Words of wisdom to help you through a tough day 

Looking at life from different perspectives on life can help you get through the hardest days. This bit of wisdom can benefit everyone as we learn to live with the COVID-19 pandemic. The 10 quotes below serve as powerful reminders to keep moving forward no matter how many times you may stumble. After all, no one is perfect, and we are all better together. 


  • “One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.” —Linda Poindexter
  • “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means, keep moving.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “Mental health… is not a destination but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.” —Noam Shpancer
  • “We can’t create more time, but we can do less, delegate or ask for help.” ―Nedra Glover Tawwab
  • “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.” —Fred Rogers
  • “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, he turned into a butterfly.” —Anonymous proverb
  • “You don’t have to be positive all the time. It’s perfectly OK to feel sad, angry, annoyed, frustrated, scared and anxious. Having feelings doesn’t make you a negative person. It makes you human.” —Lori Deschene
  • “Self-care is how you take your power back.” —Lalah Delia
  • “Take your time healing, as long as you want. Nobody else knows what you’ve been through. How could they know how long it will take to heal you?” —Abertoli
  • “Just like our body requires vitamins, we also need mind-vitamins like courage, faith, inspiration and hope. Find these mind-vitamins.” —Lalit Kumar

You matter and so does your mental health! Take some time today to assess how you are feeling and ask for help if you need it. No one has to go through their struggles alone, and Dallas ISD is here to support you. The district’s confidential, secure Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks has countless resources available online and requires no contributions. From on-call counselors to practical tips on subjects like anxiety, coping with loss and work-life balance, employees can find what they need, when they need it. 

Reach out to LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000 or visit www.dallasisd.org/benefits and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information.

ESSER Update: Tutoring bridges the gap  

Learning acceleration has become Dallas ISD’s top priority to help students recover from any learning loss due to disruptions during the pandemic. Thanks to federal stimulus dollars provided by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund, the Office of Tutoring Services is working hard to ensure that all students who did not pass or did not take the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, get the additional support they need to succeed.

So far, Dallas ISD has hired tutors who have provided almost 138,000 hours of federally-compliant, grade-specific supplemental accelerated instruction in reading and math to help students recover and accelerate their learning. While the district’s tutoring efforts are still ramping up, each hour makes a difference. 

“Some of that unfinished learning is big,” said Jason Wallace, director of Tutoring Services. “So it’s bridging that gap of where students need to be in response to the barriers and obstacles that we’ve had over the past two years.”

The district plans to invest $95 million of the available ESSER funds into high-quality tutoring over the three stages of ESSER program implementation. The Office of Tutoring Services has $35 million encumbered for the current school year, which is being used to purchase software, secure curriculum, hire tutors, provide assessments and otherwise help the outside vendors meet their instructional goals. 

In a presentation to the Board of Trustees, Chief Academic Officer Shannon Trejo explained some of the challenges that have kept the district from fully implementing tutoring, including time-intensive fingerprinting and background checks, low student attendance for after-school tutoring, hiring shortages and federal purchasing compliance requirements for the use of ESSER funds. 

These challenges don’t mean that tutoring has not been happening for students who need it. Dallas ISD teachers have been working hard to tutor students since the beginning of the year to help them catch up; however, those hours may not always count toward compliance with House Bill 4545, which went into effect on June 16, 2021. The bill states that all students in grades three through 12  who did not pass or did not take their assigned STAAR have to complete 30 hours of supplemental instruction in that subject. To comply with HB 4545 and ESSER funds, tutors who must be trained and provided with specific instructional materials from the state, and their tutoring hours must be tracked. 

As the district approaches the end of another school year, the Office of Tutoring Services is putting new ideas and solutions into practice to provide additional tutoring opportunities. These solutions include completing the procurement process in the summer, bringing on additional vendors and receiving a ratio waiver to allow the tutoring groups to increase in size. Not only will these steps increase the number of available tutors, but they will also help the district’s efforts reach more students, Wallace said. 

Other solutions include training all relevant staff members so their hours are House Bill 4545 compliant, estimating costs to provide families with after-school transportation so attendance increases and refining the hiring and retention systems for district tutors. 

