Women’s History Month profile: Rebecca Sanchez

Dallas ISD offers programs that promote girls entering the fields of science, math, and technology, and Rebecca Sanchez, director of IT Business Services for the district, hopes they will empower more and more women to pursue careers in these fields. 

“It’s remarkable how it’s changing every year, but there needs to be more women in the technical and scientific community, and I love to see it grow,” she said. “With the district having programs like STEAM and STEM, it’s very encouraging and inspiring to see students interested and hopefully working in these fields in the future.”

Her advice for women who want to go into this field is to stay the course.

“Don’t let one event, one person or one contract bring you down. Don’t let one event define you. Stay focused on your goals and you’ll get to where you want to be,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez, whose love of math began at an early age, always knew she was going to have a career where she put these talents to work. She attended the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration.

Sanchez, who’s been with Dallas ISD for almost seven years, first came to the district as a comptroller to work on the technology bond program. In her current role as director of business services, she leads a team of 10 who work on a variety of items such as contracts, procurements, E-rate funding, and asset management. 

“My role is facilitating all of the contracting needs of IT,” she said. “We are very much like maintenance operations and construction services because we handle several districtwide contracts. We help get devices into the hands of kids and team members.” 

Among the many responsibilities her department handles are making sure that applications, such as Oracle and PowerSchool, are renewed in a timely manner. 

“They require a lot of negotiation,” she said. “We also maintain different funding streams that pay for these products and services.”

 What accomplishment are you proudest of?

For me, it’s been building a team that really helps the underlying fabric to make a department a success. I’m proud to have a team that does incredible work building relationships with vendors and internal and external customers. We really try to streamline processes.

What advice or words of encouragement would you give your younger self?

I would tell myself to be sure of your knowledge, and to be sure of yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s okay not to know everything. I remember that there was a commercial that said that Barbie (the doll) hated math, and I remember as a kid  thinking that it was the opposite of me. I loved math, and even then, I thought it was so horrible to pigeonhole girls to not want to work in that field. I think that it’s very important to say that it’s okay to like science and math. It’s okay to be that person because the world needs more women in these roles. If you think about it, even now there are very few business women in this kind of field and even in IT, but the world is changing, and I’m encouraged that more and more women will take on these roles. 

What helps you persevere during challenging moments?

Deep breaths, stepping away for a minute, coming back and evaluating the challenge helps. Looking at it from a different view and relying on competent and knowledgeable staff to work together as a team to achieve whatever we need to get done in a timely manner is important.

During challenging times, humor is also one of the things that helps me. I have a calendar that says “You had one job” and it helps because I jokingly tell myself “you’re doing good. You didn’t paint the wrong stripe on a road.” They say if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry, so why not try laughter? Laughter is good medicine. It can help you regain focus. 

What drew you to the education field?

My initial job with the district, as comptroller, got my foot in the door and it felt like it was made for me. I love helping to achieve a common goal. I love that education opens the door to that realm in a different way possible. It is in the public sector but it’s its own niche. Every day I am learning something new. 

I love that ultimately the goal is to help students become adults, to be able to do amazing things. It’s really encouraging to be even on the ground floor, where through my department, I’m making sure they have a Google or Microsoft product on their computer. I was a part of that process to make sure that it got done timely enough to where that student can learn how to do something on Google Sheets, or Microsoft Excel, or any product they used or things like a teacher using their time clock. It’s amazing how doing this one little thing can impact so many people. When you step back and look at it, it’s very fulfilling because you see the direct impact.

What is your favorite memory at Dallas ISD?

I have so many great memories, but they all merge into the fact that I love the relationships that I’ve built, and the positive cohesiveness that we’ve built. It’s great to see all the different people that have progressed in the district. They’re not where they were when I first met them, but we are still able to work together and help each other out and bounce questions off each other. Through these relationships, we’re still able to help each other, and cultivate even better memories. 

Open Transfer: ACE schools foster culture of enrichment

Evelyn Gallegos has been teaching math at an Accelerating Campus Excellence school for the past three years, and she loves all the resources and enrichment activities the ACE model provides to students. From Eddie Bernice Johnson STEM Academy’s exciting house system to DJ, zumba, gardening clubs and more, the ACE campus has countless opportunities for student transformation, and Gallegos is encouraging current Dallas ISD teachers, counselors and media specialists to consider an ACE team during the open transfer period. 

