It starts with ensuring all our children have access to early childhood education, including full-day pre-K for 3-year-olds. We know the impact pre-K has on kindergarten readiness, 3rd grade reading outcomes, and high school completion. While we have made significant strides, universal pre-K access should remain a stop objective.

Additionally, we know that the most important controllable factor of a student’s academic success is the quality of their teacher. This is why we must lead the country in the professional development of our educators, create a culture that values teachers and attracts the best in the profession, and continue programs that put our best teachers in classrooms where they are needed the most.

Educating the whole child: To give our kids their best shot at achievement, we must build a school district that understands the societal challenges our students face and is not timid in being a part of the solution.

Our students experience one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the United States. Nearly 3,500 of our kids leave our schools with no home to go to at night. And every day, our school district welcomes students who have escaped situations many us could not imagine.

Without a more concerted effort to address the obstacles students face outside the schoolhouse, we simply cannot expect our children to reach their full potential. We must invest in a counseling program which sets the standard for the country. We should expand proven partnerships with social service organizations that can get our kids the resources they need. And continue advancing the curriculum and training our teachers need to promote the social and emotional development of our kids.

Creating a culture of community: For too many, the lines of communication between our communities and our school district are broken. The methods to garner a community’s feedback on crucial school and feeder pattern decisions often feels nearly non-existent. I have seen this firsthand as an active member of my community. It is time we reimagine this process. Failure to gather and follow-through on community feedback can frustrate parents and communities and leads to a long-term break down of trust. If we are going to maximize their buy-in and support, parents and community need to feel like their voice is valued.

I propose building community vision summits into our school calendars and into the culture of our communities. I look forward to hosting regular neighborhood coffees and meetings so all stakeholders know what is happening in our local schools and so that a space can be created to provide regular feedback. I will work towards making engagement in a school advisory board and parent organization easier and more meaningful. And I will work to ensure that parents have the training they need to succeed in their campus-based efforts.

A campus with strong community buy-in and parental involvement is a vibrant campus that enriches the educational experience for our kids.

McClung: As of June 2020, 74% of white students in Dallas ISD are proficient in 9th grade English Language Arts, while 30% of Black students and 39% of Latinx students are proficient. Children and families in our district need high-quality programming and strategic policies that will address the needs of ALL of our students. 

We also can’t ignore our district employees who are struggling. My grandmother who raised me taught in Dallas ISD for over twenty years. However, she couldn’t afford our health insurance, so my sister and I grew up without coverage. It is utterly cost prohibitive for many of our employees to access Dallas ISD’s employer provided health insurance, particularly when it comes to extending that coverage to a spouse or dependent.  The conditions that teachers and support staff work in is our students’ learning environment.

If we want to foster happy and healthy children, we need to make sure that those supporting them are taken care of.

If you’re an incumbent, what are some of the things you have worked on during your term(s) that you are particularly proud of? If you are not, explain the ways you’ve already been advocating and helping the students and families in your district.

Marshall: I’m very proud of the accomplishments that Dallas ISD has celebrated over the last several years, and I’m proud of the role I’ve played in making these a reality:

Increased school funding. With the administration and a few fellow trustees, I traveled to Austin several times to advocate for significant new funding for our public education system. The majority of our new funding from the state allowed for a reduction in your property tax rate by increasing the state’s share of funding for our schools. I am pleased to say that most new funds will go directly towards increasing teacher salaries. At my urging, the District also chose to spend some of our new funds from the state on Special Ed Support, Dyslexia Services, as well as Youth & Family Services (Mental and Physical Health Services).

·Recruiting and Retaining Better Principals. I worked closely with the administration on the development of an initiative called LEAD which will improve our ability to recruit and train new Principals. It will also focus on improving principal retention and keep our good principals in our schools and communities longer.

Overhauled the bus system. After leading the campaign to abolish the corrupt Dallas County Schools transportation system, I supported Dallas ISD creating their own internal transportation system. After some expected issues, I am proud to report that buses continue to improve their service and currently operate on time 95% of the time.

