Summer fashion is here

Dallas ISD team members are reminded that they can take advantage of the summer dress code through Sept. 1 to be comfortable as they perform their normal work duties while still portraying a professional image to students, parents, and community members.

Standards for daily attire are at the discretion of the supervisor. The dress code does not allow for inappropriate apparel. (See DH(LOCAL) and DH (REGULATION))

  • Casual includes clothing that is comfortable and neatly put together while communicating professionalism.
  • Casual may differ based on the various business needs of the department. Please consult with your department supervisor to determine appropriate attire for your job.
  • Certain events on the District’s calendar may require employees in a specific department or location to wear business attire instead of the casual look.
  • Take your workday schedule into account when considering your attire for the day. If you have a meeting scheduled with the public or vendors, you may need to wear business attire.
  • Supervisors will have the discretion to make exceptions to appropriateness of attire as it relates to culture, religious beliefs, vocational courses, physical education, maintenance, medical necessities, events, and spirit days.
  • Employees required to wear District-issued uniforms are expected to wear the assigned uniform.

Acceptable Attire

  • Clothing should be clean, pressed and wrinkle-free, without holes or frayed areas.
  • All attire should fit appropriately (not excessively tight or loose).
  • Footwear – Loafers, boots, flats, sandals, and leather deck shoes are acceptable.
  • Slacks – Nice pants or cotton slacks.
  • Shirts – Blouses, casual shirts, and golf shirts are acceptable.
  • Dresses or skirts – Casual dresses and skirts appropriate for an office environment are acceptable.

Unacceptable Attire

  • Form-fitting, snug, sagging, or transparent clothing.
  • Excessively worn, faded, or tight clothing.
  • Clothing with holes or frayed areas.
  • Revealing or provocative attire.
  • Necklines that expose cleavage.
  • Dresses and skirts shorter than three inches above the bend of the knee.
  • Jeans, sweatpants, shorts, bib overalls, leggings, spandex, and lycra.
  • Tank tops, t-shirts, and shirts with messages/graphics.
  • Athletic wear and beachwear.
  • Footwear-Slippers, flip-flops, athletic, house, and sneaker-style shoes.
  • Hats are not to be worn inside, unless used as protective wear appropriate for one’s job function.

Meet Master Principal Ida C. Escobedo

Ida C. Escobedo, the principal of Margaret B. Henderson Elementary School, has worked in education for 45 years, with 40 years in Dallas ISD and five years outside the district.

She grew up in Stamford, Texas, and came to Dallas to work as a bilingual teacher, where she was inspired to grow her knowledge and skills in education. She then attended Southern Methodist University, where she received her master’s degree in liberal arts with a bilingual concentration. 

Since coming to Dallas ISD, she has spent 20 years teaching and another 20 years in administration, and now she has added the designation of Master Principal for the 2022-2023 school year to her list of accomplishments. 

These designations are awarded annually to the top 10 percent of Dallas ISD principals in three categories: neighborhood elementary schools, neighborhood secondary schools, and choice schools. 

The awards are part of the Theory of Action, which governs how Dallas ISD makes decisions that ultimately impact student achievement. The criteria used are the School Effectiveness Index, State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness/ EOC Domain 1, and campus climate data.

What drew you to education? 

Many of my family members were in education and inspired me to go into education to make an impact on the lives of students.

What qualities make a great principal? 

Qualities that make a great principal are as follows but are not limited to: being committed to achieving performance outcomes; developing strong relationships; promoting accountability; maintaining order and structure; empowering others and self; ensuring first instruction; setting high expectations for students, teachers, and self; and building relationships with community members. 

What is your educational philosophy or a motto by which you work? 

A motto by which I work is, “We create a positive school culture to build supportive relationships among parents, students, and team members.”

What inspires you about your position? 

What inspires me about the position is always looking to improve the school and figure out how to make those improvements regardless of how difficult it might be.