“You don’t ever see the campus lonely after school,” Gallegos said. “There is always something going on, and there are always students enjoying being in these clubs and activities. It really motivates them to do better in school and even at home. I’ve had parents tell me that their students’ behavior at home has changed as well.”

The open transfer period allows eligible team members to accept a position at another campus for the following school year. During the open transfer period, current principal approval is not required, although best practice would be for the team member to inform their current principal of their desire to transfer.

Gallegos has been teaching in the district for the past 13 years, and she said working at an ACE campus has taken her skills to new heights. With additional professional development opportunities as well as constant backing from her administration team and coaches, she has enjoyed the challenges presented to her. 

“I’m always finding ways to grow as a teacher in math and as a leader,” she said. “By working at an ACE campus, you also really have that support from your colleagues, who show up every day with the motivation and enthusiasm to get the students who are struggling to improve in math, reading and science.”

To be eligible for an open transfer, team members must meet the following criteria: 

  • Hold a valid Texas Teacher Certificate or hold a valid District of Innovation Certification Waiver in the requested subject-area vacancy and meet TEA/SBEC Certification Standards for the position 
  • Must not be entering their fourth year of an Alternative Certification Program 
  • Must not be identified for non-renewal at the end of the current school year due to performance and/or misconduct 

Eligible team members must apply online using their EAD login at www.dallasisd.org/careers using the internal openings link. The Human Capital Management team will email notifications of approval/denial throughout the open transfer period. Transfers are only final once an approval email notification has been sent from Human Capital Management. All notifications will be completed by May 5, 2023.  

If you have any questions about the process, contact Priscilla Soltren at 972-925-4227 or via email at psoltren@dallasisd.org.  

“The resources that we get here at an ACE campus and all the activities we do really benefit the students,” Gallegos said. “And it’s not just academically. I think it motivates them to be better kids.”

Students participate in taste test for new recipe

The Dallas ISD Food and Child Nutrition Services team recently hosted a taste test for students and teachers at Urban Park Elementary School to get feedback on the new chicken parmesan recipe. 

FCNS provided the students with a sample of the chicken parmesan, and participants completed an online survey to rate the recipe. The results showed that 87.5% of the participants rated the recipe as excellent, while 12.5% rated it as very good. 

“This should definitely be in the cafeteria at least once a week,” said Chase, a second grader who participated. Other comments from students included, “This is excellent; I love it!” and “I had never had this, and it is so good!” 

This is part of FCNS’s ongoing efforts to receive input from students for new recipes and ideas to be implemented in future school years. 

Dallas ISD implements retention incentive for 2023-2024

Twice already this year, Dallas ISD team members who were eligible for the 2022-2023 retention incentive have seen extra compensation in their paychecks—in September and December. Those eligible team members are due a third and final payment in May. 

Dallas ISD will use up to $67 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds for an additional Dallas ISD retention incentive of up to $5,000 for eligible employees who return for the 2023-2024 school year. The incentive is to recognize service and encourage the retention of highly qualified Dallas ISD team members. 

“We value our team members and want to reward them for staying with the district and for the work they do every day on behalf of our students,” said Robert Abel, chief of Human Capital Management. “We know that supporting our students and seeing them grow and succeed is the main reason most of us stay in this profession, but we hope that with this additional incentive, we will welcome a vast majority of our current Dallas ISD team back for the 2023-2024 school year as well as demonstrate the district’s appreciation for all of our employees’ hard work and dedication to Dallas ISD.”

One difference from this year’s incentive is that those eligible employees who—as of Sept. 1, 2023—have completed at least five years of service in the district will receive an additional $1,000.

Eligible team members who are part of an excellence initiative—teachers, assistant principals, principals, and school leadership executive directors—will still receive differentiated amounts depending on their level. The amount for those rated exemplary and master has increased by $500 over last year’s retention incentive, which means they will receive up to $4,000.

Eligible team members who are not part of an excellence initiative—including but not limited to teacher assistants, bus drivers, Food and Child Nutrition Services employees, custodians, counselors, and those in central administration—who return for the 2023-2024 school year will receive an Incentive of $2,500 (excluding Unsatisfactory Effectiveness Level and chief level positions).

