You are not alone during winter break

District school and administrative offices will be closed Monday, Dec. 25, through Friday Jan. 5, 2024. While the district is closed for winter break, team members can still get assistance with their benefits.

Non-emergency assistance

You may reach the Benefits Call Center by calling 972-925-4300 option 2 for wellness. The Benefits Call Center will be closed on Monday, Dec. 25, and Monday, Jan. 1, 2024.

For 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 never used Teladoc before, you will have to set up your account before you can access the services. You will need to have your name, date of birth, and BCBS member ID number to register.

Flexible Spending Accounts/ Health Savings Account

If you have questions regarding your HSA/ FSA, contact Optum at 877-528-9876 or visit Optum is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When you call, you will need your FSA/HSA card number, name, and date of birth. If you are visiting the website, you will need your name, date of birth, social security number or employee ID.

Employee Assistance Program

The holidays can be a difficult time for some employees. If you need 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.

To access the website or the Telus Health One app you will need your district email address, district username, and password.

Leaves of Absence

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.

Award-winning teacher motivates students to challenge history

Anna Sifford, a history teacher at Hillcrest High School exemplifies the phrase service above self—which is the name of the award she received from the Rotary Club earlier this year. While she admits her classes challenge students to think beyond their comfort zone, she meets her students where they are and encourages them along the way. 

Sifford teaches International Baccalaureate 20th-Century world topics, IB history of the Americas, and Advanced Placement U.S. history, and she said she feels she is not just  preparing her students for college, but that her classes also prepare them for life and to be future leaders. 

Sifford has visited 34 countries and is involved with the World Affairs Council. Some of her accomplishments include being part of the United Arab Emirates Study Tour this year, T.E.A.C.H. Fellow (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), U.S.-Morocco Alliance education cohort, Marshall Fellow through the World Affairs Council, and is a previous recipient of the International Educator of the Year given by the World Affairs Council.

 “Winning the Rotary Club award showed me that what I’m doing is right,” Sifford said. She says she established a nonprofit—Action Allies United—inspired by the award for students, hers and those from across the community, who hope to major in international relations, diplomacy or policy, or medical anthropology, which is a brand-new major.

 The purpose of the Rotary Club of Dallas “Service Above Self Award” is to call attention to the importance of service in our community and provides teachers an opportunity to recognize and reward those who have demonstrated excellence in their profession by “going the extra mile,” according to their website. The winners each received an engraved plaque and a cash award. 

“The award showed me that it’s worth all those hours, and that it’s worth every Saturday where I go to have coffee with someone who’s just going to cry for an hour and then we’re going to work on their essay, ” she said. 

 Sifford says that it’s about hearing her students and helping them get through those hurdles. For example, a student might need help writing something they feel like they can’t understand, but she knows they can. 

 “I’ve had nothing but lovable kids, and I think it’s all just because of the mindset,” Sifford said. “We do work for them, and as a teacher you have one job: to make sure they succeed, right? So you do whatever it takes to make that happen.” 

 One of the things that Sifford does to help her students be successful is a podcast on Spotify in which she creates content from her class that her students can tune into and learn. For example, students may have a unit test coming up, and they can tune into her podcast to help prepare them for the exam.

“These kids learn through podcasts. I didn’t,” Sifford said. “So that’s very foreign to me, but it’s not to them. Service above self is meeting kids at their level, right?”

 Sifford graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where she studied dance—specifically tap and flamenco. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from SMU and a master’s degree in diplomacy and international relations from Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Her previous careers before becoming a teacher included working for seven years at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City and the United Nations. She began her career as an educator in 2007 and came to teach at Dallas ISD in 2014. 

 When Sifford was in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for the United Arab Emirates Study Tour, she was one of the 50 faces of persons from around the world to be the face of the UAE. The pictures are part of a campaign celebrating the country’s 50th anniversary.

 Through her years as a teacher, Sifford has always had a Junior World Affairs Council on every campus she has taught. The nonprofit she created serves the same purpose. 

 One of the upcoming projects that Sifford has with her nonprofit is taking 17 students in March to Casablanca and Marrakech to do earthquake disaster relief for a girls’ dormitory that was hit by the earthquake this past September. In addition to taking the money her organization has raised for the project, they will be meeting with an IB school in Casablanca. They have also created their own negotiation simulation. Instead of Model UN, they have created their own called “Lunar Accords” to address the current crisis in the Middle East. 

