Space’s the limit

Karla Smith’s passion for STEM led her to the otherworldly experience of attending a Space Camp for teachers at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Alabama.

After one of the 10 percent of applicants chosen for the opportunity, Smith, a science teacher at Benjamin Franklin International Exploratory Academy, engaged in astronaut training simulations that were both physically and mentally challenging. Following the incredible experience, Smith became even more passionate about the link between STEM education and student success.

“We aren’t going to Mars, but the ones who will be are sitting in our classrooms today,” Smith said. “We must do everything we can to prepare them to launch into their futures.”

Smith is a top district teacher who is thriving under the Teacher Excellence Initiative, which seeks to identify, encourage, and reward effective teachers by prioritizing and supporting academic excellence. Through the Distinguished Teacher Review Process (DTR), Dallas ISD recognizes teachers who demonstrate leadership, pursue learning opportunities, contribute to the profession of education, and promote academic excellence.

Smith is proud to call herself a DTR Ambassador.

“I serve as a DTR Ambassador because I want other teachers who are equally as passionate about ensuring student success to be recognized and rewarded for their amazing accomplishments,” Smith said.

But above all, Smith cares the most about her students.

“It is always my hope that students will grow and maximize their own God-given gifts in pursuit of their happiness and future of choice,” Smith said. “I often offer this advice: What we feel like doing now is rarely going to get us what we will want later. Do the things now that will prepare you for anything so that your future options include everything.”

Core 4 Tip: Make positivity part of your daily routine

Dallas ISD, we are a team. Whether from school or in the office—or from home like we have been this week—we come together to focus on making sure Dallas ISD students have the best education possible. That continues to be our focus as we do what is necessary to keep our students, staff, and families healthy and safe while navigating COVID-19.

Core 4 wants to share tips with you to help along the way as we continue to excel as a team in delivering services to students, families and staff remotely.

Everyone knows that happiness comes and goes. But, you can keep it around longer by reflecting on positive experiences while navigating COVID-19.

Step 1 – Create a JOY list

Make a short and sweet list of moments that bring a smile to your face. Keep this list handy and refer to it for a boost of encouragement when you need it.

Step 2 – Spread JOY

Celebrate the wins – whether big or small. Compliment your team and colleagues when they get it right. And do your happy dance (if you have one) when you’ve done well.

Step 3 – Repeat! (because you have a lot to be grateful for and you’re doing great work.)

Brought to you by CORE 4 … because you make the difference

Stay in touch with your benefits during spring break

While the district may be closed, if you need assistance with your benefits, a number of resources are available.

District schools and administrative offices will be closed for spring break from Monday, March 16, through Friday, Mar 20, but the benefits call center will be open regular hours during that time to provide assistance. The call center’s hours March 16-20 will be 7:30 a.m. through 5 p.m.

For those non-emergency health concerns such as cold and flu, TRS-ActiveCare participants can utilize Teladoc at a reduced cost.  Call 855-Teladoc (835-2362) or visit its main page.

If you have questions regarding your FSA, you can contact Connect Your Care at (877) 528-9876 or visit  Connect Your Care is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You may reach the benefits call center at (972) 925-4000 or email  For questions regarding leaves of absence, email  During the periods in which the district is closed, the email boxes will be monitored periodically to ensure any critical issues are resolved in a timely manner.

Stop to smell the flowers

The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden offers complimentary admission to the Main Garden and Children’s Adventure Garden to teachers and educators. Present a valid educator picture ID at the ticket booth for the complimentary admission. If the ID does not have a photo, an educator’s ID plus a driver’s license can be presented. Teachers and educators can purchase a Dallas Arboretum membership and receive a 10% discount for the first year with their IDs. The offer is only valid on daytime admission and does not apply to paid educational programming that is offered during the year at Parking fees apply.

Core 4 Tip: Take a break to recharge

The hustle and bustle of a typical workday can bring on stress for many employees as they try to juggle multiple responsibilities at once. Continuously jumping from one task to another often leads to something called Directed Attention Fatigue.

Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Distractibility
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Indecisiveness
  • Difficulty starting or finishing tasks

If any of these sounds familiar, you may need to take a break and recharge. Taking a break doesn’t just mean walking away from your desk. It means not checking your phone for messages and emails, texting, chat, surfing the web, or checking Facebook. All of these activities can worsen Directed Attention Fatigue instead of helping you relax.

Here are a few exercises that you can try to put you back on track:

  • Take a real break—step away from your computer, put down your phone and concentrate on breathing in and out for 60 seconds.
  • If you can go for a walk, do it! If you can leave your cell phone behind, even better.
  • Make time to take a real lunch break. Time away from your workspace can be energizing.

Keep it simple, but make it happen—regularly.

By taking the time to recharge, you’ll find it easier to stay positive throughout the day. Try it and see how it impacts your ability to work with your colleagues and other customers.

Apply now for the next Innovation in Teaching Fellowship

If you are interested in joining an enterprising group of teachers working to reimagine how Dallas ISD educates children, the Innovation in Teaching Fellowship is for you. And the window for teachers to apply is now open.

The Innovation in Teaching Fellowship is a 10-month teaching fellowship rooted in user-centered design to re-imagine how we educate every student in Dallas ISD. Over the next school year, fellows will draw from research, best practices, and their own ingenuity to design and test blended learning, project-based learning and design thinking models in their classrooms. Fellows will have access to workshops, pop-up (on demand) professional development sessions, internal and external site visits, and coaching from the Dallas ISD personalized learning team. At the conclusion of the 10 months, fellows will have an opportunity to share their insights and ideas with the education community.

Click here to read more about the fellowship and how to apply. The application is due at 11:59 p.m. Friday, April 3.

