Learn about retirement

Even if you are not planning to retire this year, it’s always a good idea to know what to expect and how to prepare so your retirement years can be all that you hoped for. Dallas ISD is here to help with a series of in-person and virtual meetings hosted by the Benefits Department.

The webinars will include updates, information on steps to take to prepare, resources, and tips on topics like medical insurance. 

You can register for the in-person seminars by clicking on your preferred date on the Districtwide Datebook. You will need to be signed in through the Portal to register. The in-person seminars will be held at 5 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

  • Dec. 19, Linus D. Wright Dallas ISD Administration Building
  • March 5, Thomas Jefferson High School
  • March 26, L.G. Pinkston High School

To register for the virtual webinars, click on the time and date you prefer. Once you register, you will receive a confirmation email with the link to join.

Call for holiday/winter drive events 

Is your family, department or school hosting an event that benefits the community, a school or other families to make the end of year celebrations a little better for others? Let us know about them. Your efforts can include food drives, toy drives, collections for homeless students, adopting a school, or partnering with a community organization.

Please share these efforts with us using this form so we can include it in the Giving from the Heart wrap up that will appear in the Dec. 21 issue of The Beat. 

You have until noon on Friday, Dec. 15, to submit a description of your efforts along with a photo if you have one. If all you have is a description, share that so we can include it. We look forward to learning all the wonderful things Dallas ISD team members do for others.

Master Teachers: A series

The Beat has interviewed master teachers across the district to share their stories and introspections about their careers, including tips for teaching. Meet Master Teacher José Ramos-Villicaña.

José Ramos-Villicaña, a master teacher at Stevens Park Elementary School, first came to Dallas ISD in 2006. He was living in the city of Monterrey, Mexico, when he  learned about the district’s  Alternative Certification Program. When representatives from recruitment were in his city, he decided to apply—and a year and a half later, he began teaching in the district. 

Fast forward 18  years and he is happy that he made this leap of faith to find his calling as a teacher in Dallas. 

What drew you to education?

I was contacted by a friend who was already working as a teacher in Dallas. I had heard how rewarding this profession could be, and when the opportunity presented itself to apply to teach in Dallas, I thought, why not? Even though my professional background was in a completely different field, I knew teaching was something I wanted to try out.

How are you creating opportunities for your students?

I like to get to know my students as much as I can. I find out what they are passionate about and I try to incorporate their ideas and interests into the overall classroom culture. This helps to get them motivated about their learning. I believe when students are genuinely motivated, they have a better chance of showing all they can accomplish.  

What is your best teaching tip?

Be clear about your expectations and allow time for relationship building during the school year, 

What would your student be surprised to find out about you?

They would probably be surprised that I could not speak a single word of English when I was their age. Also, there is virtually no vegetable I don’t like!

What inspires you the most about being an educator?  

Seeing the big impact I can make in the lives of my students is what inspires me the most. 

Procurement learning opportunity

Procurement Services is inviting Dallas ISD team members to participate in its monthly lunch and learn events. These learning sessions are especially relevant to office managers, coordinators, administrative assistants, financial clerks, and specialists. Check out the list of events and dates to determine which sessions are best suited for you by visiting https://www.dallasisd.org/Page/71750

During the sessions, topics on procurement and vendor information will be discussed including:

  •       Awarded or registered vendors
  •       The procurement webpage
  •       M/WBE vendor information
  •       Vendor registrations
  •       General Q&A

The sessions will be held one Wednesday a month via Microsoft Teams. The final calendar of events and the meeting link are available on the Dallas ISD website under Procurement Services on the “Dallas ISD Staff Forms” tab. 

For more information, contact jalzate@dallasisd.org

Building community through volunteers 

The opportunities to volunteer on Dallas ISD campuses are endless, and the volunteers who show up every day to take advantage of them are an invaluable part of the district’s team focused on student success. 

“Our most important partners and volunteers are our parents, as student success is heavily impacted by parent participation and engagement,” said Candace Sledge, director of the Partnerships and Volunteer Engagement department. 

In recognition of volunteers in Dallas ISD and everywhere, Dec. 5 has been designated as International Volunteer Day. This year’s theme is “The power of collective action: if everyone did.” 

Established by the United Nations General Assembly, this day is a unique chance for volunteers and organizations to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to promote their work among their communities, organizations. For more information, visit www.un.org/en/observances/volunteer-day

“Volunteering is a good opportunity for business leaders and community members to experience the culture of schools, learn more about the needs in education, and collaborate with teachers, parents and administrators to meet those needs that our families deserve,” Sledge said.

Volunteers, especially parents and community members, can be recruited by team members at schools by encouraging them to fill out the volunteer application form at https://dallasisd.voly.org or by downloading the Voly app on Google Play or iTunes. 

One of the tips that Sledge shares is reaching out to community leaders who participated in Principal for a Day to continue to build relationships, invite them to get involved. 

Another tip for schools to recruit volunteers is to take advantage of events or celebrations to engage with families and partners, keeping in mind the different cultures of the students, families, and team members on campus. 