“What we’re learning through our state and national conversations is that these are challenges across the nation,” Trejo said. “We recognize that tutoring is our essential strategy for students, despite the challenges that we’ve experienced, and our gratitude goes to our campuses for continuing to maintain the tutoring that they’ve been able to provide.” 

The new and improved tutoring programs are scheduled to kick off in September. In the meantime, all students from prekindergarten to eighth grade will have the opportunity to participate in Dallas ISD’s summer school program—Summer Cool—that will take place in June. Students in Summer Cool will receive supplemental instruction four days a week, Monday through Thursday, which translates into 32 House Bill 4545-compliant tutoring hours in both reading and math. 

To learn more about Dallas ISD’s tutoring services and their current strategies, visit https://www.dallasisd.org/Page/77609


Celebrating 10 years of history

Stephanie Escobar was a student at Thomas C. Marsh Middle School when the campus’ military museum was founded by Cpl. David Bates, now an assistant superintendent in Dallas ISD. Fast forward 10 years, and Escobar can still be found at the museum but now as the school’s Leadership Cadet Corps instructor, leading the next generation of cadets.

“The military museum is an extension of our classroom,” Escobar said. “Our students consider it a second home, a place to learn about military background and terminology.”

Although the museum—celebrating its 10th anniversary this year—was not open as frequently as its leaders would have liked this school year due to Covid restrictions, it was open for a Veterans Day event where the community was able to visit.

“The museum really does bring everyone together through the Leadership Cadet Corp (LCC) program,” Escobar said. “The program is a legacy,” especially in her family.

Her older brother, William Benitez, was a part of it, as were relatives of some of her students and co-workers at the renamed Marsh Preparatory Academy. The mission of the cadet program is to help students improve their academic, social, communication, and leadership skills.

 “The military museum serves as a staple for the community,” she said. “It brings people together from all different realms. And our students take pride in knowing that we have such a great thing going on at Marsh. We also have students who serve as curators, making sure the museum is up to par.”

Housed at the museum are uniforms, photographs, medals and memorabilia representing the military experiences of veterans in the Dallas community.  The museum is 100% community-funded, and many of the items on exhibit have been donated by the community, including former Cpl. Miriam Gaytan, the former LCC instructor at Marsh, who donated her uniform.

Escobar joined the cadet program when she was in seventh grade and was inspired by some of the things Bates taught about becoming leaders and the importance of having discipline and integrity to become a leader and lead the cadets who won second place in a national competition. In the eighth grade, she was inducted as the first female commanding officer for the program since its founding in 1999. The cadets won the national championship that year, reclaiming a title they had held years before.

“We came back from the national competition in Kansas wanting to do something even bigger,” Escobar said, “and that’s when we began the military museum. We were able to do it because the community contributed not only their items but also their funds. In one year, we were able to raise about $99,000, enough to ensure that the museum was up and running. It all started with an idea that became a reality.”

Escobar went on to graduate from W.T. White High School and The University of Texas at Arlington, where she received a degree in public health. She is currently enrolled in a master’s program at UT Arlington, studying social work with an emphasis on mental health and substance use.

“Being a Leadership Cadet Corp instructor is amazing because I always wanted to give back to my community, and this is the best way I can do that,” Escobar said. “It only takes one person to believe in a student and make a difference in their life. Cpl. Bates and Cpl. Gaytan had that belief in me, and it is my hope that I can continue that legacy.”

The corps has 162 students enrolled in its program post-COVID, Escobar said, “Next year we plan to have 200+ students enrolled. The plan is to continue to build and do bigger things.”

Celebrating outstanding educators

More than 300 gathered this week to recognize Dallas ISD’s top teachers and principals at the inaugural Educator of the Year Awards, presented by the Dallas Education Foundation and sponsored by Reliant. The event recognized and celebrated educators’ passion for transforming student lives.

“The fact that we get to celebrate these outstanding educators in person is incredible,” said Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. “I want to thank you for your outstanding work, especially over these past two years.”