Like this year’s retention incentive, the amounts will be paid out in three installments—September, December and May. The included chart shows the differentiated amounts and the installments.

Celebrating books and literacy on National School Librarian Day

National School Librarian Day is being celebrated on April 4 to recognize the highly trained media specialists who promote information literacy, empower students to develop critical thinking and foster a love of lifelong learning. 

If you are ready to take the next step in your career and become a school librarian, participate in an information meeting to learn the path to school librarian certification on Thursday, March 30, at 4:30 p.m. by registering here: bit.ly/40c72V7.

During the first 18 weeks of the 2022-2023 school year, libraries across Dallas ISD had more than 380,000 books checked out, 96,000 e-books downloaded and 5.4 million database sessions—with 1.9 million total library books in the district collection.

Marvin Gonzalez, the media specialist at Downtown Montessori at Ida B. Wells Academy, said he has witnessed the power of school libraries time and time again during his 15 years as a school librarian and 23 total years as an educator in Dallas ISD. 

“Students come to the library as a safe haven,” Gonzalez said. “They feel relaxed and can talk about their lives. That is my passion, being able to help human beings. That’s why I’m here, to not only help students but also the community, the parents, the school and the district.”

Gonzalez wears many hats as a media specialist, from incorporating STEM into the library on a daily basis to organizing books fairs, teaching classes on coding and video game design and providing reading incentives. But he said one of his absolute favorite accomplishments has been helping found Downtown Montessori’s fathers’ club. 

He noticed that many students did not get to interact with their fathers often at home due to long working hours, so he organized an event to bring families together to provide additional support and tutoring to students. At the club’s first meeting in August, 71 families attended, surpassing Gonzalez’s expectations. 

Now, they meet every month and even have events outside of school to get to know each other and strengthen their community. 

“The positive effects of the club have been amazing,” Gonzalez said. “We have sports teams that dads are running, and we have a lot of parents who bring in donations and whatever we need, which we didn’t have before. That’s something that I love about being a school librarian because I am like a bridge between the school and the community.”

Dallas ISD’s media specialists continuously deliver high-quality instruction, collaborate with teachers, serve on school leadership committees and facilitate the use of technology by teachers and students alike, and Gonzalez said he is proud to be among them.

“I am here to foster the love of reading,” Gonzalez said. “When you have that, lives change. It’s wonderful because reading gives you access to another world, another dimension. It has been very emotional for me to see students many years later who remember me. They come back and say, ‘Thank you so much for everything you’ve done.’”

Team member honored for going above and beyond

Mark Wagner, a multiskill maintenance team member, was standing beneath a tree after helping set up the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Albert C. Black Elementary School in case he was needed during the event when Chief Operations Officer David Bates asked if the maintenance crew had water.  

Several people in the audience were overheating due to the temperature that day and the sun shining overhead, including a little girl who came to take shelter in the partial shade of the tree. Wagner’s team did not have any water on hand, so Wagner headed straight to a nearby 7-Eleven to fix the problem.

“I went, got water and came back, and that was it,” he said. “It was nothing I wouldn’t do for anyone else.”

While Wagner saw his actions as just another way of doing his job, Pamela Lear, deputy superintendent of Staff and Racial Equity, witnessed his fast, flexible customer service at the groundbreaking ceremony and decided to honor him for stepping up.

District leaders have been handing out special Dallas ISD lapel pins to commend team members who go above and beyond, and Lear presented Wagner with one not long after the event. 

“It was an honor to be recognized,” Wagner said. “I have been in Dallas ISD for 10 years, and I like it all. It’s nice to see an issue that needs to be taken care of and make it right.” 

Wagner said he will continue to strive for the yes and act with urgency for all as he works with his team to resolve campus work orders, repair flooring, build walls and office spaces and more. 

“We always try to be professional and fix any problems that need to be taken care of,” Wagner said. “We can’t always fix things immediately, but within a few days, we try to get the jobs done. Over the years, we’ve done a lot of good work and I enjoy that.”

Apply now for a $2,500 grant

Calling all Dallas ISD educators! The Junior League of Dallas’ Grants for Innovative Teaching 2023-2024 application period for unique and creative projects is now open.

