Working from an “office on wheels” 

School bus driver Edith Rodarte has been transforming the lives of students along her routes for the past 40 years. She loves working from her “office on wheels,” especially when she gets to watch students grow up.

“I had one high school student who was talking to me about moving on to college—what she was going to do and where she had been accepted,” Rodarte said. “It was just an awesome thing to be a part of that. These kids care enough about their drivers to include them in their travels through life.” 

Working for Dallas ISD’s Student Transportation Services is no easy feat. Rodarte is usually at her bus by 5 a.m. to prepare for the day ahead. The rest of her shift passes in a flurry of organizing routes, delivering students safely from point A to point B and coordinating with the bus lot to meet every need that arises. She sometimes does not finish her route until 6 or 7 p.m., but for Rodarte, every minute is worthwhile. 

“It’s a very big family environment,” she said. “We care about each other and take care of each other, and that’s with all the drivers, monitors and staff.”

Rodarte is passionate about helping Dallas ISD educate all students for success. Not only is she a proud graduate of Dallas ISD, but she also grew up dreaming of working for a school district. When she realized that teaching was not the right fit for her, in 1982, she turned her attention to driving buses for Dallas County Schools, where she worked until Dallas ISD took over student transportation in 2017. 

Providing timely, safe and efficient transportation to students across the district requires focus and flexibility, which the Student Transportation Services department has in spades. Rodarte has navigated broken down buses, bad weather and more, all while feeling confident that the district will support her no matter what. 

“Dallas ISD has taken care of me in every way I’ve ever needed to be cared for, even through illnesses and surgeries,” Rodarte said. “I love it. I absolutely love it.” 

If you know anyone who is interested in joining the Student Transportation Services family and transforming student lives on the go, the department has several positions available, including CDL Driver, CDL Trainee and MPV Driver. Visit for more information. 

Taking safety precautions

The health and safety of students, staff, and stakeholders remain top priorities at Dallas ISD as we get ready to start the 2022-2023 school year. Similar to other routine communicable diseases like the flu, we can reduce COVID-19 events by adhering to consistent personal and workplace safety protocols. We want to remind staff to take precautions to minimize the possibility of transmission. 

Responsible distancing

While the vaccination rate against COVID-19 among returning Dallas ISD staff is about 85%, the recommendation is to continue to responsibly distance in common areas, including conference rooms, break rooms, and elevators. When planning trainings and other large gatherings of staff, students and parents, organizers are encouraged to allow for responsible distancing and to provide personal protective equipment and sanitizing supplies. 


The district is continuously monitoring the number of positive cases in the district and in the community and working with health professionals to assess the need for additional safety measures. The use of masks can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases, and Dallas ISD is currently recommending staff use masks in large gatherings, especially where responsible distancing is difficult. If the numbers increase, the district may encourage or strongly encourage the use of masks. Always, staff who are immune compromised should discuss protocols for meetings and large gatherings with their supervisors.

Cleaning and sanitizing

To ensure safe and healthy environments, Maintenance and Facility Services staff are conducting the summer deep cleaning of schools to get them ready for students and staff. In addition these preparations and to supplying PPE to all campuses for the start of the new school year, Maintenance and Facility Services staff will continue: 

  • regular cleaning and sanitation of common spaces,
  • Saturday sanitization of school buildings,
  • monitoring areas for ventilation improvement,
  • supplying PPE consumables upon request.

Reporting cases

Procedures to report positive cases of COVID-19 among staff or exposure to those who have tested positive will remain the same as last year. Requirements differ for those who have been vaccinated and boosted and those who have not been, and details can be found at

Dallas ISD will continue to provide testing for employees who think they may have COVID or who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. Information on testing sites and procedures can be found at

Staff handbook for COVID protocols

Dallas ISD will continue to update the staff handbook regarding COVID and to share updates with staff as they become available. Campus and department leaders are encouraged to review current safety procedures and implement them as needed in their respective areas to ensure a safe and healthy environment when students return to in-person learning in August.

If you have any questions, please contact  Health Services at 972-925-4211 if you believe you have been exposed to COVID for contact tracing and quarantine information, and contact Benefits at 972-925-4300 if you have a lab COVID positive test result required for Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL).

Coming together for excellence

After a three-day summer summit, Dallas ISD principals are more than ready to welcome students and staff back to campus.

On the first day of the summit, principals gathered at W.H. Adamson High School, where Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde and other district leaders shared words of encouragement. Campus leaders also explored the “Essential Four” of leadership: equity, curriculum, instruction and literacy. The Essential Four were derived from “Leading with Focus: Elevating the Essentials for School and District Improvement” by Mike Schmoker, who was the event’s keynote speaker. 