The Teacher of the Year finalists were chosen from among the teachers of the year representing each Dallas ISD campus. Principals were chosen districtwide for their transformative campus leadership. The 2021-2022 Dallas ISD Educators of the Year are: 


Elementary Teacher of the Year: Wildrem Andrade Matamoros, Louise Wolff Kahn Elementary School

Secondary Teacher of the Year: Sara Gill, Ann Richards STEAM Academy

Choice/Magnet Teacher of the Year: Aaronda Smith, George B. Dealey Montessori and Vanguard Academy


Elementary Principal of the Year: Antonio Verduzco, B.H. Macon Elementary School

Secondary Principal of the Year: Katherine Eska, North Dallas High School

Choice/Magnet Principal of the Year: Michael Jackson, Sudie L. Williams Talented and Gifted Academy

Each winner received $5,000. All finalists were also recognized and awarded $1,500 each. A list of winners and finalists can be found online at dallasisd.org/toy and dallasisd.org/poy


Dallas ISD campuses to participate in Holdsworth Campus Leadership Program

Dallas ISD has partnered with The Holdsworth Center to build on the inspiration, tools, and resources needed to grow leaders. One aspect of this partnership is the Campus Leadership Program (CLP) a two-year program in which campus teams will build stronger leadership muscles while also working toward successful and equitable outcomes for all students. The curriculum will cover three main areas: developing personal leadership, growing and empowering others, and creating change.

During the two-year program, the participating campus staff will:

  • Learn from expert faculty and guest lecturers
  • Collaborate on a Problem of Practice that leads to results that impact students
  • Develop new problem-solving methodologies by practicing skills such as giving and receiving feedback, active listening, and analyzing data with an equity lens  
  • Build a supportive network of peers from across the state

The Campus Leadership Program starts next year with 22 Dallas ISD campuses. Campuses were nominated by district leaders and submitted applications to be selected to participate. The campuses that will be part of the CLP next year are:

  • E.D. Walker Middle School
  • Solar Preparatory School for Girls
  • David G. Burnet Elementary School
  • Charles A. Gill Elementary School
  • Wilmer-Hutchins High School
  • Thomas Tolbert Elementary School
  • Boude Storey Middle School
  • San Jacinto Elementary School
  • North Lake Early College High School
  • Leila P. Cowart Elementary School
  • Sunset High School
  • Lakewood Elementary School
  • Martin Weiss Elementary School
  • Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School
  • Pleasant Grove Elementary School
  • Jack Lowe Sr. Elementary School
  • Jimmie T. Brashear Elementary School
  • Herbert Marcus Leadership Academy
  • Arcadia Park Elementary School
  • Rosemont Lower School
  • Raul Quintanilla Sr. Middle School STEAM Academy
  • T.G. Terry Elementary School

Celebrating school nurses

Nurse Emily Geeslin, or “Nurse G” as her students call her, is passionate about bringing health promotion and disease prevention to North Dallas High School. Not only has she successfully pushed vaccination events, screened students for vision and hearing problems and provided emergency care to students in need, but she has also fostered community relationships that are transforming student lives every day. 

For all those reasons and more, Principal Katherine Wanserski Eska jumped at the opportunity to nominate Geeslin as the 2021-2022 Health Services Employee of the Year, a title Geeslin earned just in time to celebrate National School Nurse Day, which took place on May 11. 

School nurses across Dallas ISD have stepped up amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in new, innovative ways, and their passion and dedication to their communities have inspired everyone around them.

In Eska’s eyes, Geeslin is “a true heroine on our campus.”

“Beyond standard nursing responsibilities, I have witnessed Nurse Geeslin’s magic,” Eska said. “As we saw an increase in mental health concerns with our students, Nurse Geeslin complemented these changes with an intense focus on student relationships, and many students on our campus have grown to confide in Nurse Geeslin in ways I hadn’t imagined.”

For Geeslin, being a school nurse involves so much more than providing first aid. Her main goal is to remove health barriers so students can show up in the classroom every day ready to learn. One memory that stands out was when she conducted a vision and hearing screening on a student who was new to the country. Geeslin realized that he had an undiagnosed hearing impairment and helped refer him so he could get the accommodations he needed to thrive. 

Even consistent routines like reminding students to drink more water or to eat regularly add fuel to Geeslin’s enthusiasm for her work. 

“It has been so rewarding and so neat to be a part of this,” she said. “I don’t have a classroom of students on the daily, but I get to see some students and walk with them through their health journeys. I love that.”