“The intent is about how their generation can move forward because it’s going to be up to them,” she said. 

 Sifford said that she is doing what she loves to do because her passion is history. One of her favorite things is giving students the tools inside her classroom to be historians. Her class is very different from just lecturing from a podium. She challenges her students to research and question. 

“So, in my class, the higher the grade usually means you argued with me the most, because that’s what history calls for. So, I need a room full of contrarians,” Sifford said.  

Sifford’s classes have the reputation of being among the hardest on campus, but it’s the class that students have told her goes by the fastest, where they can speak their mind, she said. Some of them even change their areas of interest to history or diplomacy. 

“I think it’s only because I’ve given them the power to interpret history their own way,” she said.

Dallas ISD principals awarded Master Principals designation

More than 20 Dallas ISD principals have been awarded Master Principal designation for the 2023-2024 school year. These designations are awarded annually to the top 10% of Dallas ISD principals in three categories: elementary schools, secondary schools, and choice schools.

This year’s Master Principals represent a wealth of experience and diversity across the district. The official criteria is based on: at least three years of service as a Dallas ISD principal, individual performance, and campus performance in the prior school year. In addition to a $10,000 stipend, Master Principals will be recognized at the annual Master Principal Recognition event on Feb.1, 2024, at the Joule Hotel.

In 2023-2024, the Master Principal selection criteria was adjusted to place additional emphasis on student growth and account for differences in school demographics. The designations were revealed on Dec. 13 at the annual December Principals’ Meeting.

2023-2024 Master Principals:

School Group Principal Name Campus Name
Elementary Jennifer Atkins Charles Rice Learning Center
2023-2024: H. S. Thompson Elementary School
Elementary Rocio Bernal George W. Truett Elementary School
2023-2024: Thomas J. Rusk Middle School
Elementary Ida Escobedo Margaret B. Henderson Elementary School
Elementary Alpher Garrett-Jones Paul L. Dunbar Learning Center
Elementary Carlotta Hooks C.F. Carr Elementary School
Elementary Margaret Huff Mockingbird Elementary School
Elementary Alicia Iwasko Annie Webb Blanton Elementary School
Elementary Constance Jawaid John W. Carpenter Elementary School
Elementary Marissa Limon Dan D. Rogers Elementary School
Elementary Lakisha Merritt Martin Weiss Elementary School
Elementary Lourdes Morales-Figueroa John J. Pershing Elementary School
Elementary Beverly Mullins Anne Frank Elementary School
Elementary Lonnie Russell Rufus C. Burleson Elementary School
Elementary Christie Samuel Ann Richards STEAM Academy
Elementary Julie Singleton Central Elementary School
Elementary Caroline Wilson James Bowie Elementary School
Secondary Stephanie Amaya W.H. Adamson High School
Secondary Chandra Hooper Barnett Woodrow Wilson High School
Secondary Nikki Hudson L.V. Stockard Middle School
Secondary David Lee Hector P. Garcia Middle School
Secondary Jesus Martinez Sunset High School
Choice Reymundo Cervantes Guajardo School for the Talented and Gifted in Pleasant Grove
Choice Michael Tatum Henry W. Longfellow Career Exploration Academy
Choice Arnoldo Zuniga School for the Talented and Gifted at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

Dallas ISD team members end the year giving from the heart

Dallas ISD team members continually embrace a Core 4 culture that includes the tenet that highlights friendliness—Make Memorable Moments. In Dallas ISD, not only do we build respectful relationships grounded in professional communication, but we also embrace the positive and expect the best of each other. At no time is this truer than during the end of the year when campuses and departments come together to make sure that the season’s celebrations are a little brighter for others. Here are some examples of team members’ generosity.


Rocking horses for Ronald McDonald House families

Led by teacher Terry Stotts, students from Career Institutes this year continued a long-standing tradition that started at the Multiple Career Magnet Center of building festive rocking horses to donate during the holidays to families at the Ronald McDonald House. Not only do students learn important skills doing this work, but also develop a sense of community. 






Delivering 800 gifts to Scottish Rite Hospital

George Peabody Elementary School students and teachers have truly embraced the season of giving, gathering an impressive collection of more than 800 art supplies and toy donations for children at the Scottish Rite Hospital.