“Volunteers get a ‘boots on the ground’ perspective from the students and the school and are able to draw from it,” said Sandra Martinez, coordinator in the Partnership and Volunteer Engagement department. “Sometimes parents don’t feel that they have talents that they have to offer in order to volunteer, but the most valuable gift is time. Dedicating your time to help your school and community goes a long way.”

For more information on how to create volunteer opportunities on your campus or department, visit the Partnerships and Volunteer Engagement department website.

Soccer coach brothers open international doors for students 

Two brothers who are teachers in schools in the W.W. Samuell High School community are combining their talents to make their students’ dreams of becoming international soccer players come true. Gabriel Valles—a world history, AP world history, and Mexican American studies teacher at Samuell High School—and Miguel Valles—a sixth-grade world cultures teacher at Piedmont Global Academy—are taking five of their soccer team students to Argentina next summer.

The Valles brothers, who are both soccer coaches, are preparing their students to participate as part of a Dallas ISD team that will be representing  the district in tournaments in the summer of 2024 in Argentina.

In their youth, Gabriel and Miguel had experience playing around the country and in Argentina, so when their students were offered spots on the Dallas ISD team, it was a no-brainer for them. 

This is the first time that this brother duo will take their students to Argentina. They will be there from June 26 through July 4. The ultimate goal is to take a Samuell team to Europe the following summer. They credit Marisela Lopez, assistant director of the Dallas ISD Department of Athletics with the initial idea of taking their students to Argentina.

Gabriel and Miguel had been working together for several years at Piedmont running the soccer program for boys and girls before the opportunity to play internationally came up for their students. When Gabriel began teaching at Samuell, not only did the collaboration continue, the efforts were expanded to include the soccer team at the high school.

Growing up in the Dallas area, they played for the same club team and have a lot of similar styles in terms of how they coach and collaborate, so it was a very natural fit, Miguel said. In the areas where they don’t share similarities, they complement each other, making it easy for them to work together, the brothers agree.

Miguel first went to Argentina at the age of 14 with another teammate and participated in trials with various teams in the country, and then both brothers went when Miguel was 17 and Gabriel was 14. When Gabriel joined Miguel the second time, the whole soccer team went. 

“It taught me a lot about who I am and who I wanted to be,” said Miguel. “I know the value of that kind of experience, especially for a young person, and then coupled with high level competition, it really molds character. So it was a big deal for me, and it certainly sent me on a trajectory for the years to come.”

Because Miguel and Gabriel know the value of this opportunity for their students, they are working on making this available for more of them. 

“When you’ve never done something like this before, and you start to do it, you realize it’s not just on TV, and it’s not just something someone else does. We can do it,” Gabriel said. 

Gabriel says that it challenges their students to look beyond their own neighborhoods, and when they go to places like Mexico to visit family, it’s still something that’s familiar to them. 

When you go to someplace as different as Argentina, even though they speak Spanish, it’s a different kind of Spanish than what many of the students are used to, and when it’s summer in Dallas, it’s winter in Argentina.

“It teaches students to look beyond their schools and neighborhoods,” Gabriel said. “And not only do they become better players, but it expands their worldview. When you’re halfway across the world, you might realize you’re not as good as you thought you were or you might realize you’re as good as you thought, or you’re better than you thought you were.” 

Gabriel and Miguel echo the same sentiment that there is no doubt in their minds that their students will come out better people after this experience. 

It was their coaches that mentored both brothers in their youth, and they hope to do the same for their students. One coach in particular—José María “Josema” Bazán, a former professional soccer player, who played on the Argentina national team and started a soccer club for youth in Dallas—supported them. 

As far as funding for the trip to Argentina, a community partner is helping fund approximately $500 per student, and the students are paying for the rest. If anyone is interested in learning more about the soccer program, contact gvalles@dallasisd.org or mivalles@dallasisd.org

Give to wear sneakers 

The Dallas Education Foundation is excited to announce that Human Capital Management has given the green light for a new initiative as part of the annual Employee Giving Campaign: Suits and Sneakers Mondays.

To participate, donate via credit card by Friday, Nov. 30, and show your support by rocking your snazziest suit paired with your freshest kicks in December. Not only will you make a fashion statement, but you’ll be supporting DEF.

Here’s how it works:

  • To participate in “Suits and Sneakers Mondays,” a suggested $10.00 donation must be made via credit card by Thursday, Nov. 30.
  • On Monday, Dec. 4, and Monday, Dec. 11,, you have the opportunity to wear sneakers with your professional attire.
  • This initiative complements our existing Jean Fridays, which employees can still take advantage of throughout the campaign.

As an additional incentive, the elementary and secondary campus with the highest percentage of participation in the Employee Giving Campaign by Dec. 1 will win a staff breakfast sponsored by Whataburger. Giving is a win-win! Donate today at dallasisd.org/def.

Mental Health Matters: Dealing with stress during the holidays

For most, the end-of-year holiday season bring with it good food, celebrations, family gatherings and joy. For others, the season can also bring conflict as siblings, in-laws, parents, cousins, and other extended family come together with love and diverse opinions.

