You are not alone

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

District schools and administrative offices will be closed from Monday, Nov.22, through Friday, Nov. 26; however, the benefits call center will be open regular hours during that time to assist, with the following exceptions when it will be closed:

  • Thanksgiving, Nov. 25 
  • Day After Thanksgiving, Nov. 26

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 HSA/ FSA, you can contact Optum/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.


It’s a time for giving

The Dallas Education Foundation is once again Dallas ISD’s charity of choice for the United Way employee giving campaign, which goes through Dec. 17.

As Dallas ISD’s direct, nonprofit, philanthropic partner, the Dallas Education Foundation works every day to fulfill its mission to inspire community investment to accelerate student success. Almost every dollar the foundation raises goes directly back to Dallas ISD in terms of teacher, student, and program support to propel our students further and faster.

“We are again extremely excited to be the Dallas ISD charity of choice for this year’s United Employee Giving Campaign,” said Mita Havlick, executive director of the Dallas Education Foundation. “We hope that everyone knows that when you donate to the Dallas Education Foundation, that’s really a direct donation back to Dallas ISD.”

In 2021, DEF provided over $1.1 million in grants and donations directly to Dallas ISD, including:

  • $188,000 in teaching and campus grants
  • $309,000 in student support
  • $577,000 in program support
  • $50,000 in event sponsorships

Throughout the year, DEF partners with the United Way in multiple capacities. For example, the foundation disburses the annual United Way DRIVE teaching awards to Dallas ISD recipients, and most recently, DEF played an integral role in securing an in-kind donation from the United Way to Dallas ISD Early Learning for the donation of Vooks, a streaming library of visual books for our 40,000 students in prekindergarten through second grade.

Visit to learn how to give to this year’s fundraising drive.

Looking ahead

Even if not planning to retire soon, it’s always a good idea to know what to expect and how to prepare so your retirement years can be all that you hoped for. Dallas ISD is here to help with a series of webinars hosted by the Benefits Department and the Dallas Retired Teachers Association.

All webinars will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. Click on your prefered date to register to attend. Once you register, you will receive a confirmation email with the link to join.

Tuesday, Dec. 7

Tuesday, Jan. 11

Tuesday, Feb. 8

Tuesday, March 8




Honoring Native Americans

November is Native American Heritage Month, which recognizes the contributions, history and culture of the indigenous people of the United States. Dallas ISD is commemorating the month by sharing a series of documentaries and films from Chickasaw Nation Productions.

In 1990, The U.S. Congress passed a resolution designating November as the first National American Indian Heritage Month to honor the members of the members of the more than 574 federally recognized tribal nations that govern an estimated 100 million acres of indigenous land. This year, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation praising the contributions of native people in the advancement of the United States, including the Code Talkers of World War II. To read the full proclamation, click here.

The Chickasaw Nation Productions films can be viewed by clicking on their respective links below:

BEARER OF THE MORNING: THE LIFE OF TE ATA THOMPSON FISHER (Documentary)—Born in small-town Oklahoma, Mary Thompson Fisher, later known as “Te Ata,” was determined to pursue her passion as a performer. Supported by her undeniable charisma and oratorical talent, Te Ata entertained and enlightened audiences across the world, including royalty and statesmen. Throughout her travels and performances, Te Ata kept her Chickasaw heritage close to heart and shared the unique story and spirit of the Chickasaw people. By studying and performing traditional Native American stories, she overturned negative stereotypes and advocated the preservation of Indigenous American cultures.

First Encounter (Documentary)—First Encounter explores the actions taken by Chickasaws in 1540 during their first contact with Europeans. The documentary highlights the encounters, struggles and perseverance of the Chickasaw people throughout Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto’s attempted conquest. It was the first European contact for the Chickasaw, but perhaps the most important and set the standard by which the tribe remained for centuries and remains today – “unconquered and unconquerable.”

Pearl Carter Scott: On Top of the World (Documentary)—The story of Native American aviatrix Pearl Carter Scott.

Pearl (Movie)—Set in 1920s rural Oklahoma, Pearl is based on the remarkable true story of Chickasaw aviatrix, Pearl Carter Scott –the youngest licensed pilot in American history. Mentored by world-renowned aviator Wiley Post, Pearl first pilots a plane at the age of 12 and becomes a commercial pilot and local celebrity before she reaches adulthood.