HeART of Teaching winners

The Dallas Education Foundation, the nonprofit philanthropic partner of Dallas ISD, has announced the recipients of its HeART of Teaching Discretionary Grant Awards Cycle. The foundation received grant applications from dozens of teachers at campuses across the district and named 35 awardees to receive nearly $127,000 in funding.

Proposals included projects that spanned the spectrum of the arts in Dallas ISD, including visual, performing, theatrical, and musical arts.

“The importance of the arts in education cannot be overstated,” said Scott Rudes, Dallas ISD’s executive director of Academic Enrichment and Support. “We’re grateful to the Dallas Education Foundation for recognizing the arts, for their continued focus on elevating our teachers, and for funding these amazing projects.”

Serving on the HeART of Teaching grants review committee were Rudes; Amy Hofland, senior director, Crow Museum of Asian Art of the University of Texas at Dallas; Charles Santos, executive director and artistic director, TITUS; Dallas Education Foundation board members Theresa Flores, Drex Owusu, and Jennifer Scripps; and Brian Nguyen and Emily Davis of Dallas ISD’s Human Capital Management.

“What an incredible review committee we had for our first-ever discretionary grants cycle!” said Mita Havlick, executive director of the Dallas Education Foundation. “The team’s diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives led to productive conversation and debate. We are honored to have served alongside each of them so we may collectively advance equity and learning through the arts.

“We know how committed our educators in Dallas ISD are to their students,” Havlick continued. “Providing innovative teaching grants provides our teachers with opportunities for them to creatively explore how to further engage and support their scholars.”

The 2023 Dallas Education Foundation HeART of Teaching grant recipients are:

  • Lorenzo McCoy, Seagoville MS, A Practical Approach to Arts Integration
  • Rachel Woods, Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, Addressing Equity and Diversity in Texas Orchestras
  • Michael Keeton, E.D. Walker MS, AI in Arts Exploration
  • Vonceia Hill, Margaret B. Henderson ES, Art and Vocabulary Acquisition, a School-Wide Vocabulary Initiative
  • Claudia Ramirez, Leslie Stemmons ES, Art Show Displays
  • Kathy Nguyen, North Dallas HS, BioArt: Bringing Science to Life with Augmented Reality
  • Lesya White, North Dallas HS, BioArt: Integrating Art and Science for a Sustainable Future
  • Pamela Bradford, Birdie Alexander ES, Book Buddies ‘R Us
  • Alexandria Saulnier, Edward Titche ES, Caldecott in our He(Art)
  • Theresa Anderson, Hillcrest HS, Celebrating Culture in our Community
  • Rachel Rogerson, W.W. Samuell HS, Culturally Responsive Community Art
  • Whitley Green, Hulcy STEAM MS, Dance & Tech: The Dancing Camera
  • Philomena Jones, SS Conner ES, Dragons Love Pie
  • Karleen Hesselbacher, Hillcrest HS, Equilibrium: Bridging Humans and Nature Through Art
  • Chris Drews, Leslie A. Stemmons ES, Equitable World Drumming
  • Patricia Sifuentes, Annie Webb Blanton ES, Exploring the world through art!
  • Robert Lewis, James Madison HS, Exposing Opportunities through Music and the Arts
  • Diana Trevino, Benjamin Franklin MS, Falcon Mariachi Group
  • Dawna Duke, T.C. Marsh Preparatory Academy, From Art to STEM to Entrepreneurship at T.C. Marsh Prep
  • Arlene Esparza, Martha T. Reilly ES, Herstory 101: Documenting the untold stories and contributions of women in the City of Dallas through photography and oral interviews
  • Emma Akimoto, Skyline HS, Japanese Calligraphy in Sumi Ink
  • Mackie Bailey, Eduardo Mata Montessori School, Literacy through Musical Theater
  • Blake Mokate, Skyline HS, Live Audio Production
  • Sophie Nah, Skyline HS, Multiple projects – “My Korean Friend – Story Book,” “My World Travel Journal,” and “Let’s Celebrate Holiday”
  • Jessica Laureano, Nathan Adams ES, Partnership with Dallas Children’s Theater
  • Jorge Porras, Leslie A. Stemmons ES, Passport to the world through the lens of arts
  • Natalia Morodo, Richard Lagow ES, Promoting literacy and equity through musical theater
  • Delanna Sanders and Tammye McWilliams, Richard Lagow ES, Rap Project
  • Brady Stebleton, Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, Sewing Machines for Costume Design
  • Martin Mejia-Rodriguez, Rosie M. Collins Sorrells School of Education and Social Services, Signs Preceding the end of the World – Dia de los Muertos Alters
  • Juan Moreno, Prestonwood Montessori, The Power of Making: Investing in a Makerspace with Advanced Tools for Student Innovation and Learning
  • Beth Poquette Drews, L.V. Stockard MS, Valuable Music
  • Deidra Ballard-Moore, L.G. Pinkston HS, What’s the Stitch?
  • Caitlin Schmidt, Woodrow Wilson HS, Who Runs the World: Under-represented artists and composers
  • Karen Wood, W.W. Samuell HS, W.W. Samuell High School Arts & Literary Journal
  • Vaughn Belcher, Bryan Adams HS, You Are Enough!