Communication Services adopts a school

All of Communication Services got together to make a tradition started by its Translation Services Department years ago a little bigger this year by adopting several students from H.I. Holland Elementary School. The “adopted” students will receive toys, clothing and other items on their wish lists.










 Spreading joy in the community

Isabella Calvillo, of th Dual Language ESL Department, who also is a lash technician, decided to get together with another lash technician to give back to her  community by doing a toy drive where the clients who bring an unopened toy/gift receive $15 dollars off their service.”The toys will be donated to my local church just before Christmas,” Calvillo said









Sunset High School adopts an elementary school

When Erika Bonilla was a liaison at an elementary school in the Moisés E. Molina feeder pattern, the liaison at Molina sponsored her elementary school so students could receive Christmas toys. That liaison then sponsored all the other elementary schools in the feeder pattern. Now that Bonilla is at Sunset as the school’s community liaison, she found herself at the giving end of the spectrum and is sponsoring one of the feeder pattern’s schools—Anson Jones Elementary School. Sunset teachers and other team members are sponsoring a student or more each from Anson Jones and giving them a new toy for Christmas. They will then wrap the gifts and deliver before school lets out for winter break. With the holidays coming and many families in Dallas ISD facing hard financial times, it’s a beautiful moment for everyone to give to those in need and to simply enjoy the smiles of gratitude, Bonilla said. Everyone is excited!


 Elisha M. Pease Elementary School holds a food drive

The National Elementary Honor Society and Student Council at Elisha M. Pease Elementary School collected over 800 cans of food for the community in South Oak Cliff. The NEHS does several community service activities throughout the year, and the school’s advisor decided to team up with the Student Council to do a food drive in the school’s community. They used the house system to create a competition to see which house could collect the most cans. The only challenge was finding space to store the cans! The students enjoyed being able to contribute to the drive and help their house win.


Giving to the community

Angelina Perez, from Student Transportation Services is also the secretary for a nonprofit organization. She and her organization meet every other month to plan and organize their events. They give scholarships to high school students in the Fort Worth community, and every year for Christmas adopt more than 260 children to give their families a gift box and a jacket, shoes, and presents for each child. Juntos Se Puede–Together We Can is not just another nonprofit organization for Perez; her sister is the president.








Stephen C. Foster Elementary School shares food and culture

This year, our school welcomed over 40 students to the United States in grades third through sixth. As our school’s newcomer teacher, Brynne Mendonca wanted to invite her students’ families to a traditional Thanksgiving meal after school. Thanks to the support of the school’s PTA and community partners, they were able to serve over 60 turkey dinners and share a culturally significant holiday with students.









Family and Community Engagement Office celebrates with a purpose

FCE hosted a mid-year mixer for community liaisons, parent instructors and vendors who partner with the department during the year. Each participant was asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to The Family Place.


D.A. Hulcy STEAM Middle School partners up for good

During the month of November, the school community participated in the first Panther Cares Project. Panther Cares is an initiative started by the school counselors to ensure that the school is involved in efforts focused on building community and displaying empathy. Since November was Homeless Youth Awareness Month, they chose Jonathan’s Place, a nonprofit that provides safe spaces for abused and neglected children, teens, and young adults. Jonathan’s Place, led by Allicia Frye, allowed the school to partner with them in collecting donated goods and resources that will assist in continuing to make a positive impact on the populations they serve.



School of Health Professions goes for the toys

The Kines Club at the School of Health Professions has partnered with WFAA’s Santa’s Helpers in collecting new, unwrapped toys for children in the DFW Metroplex. Collected toys during the month of December and delivered them to the WFAA studios. The goal was to collect at least 50 new toys to donate.


Fourth-grade team at Louise Wolff Kahn Elementary School gets together

The fourth-grade team decided to organize a toy drive for their students. The school is a Title 1 campus, and the population it serves is primarily low income. The teachers knew that many of our students may not have a wrapped toy under their Christmas tree this year. As a grade level team, the teachers decided to bring cheer, smiles, and warm fuzzies to students this holiday season. The goal was to collect 60 toys, wrap them, and deliver them to the students right before the winter break to ensure that every student had a memorable Christmas this year. They reached out to close friends, family members, local business, and companies to support the toy drive. Little by little the toys began to arrive. The biggest challenge was competing with larger more established organizations that businesses had already committed to helping. Thankfully, the teachers were able to reach their goal with the support of companies like Equitable and Ferguson Waterworks, teachers on campus and even district central team members. They also had lots of help from the campus librarian and a second-grade teacher, who helped with wrapping and storing the toys. 