Adapting to the pandemic presented Geeslin with a new set of obstacles, but, as usual, she rose to the challenge. She reprioritized tasks and adopted a mindset of flexibility to support North Dallas students through the many ups and downs. While it has not been easy, her team has helped her move forward every day, as have the students who “brighten my days and make me laugh,” she said.

She never expected to be nominated for Health Services Employee of the Year or to be in the limelight for all her hard work, so when she saw Eska’s nomination letter, she was touched. 

“I couldn’t even read it for a few days because I knew it was going to be really sweet,” Geeslin said. “The fact that I was nominated was an honor, but just to be chosen, I’m shocked. There are so many good nurses in Dallas ISD. They’re so creative, and they work really hard, and they love their students.” 

Congratulations to Geeslin as well as the seven Health Services Employee of the Year finalists: Lisa Jones of Atwell Middle School, Margie Covarrubias of John F. Peeler Elementary School, Pat Johnson of Mockingbird Elementary School, Stephanie Thomas Price of Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy, Jessica Sundin of Lakewood Elementary School, Rosa Brown of Arcadia Park Elementary School and Madeline Bark of Frank Guzick Elementary School.

Feeling down? Learn to recognize the signs of depression

One of the more common mental health struggles people face is depression, which experts agree has only become a bigger issue after two years of isolation, loss and disruptions. 

According to the World Health Organization, depression is experienced by approximately 5 percent of all adults and is a leading cause of disability around the world. 

While mild, moderate and severe forms of depression are treatable, people must learn to recognize their symptoms to get the help they need. During a depressive episode, symptoms are typically experienced most days of the week for at least two consecutive weeks. Below are some of the most common symptoms and patterns:* 

  • Having a depressed mood (feeling sad, empty or irritable)
  • Feeling decreased self-worth 
  • Experiencing a strong sense of guilt or shame
  • Losing interest or joy in typical activities
  • Feeling hopeless about the future 
  • Thinking about dying or suicide 
  • Sleeping too much or too little (disrupted sleep) 
  • Struggling to concentrate 
  • Fluctuating appetite or weight 
  • Experiencing pain, fatigue or weakness

If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or the people around you, seek help. Consult your medical provider for next steps and let trusted friends, family members or co-workers know what you are experiencing. Relying on your medical and personal support system is a great first step toward healing and recovery. 

You can also reach out to on-call counselors with Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks. Their counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and using these secure, confidential EAP resources requires no employee contribution. Reach out to LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000 or visit www.dallasisd.org/benefits and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information.

For more information about mental health resources in the community, visit www.dallasisd.org/mentalhealthmonth.  

*Source: World Health Organization

Spread the word for drive-thru enrollment

Dallas ISD is making enrolling for pre-K so easy, parents won’t even have to leave their cars. Early Learning is holding Pre-K Pop Up Drive-thru events every Saturday in the month of May, and wants everyone to spread the word. 

Early Learning staff will be ready to help families register their students for pre-K from the comfort of their own cars between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each Saturday in May. If families have children in other grades, the same services and support will be provided. 

Other Dallas ISD teams, including the Office of Family Engagement and the Homeless Department, will be there to provide much-needed resources to families, including HIPPY registration, free school supplies, free uniform sign-ups and social and emotional learning opportunities. Families may even catch a glimpse of staff members dressed up as Clifford the Big Red Dog and other book characters. 

“It’s a lot of fun,” Ramirez said. “We’re doing everything we can to provide all the help and services our families need, and spreading the word would really help us out. Whether you’re a teacher, administrator, custodian or TA, it does not matter. Anybody can spread the word.”

The first Saturday event at Francisco F. “Pancho” Medrano Junior High School was a success, and Ramirez cannot wait to support families at the three remaining locations: 

  • May 14 – Lincoln High School and Humanities/Communications Magnet | 2826 Elsie Faye Heggins St., Dallas, 75215
  • May 21 – South Oak Cliff High School | 3601 S. Marsalis Ave., Dallas, 75216
  • May 28 – H. Grady Spruce High School | 9733 Old Seagoville Road, Dallas, 75217

For more information, please visit www.dallasisd.org/prek or call the Pre-K hotline at 214-932-7735.


