You are not alone

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 Winter break from Monday, Dec. 21, through Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, but the benefits call center will be open regular hours during that time to provide assistance, with the following exceptions:

  • Christmas Eve, Dec. 24 – Closed Half Day
  • Christmas Day, Dec. 25 – Closed
  • Day After Christmas, Dec. 28 – Closed
  • New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31 – Closed Half Day
  • New Year’s Day, Jan. 1 – Closed

For those non-emergency health concerns such as cold and flu, TRS ActiveCare participants can utilize Teladoc at a reduced cost.  Call 1-855-Teladoc (835-2362) or visit their 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.




Staff pets: Companions during COVID

Pets are constant companions and often family. This has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing and other safety guidelines meant staff had to work from home. Send photos of your pets to with information about how they came into your life, or some of the cute things they do, or what they mean to you and the rest of your family.


These my two work buddies when working from home. They curl up near my chair and are such buddies with each other, as you can see.  Their names are Bibi Reyna, our 12-year-old Shi-Tzu, and Tigger, our 6-month-old kitten. They certainly make my day when working from home.
Theresa Morgan, Spruce HS

Skank came to our family as a stray – found in the garage eating dog food – very hungry and a bit injured. He is sweet, quite the charmer, and ever so handsome. He is big on napping, “skanking” around the neighborhood and spending time between the great outdoors and inside. Kerry Glittenberg, Urban Park ES

I rescued Charlie from under my patio at home when he was 1 month old. He is now 2 years old and does not think he is a cat. My family have five dogs and his favorite name Barlie. Charlie will play fetch and wrestle with Barlie.  The funny thing is my vet refers to him as a dog, too. He can be a monster sometimes, but I love him. Letha Cannon, Downtown Montessori at Ida B. Wells


I am a total dog mom, and this is my little lovebug Ollie.  I got her at 6 weeks old in 2004, and she is now over 16.5 years old.  Her age may show in her white hair but not in her attitude and actions.  She still enjoys walks and spending the night at my mom’s visiting her 16-year-old chihuahua. We also catch up daily after work by sitting together on the couch and relaxing before dinner. Annemarie Fehrenbacher, Irma Rangel YWLS

This is my old man baby, Tito.  He just turned 15 years old, and I’ve had him since he was 2 months old. He is spoiled rotten and gets just about everything he wants because he’s now blind in one eye and going deaf. He enjoys sun bathing, car rides, and taking long walks with me around our neighborhood. Tito is also well-traveled and has flown a lot more than some people. When I lived in New Jersey for college, he would fly back and forth with me often. He has been to Canada, Mexico, and many states throughout the country. Edgar Salas, Woodrow Wilson HS

Gizmo is a 5-year-old adorable Pomeranian. He is an amazing communicator with a big personality that loves attention. Gizmo does tend to forget he is a small dog at times, especially when he is trying to chase away possums and raccoons twice his size. Gizmo has been a great working companion throughout COVID. We enjoy his love and affection! Yesenia Ramirez, Early Learning

Butch, in front, and Boots are quite the pair. Although not litter mates, they are best buddies. Both were feral cats. Butch was the most feral, found around 9 months old, and it took about one year for him to not be so scared. He’s around 3 years old and is my lap cat now. He loves to play with balls, with dog bones, and chase Boots. Boots was found around 6 weeks old and grew up to be such a statuesque cat. He’s quite the talker and loves to snuggle.

Maureen Kuhlo

Occupational Therapist

Meet my fur baby Henry. He was a gift from a dear friend and has brought so much joy to my life. He is a 4-year-old Shih-Tzu mix who loves to cuddle any chance he gets and always has a smile on his face. He loves his squeaker toys and to snack on carrots & apples, he has been my saving grace during the pandemic. Saida Guzman, Human Capital Management

This is Andrés, my faithful companion in these work-from-home times. He is about 8 years old, and I adopted him two years ago. He was the first cat I saw, and the only one I ended up asking to play with. He was quick to win me over! He loves to sleep and taunt me with how relaxing his life is. I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like quarantining without his company. Kevin Turcios, Translation Specialist


Traditions are disrupted by pandemic but live on among Dallas ISD families

Tamales are a staple of Hispanic families’ tables during the December celebrations, and in Berenice Barron’s home, her mother’s tamales and empanadas de camote are the centerpiece of the meal. The chicken with green salsa and vegetable tamales her mom made every year have also become a December tradition around Dallas ISD’s central administration.