Multicultural Club at North Lake Early College High School competes to donate

The students decided that along with setting up a holiday display with elements of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza, the Multicultural Club should host a toy drive. In order to increase engagement, the students planned the toy drive to be a competition between advisory classes, with the winning class getting donuts and hot chocolate as a prize. All toys were donated to the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center. There were over 30 toys donated, along with other much needed items such as clothing and supplies.








Hillcrest E-TECH gives all year long

Adrianne Hanks, affectionately known as Coach Hanks, and her exceptional Collegiate M.A.P.S class at Hillcrest High School teamed up with the nonprofit organization Rise IPL, which introduced the empowering Future-Prenuers program to 153 dedicated students. Under Coach Hanks’ guidance, this initiative focuses on connecting youth to efforts that nurture productivity and passion for their future endeavors, including putting together packed care baskets for Lullaby House Dallas, filled with essential items for women and children; a Diversity and Inclusion Friendsgiving Potluck, where the M.A.P. class celebrated diversity through a heartwarming Friendsgiving Potluck, fostering a sense of unity and understanding among students; a canned goods collection where they collected 300 canned goods for the Salvation Army; a letter-writing campaign for deployed soldiers in partnership with Kroger and 96.3 New Country Radio Station through which students expressed their gratitude and support for deployed soldiers;  also coordinated was gift wrapping for a children’s shelter.


William Lipscomb Elementary turns lesson into action

The kinder class turned an activity in the farm unit where the class analyzed the food items in the cans of food they brought into a canned food drive for those in need.








Human Capital Management supports homeless youths

Human Capital Management was able to support the district’s Homeless Education Program this year by donating food, clothing, and hygiene items during its annual event. The only challenge HCM faced was finding enough boxes to prepare for HEP’s donation pickup. Every year, HCM leaders show appreciation and give thanks to their employees by hosting a family-style meal in November. This is the first year HCM has supported students through the Homeless Education Program during the annual event.








Doing Zumba for a good cause

Mayra Rangel, Dual Language Department, will join Zumba instructors and dance to help make dreams come true with toys for kids and feed families in need this Christmas. The event will be hosted by the lead Zumba instructor at The Epic Fitness and Recreational Center in Grand Prairie. Attendees will contribute by having fun dancing for a $15 entry fee and a new unwrapped toy. All toys will be donated to Dalworth Recreation Center in Grand Prairie.









Victor H. Hexter Elementary School sets up an Angel tree

The first step was identifying families in need and giving them the option of completing their wish list of gifts, both needs and wants. The school then made the angel tags, keeping students and families anonymous. They set up the tree, then as a school community came together to provide gifts for all children. Gifts were offered to all children 18 and younger in the household, whether or not they were students currently attending the school. It is inspiring and amazing to see the school community come together to support families!








George Herbert Walker Bush Elementary supports families

George H. W. Bush Elementary always has prioritized supporting families, and this year is no different. The food drive began as a friendly competition between Houses and ended up being a great way to help families in need. Ultimately, the drive brought everyone together and reminded all of the importance of friendship, love, and compassion for neighbors. Also, the school is participating in Toys for Texans. Students will give toys and books.






Jerry Junkins Elementary School hosts a winter drive

The winter drive that the school hosted will benefit the homeless and less fortunate in the South Dallas area. The school gathered warm winter clothing, shoes, blankets, hot hands, and other winter necessities and will donate them to the MLK Center in South Dallas. The only challenge was navigating the locations for gathering the items, but the school was successful with the help of the Dallas District Chapters of Essence of Benevolence Grand Chapter, OES. Those chapters included Elements of Grace #5, Queen Nefertari #1, and Keturah #3.








Thomas C. Marsh Preparatory Academy collects coats

The school hosted a coat drive for students because two student advisors realized that students were trying to bring blankets to school due to lack of warm winter coats. Students in need can now request a jacket through the school’s student pantry efforts.


 Woodrow Wilson High School gives back to Head Start

The school’s chapter of National Art Honor Society is holding a toy drive for David’s Place Head Start. This effort was put in place by the student members of NAHS because they wanted to help their community for the holiday season and many of the students attended David’s Place when they were younger. This is the first time the school does this new chapter of National Art Honor Society, and the students want to start a tradition of giving throughout the years.