Proposed 2022-2023 budget includes increases for staff, minimum wage

The proposed Dallas ISD 2022-2023 budget includes $51.2 million in salary increases and $52 million for retention incentives—a combined $103.2 million in compensation increases for Dallas ISD staff. The amount for salary increases includes an adjustment in the minimum hourly wage to $15. The district is also proposing raising the starting salaries for teachers new to the district to at least $60,000.


As part of salary increases for teachers, the district is recommending adjusting most levels in the Teacher Excellence Initiative. Teachers would get the greater of three increases—a change in TEI effectiveness level, a change in the compensation for the effectiveness level or the board approved increase (3% of compensation level)

If earned, teachers will be eligible to advance more than one level  on the 2021-2022 scorecard. Normally, teachers can only move up one level per year. Rules for years of service and rules for Distinguished effectiveness levels will still apply.  


Assistant principals and principals

Assistant principals and principals could also see an adjustment in the compensation levels of their respective excellence initiatives. Principals and assistant principals would get the greater of three increases—a change in effectiveness level, a change in the compensation for the effectiveness level or the board approved increase (a flat rate of up to $2,500). 

Minimum wage increase

About 7,200 non-exempt support and operations staff could see an increase in their salaries through an adjustment to $15 in the hourly minimum wage. This increase in the hourly minimum wage rate would position Dallas ISD as a regional leading district in minimum wage values.

Other staff

Other eligible employees who are not under an excellence initiative could receive a 3% increase based on the midpoint and up to the maximum of their respective salary range.

If the budget is approved, teachers and campus leaders should expect to see the salary change in their October paychecks. Other employees would see the increase in their September paychecks.

Retention incentives

Staff who return for the 2022-2023 school year will be eligible to receive a retention incentive that could amount to as much as $3,500 for those on an excellent initiative and $2,500 for other employees. To be eligible to receive the retention incentive, employees must have been hired by May 1, 2022. The incentive would be included in employees’ paychecks in three installments. The first installment—$500— would be paid in September. The rest of the retention incentive would be included in the December and May paychecks. 

Teachers new to the district

The proposed budget that will be presented to the Board of Trustees this week also includes the recommendation to update the salary scale for newly hired teachers. A novice teacher with zero years of experience would start at a minimum salary of $60,000. 

May is Mental Health Month: Assertiveness can lead to well-being

Good communication is key in every work environment, and it often starts with being assertive. According to the Mayo Clinic, assertiveness not only leads to better communication but also boosts self-confidence, strengthens decision-making skills and produces higher job satisfaction. 

While you may already lean toward one style of communication or another, everyone can learn to be more assertive by practicing the following tips from the Mayo Clinic. 

Study the way you communicate.
Are you more likely to speak your mind or wait to see what your colleagues say? Do you ever find yourself feeling resentful because your voice is not heard, or do people hesitate to go to you for help? Determine your strengths and growth areas, and then look for small ways to practice balanced communication. 

Do not be afraid to say no.
If you have too much on your plate, set boundaries for yourself by being polite and direct. Practice expressing your needs clearly by making statements like, “I do not have the capacity to take on a new project at this time.” Never hesitate to ask for the support you need. 

Be slow to place blame.
The purpose of being assertive is to state your intentions clearly without projecting blame or frustration onto those around you. Use “I” statements to speak your mind calmly and confidently. 

Think before you speak.
If you struggle to speak your mind, write out what you want to communicate ahead of time or rehearse your exchange with a friend or colleague. If you find yourself getting emotional in the moment, take a deep breath and keep your voice firm and calm. While emotions are natural during conflicts, they can prevent people from communicating assertively. Remember, you can take a moment to collect yourself or briefly step away from a difficult conversation before trying again with a clearer mind. 

Your communication style will not change overnight, but by practicing being assertive, you can gain confidence over time and benefit everyone around you. If you are struggling to make progress on your own, Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks offers confidential, secure training programs that focus on topics like communication, anger management and work well-being. All Dallas ISD employees can access these CareNow Programs, no contribution required.

Learn more by reaching out to LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000 or visit www.dallasisd.org/benefits and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information.

*Source: Mayo Clinic