If you have any questions reach out to the Personalized Learning Department at

COVID-19 resources and information for staff

Whether they are traveling or staying home during spring break, Dallas ISD is working to provide employees with updated district resources and information about the Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak.

Regardless of participation in district-offered health insurance, all Dallas ISD employees who are experiencing anxiety related to the outbreak have access to the Employee Assistance Program. The EAP provides up to six counseling sessions at no cost to employees and their families and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The services are private and confidential.

The EAP, offered through Magellan, can be accessed by calling (800) 433-7916 or visiting

Keeping staff and students safe is a priority for Dallas ISD, which is why employees who are sick or who have a family member at home who is sick are encouraged to stay home. If employees have traveled to a country that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designated as Level 3 (currently Italy, China, Iran and South Korea) and Level 2 (currently Japan), they should stay home for 14 days from the time of their departure from the affected country.

Travelers to other countries and areas affected by the spread of COVID-19 are asked to stay home if they get sick with fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher), cough, or have trouble breathing, and to contact a medical professional.

Employees should also contact their supervisor. The supervisor will work with Dallas ISD’s Benefits Department to establish Emergency Leave. Emergency Leave is available to exempt and non-exempt Dallas ISD employees. Those employees who qualify for Emergency Leave will be granted paid days of leave.  Employees granted approved Emergency Leave will not have time deducted from their existing Paid Time Off (PTO).  Any employee with extenuating circumstances should contact the Benefits Department at

Dallas ISD employees who participate in TRS-ActiveCare plans have access to Teladoc to get advice and answers on medical conditions, get treatment options and, if appropriate, a prescription from medical professionals over the phone. To access Teladoc and set up an account, call (800) 835-2362. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Good hygiene habits are always recommended:

  • Routine handwashing (at least 20 seconds) with soap and water after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, after using the restroom, and before you consume any food and beverages.
  • If washing your hands is not practical, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
  • If traveling, wipe down surfaces such as hand rests, metal seatbelt buckles and tray tables with sanitizing wipes when available and allow to air dry according to packaging specifications.
  • Avoid areas or events where large crowds gather and a reasonable distance between people cannot be maintained.

The CDC has put together a quick guide with tips on what you can do at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For additional information and updates, visit the district’s COVID-19 information page.

Commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles wins award

Its efforts to teach children about healthy lifestyles using Texas agriculture has earned Dallas ISD’s Food and Child Nutrition Services a Best of the Bunch recognition.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller recently congratulated the department for its performance in the Farm Fresh Challenge, which has led Texas to be as a leader in child nutrition.

Approximately 20 percent of Texas school districts and charter organizations participated in the Farm Fresh Challenge this year, and Dallas ISD was one of the few that went above and beyond to achieve Best of the Bunch. In addition to teaching children about healthy lifestyles, participating schools spent nearly $15 million on Texas products during the challenge. Choosing to buy local foods supports the Texas economy, contributes to job growth and keeps businesses thriving.

Food and Child Nutrition Services will be recognized for its achievement and dedication to healthier communities during Mega Con 2020, a new conference from the Texas Department of Agriculture to be held in Austin in May.

High priority campuses need you

The open transfer period for teachers, instructional coaches, counselors and media specialists begins March 6, and high priority campuses are looking for outstanding teachers.

Working with School Leadership and Evaluation and Assessment, Human Capital Management has identified  75 district schools as High Priority or ACE Campuses for the 2020-2021 school year. Interested, eligible teachers who are interested are encouraged to participate in the open transfer process and register to attend the March 26 Hiring Event.

Eligible teachers serving at high priority and ACE campuses in the 2020-2021 school year will:

  • Earn additional DTR points on the TEI Scorecard, replacing the existing Tier I process.
  • Earn additional stipends through state HB3 Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) designation. Proposed stipend amounts are shown in the chart below.


Effectiveness Level State TIA Designation High Priority Campus (HPC)


OR* ACE Campus


Progressing I, II

Proficient I

NA NA $4,000 by application
DTR-Eligible Proficient I

OR Proficient II

Recognized $4,000 $12,000
Proficient III Exemplary $6,000 $15,000
Exemplary I, II


Master $8,000 $18,000

Open transfer process

Each year, Dallas ISD teachers, instructional coaches, counselors and media specialists who meet certain guidelines can accept a position at another campus for the following school year during the open transfer period.

Starting March 6, HCM will begin accepting principal recommendations. Eligible employees must apply online using their EAD login at using the internal openings link. Employees who do not apply will not be eligible to participate. The deadline for principals to submit a recommendation for the open transfer period is 11 :59 p.m. April 10.

More information about the open transfer window is available here.


Imagination leads to innovation

On March 10, Dallas ISD will celebrate and showcase the hard work of teachers and assistant principals who have been imagining how the next generation of teaching and schools could look like in the district.

District teachers and assistant principals who are interested in being part of future Innovation in Teaching and School Retool fellows cohorts can learn more about the programs at the fourth annual Innovation Showcase—Tuesday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Emmett J. Conrad High School. The current fellows will be recognized and share their reflections. The evening includes an opportunity to learn how to apply for future cohorts and to explore and talk with fellows about the design projects they completed this year and displayed at the Innovation Exhibition.

To attend, register at

Innovation in Teaching Fellowship

A teaching fellowship rooted in design thinking to equip educators to grow in their understanding of and pilot next-generation models of learning [blended learning, project based learning, and design thinking] in their classrooms. Learn more and apply at

School Retool Fellowship

School Retool is a professional learning fellowship that helps school leaders redesign school culture to support deeper learning practices using small, scrappy experiments called “hacks.” This is executed in partnership with the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University and IDEO. Learn more at