Career Institute East brings the toys

Career Institute East team members started with an in-house toy drive. Then it became even bigger when they added an industry partner, Excell Electric. This is the third year that Excell has helped sponsor the toy drive, and it keeps getting bigger and better every year. A huge thank you to our partners and employees at Excell Electric for making a difference in children’s lives each holiday season.









Interact Club at Skyline High School helps their own

As the new club on the block, the school’s Interact Club decided to create a project to give back to the community. The president came up with the idea to do holiday care kits for five students and their families that could use a little of Santa’s help this holiday season. Our club mentor and sponsor, The Rotary Club of Dallas, pitched in and donated five $200 Walmart gift cards. The intent was to match the monetary amount of $1000 in donations that ranged from toiletries to toys. Having to narrow it down to just five families was the most challenging, but, in the end, the group exceeded the goal and was able to provide Holiday Care Kits for six Skyline Raiders and their families this holiday season.







Stephen C. Foster Elementary School invites Santa to class

The end goal is to give every child a wrapped toy to take home for the holidays. This year there are 649 scholars who will benefit from the toy drive. It takes a great community effort, a lot of sharing and spreading the word. There is always a challenge, not knowing if there will be enough toys, but the community always comes through. Teachers host wrapping parties with community members, PTA moms, and many other volunteers to wrap the donated toys based on a color-coding system. On the last day of school or the day before, Santa makes a visit to every classroom and delivers the toys.





Gifted and Talented students at Bayles Elementary School collect cans

The group holds an annual food drive prior to the winter break to support some of the campus’ families. The idea came from a student about 10 years ago and it has continued ever since. Any canned food that is left over after helping families goes to the White Rock Center of Hope.





David W. Carter High School partners with community to bring joy

The counseling team at David W. Carter High School and community partner Business Jet Cares teamed up to give clothes, shoes, bed, mattresses, kitchen items, basketball hoops and many more times to students who were chosen by their teachers. Families picked up their gifts at the school before the holiday break.




Food traditions bring people together

Often, when families and friends get together to celebrate, certain foods take center stage—from decadent desserts to hearty dishes. They represent family traditions or cultural heritage, and they are enjoyed by one and all. Dallas ISD team members shared some of their favorite foods for the end-of-the-year celebrations that they either cook or simply look forward to. 

Rose Badía, instructional specialist at Library Media Services

During December, we have a special tradition of making dishes with local plantains, bananas, and roots like “Ñame, malanga, batata.” This custom is important to us because of our Puerto Rican background, connecting us to our ancestors from Spain, especially the Canary Islands and Alicante. One tradition I really love is making “guineitos en escabeche,” or pickled bananas. First, we carefully pick raw bananas from the plant. Then, as a family, we cook up the tasty pickling sauce and start the cooking process. We let it sit for an extra day or two, moving it around to make sure all the flavors mix well, creating a delicious dish. This tasty treat becomes a regular part of our December holiday dinners, reminding us of our cultural roots and the happy traditions passed down through the years.




Adam George, teacher at iLearn Virtual Academy

I have Norwegian roots—legend has it my great-great-grandfather was a stowaway on a ship to America. Each year, my extended family gathers to make a traditional Norwegian flatbread called lefse. It’s a true labor of love that involves a specialized skillet, a “lefse stick” to transfer the delicate potato-based batter, and designated cooking roles within the family. It’s a delicious treat that we only eat around the holidays—it’s too much work otherwise!—and I always look forward to a day dedicated to cooking with family and connecting to my heritage. The photo depicts George with his Great Aunt Mary. Uff Da is an ambiguous Norwegian phrase to express astonishment. 





MariCarmen Eroles, director of Internal Communications

For as long as I have memory, my paternal grandmother would make Catalan canelones for New Year’s using the leftover turkey from Christmas. This is a pretty traditional dish in Catalunya from where the paternal side of the family hails. As soon as I could climb on a chair in her kitchen, I would watch her make the stuffing, cook the pasta, roll them, and then, on the day, make the bechamel sauce. They are divine, and my younger brother and the rest of the family looked forward to them all year. Once she got older and didn’t have the energy to make the turkey at Christmas and the canelones for New Year’s, I took over. I have been making them for years, interrupted only by the pandemic, for the family even as our numbers continued to dwindle with time. This year, I will make them because it’s our tradition, but my brother who loved them won’t be there to taste them. He passed away this summer. But we will enjoy them in his honor once again as we welcome the new year.

