Ready, Set, Endorse! A Look Inside the DKF Endorsement Process

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Dallas Kids First was driven to work in support of our Dallas ISD school board races when it became noticeably clear that voter turnout was painfully low and when elections were regularly uncontested: on average only 5% of registered voters consistently go to the polls and often the incumbent takes on this meaningful role with no one to challenge their impact.

Dismayed by the lack of engagement, Dallas Kids First began supporting key community members who were interested in running for school board by endorsing its first candidates in 2012 - current board president Dan Micciche (District 3) and current board member Bernadette Nutall (District 9). Staying true to its core beliefs, DKF has developed an endorsement process that is centered on what is best for students, what works for educators, and what holds our trustees accountable.

Step 1: Candidate Questionnaire

Once a candidate has officially filed to run for office, whether for the first time or as an incumbent, DKF sends the candidate a questionnaire. Since the candidate has one month to officially file to run for school board, it proves to be advantageous to file early as it means  more time to thoughtfully respond to the questions.

The questionnaire consists of about eighteen questions - with input from the community on what to probe - that allow our Dallas voters to read and learn about the person’s experiences, ambitions, and plans. Once submitted, DKF shares the responses with the interview panelists so they can begin to build familiarity with the candidate. DKF also takes the step of publishing the questionnaire on the website for the benefit of all voters.

Step 2: Endorsement Interview Panel

It is important to get face-time with candidates who seek to be on the school board, especially by community members who may otherwise have less access. This is why DKF invites people across the Dallas ISD space - parents, students, residents, educators, etc. - to sign-up and interview candidates. In any given interview, a range of about 10-20 people will attend for 30-45 minutes with the candidate. The interview panelists have a chance to read the candidate’s questionnaire responses to prepare follow up questions.

Finally, the interview panel debriefs and discusses each candidate’s areas of strength and weakness, resulting in a rubric rating for each. The rubric, developed from multiple iterations of community feedback, is a way to define the high expectations a trustee should meet in leading our school district.

Step 3: Scorecard Development

The interview candidate’s rubric ratings and comments are then consolidated from the interview panelists by DKF staff to generate a scorecard. The scorecard gives each candidate a grade for the items on the rubric and an overall grade for the candidate’s potential as trustee.

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Step 4: Community Survey + Public Endorsement

Once the scorecards for each candidate have been finalized, DKF sends a survey link to its network to ask for an additional round of input. This allows DKF to ask community members (who were not in the interview room) who they would recommend for final endorsement. With this additional feedback, DKF is then ready to put a stamp of approval on one candidate for each district and publicly announce its endorsement for Dallas voters.

Step 5: Let the CAMPaigning begin!

The time following the public endorsement is crucial - this is where DKF shares its time, fundraising, and messaging to support the endorsed candidates. Uniquely critical to the process is our partner fellowship program, CAMP (Campaign Activity and Management Program), which engages with key parts of the city to encourage voters to support our candidates.

The CAMP Fellowship’s eight-month investment in learning about our school board, diverse communities, best practices for winning campaigns, and DISD-specific issues authentically prepares the fellows to engage with voters around elevating our school board by taking the step of casting a vote for the endorsed candidates.