This Is Home: Honoring five decades of service to Dallas ISD

Robert Munoz, a counselor at David W. Carter High School, is among the thousands of team members who have called Dallas ISD home for years, even decades. The district is recognizing Munoz and countless others for their commitment to the community with the Service Recognition Award.

Munoz has spent the past 52 years in Dallas ISD, which has earned him a 50-year anniversary pin. Pins are given to Dallas ISD team members at anniversary milestones starting at five years of service and in five-year increments. 

Munoz married Yolanda Silvas in Dallas before going to Vietnam as a member of the armed forces. Upon returning in 1971, he applied to Dallas ISD.

Since then, he has held many positions across different areas, including being a teacher and coach at Harry C. Withers Elementary School, an instructional facilitator in physical education,  He has worked at Sunset High School as a school counselor and as an assistant principal at multiple Dallas ISD schools. He also served as principal of Thomas J. Rusk Middle School and North Dallas High School, director of counseling, counseling supervisor, and more.

How have you seen the district change from when you started until now?  

When the court ordered the schools to integrate in 1971, many of the campus team members were forced to move to other campuses, and students were bused across the district. I was so glad to see the Youth and Family Centers added in the late ’90s to address the mental, behavioral, and physical health issues that students may experience. 

I was also an assistant principal at Carter High School when we won the state football championship in 1988, which was taken from us two years later. We now have South Oak Cliff with the state title.

What has inspired you to continue calling Dallas ISD home? 

Regardless of the assignment, I approached each day as an adventure. The unknown that each day would provide me are experiences that I will always remember. And to see students succeed throughout their educational highway motivates me to continue as a school counselor.  

What is one of your favorite memories from your time in the district? 

In 1996 as the principal of North Dallas High School, the graduation of my first class as principal was special in many ways. My daughter, Stephanie, graduated in that class and to see my signature as principal on her diploma is priceless. 

ESSER update: Summer Learning accelerates student success

Summer is finally here, and Dallas ISD is committed to providing a comprehensive set of opportunities for students to connect with their peers, engage in rigorous tasks, accelerate learning, and improve their social and emotional well-being through Summer Breeze 2023. 

Summer Breeze is the overarching name for all the summer programming being offered through the Extended Learning Opportunities department. Each program has a focus on mitigating summer learning loss while keeping students engaged. 

“These programs will allow us to get a head start, and most campuses can even satisfy all of their House Bill 4545 tutoring hours prior to the start of the school year thanks to the built in academic hours,” said Merrill Devenshire, director of ELO. “We have also used a lot of the same enrichment curriculum that we use during our after-school programs, so students will get exposure to extracurriculars and enrichment. We are hoping that this will peak students’ interest so they will participate in these types of programs throughout the school year.”

Summer Breeze includes several programs, including Summer Cool for prekindergarten through eighth-grade students, High School Credit Boost for high school students who need credit recovery or acceleration, and Dallas City of Learning-sponsored events throughout July that are available to all students. 