School of Health Professions is home to dental assisting teacher

Dallas ISD believes in growing its own, so when graduates like Jennefer Ramirez want to come back and teach, they are welcomed back with open arms. Ramirez even came back to the very school that gave her the tools and the foundation to pursue her passion in life and now teaches dental assisting and medical terminology at the School of Health Professions at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center. 

Ramirez, who has been teaching at the health magnet for approximately 12 years, credits the dentist that she interned for as a student with motivating her to pursue a career as a dental hygienist. After graduating from Townview, Ramirez attended community college and then Texas A&M School of Dentistry, formerly known as Baylor College of Dentistry. After graduation, she worked as a dental hygienist for six years. 

Ramirez stayed in touch with the dentist and teacher who taught and encouraged her in high school, and, one day, she called her former teacher and jokingly asked what she needed to do to get her job, she said. It just so happened that her former teacher was ready to retire and wanted to make sure she found someone who would be able to continue the program. She saw Ramirez as a perfect fit, so Ramirez decided to get her teaching certification. 

“My teacher who taught dental assisting is why I’m a teacher, and the dentist I worked with in high school was why I became a dental hygienist,” she said. “I’ve got the best of both worlds because I’m still in dentistry, but I’m teaching at the same time.” 

Currently, her course offers a registered dental assisting certification, and every year, her students have had a 100 percent passing rate. In recent years, it started offering students an additional opportunity with the nitrous oxide certification. Ramirez’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, and she was recently awarded the campus teacher of the year.

Ramirez says that students having these certifications offered by the school gives them a competitive edge in the job market once they graduate. 

She says she still keeps up with her students after they graduated, and that it’s a rewarding feeling that fills her heart to know that she played a role in the trajectory of their careers. She says her former students now have careers such as dental hygienists, dental assistants, office managers at dentists offices, optometrists, and dentists, among others. Ramirez has even seen siblings, cousins, and other student family members go through the dental assisting pathway program. 

“I had one student and then the next year his nephew was in my class, and so the uncle graduated one year before the nephew,” Ramirez said. “And now they’re both in dental school together. The nephew caught up, and they’re both going to graduate as dentists together this year,” she said. 

Ramirez and her students also run a dental clinic at the school, where the students are able to intern at the school through the clinic. A dentist comes out to the school to treat patients and offers services such as cleanings, root canals, fillings, and many other services at no cost to Dallas ISD students. 

Ramirez says that many of their current patients are newcomers to the country and the district. Currently, the clinic is open once a week on Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Most of the patients come to it through word of mouth or referrals from school nurses, according to Ramirez.

While she supervises and monitors her students in the clinic, they run the office – from the front desk, to the paperwork, to assisting the dentist, and communicating with the families. 

Ramirez has seen the impact that the students and the clinic have on the district’s families and hopes to someday expand the program in the event that more funding becomes available, or if more dentists donate their time

“I see my students’ passion in their work when they get to work with students, and then they educate them on how they should be taking care of their teeth to prevent [the situation] from happening again,” Ramirez said.  “And then, when the parents are in the waiting room, they speak to them. So not only does this impact the students being treated, but the families, as well.” 

“A student may be missing school because they have a toothache and have nowhere else to go for dental care. So when they come here, we could treat them and then they could go back to school.” said Ramirez. 

For more information about the dental assisting pathway at School of Health Professions at Townview, visit

Get ready for a little extra cash

Eligible Dallas ISD team members are seeing a little extra in their December paychecks thanks to the $67 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds that the district has allocated for retention incentives for the 2023-2024 school year. The incentive is to recognize service and encourage the retention of highly qualified Dallas ISD team members. 

Eligible team members who are part of an excellence initiative—teachers, assistant principals, principals, and school leadership executive directors—received differentiated amounts depending on their level.

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—received $1,000 as part of their second installment of the incentive. Employees who are paid biweekly saw the incentive reflected in their Dec. 8 paychecks. Exempt employees will see it in their Dec. 15 paycheck.  

Eligible employees who as of Sept. 1, 2023, had completed at least five years of service in the district will see an additional $1,000 in December. This amount will be listed separately from the incentive in their statements of earnings.

The final installment of the retention incentive will be paid out in May.