Changes in the work environment that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic mean sharing tamales with Dallas ISD colleagues is impossible this year. But Barron is committed to keeping the tradition alive next year even though she is now the one making the tamales with the help of her sisters. Her mom, Margarita Martinez, passed away last year.

“We learned from my mom how to make them,” she said. “We have always had them for Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially at Christmas. Three of us got together this February and made tamales on the one-year anniversary so we could all remember her. We want to keep this going.”

Making tamales is a long-standing tradition among Hispanic families during the holidays, not just because they make a delicious addition to any meal but also because making dozens of them is a group effort that brings together several generations in a family. And the recipes are passed on not on paper but in the making.

“My mom learned it from her mom who learned it from her mom, and I always helped my mom before I went solo not too long ago,” Barron said. “She always wanted to do all the prep, but we always smeared the masa and put in the meat. Whenever I would ask, ‘How much do I put in of this?’ she would say, ‘Así, tantito, mírame,’ and you would do the best you could,”

Because making tamales is a lengthy and involved process—especially when making 20-30 dozen—Barron’s family oftenplays lotería on tamales day, and family comes in and out to help or to sample the final product.

The tradition of sharing tamales outside the family also started with Barron’s mother. She would take tamales to a nearby Boy Scouts troupe and would share them with police officers, who later would buy them from her by the dozens. She was well know around the neighborhood for her delicious tamales. Even the mailman was a fan, and soon the whole local post office was ordering tamales.

“She would always put a little extra in there,” Barron said. “Or she would add another one if they were small. And she would always say, ‘Hay que darlos calientitos.’”

Theory of Action: Parent Support

Through the Theory of Action Standards of Service, the Parent Advocacy and Support Services Department in the School Leadership Division provides support for all campuses. The department performs three primary functions: resolves customer concerns, enhances family engagement, and improves attendance while reducing truancy.

The following services are provided to all campuses:

  • Receiving, processing and facilitating resolution for parent concerns and complaints
  • Conducting fair and equitable student discipline appeals
  • Developing districtwide family and community engagement strategies, event planning, and supporting campus participation
  • Providing scaffolded support to develop the capacity of campus community liaisons and parent instructors
  • Ensuring and reporting district compliance with state mandates to provide truancy prevention measures and enforcement of compulsory school attendance violations
  • Managing the Uniform Assistance Program
  • Supporting PowerSchool Parent Portal access for parents

For additional information, contact Liliana Valadez, Executive Director at

Masters for leaders

The Aspiring Leaders Program—a unique opportunity offered through Southern Methodist University—is looking for teachers and instructional coaches who have strong leadership potential.  

This long-standing, valuable partnership between Dallas ISD and the Aspiring Leaders Program is designed for teachers or instructional coaches, who are interested in earning a Master’s in Urban Educational Leadership and desire a campus administrator or other Dallas ISD leadership role.

The LEAD department and SMU will be hosting an information session about this program at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, via Zoom.  Those who are interested in attending can RSVP at

Highlights of the program:

Rigorous and competency based. The two-year program features a second-year residency, including coaching support, and culminates in a master’s degree in urban educational leadership from SMU.
Ascending Leaders. In Dallas ISD, over 100 ALP alumni and participants serve in leadership roles, including 25 current principals and 52 assistant principals.
Tuition Reimbursement. The district will potentially provide partial tuition reimbursement for participants in this program.

The Aspiring Leaders Program is designed for individuals who do not currently have their master’s degree; however, if their degree is in something other than educational leadership and they are seeking an additional one, they are still eligible to apply. This cohort of participants may potentially be eligible to hire as assistant principals as early as Spring 2022.

Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact or visit


Don’t let stress get to you

Holidays can be a stressful time of year, and this year, the COVOD-19 pandemic has added another layer of stress and anxiety. Can you recognize the signs of stress and do you know how to manage it? Lifeworks, the district’s employee assistance program can help.