Most of the program costs fall under ELO’s general operating budget, with additional support from a $2 million allocation from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund that is covering transportation, contract services, and materials. 

Devenshire said Summer Breeze was a success last year, with 7,500 students participating in Summer Cool, 4,000 students participating in the credit boost program, and 700 students participating in July’s Dallas City of Learning programs. Thanks to the positive attention the summer activities have received since then, Devenshire said they anticipate even more students this year.

And that is not all that Dallas ISD is offering students over the summer. Other departments will host summer camps and engagement activities, while ELO will have State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test preparation for all the students who will retake the STAAR in June. 

“Our number one goal is to provide a free service to parents and families in a safe environment that is open to all students,” Devenshire said. “That way families don’t have to worry about where their students will be all summer long, and learning will continue across all grade levels.”

Meet Teacher of the Year finalist Mia Witt

A proud graduate of Dallas ISD—“Go Woodrow Wildcats!”—Mia Witt is a special education teacher and teacher leader at César Chávez Learning Center. She began teaching at J.L. Long Middle School, where her grandmother was a cafeteria worker for years and many of her family members attended. 

Witt has provided interventions to and advocated for students with disabilities from prekindergarten through eighth grade for over eight years. Her teaching philosophy is to meet children at their level and scaffold them to academic, social, and vocational independence. Witt, who has a degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of North Texas, is an Apple teacher and digital ambassador and uses technology to streamline accommodations and modifications for students. 

She founded a campus food pantry at J.L. Long Middle School and continues to facilitate a food and clothing pantry at César Chávez. She relies on open communication with students to meet their needs while maintaining their dignity and privacy.

What is some advice you wish you had received when you were starting out as a teacher?  

I wish I had been told about modeling mistakes earlier in my career. Teachers are humans, too. We’re fallible, and it builds strong connections and sets a good example for students when we make a mistake and show ourselves correcting an error.

What is your best tip for classroom management?  

My best classroom management tip is to first decide what few things really matter in order to provide good instruction and then set and hold your students to those expectations. An inclusive classroom requires flexibility for seating, for movement breaks, and for the inevitable meltdown. When my expectations are clear, consistent, and concise for students, they are able to take care of their needs without disrupting instruction. They know how to use the restroom, where to get supplies when they run out, and how to take a break when needed. Those expectations are explained in August and practiced daily. The entire classroom runs easier when everyone knows the expectations.

How do you build strong connections with students?  

I build strong connections with my students by making time for morning meetings and calendar time. It’s not revolutionary, but by consistently making that time in my schedule, my students are able to share about their lives and interests, upcoming birthdays, or if there’s a holiday they’re excited about. In turn, I can incorporate those things into classroom instruction, stickers or other incentives, and themed brain breaks. The things my students share in those 10 minutes allow us to connect as humans, and allow them to connect with their peers as well.

What are your hopes for your students in the future?  

My hopes for my students are that they make good choices and live a life they are proud of.

If you were not a teacher, what would you be doing instead?  

In another universe where I am not a teacher, I would like to work with local and state government offices to increase supported employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.

What do you consider to be your superpower as a teacher? 

My superpower as a teacher is teaching kids to persevere. Kids need to learn that the classroom is a low stakes environment where they can always erase and try again.

School year is almost over 

While the 2022-2023 school year will be over for most students this Friday, students and team members at 45 schools will go a few weeks longer because of the added days for Intersession and School Day Redesign. All schools and students will go back to a single calendar for the 2023-2024 school year. 

May 29—Memorial Day—is a districtwide holiday.

The last day of work for teachers on the base calendar will be May 30, while teachers in the Intersession calendar will see their last day of work for the school year on June 26. Teachers in the School Day Redesign calendar will have extra days on May 31 and June 1-23.

These additional days in the extended year calendars are regular school days for students and are critical for the recovery from learning disruptions caused by the recent pandemic. 