Music technology grant expands opportunities for students at Seagoville High School

Walking into Rodney Dittmar’s Modern Band classroom at Seagoville High School, you will find his students fully engaged in their work—discovering and honing their musical talents as composers, songwriters, sound engineers, musicians—and developing all types of skills that will prepare them to find their voices as artists.

In fact, they are the only school in the district, and only one of three in the nation to receive the Hometown to Hometown grant, which provided $45,000 worth of instruments and training through the Save the Music Foundation. Dittmar, who is the Fine Arts Department chair for the school, applied for the grant that has taken his music program to the next level. For example, where previously they had only one music production workstation, now, they have 16, thanks to this grant. Matt Edwards, director of choral, elementary, and general music for the district, brought Dittmar this opportunity.

According to its website, the Save the Music Foundation partners with schools across the country that show an immediate need for support and resources with a focus on increasing equity and access to music education for all students. One of the national advocates for this program is four-time Grammy-nominated Arlington native artist Mickey Guyton, who gave the class an autographed guitar and who made history as the first African-American female solo artist to earn a Grammy nomination in a country category. 

There are currently about 180 students in the modern band classes at Seagoville High School, including beginning sections taught by Major Goldman. Dittmar said when you think of a modern band, you think of instruments you would find in a rock band, such as guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, vocals, technology, and so on. He is also working on creating a soundbooth in his room in addition to the existing practice rooms. 

When Dittmar—who is also a district ambassador for Music Will, formerly known as Little Kids Rock—started the modern band over 24 years ago, he never imagined his program being where it is today.  

“Being able to record on a computer like this, didn’t exist,” he said. “The fact that 16 students can sit down in a workstation in a classroom and record, is amazing to me, beyond what I ever dreamed of.”

Although he and his students had been doing music production on what he describes as a  small scale, the grant has given them newer and better software and technology, including new iPads, headphones, and controllers that the students use on a daily basis. 

“That’s the ultimate end game right now, to have fun and to learn how to record and produce music,” Dittmar said. 

Not only do students get to learn to play instruments, they also learn songwriting, producing, mixing and other things in the music production class. In addition to the grant, Dittmar and his students will receive 90 hours of master class training from Mike Bogle, a Grammy-award winning artist who is a professor of commercial music at Cedar Valley College.  

Dittmar first started building the modern band program in 2000 as a guitar class at Seagoville Middle School. His program grew, and in 2008, he took the modern band program—the first in the district—to Seagoville High School. He describes the program as student-centered as students go beyond rock band genres. Dr. Linda Buckner now teaches the Seagoville Middle School classes.

In fact, Dittmar credits his students for introducing him to norteño music. He says that not everything has to be rock and roll and blues and likes it when his students bring new things to the table, which he is happy to learn about.  Some of his students are more focused on piano–and he’s able to work that in as well. 

You might recognize Dittmar’s students’ music, as it was his students who recorded “GTT,” a song that welcomed students back to school at the beginning of the year. “GTT” fused the genres of norteño, banda, and hip hop and featured Young Men’s Leadership Academy Principal Tito Salas, along with other Dallas ISD principals—including Seagoville High School Principal Janie Carballo—and students. You can catch Dittmar and his students playing guitar at the beginning of the music video. To watch the video click here

Through the grant and the collaboration with Cedar Valley College, Dittmar hopes that this will give his students more options should they decide to continue studying music. “I want my students to know that there are real degrees that will get them in the workplace and ensure that they can have a successful career,” Dittmar said.

Seeing his students become professionals in the music industry is not something new to Dittmar. He has seen former students record albums and some of his current students are in working bands. 

“The biggest takeaway from this is that I want them to enjoy music–if nothing else– and take what they learn with them,” he said. “I want them to be proud of their work and say ‘I recorded this or I can put this on Spotify or another platform’– and take pride knowing that this is their work. That is one of my favorite things about doing this.”

Art teacher builds community through mosaic mural

Walking through the hallways at Sylvia Mendez CREW Leadership Academy, you will find a colorful student-made mural mosaic with the message of “Four Houses, one CREW,” which students in Mary Vongvivitpatana’s art classes take pride in.

Inspired by the Ron Clark System, Sylvia Mendez is one of the Dallas ISD schools that has the house system in place. 

Vongvivitpatana says the mosaic mural project, which took several weeks, inspired unity and built a sense of community for the students. The mosaic, composed of tiny squares that were shrunk to about an inch, is what the students worked on to create the 60-inch by 30-inch mural.