The first step in managing stress is to become aware of the early warning signs that you may experience. There are steps you can take to manage stress, both by addressing sources of stress in your life, and by treating stress with proven stress management techniques. Once you learn to recognize your own reactions to stress, you can begin to treat it effectively. Some signs and symptoms you might notice include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • headaches
  • working to exhaustion
  • being irritable
  • loss of appetite for food, fun or sex
  • stomach pain or upset stomach
  • neck or back pain
  • fatigue
  • tearfulness
  • smoking or drinking more
  • loss of sense of humor
  • forgetfulness
  • trembling, nervous tics
  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations or shortness of breath
  • excessive perspiration
  • eating too much or too little
  • over-exercise
  • dry mouth
  • feeling tired/lack of energy
  • obsessive behavior
  • loss of interest in other people
  • a feeling that everything is pointless
  • inability to focus and concentrate
  • high levels of anxiety and worry

If you are experiencing five or more from the above list, you may be suffering from stress and should consider ways to manage it more effectively. Each of us responds to stress differently. Chronic stress contributes to heart disease and heart attacks. It also suppresses our immune system leaving us more vulnerable to disease.

Once you have recognized that you are stressed, you can learn to manage it. Lifeworks offers tips and resources to help Dallas ISD employees to deal with stress in a productive and healthy way, whether it’s caused by the holidays or everyday factors. Visit or for more information.

You can also download this guide to managing stress and this guide and resources to help you deal with thoughts of self-harm.







Staff Pets

From stray cats, dogs left homeless by the COVID-19 pandemic and cows, Dallas ISD staff have welcomed their pets into their homes and their hearts. If you want to share your pet, send its name, age and something about it’s likes, activities, or what it means to you to with the subject Staff Pets. Include your name and school/department.


This is my dear dog, Parker. Back in May, we heard about a sweet dog that needed a new home, as his owner died of COVID complications. The first time I met him, I knew he was the perfect dog for me. Parker is a sweet 9-year-old lab/chow that loves walks, belly scratches, meeting new humans and going with his new dad for long weekends at the ranch. Parker also loves to visit his Aunt Jazmin (World Languages) as she always has treats for him.  If you are thinking of owning a pet, please consider adopting or fostering one. There are so many pets looking for a place to call their forever home.
Desi Mier, Translation Services Department

My happy place is with my cows. I look forward to the new calves every year and watching them grow. Gracie is a great mom; she is with Spreckels that is this year calf. Gracie is one of seven cows.
Marilyn A. Briar-Seidlitz, Skyline HS

At 10 months and 51 pounds, Jethro is lucky to be alive. He and his sister were found behind W.B. Miller Elementary School last February. He was about one month old and flea ridden. According to a veterinarian, he wouldn’t have lived more than 24 hours. My husband had wanted a puppy for some time, so baby boy came home with me. Jethro’s now baby brother to our cats, Toby and Sadie.
Brenda McElyea, M.B. Henderson ES


As is typical of Siamese cats, Indigo, 5, is very communicative. She greets me and my husband, Richard, every morning when we wake, and every evening when I arrive home. Since our children are grown and gone, Indigo is our spoiled baby.
Muriel L. Sims, T.W. Browne MS

Meet Sophie, a 1-year-old Cavapoo! Sophie is a loving and playful lap dog, clocking in at only six pounds. She truly embodies the old adage “good things come in small packages”. Sophie was a regular feature in Miss Showalter’s virtual dyslexia therapy sessions last spring and loves to help her mom teach!
Charlotte Showalter, Mockingbird ES

Stanley is a Goldendoodle, 1, and he is the most loving dog, always waiting for a hug when I get home from work. He’s sweet to the other two dogs and loves spending time with my boyfriend, who works from home. He always puts a smile on my face.
Amy Blasingame, Personalized Learning Preparatory at Sam Houston


This is Jasper (aka Chanchito), and he will be 11 years old next month. You can find him underneath the Christmas tree which has become his favorite spot these past couple of days.
Maira Perez, Rosemont Upper


Sam is about 2 1/2 years old and is the sweetest dog I have ever owned. Any time he meets a new person, he wants them to be his best friend, so he will do a somersault to impress them. He also is very relaxed. When he is finished greeting everyone, he will lay down and enjoy the happenings or scenery. He loves car rides and going on walks outside. Sam is one of a kind.
Hailey Heikkinen, Longfellow Career Exploration Academy