Because contract days for teachers in SDR schools end May 30, all of the June days are beyond the contract and paid at the daily rate. If a teacher is absent on any day in June, they will not get any extra pay for that day and cannot use PTO. 

The Intersession days—June 5-9—are not contract days for teachers. They will get their daily rate for the week and cannot use PTO if they miss. The days after Intersession, those are contract days. If a teacher is absent on one of those days, they will need to use PTO. 

Engaging students in and out of the classroom

Olivia Moka was not certain she wanted to be in a classroom when she entered college, despite the fact that her mother and grandmother were both teachers, but that changed as soon as she did an internship observing a third-grade classroom. 

“I literally had the best semester of my life,” Moka said. “And I thought, ‘I need to do this now.’”

So she joined Dallas ISD’s Alternative Certification Program, moved from Arkansas to Texas, and is now in her second year as a sixth-grade teacher at Benjamin Franklin International Exploratory Academy. 

Moka has been making a positive impact on students ever since, using her own personal interests of gardening and cheerleading to make memorable moments for students on campus in addition to championing their academic success. 

Early on in her first year as a teacher, she was asked to help with the school’s cheer team. Having been a cheerleader in high school, Moka said she was excited to get involved, and by the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, she became the team lead—of a brand new team. None of her students this year had any experience, so they had to start from scratch, and Moka said she has loved seeing their transformation.

“I remember before the first football game, they asked, ‘Do we have to cheer in front of people?’” Moka said. “Now I’m seeing them do stunts, and they are begging me to go to away games. It’s been amazing to watch them build that confidence in themselves.”

And that is not the only student activity Moka has turned on its head. She also leads the school’s gardening club. When she started out last year, all they had was an empty plot of land, so she applied for a grant and was able to provide her students with soil, plants, and other gardening equipment this year. 

“We have completely transformed the space,” Moka said. “Now I see people walking by and realizing there’s a garden here, and the kids are always asking when we can go outside into the garden and read or write poetry. It’s been a great journey.”

From her dedication to student activities to her drive in the classroom, Moka has left an impression on her students and peers alike.   

Mark Olateju, a fellow Dallas ISD teacher, said, “Ms. Moka rises to each and every occasion. During the first week of school she was changed from sixth-grade English language arts to an English language learner position covering sixth- through eighth-grade due to the fact that she is ESL certified. In her first month of school as a new teacher last year, she gladly took on the role as cheerleader coach, a job she still does, and her afterschool duty was changed from carpool to bus duty on day two. She has diligently adapted to every change with no protest. She is the ultimate team player!”

AAPI Month: Born in China, Shaped by America

Molly Schrader joined Dallas ISD as a digital coordinator more than a year ago. 

She moved to Dallas in 2020 from Austin after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin. She’s a big Taylor Swift fan, an animal lover and a world traveler. We asked her to share some thoughts about her identity as we celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander month. 

There are things in this life that you can control and others you cannot. One of those is how you are perceived by others, and I’m sure you can guess which of the two categories that fits into. One of the beauties of life, and something that I’ve learned can set you free, is who you decide to be and the choices you make. Oftentimes, there is a lack of control over parts of your identity such as where you grow up or who your family is, but there is something powerful about the amount of autonomy you actually have once you claim it.  

My generation, Gen Z, is commonly referred to as anxiety-ridden when it comes to identity and figuring out who we want to be, but I find that this generation largely subscribes to the idea of liberation of the self. It’s liberating to feel that I decide what I like, what I dislike, who I surround myself with, what I wear, and so much more, but something I haven’t ever had control over is how I am perceived. 

I was born in Jiangmen, China, and adopted by a loving set of parents 8,000 miles away in the United States, with a house full of pets. I am their only child. I have hooded eyes, naturally dark hair and barely stand 5 feet tall. It’s easy for people to put me in a box, to assume my culture and sometimes ask odd questions. I’m accustomed to answering those odd questions after years of rehearsing my response. I’m okay with it now–sometimes people are unsure what to make of you and can’t help but be curious.

