Dallas ISD

August Board Briefing: First Meeting of the Year!

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What is a Board Briefing?

At a board briefing, our Dallas ISD Board discusses items they will need to vote on in upcoming meetings. They also hear reports from the Superintendent & the Dallas ISD Administration on ways in which the district is meeting student needs. Below is a summary of the nine-hour long briefing on August 9th, 2018.

WHAT DID THE BOARD DISCUSS AT THE AUGUST BRIEFING?

#1 Student Outcome Goals 1 & 3

The district has set four student outcome goals. The administration presented on progress for two of those goals.

  • Goal #1 - Student achievement on state assessments in all subjects at "Approaches" or above will increase to 75% by 2022. 
  • Goal #3 - Student achievement on state assessments in two or more subjects at "Meets" or above will increase from 34% by 2022. 

 

The reports presented on student achievement for 2018 indicate that our students, teachers, support staff, and leadership teams have made gains that exceed the state average in almost all categories for grades 3-8 on STAAR assessments. 

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In addition, the district presented the A-F Accountability system which gives the district a letter grade (campuses will also receive letter grades). This grade is a combination of student achievement, student progress, and closing gaps for our student populations. 

In response to the presentation from the administration, Trustee Foreman presented a concern in regards to the gap between the state's absolute achievement compared to Dallas ISD. She made the point that while we are looking at data that indicates great gains, we are still lagging behind the state's average achievement results. Trustee Henry raised concerns about supporting our African-American student population as it currently shows that this student group's data is lower than other student groups. Trustee Resendez focused his comments on the cause behind the positive results - the Superintendent shared that it is a result of collective work, setting student outcome goals, and the ACE initiative. Finally, Trustee Marshall asked about the letter grade the district will receive and how we 'get points' for closing gaps for each student group the district serves.

#2 Funds for Achieving Racial Equity (FARE)

Dallas ISD student achievement results have created an opportunity to build in a FARE proposal to support racial equity strategic initiatives. At the briefing, 19 schools were included in a preliminary list for receiving additional support from FARE. This list will be modified once the state shares final data from state assessments. 

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Board discussion include comments from Trustee Marshall on the comparatively low amount of FARE funds when looking at previous proposals. Superintendent Hinojosa shared that the lower amount is a result of overall improved performance in the district and therefore fewer 'fragile' schools in need of these funds. Trustees Solis and Henry made comment on considering additional barriers that may still bring challenges even if a school receives FARE support. Trustees Micciche and Blackburn wanted to ensure schools were selected for this support in an equitable manner. Finally, Trustee Pinkerton wanted to know the connection between FARE and the new Office of Racial Equity. Below are comments by Trustee Foreman speaking to the need to honestly assess and addresses the needs of African American students. 

#3 Tax Ratification Election (TRE)

The growth that has occurred in Dallas ISD is due to initiatives that cost money, and the district has "managed on a shoestring budget." The administration recommends that the board give stakeholders an opportunity to vote on a 13 cent TRE, which results in additional funds to support the strategic initiatives that have benefitted students. Without these additional funds, the district would need to make cuts and the initiatives that are working now would only be continued with significant cuts to operating costs. Take a look at the formula the administration presented for taxpayers & voters:

Because this is the third time this vote has come to the board, there was limited discussion from board members. One point that Trustees Solis and Henry brought up related to how to articulate the need for a TRE approval by voters, should the board allow for it to be on the ballot. Trustee Pinkerton raised the concern around the decreasing fund balance across the years, even with an approved TRE from taxpayers for 2018. 

The administration is hosting two community meetings this week to provide more information about a TRE. Tuesday, 8/14 at Pinkston High School and Wednesday, 8/15 at Madison High School. Both meetings begin at 6pm. 

#4 Long Range Master Plan for Technology

Each campus was reviewed by the administration to assess the needs of schools across Dallas ISD. Based on the administration's recommendations, campus staff will receive professional development to implement the technology plan. Two plans were presented by the administration to the board and the Superintendent made the comment that the goal would be to ensure every student has a personal device (starting in 3rd grade) and that all classrooms have audio and visual devices (LED monitor) for teacher use. 

The board discussion included comments from Trustee Foreman on making sure that prior to giving students a personal device, there is quality Wi-Fi on all campuses. Beyond that, Trustee Blackburn gave feedback on ensuring the technology proposal aligned with curriculum for our students.

#5 Safety Plan

A few months ago, the governor met with leadership from Dallas ISD and made several recommendations to keep students safe (in light of recent school shootings). The administration was happy to share that half of the recommendations are already in their plans or are being implemented. Thus far this school year, Dallas ISD administration has trained all high school principals on safety - how to deal with emergencies, how to address mental health issues, and behaviors to watch for in our students. Aside from that, the Dallas ISD Police Department is able to communication more efficiently with the Dallas Police Department, and that will be critical should an emergency arise. DISD is working to have both preventative plans (mental health) as well as proactive responses to emergencies (securing entry to campuses).