Pawdrey Hepburn is 1 year old and was rescued into my home just a few weeks ago. Pawdrey loves to attend Zoom meetings and participate in virtual occupational therapy sessions with students, so she can chase their manipulatives across the screen! Pawdrey is pictured here with her best attempt to be invisible so she can pounce! Brandy McKelvy, Occupational and Physical Therapy Department

This is Lady Grey, a cockatiel hen. She is now 7 years old and does NOT like male birds—she prefers her true husband, a baby shoe she cuddles—and once she laid a teeny, tiny, perfect egg in the bookshelf. She was a frequent visitor to my pre-K and K classrooms in earlier years, much beloved of the class.
Johnny Boucher, Eduardo Mata Montessori

Nellie is an 11-year-old Golden Lab. She is single, with no children, but has made a lifelong commitment to a family that loves her. She has had a couple of surgeries, but overall is in good health. She must be fed at the same time every day or she will hound you until you pick up that bowl. She wants to go outside 200 million times a day and expects to be given a treat every time she comes back in. Day or night, rain or shine she expects you to play fetch with her for a minimum of 1000 tosses of the ball. Nellie cannot get enough belly rubs. She is scared of the wind….and sometimes her own shadow, but she really is the best dog ever.
Heather Laffey Mays, Longfellow Career Exploration Academy

This is my sweet friend Lucy. She’s polydactyl Maine Coon, almost 12 years old. In this picture, Lucy embodies the phrase “Cats Love Boxes” to demonstrate the best use of a suitcase during a pandemic.
Linda Pelfrey, IGNITE MS


Nemo is a chihuahua mix breed. It has been 9 fun interesting years with this little guy. After an extended walk in the neighborhood every morning at 6 a.m., he expects to play fetch with his favorite football or stuffed tiger. He enjoys tuna, carrots, and peas outside of his doggy training snacks. Although he can’t talk, Nemo communicates well to let the family know exactly what he wants. The cutest point of all is how much he loves to model and pose for pictures.
Rona Jackson, Substitute- Degreed

Wynter, 3, became a member of the Session household on July 20, 2019.  We adopted her from the SPCA where she was in foster care. She is Terrier, Pit Bull/Mix and enjoys being around her family. She likes hunting for bugs, frogs, and grass snakes in the backyard.  Some of her pastime favorites includes belly rubs, going for walks, looking out of the window and car rides.  We know when she’s had a full day, from the loud snoring she does when she’s sleeps.  Her favorite treats include, peanut butter, cheese and bacon strips.  Once we saw those eyes and ears, we knew we had to bring Wynter home with us.
Wernsetta Session, Magnet, ACE,Transformation/ Innovation & Single Gender Schools

Meet Bear, an 8-year-old Shih Tzu. He’s fun loving and carefree, always up for the next adventure.
Carolyn Harmon, Jill Stone ES

Zeb adores all things pumpkin. He is currently a foster but will more than likely be a “foster fail.”  Who could resist this adorable face?
Deanna Restrepo, Section 504 and Dyslexia Service

My name is Lulu, and I’m 6 months old. My favorite things to do during my day is play with my toys and take lots of naps. I also like to bark as soon as I go outside just to let everyone know that I’m outside and ready to bark at anything that moves.
Lucy Salazar, Dallas ISD Alternative Certification Program

Rubi is a 9-month-old Maltipoo. We adopted her in late September.  She enjoys long rides in the Jeep with the top off, playing fetch and cuddling.  She is super sweet, happy and loving and always brings a smile to our faces.
Shelley M. Clayton, Seagoville MS

This is Marshmallow, and she is a rescue cat who loves attention. She wants to be held and cuddled 24/7. She purrs loudly and has a soft, white coat that she keeps pristine. She brings great joy to my family.
Michelle Weiner, Larry Smith ES

Muffin is a very spoiled Shih Tzu, who has been with me for the past 7 years. She loves to travel by plane or car. Always likes to be the center of attention wherever we go. During the pandemic, she has been the greatest companion ever. My guardian angel.
Paola Gomez, Field Experience Facilitator, Dallas Alternative Certification Program

This is Dr. Oreo, and we just celebrated his first birthday. He is with his big only in age/little in size brother Gizmo. They were all exited to get to the whip cream cake with bacon doggie snacks. Franceslia Rodriguez, Student Engagement Department 