Special Education. I formed a special education advisory council with parents, teachers and administrators who spent months working tirelessly to produce a binder of specific recommendations on how our schools can better serve these students which I have shared with the administration and am working to implement. We’ve already seen several key changes in leadership positions in this department.

Additional Service for Highest Need Students. I have championed several initiatives to provide additional resources to our Homeless students – including the addition of a Homeless Drop-In Center in all of our High schools and the creation of a homeless shelter in partnership with After 8 to Educate.

Dallas Education Foundation. I worked with my colleagues to renew Dallas ISD’s partnership with the Dallas Education Foundation, the fundraising arm of the school district. In addition to the renewed partnership, I cheered the hire of its new executive director, Mita Havlick, a longtime District 2 resident and tireless advocate for our students. I cannot wait to see Mita work in this official role on behalf of our kids.

Enriquez

Enriquez: Before deciding to run for this office, my whole life was dedicated to service: from serving on DISD’s teen board, to working for Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Jonhson, to serving many years in the nonprofit sector. Most recently, my career with City Year was extremely fulfilling because I was able to spend my whole day working for the advancement of Dallas ISD students. But I knew there was more I could do to serve DISD students. And I wanted the community to know I was in this for the right reasons, so I left City Year in December of 2019 before announcing my candidacy in January of 2020.

And now writing this it is shocking that I have been running for school board for 8 months with even more to go. It is certainly not what I expected and it is not normal, but this is 2020 and we are all dealing with new “normals.”

I wanted my response to COVID-19 as a candidate to mirror how I would respond as a Trustee, so I kept in close touch with families in my community, used my campaign’s platforms to amplify resources and community organizations in need of assistance, and facilitated communications between the private sector, the District, and the community. Every day I am in touch with our neighbors: parents, students, teachers, alumni, principals, and concerned citizens who all want to see a voice given to their concerns. I have focused my campaign on elevating these voices: the campaign has supported the school-based food pantries (called Peace Pantries) and partnered with front line providers. We have also continued to support the students in the neighborhood that we started to get to know during the campaign, like the Robotics team at Woodrow Wilson that printed 3D medical face shields from home.

Rodriquez: For the past 2 years, I have been a member of a few Dallas ISD committees that I was appointed to by the current Trustee. One of those committees is the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC). SEPAC is a district wide committee with representatives from all the trustee districts and we work together with the leadership in special education to improve practices in special education across the district.

In 2018, I was on a Special Education Advisory Committee that was formed by the incumbent for District 2. As part of the committee, I recommended that the district change its policy of not allowing parents to record Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) conferences in order to be in accordance with federal law (IDEA). Apart from these committees I gathered a small group of experienced advocates and campaigned for cameras in all special education self-contained classrooms as a means of protecting both students and teachers. I was happy to see that the Board voted to record conferences and put cameras in self-contained special education classes district-wide this past school year.

In addition to my work on these committees, I have also attended or watched almost every board meeting for the past several years. I have also regularly spoken before the Board, advocating for everything from the uniform policy, to the concerns with the construction contracts and issues having to do with equity and community engagement. Because of my advocacy, I often have parents coming to me for assistance in navigating issues in DISD and I have always done my best to help.

Professionally, I am a social worker and I worked for the district as a social worker previously and, even in my most recent employment, I have had to interact with DISD on a regular basis in order to advocate for the families and children that I work with.

I have also been involved with PTA and SBDM at my children’s schools.

Carreon: I was born and raised in this district. I am a proud product of Dallas ISD schools David G. Burnet, J.T. Saldivar, and E.H. Cary. Through the hard work of my parents and community, I became the first in my family to graduate from high school and later college. Eventually, I earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard and a law degree from SMU.

Education changed my life forever and I aspire for all kids to be empowered in this way. This is precisely why I spent the last decade working to ensure that the opportunities I was allotted were accessible to all children. First, I worked as a teacher’s assistant in Dallas ISD. Later, I had the immense honor to serve President Barack Obama’s education policy team in the White House. Most recently, I worked to increase the graduation rate of first-generation college students at SMU.