From the board, several trustees pointed out that the use of detectors is somewhat problematic given the fact that they require upkeep and additional personnel to be effective. 

#6 Student Transportation Plan

The year is almost underway and the transportation team in Dallas ISD has worked to ensure students have transportation on the first day of school. From over 1,000 positions needing to be filled, the representative from the transportation team stated that the department is only 12 bus drivers short and there are still several days to fill those positions or modify routes. Costumer service is a key priority and there are a few ways to reach out to the Dallas ISD transportation team: 1) Visit the Dallas ISD website, go to 'Departments,' and click on 'Transportation' for resources; 2) Email transportation@dallasisd.org; 3) call 972-925-4BUS.

Discussion from the board members included a comment from Trustee Marshall on implementing swiping and tracking abilities for all students so that parents can use an app to see if their child has made it safely to school.

#7 Board Self-Evaluation

The board received a report from the administration on two self-evaluations from June and August. The board is asked to sign off that they "shall not assume a supervisory role with staff and students" and "shall not act in an unprofessional manner when working with staff and administration." Additionally, the administration presented points from the Lone Star Governance integrity instrument:

  • 1/15 Points for “Vision 1” – The Board works collaboratively with the superintendent to develop the vision and student outcome goals.
  • 1/15 Points for “Vision 2” – “The board has adopted goal progress measures aligned to each goal.
  • 9/10 Points for “Vision 3” – The board has adopted a vision for what student outcomes will be and has adopted constraints aligned with that vision.
  • 0.5/5 Points for “Vision 4” – The board has adopted constraint progress measures aligned to each constraint.
  • 0/15 points for “Accountability 1” – The board invests at least half of its time focusing on its vision and goals.
  • 0/5 Points for “Accountability 2” – The board measures and communicates, but does not interfere in, progress toward the vision and student outcome goals.
  • 0/15 points for “Structure” – The board delegates to the Superintendent operational authority to accomplish the vision and student outcome goals.
  •  10/10 Points for “Unity” – The board works collaboratively with the Superintendent to lead toward the vision and student outcome goals.

There was no discussion from the board.

#8 Racial Equity & Implicit Bias Suppliers

The new Racial Equity Department had a presentation on the three organizations which would provide racial equity & implicit bias training. The three organizations included - Pacific Educational Group, Generation Ready, and Border Crossers. As stated by Jamila Thomas from the Racial Equity Office, "The outcomes of the office are - 1) Race is no longer a determinant for one's social and economic outcome and 2) Our life outcomes can no longer be pre-determined by our race." The process includes "First, acknowledging and accounting for past inequities. Second, providing opportunities that promote racial healing (courageous conversations). Third, having targeted interventions for targeted populations."

The board initially presented concerns on the training suppliers but the Racial Equity team explained the role of each organization and ultimately received positive feedback from the board. Trustee Blackburn asked about the timing of training and the Racial Equity team responded that new teachers have already received training and that top leadership will be a priority for receiving training.

#9 Elections

There are plans to include several finance-related ballot items for Dallas ISD in the November election. The ballot items that were a priority in the administration's presentation included:

  • Setting a tax rate at $1.17, prompting a Tax Ratification Election for voter approval.
  • Calling a bond election for - 1) $75 million for long-term bus replacement and a bus facility and 2) Refinancing an existing debt of $75 million from 2015.
  • Selecting a method to reduce property wealth when the state recaptures funds from DISD.

For full video clips of board discussion or for a closer review of each agenda item. please visit the Board Docs site with all public materials. Questions about this summary? Email info@dallaskidsfirst.org. 

DKF Recommends an "Against" Vote on the November 7 Dallas County Schools Proposition

On November 7th, DallasKidsFirst Recommends Voting “AGAINST” on the Dallas County Schools Resolution – Our Students Deserve Better

November 8, 2017 update: 58% of 81,114 Dallas County voters voted to shut down Dallas County Schools. Transportation for the remainder of this school year will remain unchanged. A dissolution committee will be appointed and begin their work over the next few days.

The mission statement of Dallas County Schools (DCS - not to be confused with Dallas Independent School District) states, “we strive to be a trusted, solutions-oriented partner that not only serves the learning community, but also municipalities throughout the state with innovative solutions.” However, the reality is that Dallas Kids First is unable to reconcile the responsibility to serve Dallas County as described above with the current level of service and financial condition of DCS.

Dallas Kids First (DKF) supports policies and practices that put the interests of student first and that are budget responsible, and it is through that lens, that we cannot support the continuation of Dallas County Schools for Dallas ISD and the other districts they serve.