On Sept. 29, I was standing on hallway duty outside my classroom at Thomas Jefferson HS at Thomas Edison when one of my colleagues passed by with a 7-11 bag and a couple of cans of cat food. She mentioned that there was a kitten in the courtyard that she was going to feed, so I went with her to see for myself. It was true! A very friendly, very hungry little kitten had found its way into the Edison building courtyard. This is odd, as the courtyard is fully enclosed – the kitten had worked its way through a gap under the building. During my lunch period, I ran to Walmart and got a water bowl, a litter box, and a small pet carrier, then brought the kitten into my classroom for the afternoon. She claimed a chair and waited patiently, then went home with me that evening. Being from West Dallas, she got a West Dallas name: Bonnie, as in Bonnie & Clyde.
Tyler Smith, Thomas Jefferson HS




How is your mental health?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is sound advice, and it doesn’t only apply to physical health. Prevention also works to support mental health. And the LifeWorks Emotional Well-being assessment—part of the district’s employee benefits—can help.

Many of us feel sad or anxious at times. But depressive symptoms and/or anxiety that persists and are left untreated can affect your physical health, work, and well-being. The Emotional Well-being assessment question set, which leverages the Patient Health Questionnaire, will help reveal your risk of anxiety and depression.

This question set is not meant to treat, diagnose or replace medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your emotional well-being or safety, please contact LifeWorks or your health care provider. Access the Emotional Well-being assessment by clicking on “Start an Assessment” on the NewFeed of the LifeWorks web platform or mobile app. You can also access assessments measuring your stress level, alcohol use, financial health and relationship health.


Come and get them!

Food and Child Nutrition Services provides free meals daily for students who are attending school in person and makes sure that students who are learning virtually as well as children in the community also have access to free meals with a weekly curbside pickup.

The weekly package of meals for virtual students and children in the community include breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks and are equivalent to between $60 and $80 worth of groceries per child. All parents have to do is come to the distribution sites between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays to pick up the package of meals to take home. An additional time of 10 a.m. to noon is also available for high school specific distribution sites.

Teachers and other district employees whose children attend Dallas ISD can pick up the curbside meals for virtual students starting at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays. No identification is required, just the name and date of birth of the children.

Meals are available to all children in the community ages 1 to 18 and to students with disabilities regardless of age.

To make it easier for parents to pick up meals, they can preorder and bring the order number to the site to pick up the meal. For more information about the curbside meals, distribution sites and to preorder, visit

Winter break meals

Food and Child Nutrition Services will be distributing free meals curbside for children in the community during the winter break on Monday, Dec. 21 and 28, for children ages 1-18. The distribution will begin at 11 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. or until supplies last. For locations click here.



Spreading the Core 4

Since November, ambassadors from schools and central departments have been out spreading the word about Dallas ISD’s culture tenets: fast, friendly, focused and flexible.

Each tenet is at the “core” of everything we do and anchored in our district’s focus of racial equity and cultural responsiveness, comprehensive accountability, responsible use of resources, and collaboration.

These ambassadors are in charge of sharing the Core 4 tenets and new rubric with their departments and schools through the end of May to ensure that all Dallas ISD staff are meeting the customer service standards.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed being a Cultural Tenet Ambassador,” said Jennifer Uwe from Information Technology. “This role has granted me the opportunity to interact with ALL members within my department. As I conducted the training, I was able to engage and interact with my colleague from a space of honesty and transparency. We were all able to become reflective as an individual and reignite our passion in the work that we do and the growth we want to see in ourselves and the district as a whole. I was happy to connect with my fellow colleagues and also each session transformed my mindset on the standard that the district has and their expectations for me as an employee.”

For more information about the Core 4 tenets and the rubric, visit


In Dallas ISD students thrive, and every child, family, and employee, is essential.

  • Focused: We are solely concerned with what matters most – supporting students’ academic growth and overall well-being.
  • Fast: We are responsive, accurate and accountable to each other. We seek timely solutions for
  • Flexible: We will do whatever it takes to meet the needs of our students, families and employees. We eliminate barriers and embrace innovative problem-solving.
  • Friendly: We build respectful relationships grounded in professional communication. We embrace the positive and expect the best of each other.