All Dallas ISD educators are eligible to apply for funding up to $2,500 for innovative teaching projects for all grade levels and subjects. 

The Junior League of Dallas is seeking projects that reach beyond traditional curriculum. Examples include incorporating technology in a new way, addressing an issue or weakness in students’ understanding in a creative way, offering students experiences beyond those provided in a typical school day or enhancing engagement through hands-on or experiential learning. 

Visit the following link and follow the simple steps to apply or to obtain more information: https://www.jldallas.org/grants-for-innovative-teaching/. The application deadline is April 17. Applicants will be notified no later than July 2023 if their application has been accepted or rejected.

Don’t get phished

Can you recognize a phishing email right away? These scams are more and more common and can often be hard to spot without being constantly vigilant. Sometimes they seem to come from sources you know or trust. Dallas ISD’s Information Technology is here to help by sharing tips to recognize these scams and avoid being phished.

  • Look out for spelling and grammar errors
  • Don’t click on links or attachments you aren’t familiar with
  • Is the sender a legitimate source/contact?
  • Be aware of unsolicited emails that ask for personal information
  • Don’t download files that you did not request or are expecting
  • Use/request materials via Google Drive or SharePoint from peers instead of having to download file attachments
  • Avoid clicking/opening on OneNote (Example: file.one) attachments

If you think you or a member of your team is experiencing a privacy matter involving student data or any kind of cybersecurity incident, please submit a ticket immediately and ask that the ticket be routed to the Security Team. 

Apply for $20,000 scholarship

If you are thinking about furthering your education, don’t hesitate to apply now for the 2023 William H. Cotton Scholarship, worth $20,000, for Dallas ISD educators who want to pursue post-graduate degrees. The deadline to submit the completed scholarship application is March 31.

The scholarship was established by Credit Union of Texas to honor the legacy of Cotton’s 46 years of dedication and service to Dallas ISD and the Credit Union of Texas. It is awarded to one district educator or administrator seeking to pursue continuing post-baccalaureate education, including certifications, to further their career in the field of education for the benefit of the Dallas ISD community and its students. Cotton was a long-time principal and administrator who was also the first African-American president of the Dallas School Administrators Association. He retired in 2000 as an associate superintendent.

Who is eligible?

  • Applicant must be a CUTX member with a checking account or a loan product prior to submitting an application. Eligibility requirements must be met annually for renewal.
  • Checking account, and all other accounts at CUTX, must be in good standing. Eligibility requirements must be met annually for renewal.
  • Must be a full-time or part-time Dallas ISD faculty or administrator. Eligibility requirements must be met annually for renewal.
  • Must be intended to further your career in education and serve the Dallas ISD community during the course of the scholarship term. Eligibility requirements must be met annually for renewal.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident.
  • All required attachments must be submitted with your application (see below).
  • CUTX employees and family members of CUTX employees are NOT eligible for this scholarship.

 The rules

  • Incomplete applications or those missing any required documents will not be considered.
  • Applications postmarked after the deadline will not be considered.
  • Scholarship funds will be paid directly to the educational institution. Continued disbursement of scholarship funds requires a grade of C or better in a graded course and passing in a pass/fail course.
  • The scholarship value will be awarded in increments of $5,000 per semester over a period of four semesters.

For more information about the scholarship and to apply by March 31, visit https://www.cutx.org/community/cutx-cotton-scholarship.

Take advantage of the Retirement Service Award

Thinking of retiring this year? Dallas ISD will pay you cash for your unused local days. The deadline to submit your intent-to-retire date in Oracle Self-Service is noon on April 14, 2023. 

The more days you have remaining when you retire, the higher your award. Employees who notify Human Capital Management by entering their intent-to-retire date in Oracle Self-Service by the deadline can receive a flat daily rate of pay for any unused local days accrued by July 31. 

The exact rate to be paid will be determined upon calculation of all the participants’ remaining local days (calculated by July 31) for the year. There is no cap to the number of local days paid, and there is no time in service requirement.

Remember, retiring employees must enter their retirement date in Oracle Self-Service no later than noon on April 14 to be eligible for the award. Those who do not enter their separation date in Oracle Self-Service by the deadline will not be eligible for the award.

If you have additional questions, contact the Benefits Department at (972) 925-4300.