Even the expectation of conflict can cause stress and ruin what could be a special time with loved ones. Stress produces cortisol, a hormone made by adrenal glands that acts as a warning system for your body but that can also have serious effects in your body, such as:

  • Disrupted sleep
  • Pain
  • Irritability
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Stomach upsets


By taking proactive steps you can help alleviate stress and make the holidays a special time for all.

Listen to your body—When you start to feel those stress feelings and noticing physical effects, focus on where you experience symptoms in your body and try to reframe the physical sensations by identifying what made you start feeling that way. Talking about physical reactions can sometimes be easier than talking about emotions.

Adjust your expectations— Throughout the holidays, and always, be gentle with yourself. Holidays bring heightened expectations—everything should be perfect, meaningful, and beautiful. But remember that it’s a season of gratitude. Think about what you’re grateful for and put it in writing. Focusing on the good can help you relax and cope with the not-so-good.

Strategize—It’s helpful if everyone in the household, especially partners and spouses, are on the same page about how to deal with in-laws and extended family. Discuss exactly how much time you wish to spend with family members and what conversations might be off-limits. Stay attuned to each other’s signals: a hand gesture, a wink, or even a touch on the shoulder will work.

Press pause on some conversations—Family members and friends come chock full of opinions, many of which you or others might not share. Differing political or religious views, for example, have impacted or even ended family relationships. When tensions run deep, some people feel a sense of loss after realizing they no longer recognize or relate to certain family members.

If you find yourself in the middle of a difficult conversation about education, careers, parenting, politics, or any number of subjects, try saying: “I love you/respect you. Can we put this conversation on pause for now and talk about something else?” Just knowing you have a pause button could relieve some of your stress.

Protect yourself—You know what your triggers are, and so does your family. The anticipation of conflict is sometimes the worst part. Practice how you will handle stressful conversations or behave toward particular individuals. And try not to push your family members’ buttons, either.

While stress is a normal emotion that helps you navigate difficult situations, it can also have negative effects. This holiday season, focus on being proactive, setting boundaries, and reducing your stress. Your body will thank you. And in the process, you might experience the best holiday you have ever had.

If you need additional support, take advantage of Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) by LifeWorks, which is free for employees, 100 percent confidential, and available to all employees and their dependents. 

Sessions through the EAP are available by phone, virtual, and in person. Employees can also find tips, articles, self-assessments, and topical features focusing on specific EAP resources available through the EAP smart App.

To start on your wellness journey please visit dallasisd.lifeworks.com or reach out to the EAP by calling 972-925-4000 and selecting option 3 for EAP. 

Source: Sarah Woods, Ph.D., director Behavioral Health, Family and Community Medicine at UT Southwestern



New software will block phishing attempts

Dallas ISD is implementing a new phishing prevention tool called PhishID to enhance the cyber safety and security of students and team members. 

More than 90% of cybersecurity incidents start with phishing—a type of cyber scams that trick people into revealing sensitive information or installing malware—making phishing prevention essential. Education about phishing and how to prevent it is the first line of defense against account takeovers and ransomware attacks. PhishID leverages an AI-powered browser plug-in to stop phishing at the point-of-click.  

The software will be installed on student and team member devices, and users should not experience any disruption from everyday activities. Once the software is installed on the devices, the security team will monitor the functionality and work to address noted/submitted issues associated with the product.   

What device and browser type will receive this product?  

PhishID will be present on the following devices and browsers:  

  • Windows: Edge and Chrome  
  • MacOS: Chrome and Firefox  
  • Chromebook: Chrome 

What should team members expect?   

Users should continue with their day-to-day browsing activities. PhishID will be running in the background to protect from malicious links and URLs that attempt to steal credentials. When inadvertently navigating to an unsafe website, PhishID will present a block page.

If PhishID encounters a page it has not scanned before, you may see the page load while it is being scanned. If it is found to be malicious, PhishID will take action and notify you that it is unsafe, and it will point out items that are used to deceive. 

What should team members do if they receive a block page?  

If you receive a block page, that means PhishID is protecting you from an unsafe website. You can click the “Go Back” button to return to the previous page and be assured that your credentials are kept safe.  

For questions or issues, please contact the Help Desk at 972-925-5630

You are not alone

While the district may be closed next week, team members can still get assistance with benefits. District schools and administrative offices will be closed Monday, Nov. 20, through Friday,

Nov. 24, 2023; however, the benefits call center at 972-925-4300 (option 2) will be available. 

  • Open Monday, Nov. 20-Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023, 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Closed on Thursday, Nov. 23, and Friday, Nov. 24, 2023.

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, contact Optum at 877-528-9876 or visit www.optum.com. Optum is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Because the holidays can be a difficult time for employees and families, if you need some assistance making it through this time, please reach out to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) by:

  • Calling 972-925-4300 Option 3 EAP. They are available 24 hours/seven days a week.
  • Visit the website Telus Health
  • Download the App: Telus: Health One

For questions regarding leaves of absence, email benefitsleaves@dallasisd.org. 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.