The research that led us to this conclusion started with examining the level of service that Dallas ISD students and campuses are receiving, and the results are shocking to say the least. Examples of a negative impact on our students, include:

  • Valuable classroom instruction missed due to late arrival. In 2015-2016 school year, DCS buses had a 64% on time arrival rate. Just think about that, four out of every ten students that rode the bus arrived to school late and missed classroom instructional time. This statistic is even more troubling when you consider that 88% of Dallas ISD’s student population is economically disadvantaged and rely on Breakfast in the Classroom to be physically prepared for the day of learning; a breakfast that is served during first period which a student would miss if late to school. 
  • An appalling safety record. Since 2011-2012, there has been an average of 419 accidents/incidents per year involving DCS buses. Said another way, that is one accident/incident per every 69 students that ride the bus. Each of these accidents/incidents put our children’s safety and security at risk, and although we understand accidents happen, 419 per year is a mindboggling number. To put that in perspective, a number of other transportation providers were researched, including the provider for Hillsborough County Schools in Florida, the 8th largest school district in the Country, never once had more than 50 accidents/incidents in a single year transporting more students across larger districts.

  • Missed extracurricular opportunities for an already underserved student population. There is no better way to express this point than to use the words of a Dallas ISD teacher. In the past year alone I can think of several instances where my students were denied the opportunity to compete in sporting events and other extracurricular activities because DCS couldn't be bothered to provide reliable service. I've waited at stadiums and ball fields for countless hours, only to find out that the bus never showed up at the school to pick up the kids. Our baseball team has had to forfeit JV games so Varsity had enough time to play on at least two occasions. Our entire swim team missed a meet last month because of DCS error. Our soccer team had buses break down and students had to walk the remaining mile to a district game or forfeit. My kids don't deserve that.”

As if above issues directly impacting students wasn’t enough, DKF also focuses a great deal on quality governance, and if we were completing one of our scorecards for the DCS Administration and Board of Trustees, they would most certainly receive an “F.” There is evidence of extreme issues of financial mismanagement involving taxpayer dollars and administrators and elected board members are named in numerous news reports and investigations for serious infractions that have led to Texas legislators’ taking bipartisan action to consider dissolution of Dallas County Schools.  Specific examples that bring us to the conclusion that voters should seriously consider an “AGAINST” vote include: 

  • A per student cost to the Dallas ISD that has doubled (~$800 to $1,600) since 2011-12 with 22,000 less riders and historically low fuel costs, with no explanation on why this is the case.
  • DCS borrowed funds to the tune of $52M to enter into a revenue-producing stop arm camera program with districts outside Dallas County which ultimately led to millions in lost revenue.
  • Dallas County Schools has turned over records to the Texas Rangers who are charged with investigating public corruption.
  • Questions around campaign contributions of more than $200K from a vendor (who was ultimately awarded a multi-million-dollar contract) to the board president and general transparency of campaign finance reports of all board members.
  • DCS sold a number of properties for $25M, then turned around and leased the same properties back for $47M, passing on the increased lease amount to its district partners. Dallas ISD paid (unbeknownst to them due to poor transparency from DCS) $2M towards this questionable land deal, money that should have been in the classroom.
  • DCS has a financial rating that is considered to be “junk status”, has defaulted on debt payments, and over the past year, DCS has had two Superintendents, two Chief Financial Officers, and the Board President all resign which points to the incredible dysfunction and uncertainty around the current DCS operations.

The safety of our students comes first and foremost, and parents should have the confidence that their children will arrive to school in a safe and on time manner, while being prepared for the academic day and able to enjoy their extracurricular activities. Furthermore, taxpayers (which pay a $.01 property tax to DCS) deserve transparency from their elected officials, which the DCS Board of Trustees is, free from corruption or back-room deals, and who stay true to the mission of their organization and do so with fidelity. Even with recent leadership changes at DCS, DKF has zero confidence that the product will improve and believe strongly that there must be a better alternative.

At the bottom of the ballot, make sure to vote “AGAINST” on the Dallas County Schools proposition.

Dallas Morning News Editorial Board recommends an ‘Against’ vote on Dallas County Schools Bus System

NBC5: DCS investigation stories dating back to November 2016

DMN: Credit agency warns of bankruptcy risk

Early Voting Dates:

 Monday, October 23 – Saturday, October 28  8:00am to 5:00pm

Sunday, October 29 –1:00pm to 6:00pm

Monday, October 30 – Wednesday, November 1  8:00am to 5:00pm

Thursday, November 2 – Friday, November 3  7:00am to 7:00pm

Early Voting Location Finder (vote anywhere in Dallas County)

 Election Day

Tuesday, November7  7:00am to 7:00pm (vote in your precinct)