Over the remaining days, principals and assistant principals gathered by networks at seven sites across the district to receive professional development in reading language arts, math, science and social studies curriculum. They also chose from 16 “choose your own adventure” sessions and engaged in network planning and collaboration to set their campuses up for success. 

Moving to Schoology

Dallas ISD has switched its learning management system to Schoology, which is now available to all teachers. The district has been in the process of transitioning from PowerSchool Learning to Schoology since January because the original learning management system was being discontinued. All curricular content—including individual lesson plans—has been migrated to Schoology. 

However, official gradebooks and attendance will remain in PowerSchool. Teachers will continue to use PowerTeacher Pro to record grades and attendance for the 2022-2023 school year. 

All of the existing district curriculum and resources were automatically moved to Schoology before June 7. Individual teacher content was also migrated to their respective district Schoology accounts. While teachers will be able to access PowerSchool Learning until Sept. 23, you are asked not to upload any new material there as it will not be transferred to the new Schoology site. Teachers who uploaded material after June 6 to PowerSchool Learning will need to replicate it in Schoology.

Moving Newly Added PowerSchool Learning Content to Schoology 

Click on “Learn More” to view directions on how to migrate your PowerSchool content into Schoology. Remember, your PowerSchool Learning content was already moved to Schoology before June 7, so this would only need to be completed for content added after June 6.

Upcoming Notifications

Note that upcoming notices regarding the following topics will be updated on the Schoology PDL Homepage and the Dallas ISD Curriculum Connection Webpage

Look for your first opportunity to interact with Schoology in the Back to School Professional Development catalog

Find balance and decrease stress

Everyone wants to achieve balance in their lives, but it’s easier said than done, especially when you have to juggle work, family and your own expectations at the same time.

Fortunately, you can put practices in place to help you organize your daily routines and produce a greater sense of balance. That sense of balance will decrease your stress levels and lead to a higher quality of life overall. Best of all, you can get started today with the following tips. 

Double check your priorities. When life gets hectic, it does not take long to feel overwhelmed. That is why it is so important to decide where to devote your energy. Take time at the beginning of each day, week or month to review recent events and what is on the horizon. Is most of your time going to your biggest priorities? If not, you may need to rearrange. 

Say no. Your time is limited, and each nonessential commitment you make prevents you from focusing on what matters most. Practice saying no to the small tasks that are draining your energy or that are keeping you away from your family and friends. When you reduce the number of commitments in your life, you will be able to enjoy what you are doing instead of endlessly running from one event to another. 

Make time for you. How many times have you placed yourself last on your priority list? While it can feel like the only option is to decrease your free time to make room for more to-dos, practicing self-care is vital to mental health and well-being. Start small if self-care seems impossible. Planning out just five minutes a day to go for a walk or talk to a friend can go a long way toward refreshing your mind and body. 

Ask for help. You do not have to tackle everything on your own. Create a chore chart with your spouse or partner, or teach your children to help with a few age-appropriate tasks around the house. If you are having trouble prioritizing your needs, call up a friend and ask them to join you in the activity to help keep you on track. 

Stay grounded. As you are setting new goals and boundaries, be realistic. You will never be perfect when it comes to finding balance, and what works for you one month may not work as well the following month. The most important element is paying attention to your needs. Only then can you maintain an overall sense of balance. 

Be present with your community. Resist the temptation to endlessly multitask and be productive. Set your phone and emails aside when you are with your loved ones, and allow yourself to live in the moment. By doing so, you will strengthen your relationships and rest more often. 

Life is called a balancing act for a reason, but the end goal is worth the effort. Practice regular intention, reflection and organization, and you will find yourself feeling more stable and at peace despite your many responsibilities. 

For more tips on improving your health and well-being, check out Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks. This free, confidential platform has countless resources available online, including practical tips on subjects like work-life balance, overcoming procrastination and getting organized. Reach out to LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000, or visit and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information. 

Off Campus PE helps students pursue olympic dreams

Dallas ISD has abundant opportunities for students, including the off-campus physical education (OCPE) program for middle and high school students looking to develop high-level skills in various activities such as rowing, ballet, gymnastics and martial arts.

“Our Off Campus Physical Education program enables students to earn physical education credits while participating in activities not affiliated with the University Scholastic League (UIL) or offered by the Athletic Department,” said Barbara Johnson, director of Health and Physical Education. “The Dallas ISD OCPE program has become a model for other districts throughout the state.”