“Students learned that they had a little part in something that made a big difference,” said Vongvivitpatana.“ 

While it was Vonvivitpatana that constructed the mural because of the use of  hot glue, the students saw each house in the mural come to life little by little and also observed how each one of the squares they created became a part of the big scheme of things.

Students in grades second through fifth worked on the mural. 

American artist and animator Mary Blair, who worked extensively for Disney in the 1940s and 1950s inspired the mural. Blair, considered one of the pioneers of women working in animation, worked in films like Alice in Wonderland. The artist is known for using lots of patterns and geometric shapes in her art.  

Drawing on her artwork as inspiration behind their mosaic tiles, every student made a square on plastic Shrinky Dink paper and chose one of Blair’s designs for the mosaic square they created.

A discovery that came about during the process is the realization that Vongvivitpatana needed something to fill in some space in the mural. She had found some mirror sticky tiles, the kind you would find on a disco ball, and she started putting them in the mosaic. She realized that once she started putting them in, the students started connecting with the art. 

“So I thought the kids needed to see themselves in the art. It was a happy accident,” Vongvivitpatana said. “It wasn’t intentional at first and it had even deeper meaning that the kids could see themselves in the houses.”

Vongvivitpatana also says that these kinds of projects not only instill pride and self-esteem in her students, but also contribute to student success. She says that some students might be struggling in the classroom, but discover their talents in art or may try something that they didn’t know they could be successful in–and it’s that sense of accomplishment that makes them so happy. 

One of the biggest takeaways from this process, according to Vongvivitpatana, is that students are extremely motivated by the work they created.

 “One student said he was going to ask his dad to visit the school so he could take a picture in front of his house,” Vongvivitpatana said. “The fact that the students were able to connect with the art and learn that art can be a way of communicating among themselves and their community was absolutely wonderful.”  

Creating a sense of community through cheer

The Student Activities Department has been bringing vertical teams together by providing Dallas ISD cheer teams with buses so that they can participate in Feeder Pattern Nights, first during football season and now for basketball games. So far this semester, more than 50 elementary and 13 middle school cheer teams and nearly all high school cheer squads have participated in the districtwide initiative.

The Feeder Pattern Night initiative gives elementary and middle school cheer squads a chance to cheer alongside their feeder pattern high school cheer teams right at the center of an action-packed football and basketball games, which creates a sense of community for Dallas ISD students and their families.

This sense of community is deeply impactful to the student body, said Sydney Lee, cheer coach for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Arts Academy.

“Starting with camp and now Feeder Pattern Night, this is the most fun my cheerleaders have had in the past six years,” Lee said. “The cheerleaders are learning a lot and having experiences that will last a lifetime. As for myself, I have gained a lot from this experience so far. I have built relationships with different individuals that will help not only my cheerleaders but my entire campus as well.”

Lee’s cheerleaders, along with those from Dade Middle School, Solar Prep for Girls, and Dunbar Elementary School participated in the Madison High School Feeder Pattern Night.

Sharla Hudspeth, executive director for Extracurricular and Extended Learning Opportunities said that sporting events have been an avenue for the community to show support for Dallas ISD school children, and Feeder Pattern Nights adds to that tradition.

“Feeder Pattern Nights are wonderful opportunities to bring our community of schools together which creates a fun and exciting experience not only for the cheerleaders and athletes but for their families and friends too,” she said.

Moisés E. Molina High School’s cheer coach, Damien Robichaux, is happy to have elementary and middle school cheerleaders on the sidelines with his team. He said “exposure and authentic experiences” are important to build a solid foundation for high school cheer programs.

“Participation in Feeder Pattern Night is not only positive for young cheerleaders, but it also increases the crowd capacity and adds to the level of excitement in the stadium,” Robichaux said. “It gives those who would never go to a football game a chance to see their daughter or son in a new light, and it helps bring that positive community feeling back to the stands.”

The same is true for cheerleaders who participated in Feeder Pattern Night. The Martin Luther King Jr Academy cheerleaders were extremely grateful for the opportunity.

“This was my first time being inside a stadium, and I cannot believe I was able to cheer in front of so many people!” said Heaven Minnieweather, a sixth grader at MLK.

The experience even motivated cheerleader Robyn Guster to think about her performance in her classes. 

“I am going to work really hard in class to keep my grades up so I can cheer next time too,”said the MLK sixth grader.