I have been a strong supporter and member of my neighborhood’s parent-teacher organizations for over a decade. I have participated on numerous Dallas ISD advisory boards including the Governance Ad Hoc Committee, the finance subcommittee for the 2020 bond, and the principal selection committees for Cigarroa and Foster Elementary schools. I was also a founding member of the Student Voices leadership program at Thomas Jefferson High School.

I did all these things always with the children of my community in mind. I dream of a neighborhood where its residents have the education they need and deserve to determine their own future. If we intend to be a city of opportunity, we have to get this right. We must ensure that every child, regardless of zip code, has access to a quality education that prepares them academically and emotionally for the life ahead—their future depends on it. Our path to stronger communities and a surer tomorrow depends on it.

McClung: As a member of the Education Justice Committee of Dallas’s Texas Organizing Project (TOP), I helped educate Dallas ISD parents and community members about Participatory Budgeting, a democratic process led by students that involves collecting ideas, developing proposals and voting on what will best help students succeed. 

TOP saw a step towards this authentic community engagement at the September 2019 board meeting when current DISD school board trustees and administration passed a budget amendment to pilot this innovative process at three DISD high schools.

Give us your elevator pitch for Dallas ISD to a prospective parent.

Marshall: Dallas ISD has made great strides over the last several years. In fact, it may surprise you to know that DISD is the fastest improving urban school district in Texas. We’ve gone from having 46 schools rated “Improvement Required” by the State down to only 3. Across the District, we received a rating of “B” from the state, which is better than most of our suburban counterparts. We’ve been better preparing students for success with our high-quality early education program. 94% of DISD 4-year-olds are enrolled and attendees are twice as likely to be kindergarten-ready and three times more likely to read proficiently in third grade when they attend our Pre-K program. We’ve also dramatically improved our ability to identify, reward, and retain great teachers, who have the biggest impact on a child’s trajectory (beyond parents), through the Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI). With TEI, more than 90% of our best teachers are being retained by the district. We’ve also done a great job providing clear and accessible opportunities for careers in a variety of industries by partnering with companies who provide internships, career training, and job opportunities upon graduation. 5,500 kids applied for 2,100 spots to work with more than 70 industry partners like Pepsi and AT&T in the first year of our Early College partnership with the community colleges. In addition to these amazing Early College Academies, we have outstanding magnet schools that rank amongst the top schools in the country, and we have exciting programs throughout our neighborhood schools ranging from Dual Language, to Montessori, to International Baccalaureate, to STEM academies. We’ve also got a growing portfolio of open enrollment “Choice Schools” throughout the district. We also have award-winning athletic, art, music, and extracurricular programs throughout the district. We truly have more options than you can find anywhere else!

Enriquez: I believe in DISD. I moved back to Dallas to start my family because I believe that the DISD schools in my neighborhood will give my children the best education in the country. I want them in DISD classrooms, and I want your kids in those classrooms, too.

Throughout the course of this campaign, I have had the privilege of meeting a number of students at Hillcrest and Woodrow and I have been blown away by their thoughtfulness, and awareness of the high quality of their education. The class of 2020 is going to a number of prestigious colleges this fall and I am frankly jealous of the close-knit, life long friendships so many of these young people have. The fact that we can live in central Dallas, send our kids to the neighborhood schools where their classmates are also their neighbors, and have them grow up to be amazing and well educated young people is rare and something we should all be proud of. 

As a community we should talk more about how great our neighborhood schools are, how high quality our graduates are, and champion our schools as part of the reason why business and families should move to Dallas.

Rodriguez

Rodriguez: Dallas ISD has made a great deal of strides ever since my now 13-year-old began his school career at Lakewood Elementary. We are lucky to have some of the best neighborhood elementary schools in D2. We have several elementary schools that offer the IB curriculum, including Preston Hollow Elementary, Lipscomb, and Geneva Heights. Parents love that learning a second language is part of the IB curriculum.

In addition to great neighborhood schools, DISD, as a whole, offers parents a wide range of choices in curriculum. In addition to IB, they can choose Montessori, dual language, same-sex schools, personalized learning, and also magnet schools. Several of our high schools are consistently ranked among the best in the entire country. I believe that there is something for everyone in DISD.

As a district, we are diverse. We have parents that are very involved and teachers and principals that care. Many of our families have been in the Dallas ISD family for multiple generations and there is a strong sense of community as a result.