Te Ata (Movie)—This movie is based on the inspiring, true story of Mary Thompson Fisher, a woman who traversed cultural barriers to become one of the greatest First American performers of all time. Born in Indian Territory and raised on the songs and stories of her Chickasaw culture, Te Ata’s journey to find her true calling led her through isolation, discovery, love and a stage career that culminated in performances for a United States president, European royalty and audiences across the world. Yet, of all the stories she shared, none is more inspiring than her own.




Nurses go the extra Core 4 mile

While all Dallas ISD staff have been working hard to ensure students have all they need to succeed despite the challenges of the pandemic, the more than 300 nurses and assistant nurses throughout the district have been directly working to ensure the safety of staff and students.

In addition to their usual duties of administering care at the schools and making sure students’ medical records are up-to-date, school nurses have been demonstrating their commitment to Dallas ISD’s Core 4 culture tenets on the frontline of the pandemic. They have administered COVID tests at their campuses, coordinated quarantine, and scheduling vaccine clinics to make it easier for students and staff to get vaccinated.

Their efforts—transforming student lives and striving for the yes with urgency for all—were recently recognized with at Core 4 care package to say thank you. Health Services staff came together to put the thank you packages together and deliver them to the nurses.

“Nurses have always played a crucial role in the health and well-being of our campuses, but for the past few months, they have taken on so much more and have done an admirable job of holding the line against the virus,” said Jennifer Finley, executive director of Health Services. “Dallas ISD has not seen the numbers of COVID cases this fall that other districts have in great part due to the work of our wonderful nurses—they have been Core 4 all the way, and we are all grateful.”

Dallas ISD implements employee retention incentive for all staff

As Dallas ISD continues to recover from the challenges of the pandemic, the safety, well-being and retention of the district’s highly qualified staff is a priority. A retention incentive for all eligible staff—whether campus-based or central—will be implemented for the 2022-2023 school year.

ESSER funds will be leveraged to fund the retention incentive.

Staff who return for the 2022-2023 school year would be eligible to receive the retention incentive, which would be included in employees’ paychecks in three installments. The first installment—$500— would be paid in September to welcome staff back to the new school year. The rest of the retention incentive would be included in the December and May paychecks. Part-time employees are also eligible to receive the incentive, and the amount will be prorated to their position. For example, an employee who is .5 would get half the corresponding incentive while a .75 position would get 3/4 of the corresponding incentive.

“In a competitive market, this retention incentive will not only help us keep the outstanding staff who have been working tirelessly for our students this year but will also give us an advantage in recruiting staff to fill existing vacancies in our campuses and departments,” said Robert Abel, acting chief of Human Capital Management. “We know everyone from teachers to maintenance and bus drivers have been giving it their all to help create a learning environment in which our students can be successful, and we wanted to recognize their efforts and tell them they are valued.”

For those employees who are part of an excellence initiative, the total amount of the incentive will be based on their upcoming earned 2022-2023 effectiveness level (TEI, PEI, APEI, EDEI) or 2021-2022 CSEI evaluation rating. (See chart for retention incentive by effectiveness level and CSEI evaluation rating.)

To accommodate changes in assignments and salary schedules, employees who receive a promotion for the 2022-2023 school year and have no effectiveness level or CSEI evaluation rating in the new position will receive a retention incentive tied to their prior effectiveness level CSEI evaluation rating. For example, if a Proficient III assistant principal becomes a principal in an elementary school for the 2022-2023 school year, the incentive would apply to the previous position’s earned effectiveness level.

For eligible staff who are not on an excellence initiative the amount of the incentive will be the same across the board.


Conforme Dallas ISD continúa recuperándose de los efectos de la pandemia, la seguridad, bienestar y retención de nuestro personal altamente calificado es una prioridad. El distrito implementará un incentivo de retención para empleados—ya sea que estén basados en las escuelas o sean parte del área central—para el año escolar 2022-2023.

Los fondos de ESSER serán utilizados para pagar este incentivo de retención de empleados.

El personal que regrese para el año escolar 2022-2023 recibiría este incentivo de retención de empleados, el cual se incluirá en los pagos de salario de los empleados en tres entregas. La primera—de $500—se incluiría con el pago de salario de septiembre para dar la bienvenida al personal al año escolar. El resto del incentivo se incluiría en los pagos de salario de diciembre y de mayo. Los empleados de medio tiempo o tiempo parcial también podrán recibir el incentivo de retención de empleados aunque la cantidad dependerá de las horas de su posición. Por ejemplo, un empleado cuya posición es .5 recibirá la mitad de la cantidad correspondiente mientras que un empleado cuya posición sea .75, recibirá 3/4 de la cantidad de incentivo correspondiente.

