Celebrating school librarians

School Librarian Appreciation Day is on April 9, and Dallas ISD is celebrating the highly trained professionals who cultivate a schoolwide culture of literacy, inquiry, and innovation that empowers students to become lifelong learners. 

To commemorate the day, Dallas ISD’s Library Media Services Department is highlighting some of the great work librarians are doing in supporting learning in their schools. 

Vernetta Lockridge, librarian at John W. Runyon Elementary School

Vernetta Lockridge is known for her collaborative approach to literacy instruction. When a second grade-teacher sought a lesson on Greek mythology, Lockridge accepted the challenge with a smile. