Make a difference at an ACE campus

Kindergarten teacher Jimmie Pickering was inspired to become an educator after advocating for her youngest son, who had learning challenges, and seeing him flourish as a student in Dallas ISD. 

Her passion for closing learning gaps and helping children become college and career ready convinced her to join Elisha M. Pease Elementary School, an Accelerating Campus Excellence (ACE) school, seven years ago. Now she is encouraging other teachers to take the leap to an ACE campus during the open transfer period. 

“I’ve heard people say it’s hard. It’s not hard,” Pickering said. “If you have a passion for student success, ACE is where you want to be. You get to learn what rigor looks like. You get to learn depth of knowledge and how to bring that out of your students.”

The open transfer period allows eligible teachers, counselors and media specialists 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.

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

Pickering started out at Pease Elementary as a substitute teacher and has worked hard to pursue excellence in the classroom ever since. She recently became her campus’ 2022-2023 teacher of the year, something she credits to her personal and professional development through the ACE model. 

She has helped countless students close learning gaps through tiered small group instruction and targeted resources, and she said she loves seeing them go from not being able to write their names to reading books with confidence.

“Along with your education, ACE grows your heart, because you are always asking, ‘What can I do? How can I make my students great?’” Pickering said. “You want to do that, and you see each one of your colleagues wanting the exact same thing. It’s a culture of happiness, of joy, of togetherness, and it’s good.”

If you are interested in pursuing a new opportunity for growth, apply online using your EAD login at 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.

“Don’t be afraid of ACE campuses,” Pickering said. “If anything, you need to flock to them because they’re going to provide you with the resources and the professional development that you need, not only for yourself to grow you as an educator but to grow your students and close gaps.”

March is National Nutrition Month

Good nutrition should be a part of an everyday plan for a healthier lifestyle. In March, Dallas ISD’s Food and Child Nutrition Services is highlighting the importance of making informed food choices and developing good eating and physical activity habits as part of National Nutrition Month.

The good thing is that being healthier doesn’t require huge changes. Below are small changes that could make a big impact not only on our health but on our world.

  • Eat more plant-based foods: Choosing more plant-based protein foods such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, and tofu instead of animal-based protein foods is one way to reduce your carbon footprint and eat healthier. You can participate in “Meatless Mondays”.
  • Buy locally and in season: Saves fossil fuels used for long-distance transport and food is likely fresher and may taste better, cost less, and retain more nutrients. In addition, it supports local farmers.
  • Reduce packaging: Buy foods in bulk to reduce the amount of plastic, paper, metal, and energy that goes into manufacturing the packaging. If possible, choose containers that can be reused and recycle materials such as glass, metal, paper, and plastic.
  • Choose reusable bags: Opt for reusable grocery bags, such as totes or used paper and plastic bags from previous visits. This can lessen the impact of plastic bags that often end up in landfills and pollute fresh bodies of water and oceans.
  • Save water: Water could become our scarcest resource. When using a dishwasher, don’t rinse the dishes beforehand, and run the dishwasher only when it’s full. Don’t use running water to defrost frozen food. Plan ahead instead and thaw it in advance in the refrigerator or microwave.
  • Decrease amounts of garbage: Avoid using disposable plates, cups, etc. Try composting some of the food waste. Fruit and vegetable scraps can be used to nourish your garden.

Healthy eating is important at every age. This can be done by offering your family a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy or fortified alternatives. When shopping for groceries, choose foods and beverages that are full of nutrients and limited in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. 

Children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly all have different requirements for the number of calories and protein; however, the overall goal remains the same—to eat balanced and nourishing meals that include foods from each food group. 

Below are some tips to increase healthy eating for the whole family.

  • Plan your meals: To reduce any stress at mealtimes, plan out meals before the week starts. Include easy and quick dishes and even leftovers for those busy days.
  • Serve a variety: Include choices from each food group for a balanced meal. This includes fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy in meals and snacks throughout the week.
  • Cook together: With adult supervision, children can get involved in cooking and putting together a meal. You can assign tasks to children to help, while also teaching food safety.
  • Connect at mealtimes: Sit down together for a meal and “unplug” from technology such as phones, laptops, television, headphones, etc. This encourages more interaction and focuses on each other. It also increases mindful eating habits such as eating slower and chewing more, listening to our satiety cues, and engaging all senses.

Free tickets to the Dallas Cup

Dallas ISD team members interested in attending the Dallas Cup can receive up to two complimentary tickets. Dallas Cup, the oldest international youth soccer tournament in the United States, will take place on Sunday, April 2, at Cotton Bowl Stadium. The tournament begins at 12:30 p.m. 

To get your two free tickets, click here. Use promo code DISD. 

Below is the tournament schedule:

12:30 p.m. – FC Dallas Girls ECNL 05/04 vs. Australian School Girls

3:00 p.m. – São Paulo FC (BRA) vs. Fulham FC (ENG)

5:00 p.m.  – Welcome World Parade

6:30 p.m. – Boys Gordon Jago Super Group – Real Madrid vs. CF Monterrey

For more information, visit

School counselors promote culture of well-being

For Deana Williams, Tammee Sandle and Leandrie Gabriel—members of the award-winning school counseling team at Dr. Frederick Douglass Todd Sr. Middle School—empowering their community is always the priority. 

This can happen in different ways like providing guidance to students, hosting parent conferences, teaming up with their school’s social worker and other local partners, assisting test coordinators or supporting their administration team. 

“I always say we’re flexible,” Williams said. “Although this is a small campus, we have a lot of needs. We fill in the gaps.”

Each member of the counseling team is dedicated to a specific grade level, which they follow through the students’ transition to high school. Currently, Sandle works with sixth-grade students, Williams works with seventh-grade students and Gabriel works with eighth-grade students. 

The setup helps them get to know their students on a deeper level and show up where they are needed most. Sandle said some members of their community experience homelessness, so they work together to get and clean uniforms and ensure the students have the resources they need through two “Love Closets.” 

With one “Love Closet” in the counseling suite and another in a campus gym, students can access hygiene products ranging from underwear to soap and deodorant, as well as care bags with supplies and positive affirmations. 

“We stay up to date on the resources students may need on a daily basis,” Sandle said. “Those are my success stories, because I’ve had a lot of students who may have been homeless and who have needed them.”

Their passion, hard work and dedication enabled them to earn the 2021-2022 Dallas ISD Trailblazer Award as a “dynamic counseling team” for the effective implementation of their comprehensive school counseling team. Sandle said they are proud of the work they have done and continue to do to ensure their students’ academic, social and emotional health and well-being.

“As a counselor, you touch so many areas of school and education, and you can actually see that your words are impacting students’ lives,” Gabriel agreed. “You’re there for the good and the bad, counseling parents and students as well as teachers at times. It is a challenging job, but it’s rewarding, and we’re thankful to be recognized for who counselors are and what we do.”

Women’s History Month profile: Silvia Salinas

Being a woman leading a successful athletics department for a large school district that has earned several state titles is not the norm. But Silvia Salinas, the first female executive director for the Dallas ISD Department of Athletics, stands out not just for these accomplishments, but also for creating a positive culture that uplifts future leaders.

Salinas believes in making sure the 1,200 coaches and over 150 events team members who work directly with students are the department’s focus. This year, that focus has led to South Oak Cliff High School’s football team and Justin F. Kimball High School’s basketball team winning state titles.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure our coaches are feeling respected, valued and have everything they need to be successful,” Salinas said. “When you have people who are thriving, and feel loved and respected, you are going to have better, healthier people in front of kids.”  

Salinas has worked for 29 years in education, and 25 of those years have been at Dallas ISD. She first came to the district in 1996 and worked at Skyline High School where she taught math and coached cross-country/track and field. She left the district for two years to coach and earn a master’s degree at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La. She then returned to the district in 2000 and became the assistant director of athletics in 2004. She’s served in her current role as executive director of athletics since 2019.

As the leader of the athletic department of a large district, do you see more women taking on leadership roles in sports administration?

Nationally, the percentage of women being in our roles is not high, but in the DFW area, there are quite a few women who are in leadership roles. What I encourage our female coaches to do is to be leaders wherever they are. They don’t have to have titles to lead. When granted the opportunity and being in this chair as the first female executive director of athletics for Dallas ISD, I have the responsibility to do things right and set a good example, so doors are open for women who come after me. 

What accomplishment are you proudest of?

I am most proud of earning my doctorate degree. I started the program in 2009, while working as the assistant director in athletics.  I defended my dissertation and graduated in December of 2013 from the University of North Texas with a degree in higher education. 

What advice or words of encouragement would you give your younger self or someone following in your footsteps?

In track and field, I wish I knew what I know now as a coach because I think I would have been a better athlete. But my journey is my journey and I don’t have any regrets. I’m just proud of the journey. I would encourage myself to make connections along the way, meet more people, learn their names, because you never know when you’re going to cross paths with them again. I did a little bit of that, and that’s how I ended up coaching at the college level. I made connections as an undergraduate student and an athlete. I would encourage myself and others to continue making those connections and not be afraid to take chances. 

What helps you persevere during hard moments?

My faith. I must keep centering myself with that. I must remind myself not to take things personally, which is hard, because I’m very personally invested in my work, otherwise I wouldn’t be here for this long. But I think when it comes to challenges, I must step away from it, recenter myself, and just lean on my faith. It’s always good to have a friend or colleague to help you stay grounded and work to make the right decisions for our students and our department. 

What drew you to the field of education?  

My mom and my grandparents really pushed education. I was lucky. I grew up in the Hispanic community, and I was very blessed that my grandparents pushed education. It didn’t matter what happened, but I was going to finish my degree. I already knew I was going to do that. And seeing my mom work in her passion, inspired me to do the same. No matter what I chose to do, I was going to do it with full effort and passion. I always loved learning and I kept my focus on that. My family gave me the foundation, and that kept pushing me to keep achieving things that I wanted to do.

What is your favorite memory at Dallas ISD? 

We have a lot of great memories. Most people would say it’s about the wins and the championships, and all those are very special and very memorable for me. For me it’s more when a coach or a student thanks me for inspiring them or helping them or giving them advice. It’s more of an intrinsic feeling that I get from a thank you or a note when someone comes back after a few years and says ‘you really helped me with certain things.’ Just the one-on-one conversations are what’s memorable for me.

I remember those things. I want to help coaches, and I want to help our students, and it’s not going to be an easy journey each time, as hurdles are going to come our way. COVID – you can’t forget that. And having to lead in a year like that, that was so unprecedented, was challenging. I was leaning into my faith because I was thinking, “How do I lead coaches and kids through this?” I had to step in front of people to lead them through the unknown. We may not have all the answers but we’re going to get through this together, and just encourage people to keep going and to hopefully see the other side of it.

The United Negro College Fund Workplace Campaign is underway

Make a difference in a student’s life. The window to donate to the United Negro College Fund Workforce Campaign will be open until Friday, April 14. Each year, the UNFC, the nation’s largest minority education organization, raises funds through this campaign for students to attend college. 

Dallas ISD team members have the option to give a one-time donation or choose a monthly payroll deduction on Oracle under Employee Self-Service. You can also donate at, where all the campaign materials and documents, donation instructions, and scholarship information can be found.

The scholarships are awarded to eligible seniors, regardless of race or ethnicity, who attend Dallas ISD and who plan to attend a historically black college or university, or any other four-year accredited U.S. college or university in the Fall of 2023.

Last year, the UNFC Workforce Campaign raised $19,347 in donations from Dallas ISD team members, and five students received a $2,500 scholarship. This year’s goal is to raise $50,000. According to Crystal Alexander, Dallas ISD’s UNCF representative, this can be achieved if every department or campus raises at least $209. 

For more information, contact Crystal Alexander at or Cortney Lewis-Smith, the local UNCF representative at

Dallas ISD expands recruitment efforts to Panama

Dallas ISD continues to be a trailblazer in the field of international recruiting and recently visited Panama City, Panama, to find outstanding bilingual educators to lead district classrooms.

“This was a way to expand the district’s international recruiting efforts, given the current teacher shortage, specifically in the areas of bilingual and special education,” said Rafael Fontalvo, director of the Staffing Department, whose efforts and connections were recently featured in a local story

To help get the word out that the district was in Panama to recruit teachers, Fontalvo, who is originally from Panama, appeared on TVN, a national television station in Panama City. The response was successful, as over 150 persons attended the information sessions. 

“It drives us to explore other markets in countries such as Panama, where educators are bilingual and biliterate, which is an area that our school district needs, specifically in the dual language program,” said Diana Castañeda, manager of the Recruitment Department. “Knowing that we have one of the largest dual language programs in the nation, it is important for us to sustain and meet those needs of the students so they can continue to have successful outcomes.”

In past years, the district has recruited teachers in Mexico and Puerto Rico, but this is the first time the district has taken the recruitment efforts to Panama.  

The district chose Panama based on data from the last couple of years that indicated where bilingual candidates had come from internationally, according to Steven Jackson, director of the Recruitment Department. 

“Each year, we analyze data to identify new markets that we haven’t tapped into, and we notice that there were high quality teachers that came from both Panama and Colombia. Based off our analysis, we decided for the 2023-2024 recruitment season that we would start focusing our international recruitment efforts in these countries,” said Jackson. 

Jackson says that in these international recruitment efforts, they look for veteran teachers with a minimum of two years teaching experience.  