Carreon: In recent years, DISD has been lauded as an example of what a major urban school district can become. This was achieved by implementing a series of bold initiatives including ACE, the expansion of full-day preschool, the creation of the racial equity office, and the integration of social and emotional learning into the curriculum. Through the Accelerating Campus Excellence (ACE) initiative, Dallas ISD made a commitment to turning around failing schools by ensuring our best educators are in the classrooms where they are needed the most. Consequently, Dallas ISD campuses outperform most charter schools in the area and our school district of over 230 campuses shows only a handful on the state’s “improvement required” list.

Further, families are excited about the expansion of choice Dallas ISD has provided throughout the PK-12 continuum. In expanding choice options, the district created Transformation and Innovation schools. Through innovation schools, Personalized Learning, STEAM, Montessori, and International Baccalaureate schools can take shape in neighborhood campuses across the district. – Transformation schools are those with no attendance boundaries and are aimed at ensuring the student body is balanced between students from socioeconomically disadvantaged families and middle-class families. I am a strong supporter of the model because of the data. According to MAP and ACP data from Fall 2019, for all ethnic and racial backgrounds, transformation schools produce a higher percentage of students at or above grade level in mathematics and reading than non-transformation Dallas ISD campuses. In short, Dallas ISD is illustrating that when a diverse study body exists, all students benefit.

Dallas ISD has also embraced initiatives to support our homeless students with housing, provide breakfast in the classroom, and ban the practice of out of school suspension for our youngest scholars. These are all efforts I support and would look to grow. Parents also applaud collegiate academies and P-Tech programs designed to help our students get a head start on life after high school.

Overall, Dallas ISD is moving in the right direction and with further improvements it will solidify its position as a premier public-school district and great choice for all Dallas area families.

McClung: Growing up in Dallas ISD schools, I experienced teachers who were truly dedicated to their craft and building stronger communities. 

Dallas ISD has some of the best and hardest working teachers in the country. They provide a wide variety of expertise to our students that allow them to become college, career and military ready. 

There is just no better way to be connected and invested in your community than choosing your neighborhood public schools.

If not elected, what specifically will you do to help both your district and Dallas ISD?

Marshall: Immediately prior to running for Trustee, I was the Chair Elect for the Board of Reading Partners North Texas, which has brought in over 1,000 volunteer literacy tutors into our schools. I was on the Board of Dallas After School, which is an umbrella organization working through over 100 partners to ensure quality after-school programming for Dallas kids. I was on the Board of Directors for the Woodrow Wilson High School Community Foundation which works to provide resources to all schools in the Woodrow feeder pattern. I was on the Board of Dallas Social Venture Partners, where my wife and I have invested our resources alongside those of other education advocates to help scale effective non-profits that are helping kids. I was on the Board of Governors and Chair of the Governance Committee for Uplift Education, which is the largest charter school operator in North Texas. I was also on the Education Council of the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce. I have served extensively as a volunteer tutor in our schools, and have helped to open literacy centers in 18 DISD schools. I resigned from all of these positions (with the exception of the Woodrow Foundation) once I sought public office to ensure that I had the time to be an effective representative for DISD kids.

If I am not re-elected, I would return to the service of our kids in some other non-profit leadership capacity to continue doing my part of ensure that every Dallas child has an opportunity at success.

Enriquez: I will be a DISD parent next fall (my children are Woodrow class of 2034 and 2037) and I am determined that they will have the same high quality education that DISD offered me. 

Since 2015, I have been involved in the Lipscomb Elementary Site Based Decision Making Committee, serving as Chair for three years. The group has partnered with The Real Estate Council to renovate the campus library, raised private funds to build a new protective fence, lobbied to have the school approved to offer paid Pre-K, and worked with the principal to expand the Dual Language program. I also sat on one of the hiring committees for a new principal. We struggled with two principals leaving in three years and more than 50% teacher turnover, yet we still manage to grow new-to-district Kindergarten enrollment and attract new families to our high quality programs. 