To create these opportunities, the department partners with approved agencies so students can attend these off-campus facilities without additional fees to the district. OCPE applications are due two weeks before each semester begins, and students can participate in one of two categories. Category I is intended for the Olympic or national level. High school students participate in intensive, professional, supervised training for at least 15 hours a week. Meanwhile, high school and middle school students in Category II hone their skills for at least five hours a week.

“The program gives students more flexibility and exposure to what they can do,” High School Health and Physical Education Coordinator Elridge Thibodeaux said. “I’ve spoken to many parents about their students applying and getting approved, and it’s always exciting because it allows the students to compete at a higher level.”

Thibodeaux was recently invited to watch OCPE students compete in the Texas State Rowing Championships at White Rock Lake. He also recalls speaking with the parents of one middle school student already competing at a high level in ballet. They were thrilled when she was accepted into OCPE so she could continue to advance as she transitioned into high school. 

“For some it’s a dream to be part of a team or to be able to practice their Olympic skills,” Middle School Health and Physical Education Coordinator Rhonda Rutherford-Odom said. “The students, especially in high school, have taken ownership of their participation in the program, and it’s amazing to see.” 

The program was put on hold for about a year due to COVID-19. Thibodeaux said, “This past school year, 50 students participated, but we expect to see more students apply as the Dallas ISD community becomes more familiar with OCPE.”

You can help more students take advantage of this opportunity. If you know any families who may be interested in OCPE, refer them to, where they will find more information about the program and the application process. Families can also contact their school counselor for more information.

Mentor teachers empower next generation of educators

Seasoned teachers across the district are getting ready to help and support approximately 1,800 new teachers during the first year at Dallas ISD through the district’s Mentor Teacher program. The program had its kickoff and training this week. 

Maria-Elena Pacheco of Martha Turner Reilly Elementary School, Chris Buchanan of J.N. Ervin Elementary School and Nila Miller-Bynum of Charles Rice Learning Center are participating in the mentorship program, and they all agreed that providing guidance to new teachers is of the utmost importance when it comes to retaining educators, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It’s very important to cultivate relationships in education because these teachers that you’re teaching next to, they become your friends, they become your family,” said Miller-Bynum, who will be a teacher mentor for the first time this year. “Those relationships are how we survive, how we make it through. We learn to love each other through this hard work, and having a mentor program catapults that. Teaching is truly a work of heart.” 

The mentor-mentee pairs will have 10 monthly check-ins throughout the school year. They will also have unique opportunities to observe and demonstrate classroom skills, pursue professional development and build relationships with other teachers. The goal is to provide new teachers with the support they need to overcome obstacles, reflect on their successes and identify their growth areas. 

This is Buchanan’s first year as a teacher mentor, and he was so inspired by the Mentor Teacher Kickoff that he immediately reached out to an old teacher mentor to say thank you, writing, “I’m here because of you.” Now, he hopes to do the same for his mentee. 

“I am a product of teachers who have mentored me, who have taught me a lot,” Buchanan said. “They have poured into me, and I want to be a blessing and give back by paying it forward to these teachers that come after me.”

Pacheco, on the other hand, has been mentoring teachers in Dallas ISD for the past two decades. She loves seeing her mentees achieve their educational goals, including Lisa Vega, whom Pacheco mentored “many years ago” at Maple Lawn Elementary School. Back then, Vega dreamed of becoming a principal or an executive director, and today, she is an executive director in School Leadership.

In Pacheco’s eyes, what really counts in mentorship is listening and helping others grow. She is looking forward to helping her mentee become more efficient and satisfied in their work, especially considering how effective teachers are more likely to have successful students.

“This work is so paramount, it’s so vital,” Pacheco said. “I’m glad that Dallas ISD recognizes the fact that mentoring and having this program is important. It’s very significant.” 

Buchanan agreed: “Expect great things to come from this mentor program. The collaboration and being able to feed off of each other’s different ideas, it’s going to be epic. I’m so excited.” 

To learn more information about the Dallas ISD mentorship program and new teacher support initiative, visit the Dallas ISD Professional & Digital Learning website at

Growing leaders

If you are a new or aspiring central staff leader interested in growing your leadership capacity, HCM Performance Management is accepting applications for Cohort 6 of Manager 101.