“En un mercado tan competitivo como el que tenemos, este incentivo de retención no solo nos ayudará a conservar en el distrito el excelente personal con que ya contamos y que ha estado trabajando arduamente por nuestros estudiantes, sino que también nos proporcionará una ventaja al reclutar empleados para las vacantes que tenemos en nuestras escuelas y oficinas centrales”, dijo Robert Abel, jefe en funciones de Human Capital Management. “Sabemos que todos, desde maestros hasta empleados de mantenimiento y choferes de autobús, han estado dando todo de si mismos para crear un ambiente de aprendizaje en el que nuestros estudiantes puedan tener éxito y queremos reconocer sus esfuerzos y decirles que los valoramos”.

Para aquellos empleados que son parte de una iniciativa de excelencia, el total del incentivo dependerá del nivel de efectividad que hayan recibido para el año 2022-2023 (TEI, PEI, APEI, EDEI) o el rango en la evaluación CSEI del 2021-2022. (Vea la tabla de datos arriba para la cantidad del incentivo por nivel de efectividad o rango de evaluación de CSEI.)

Teniendo en cuenta cambios en posiciones y salarios, los empleados que hayan recibido una promoción para el año escolar 2022-2023 y no tengan nivel de efectividad o rango de evaluación en CSEI en su nuevo puesto recibirán el incentivo que corresponda a su nivel o rango previo. Por ejemplo, un asistente de director que sea Proficient III y que sea promovido a director en una escuela primaria para el año 2022-2023 recibirá el incentivo de retención que corresponde al nivel de efectividad recibido en su puesto anterior.

Para los empleados que llenan los requisitos y que no son parte de una iniciativa de excelencia, la cantidad del incentivo de retención de empleados será la misma.

El incentivo de retención no contará para propósitos de TRS y estará sujeto a retención de impuestos.

Practice tutorials available

The Assessment Department has created videos detailing how to navigate the embedded tools and accommodations within the STAAR Online Practice Test. Students should have multiple opportunities to become familiar and comfortable with the online testing platform prior to the STAAR testing window and are encourage to explore the practice test at least four times before the upcoming testing dates.

Timeline for upcoming STAAR testing:

  • Prior to Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 – December EOC Re-testers should have
  • Prior to Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 – December EOC Re-testers should have multiple opportunities to explore the STAAR tutorials before testing.
  • Prior to Friday, Jan. 14, 2022 – Emergent Bilingual students should have
  • Prior to Friday, Jan. 14, 2022 – Emergent Bilingual students should have multiple opportunities to explore both the STAAR and TELPAS tutorials.
  • Prior to Friday, Jan. 28, 2022 – ALL students should have multiple opportunities to explore the STAAR tutorials in preparation for STAAR Field Tests.

STAAR and TELPAS online tutorials/practice test links

Guide to Cambium Practice Tests for STAAR and TELPAS

Leading foreign language teaching

Akash Patel, who teaches Spanish at Ignite Middle School, was recently elected to the highest office in the country for foreign language teachers. Patel will serve the next three years as president-elect, president and immediate past president of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

Patel’s main focus will be on addressing the foreign language teacher shortage. In his role as leader of the national organization, he will advocate for equitable access to foreign language certification, support the teaching of multiple languages in elementary school, and address state legislatures to push for foreign language teacher representation in the states’ educational agencies.

Patel is in his fifth year in Dallas ISD and his seventh teaching. Originally from India, he speaks six languages and has visited over 60 countries. His passion is connecting students with others from around the world and creating empathetic global citizens. In 2018, after the passing of his twin brother, Anand “Happy” Patel, he and Dallas ISD’s World Languages Director Amy Anderton created the nonprofit Happy World Foundation Inc. to promote global citizenship education, cross-cultural understanding and citizen-to-citizen diplomacy in schools and communities worldwide.

For more information about ACTFL, please visit


November board briefing

During its regular monthly briefing, which takes place earlier this month because of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Board of Trustees will consider several items and reports from district departments. Under consideration this month are name changes for several schools as well as several reports.