The place where I first started to question my identity was at school. Growing up, I attended a small parochial school in Florida where I was the only Asian student for the entire eight years I was there. Of course, I knew and felt that I was different. I thought that made me unique or even special. But some days, it made me feel isolated. Thank goodness Disney has had an Asian princess since the early 2000s, right? 

While the younger me didn’t fully understand why some kids felt the need to point out my physical differences, I realized by the end of elementary school that having my identity questioned, and as a result feeling inclined to question myself, was something that would follow me for the rest of my life. The conversation around identity has a depth that many—both children and adults—find difficult to navigate. Even now, in the 21st century, identity remains an elusive and controversial concept to grasp. 

Do I identify with being Asian? I used to tell people that I only looked Asian. That’s probably still true; after all, I was an infant when I left my native country. But it’s always been a lengthy, multi-faceted question to answer. It wasn’t until college that I found other friends of color who are as Americanized as I am but with their own non-white identities and yet not foreign by any means.

Things changed after the pandemic and the ensuing anti-Asian rhetoric in some quarters. Then, suddenly, there was a cultural shift when many young people began to copy the makeup of Korean idols, eat Korean food and watch K-dramas.

In one way, I’m glad that society is becoming more accepting of Asian culture, perhaps through the surge of K-pop’s global influence. On the other hand, I often think back to the younger me who rejected the idea of being Asian and felt it was a shameful thing to be. Your identity touches so many parts of your life: who’s interested in hiring you, who’s trying to check a diversity box, who thinks you’re the deciding factor in whether something is insensitive, and so on. And really, we’re all influenced by our environment. I grew up speaking Spanish and eating arroz con pollo, but no one expects that from the only Asian girl in the room. 

It’s likely that I’ll never feel just one way about my identity and that insecurities about being Asian will inevitably surface from time to time. But I’m learning to embrace feeling comfortable with how others view me and not trying to change their perception of me. In the past, I probably would have felt bothered by being asked to contribute to Dallas ISD’s Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month initiative. Today, I can say that writing this account has brought me back to feeling that my story is unique. 

Accelerating student learning through Reading Academies

Dallas ISD’s Reading Academies team is finishing up the third year of providing intensive, research-based professional development for kindergarten to third-grade teachers and administrators on the science of teaching reading, and Elena S. Hill, assistant superintendent of Early Learning, said the academies are making a measurable difference on student success. 

Funded with a $2.28 million investment from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund this year, Hill said the Reading Academies have empowered district educators to provide “very explicit instruction” that is focused on foundational skills including phonics, letter sounds, and more to fill learning gaps. 

That instruction has paid off with improvement in the STAAR scores of students who were in a classroom with a Reading Academy-trained teacher, Hill said. The first cohort from 2021 saw students make a 12-point gain in their “meets plus” scores when they took the third-grade assessment, while the second cohort saw an eight-point gain. 

Deena Tipton, a recent 2022-2023 Reading Academy graduate and a teacher at Larry G. Smith Elementary School, has seen the benefits of the instruction firsthand. 

She had a student enter her second-grade classroom in the fall who could not read, so she worked with her Reading Academy cohort leader to find new strategies that would help him develop critical skills. 

“And it worked,” Tipton said. “He actually started reading. He’s still not where he needs to be, but he was able to read a book by himself. I was able to get him there by using what I learned from the Reading Academies, so it has really helped, especially being a new teacher.” 

Yuddie Ewelike, manager of instructional strategy in Early Learning, said the best is yet to come as their team moves into the implementation phase of the Reading Academies in year four. 

The first three years of the intervention program achieved the state requirement of training every Dallas ISD kindergarten through third-grade teacher and principal in the science of teaching reading, so Ewelike said the fourth-year cohort will target teachers who are new to the district as well as other educators, including assistant principals, media specialists, and instructional lead coaches.

“We want to continue building strong literacy systems across early childhood grades and ensuring that there is a shared language and methodology around teaching children to read in our district,” Ewelike said. “We will also continue to provide coaching support on the science of reading to help teachers internalize and apply all the great learning from the academies.”