 This leadership development program is hosted in partnership with the Naveen Jindal School of Management at The University of Texas at Dallas. Participants will engage in learning modules, discussions, and projects aligned to the Dallas ISD culture/vision tenets and central staff evaluation domains: Shaping Culture, Developing Talent, Driving Impact, and Engaging Stakeholders.

 Interested candidates must:

  • Complete the application (two pages) and submit their current resume
  • Inform their direct supervisor that approval will be verified by HCM
  • Attend four full-day sessions on the UT Dallas campus
    • September 14
    • October 12
    • November 16
    • December 14
  • Complete all pre-work assignments and projects (an estimated 1-2 hours per session)

HCM Performance Management will host Open Labs via Teams on July 28 and Aug. 4 from noon to 1 p.m. to assist in the application process. 

All applicant materials must be received by 11:59 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 7. HCM will contact direct supervisors to verify support of applications and notify participants by Friday, Sept. 2.

Please contact for questions or comments.

Making a lifelong impact one success at a time

Maria Chan, a first grade teacher at Arcadia Park Elementary School, is the kind of person who leaves a lasting impression on everyone she meets thanks to her passion and dedication. Her legacy is evident in the former students who come back over a decade after leaving her classroom to say thank you and even invite her to a quinceanera. 

Chan took her first teaching job in special education in the Philippines in 1999, and she has been transforming student lives ever since. She moved to El Paso in 2003 and in 2007 to Dallas, where she has been bringing inspiration and motivation to the halls of Arcadia Park for 15 years. Her dream of becoming an educator started in her own first grade classroom as she experienced her mom’s teaching. 

“I was one of her students,” Chan said. “She was always telling me to be good, to try, and that’s why I strive so hard. I can do anything—even if it’s challenging—as long as I try my best and don’t give up. That’s what my mom would always tell me: ‘Don’t give up. You can do it.’” 

Even now that Chan’s mother is retired, she loves tutoring her old students’ children and swapping stories with her daughter. The two of them may live an ocean apart in the Philippines and the United States, but are brought together in their understanding the value of making a difference through education.

That same passion prompted Chan to make lasting changes at Arcadia Park. She taught the school’s first specialized unit and helped create their first preschool program for children with disabilities (PPCD). She also took the lead on the district’s first kindergarten collaborative, which put special and general education students together in one classroom. Dallas ISD had pre-K collaboratives at the time, but Chan’s efforts inspired kindergarten collaboratives in other schools to ensure that every student received enough support to enter first grade with confidence. 

While Chan has been working with general education students for a few years now, she is excited to return to Arcadia Park’s PPCD for the 2022-2023 school year. 

“It’s so rewarding,” she said. “You see so much growth, and you celebrate every little thing. When you’re a special education teacher and you teach kids with special needs, you’re part of their family.” 

She could not resist sharing one of her favorite student transformation stories. One year, she had a kindergartener in her class with autism. At the beginning of the year, the student would cry every day because she did not want to be in school, but by the end of the year, she was talking, making jokes and enjoying time with her friends. The child’s mom was so happy that she told Chan, “We will never ever forget you.” 

For Chan, that is what it means to be a teacher. 

“It’s not just about academics; it’s about making a difference in students’ lives,” she said. “You may think school is over at 3:15, but you are making an impact, not just in school but also at home. I love Arcadia Park, and I’m not going to leave this school until I retire. It’s amazing.” 

Check in with your mental health

We all face challenges throughout our lives that come with a variety of emotional responses from sadness to impatience. While it is important to cope with these daily stressors, it is also necessary to learn the signs that may indicate an ongoing mental health concern. 

The following symptoms may be indicators of mental illness when they are experienced for prolonged periods of time:

  • Sudden mood changes
  • Decreased sense of confidence 
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Withdrawing from relationships
  • Excessive use of drugs or alcohol
  • Loss of interest in regular activities 
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
  • Feeling sad or down 
  • Paranoia, delusions or feeling detached from reality 
  • Experiencing exhaustion or fatigue
  • Difficulty coping with minor problems and daily activities
  • Thoughts of suicide 

While many of these signs and symptoms are common responses to obstacles and challenging life events, pay attention to them and whether or not they are continuously affecting your health. If you are struggling or know of someone who is, reach out and get support today. 

Contact your physician or a mental health professional, or take advantage of Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks. The confidential, secure platform has countless resources available online for free, including on-call counselors who are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Reach out to LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000, or visit and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information. 

If you are having suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use the chat feature at  

You matter, and so does your mental health and well-being. Take some time to reflect on how you are doing, and prioritize yourself and your needs. And remember: You are never alone. 

*Source: LifeWorks