Superintendent’s Report:

  • ESSER Progress – Group 1B Activities
  • Extra-Curricular Progress
  • iLearn Prep
  • Operation Connectivity
  • Central Staff Excellence Initiative
  • Operation Comeback

Minority/Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Quarterly Report, FY 2021-2022, Quarter 1

Consider and Take Possible Action to Authorize, Negotiate and Enter Into Agreements with Recommended Pool of Vendors for Early Learning Home Visiting Programs and Services for Districtwide Use (Not to Exceed $5,000,000 Over Five Years Including Renewal Options / General Operating/Special Revenue/Bond Funds)

Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Waiver to Board Policy CW (LOCAL) and Approval of the Renaming of Herbert Marcus Elementary School to Marcus Leadership Academy

Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Waiver to Board Policy CW (LOCAL) and Approval of the Renaming of Julius Dorsey Elementary School to Julius Dorsey Leadership Academy

Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Waiver to Board Policy CW (LOCAL) and Approval of the Renaming of Eddie Bernice Johnson Elementary School to Eddie Bernice Johnson STEM Academy.

Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Waiver to Board Policy CW (LOCAL) and Approval of the Renaming of Oliver W. Holmes Humanities Communications Academy to John Lewis Social Justice Academy at Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Waiver to Board Policy CW (LOCAL) and the Naming of a Future Site Currently Referenced as the Downtown Project that will House Multiple Schools to be Named Nolan Estes Plaza


The art of teaching

Throughout her 24-year career at Rosemont Elementary School, art teacher Kellie Lawson has built invaluable partnerships with local art institutions that further her students’ experience. She has even mentored a student who later became an art teacher at her own campus.

Lawson teaches every single fourth- and fifth-grade student at Rosemont Lower, and every middle school student at Rosemont Upper who chooses visual arts as an elective returns to her classroom.

“I don‘t think I’ve ever met a child who didn’t love making some kind of art at some point,” she said. “Art connects with every subject. Art reflects what’s going on in history. Art and mathematics go hand in hand. There are so many great fields where students can use their love and knowledge of art and their artistic ability to work and do well. I really try for my students to make that connection.”

For middle school, she teaches Foundations and Studio Art, where students practice various forms of art, from sketching and design projects to ceramics and sculpture. Lawson’s class serves as a good foundation for students who continue working on improving their visual arts skills and fine arts in high school.

The Texas Art Education Association—an organization that focuses on promoting quality visual arts education in Texas— recently awarded Dallas ISD the TAEA District of Distinction award, which recognizes districts for outstanding leadership in promoting the arts in their district and community. Every year, Lawson’s sixth- through eighth-grade students participate in the TAEA’s Junior Visual Arts Scholastic Event, where students showcase and explain their work to judges and compete against other talented young artists.

“This is a tremendous recognition of the talented student and teacher artists throughout the Dallas ISD. Designation as a TAEA District of Distinction places Dallas ISD’s Visual Arts program in the top 4% of school districts in the state,” said Tim Linley, executive director of Academic Enrichment & Support for Dallas ISD. “Our school district is the largest one, by far, to have earned this recognition. Here in Dallas, we’ve always known that our student and teacher artists are simply the best. Now the rest of the state knows it, too!”

A pillar of the community

After earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s in architecture, Lawson worked as an architectural designer. In 1997, she was working part-time out of her home and was also volunteering as PTA president at Rosemont, where her two children went to school.

The Rosemont art teacher at the time had to move to another state, and the principal asked Lawson if she could sub. She decided to volunteer, and after falling in love with the job, she earned her teaching certificate and has been teaching at Rosemont ever since.

“I have students whose parents were in my art club, way back when I first started,” she said. “But, by far, the most impactful moment was when a third-grade teacher who started with us last year came to visit me in my classroom when he was interviewing. I have some pictures of him when he was acting goofy, wearing a box on his head, and having fun in my art club. His students think it’s so funny that, like them, he was a kid at Rosemont!”

When she first started teaching, she had the opportunity to feature her students’ work at the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. From that point forward, her students’ work was featured in the building every year. And when the original building changed ownership, she spoke with the managers of the Oak Cliff Cultural Center, which agreed to hold a yearly exhibit of student work.

Rosemont has also developed an important partnership with the Nasher Sculpture Center. The museum tailored a program for Lawson’s students called GROW, where a group of second-grade students visit the sculpture center together, multiple times, until fifth grade.

“I live in the neighborhood,” Lawson said. “I live five minutes away from Rosemont. It’s my community. I’ve been in North Oak Cliff since 1985, and now I’m seeing this new wave of kids of my former students. It’s great!”