“They know the pedagogy that’s needed to be successful in our classroom. We bring veteran teachers that have the knowledge and experience in their home country, not just novice teachers,” he explained.

“We were able to talk about the H-1B and J-1 visa programs and had a lot of high-quality candidates come to our information sessions. We were able to interview over 50 candidates for bilingual and special education positions in Panama City,” said Jackson.  

 As part of the process, the candidates must meet a few minimum requirements through the Texas Education Agency, Castañeda said. 

“We are bringing top talent to our classrooms and ensuring that the teachers can relate to the culture of our students as well,” she said. “Because they speak Spanish, they are able to communicate with our students as well as their parents, and this is very important to us.” 

Fontalvo echoes the sentiment: “Something that’s very interesting about Panama is we have a lot of Afro Latinos that speak Spanish. From an equity perspective, a lot of our students will be able to see someone in front of them that looks like them, which is very empowering for our students and families.”

As far as next steps, preparations are being made for the teachers to begin working for the district in the 2023-2024 school year. According to Castañeda, the district is currently interviewing, screening and vetting candidates, who will work primarily in the areas of bilingual elementary and special education.

“I’m very excited about these opportunities that continue to build Dallas ISD as an international brand,” Fontalvo said. “We’re very excited to go in this direction, as we’re tapping into teacher pipelines that weren’t available in the past.”

This Is Home: Media specialists reunite after years apart 

Supporting each other and paving the way for student success are integral parts of Dallas ISD’s culture and the work educators do every day. For two librarians, this work also has been a journey of discovering new careers and rediscovering their friendship. 

Louise Wolff Kahn Elementary School’s Brenda Vargas and Henry B. Gonzalez Personalized Learning Academy’s Yolanda Rosa first met in January 2012 when Vargas took a long-term substitute position at Kahn. Vargas said Rosa “took me under her wing right from the beginning” and became first her mentor in the classroom and then her good friend. 

“I started at Dallas ISD 24 years ago,” Rosa said. “I was the young one, and I was on a team with veteran teachers. They taught us how to work together. We all helped each other, and I learned something from each and every one of them. So with Ms. Vargas, she was young and she wanted to learn and she wanted to help her students, and I loved that about her. I learned from her, and she learned from me.” 

They taught together at Kahn for a few years before Rosa moved to Edwin J. Kiest Elementary School, but the connections she built at Kahn did not fade. Inspired by Kahn’s librarian at the time, Nancy Cheyne, Rosa decided to follow in her footsteps and has spent the past seven years as a library media specialist at Kiest and now at Gonzalez. 

While Vargas and Rosa lost touch during those years, Vargas soon embarked on her own journey to become a library media specialist, also inspired by the colleague she and Rosa still call “Mama Cheyne.” Vargas earned her master’s degree and continued to work at Kahn as a teacher for a few more years until Cheyne retired in 2021 after more than 50 years of service. Vargas stepped forward to fill the open position. 

Rosa and Vargas had no idea they had been on such similar journeys until this past fall. They had both joined the second cohort of Project READ to further their knowledge of library research, exploration, application and design, and they stumbled upon each other at a training. 

“I saw her from behind, just the back, and then she started talking,” Vargas said. “I instantly thought, ‘I know who that is.’ As soon as we got a break, I went up to her, and it was like we were never apart.” 

They have been talking ever since, sharing their experiences and what Vargas called the “joys that come with being a librarian.” Being a media specialist is something that Vargas loves, but she said it can be difficult to be the only one in the role on her campus. 

That is why these ongoing friendships and connections throughout the district mean so much to both Vargas and Rosa. As Dallas ISD library media specialists, they said they love coming together and supporting each other through the ups and the downs. 

In Rosa’s words, “We are all learning together. We can only get better.” 

You are not alone

While the district may be closed for spring break March 13-17, staff can still get assistance with benefits. The benefits call center will be open regular hours during that week to provide assistance.

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 at 877-528-9876 or visit  Optum 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.

The open transfer period is here

Are you a current Dallas ISD teacher, counselor or media specialist looking for a new opportunity? If so, the open transfer period may be for you. 

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. 

The open transfer window for high priority campuses opened on March 6 and will begin for other campuses on March 22. The principal deadline to submit recommendations for the open transfer period is 11:59 p.m. on April 26.

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 using the internal openings link. The Human Capital Management team will email notifications of approval/denial throughout the open transfer period. These notifications will be sent to the team member and the current and receiving principal. 

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. 

After the open transfer windows close, all transfers will need to follow the administrative transfer guidelines. If you have any questions or concerns, contact Priscilla Soltren at 972-925-4227 or via email at