Assuming it is passed, the 2020 bond will enable $3.7 billion in construction between 2023 and 2033, unlike previous DISD bonds these will be 30 year bonds and it is likely that this will be the only infusion of bond funds in my children’s K-12 experience. It is imperative that we get the bond right and I will be an active participant in the process for the next 13 years.

Rodriguez: While I hope to be the next D2 Trustee, if I am not elected, I will continue to do what I have been doing for years which is continuing to advocate for our families and for our most vulnerable populations. I will speak at board meetings. I will talk to our Trustees and lobby them to implement policies that eliminate fraud and abuse while increasing transparency. I will continue to serve on committees and share my ideas for making the district better.

Carreon

Carreon: For me, this campaign has never been about one election cycle. It is a life-long commitment to empower the lives of our city’s children.

As such, I have spent my entire adult life working to make a difference. During college, I worked as a teacher’s assistant at David G. Burnet elementary school, the school where I attended kindergarten. After college, I joined AmeriCorps and the Food on the Move program working to ensure that kids in my community had access to nutritious meals during the summer. Over the years, I have been a strong supporter of Dallas ISD parent organizations, a member of Dallas ISD advisory boards, and a mentor in Dallas ISD schools.

I have also served my community and its children in other ways. I am currently on the board of Equal Heart, an organization dedicated towards eradicating childhood hunger in our city. I also serve on the board of United to Learn YPL, where I work on a series of campus beautification projects across Dallas ISD, participate in supply-drives for students, and organize events to encourage young professional volunteerism in our public schools.

In my neighborhood, I am the president of the Bachman -Northwest Highway Community Association where my neighbors and I work toward creating a healthier, safer, and more empowered northwest Dallas. Further, I am a founding member of the Friends of Bachman Lake, where we advocate and raise funds to increase amenities at the park for the community and its children.

Everything I have been involved in is aimed at creating a better community for our kids. Kids need strong educational instruction, they need safe neighborhoods and streets, they need access to parks to play, and they need food to succeed. I have tried to be involved in all matters important to our youth and their development. Regardless of the outcome in November, I will remain active in all these areas important to our kids and their empowerment.

McClung: I believe our communities are key in unlocking the full potential of our students. Every campus has a Site-Based Decision Making (SBDM) Committee that focuses on the inner workings of the schools, staff concerns, budgetary goals, and instructional leadership.

However, not every campus in DISD has robust involvement in these committees by parents and community members. We must ensure our families and stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process. Elected or not, I would organize and enable my community block by block to join these SBDM committees.

The 2020 Bond: Yes or no, and why?

Marshall: I strongly support the upcoming Bond Election and encourage voters to do the same. Through prudent financial management over the last 5 years, DISD is in a position to bring a substantial bond proposal to taxpayers – that WILL NOT INCREASE THEIR TAX RATE. DISD is well positioned to service this additional debt, and I believe our kids are in dire need of facility improvement. The average age of a current district campus (~51 years) is several years older than the national average and a recent 2018 study identified over $6 billion of capital needs thru 2025. We are in critical need of safety improvements and improvements to our infrastructure. I also believe the timing of this Bond is very thoughtful. Current municipal tax rates of ~2% are at unprecedented lows, allowing bonds issued today to generate substantial interest rate savings vs. historical levels and thus stretching taxpayer dollars further. Issuing bonds today could generate interest expense savings of roughly $0.8 BILLION vs. historic interest rate levels.

Enriquez: Before the Trustees voted to put the 2020 bond proposal on the ballot, the District hosted a few virtual community meetings. In watching these meetings, I was struck by a notable lack of enthusiasm from community participants. Instead of asking questions about how the bond proposals will lift the community up, as would be expected and hoped for, the feelings expressed are more along the lines of “but couldn’t this hurt my community?” There is no headline item that we will all be proud of, and no “rally around the flag” project that will unify us as a community.

I had hoped that the Trustees would vote to postpone the 2020 Bond election, but the Trustees have voted to put the bond on the ballot and it seems very likely to pass. The current bond proposal was written in a pre-pandemic world, which means we’re going to have to do a lot of adjusting and re-prioritizing. Expecting that DISD and the economy overall will bounce back as if nothing happened is not just wishful thinking, it is failing to plan. The events of 2020 are going to have an unpredictable but significant effect on education and the economy, and we have to prepare. I have not seen or heard anything yet that suggests DISD is ready to move into the post-pandemic world.

What we desperately need–every student in a high quality learning environment–is not currently part of the bond package. Though it might move the ball closer towards that goal, instead, the proposal addresses a number of pet projects and moving targets.

We are entering a new future, and we need to be humble enough to say that right now, we don’t have enough information to predict the best way to spend billions of dollars. But certainly, our priorities must be  re-assessed.

Rodriguez: I do not support the 2020 bond. The bond is excessive and includes many expensive projects that are unnecessary, especially when you consider DISD’s declining enrollment. This bond is not free money. It will have to be paid back. Additionally, I believe the public is being misled and they do not realize that a future Board can completely change what this bond money will be used for.

The largest reason, however, for why I cannot support this bond is that DISD has not made any advances when it comes to transparency and financial accountability. The two top people who oversaw facilities and bond projects have recently left DISD under mysterious circumstances and the district has recently summarily fired its main contractor on its largest ongoing project (Thomas Jefferson), without any explanation. There have been allegations of fraud in DISD’s construction department and earlier this year, I helped bring to light the fact that the district’s internal auditor alleged massive overpayments in construction contracts and the district tried to cover it up. Despite this, DISD has yet to respond and has not corrected these problems. Instead, they have chosen to cover them up and cloak them in secrecy. I cannot support the biggest bond in Texas history – 3.7 Billion Dollars – until the district has made a full and public accounting with respect to all of these red flags.

In addition, I question the need to spend $100 million on a downtown campus that will serve non-DISD students at a time when enrollment is decreasing. Expanding capacity in the face of falling enrollment just doesn’t make sense. The bond is simply too large.

Finally, I worry about how the impact of Covid is going to affect our ability to repay this debt. DISD projects no tax increase, but that is based on assumptions of steady year-over-year increases in Dallas real estate values. If real estate falls, we will be left with no choice but to increase taxes or be left with less money to spend on our schools in order to repay this bond. That is not a position we should ever put ourselves in.

I believe that we should vote no on the bond and then try again when we know how Covid has affected our enrollment numbers and it should be a smaller bond.

Carreon: I am a strong supporter of the tax-free Dallas ISD bond on the ballot this November. With an average building age of 51 years, we must improve the physical condition of our Dallas ISD campuses. Too many of our students attend campuses in need of serious repair. This bond goes a long way in ensuring the top needs are met at each of our 232 schools throughout DISD.

Further, I applaud the district for creating this bond with equity in mind. Dallas ISD knows that our students cannot meet their full potential without addressing the underlying lack of resources throughout the community. I strongly support the leadership taken by Dallas ISD in the creation of community resource hubs funded through this bond. The hubs or “Student and Family Resource Centers” will be strategically placed in four historically underserved communities and will provide resources tailored to each community’s needs. These needs are informed by the Community Resource Index (CRI), which looks at a variety of data points including the number of banks and grocery stores in an area, eviction removals, and crime surrounding a school.

To succeed Dallas ISD must ensure that the needs served at the various centers are also informed by robust community input. Pairing the data of the CRI with the feedback from the community will better inform what families need to create better communities for our students.

McClung

McClung: I will be voting to support the bond package, except for Proposition D. 

Our students, families and staff deserve better facilities and technology equipment. The average age of a Dallas ISD school building is over 50 years old, which is older than the national average. 

It is important that our school facilities receive the money they need so that students are positively impacted. While I will be voting yes for Propositions A, B, C and E because of this, I do not fully support each proposed project for how we will spend the bond package.

Ultimately, each of these projects must be authorized in the future by the elected school board. District 8 deserves representation that will ensure transparency about how money is spent for its schools and place a critical eye on each planned project so that the best decisions are made for our children and our future. 

As for Proposition D, quite simply, I believe there has not been enough information and data from the district to justify needing a performing arts facility at this time. Instead, I believe there is value in connecting our students to the many performing arts venues and spaces Dallas has to offer. Our schools should help students build ties to their community.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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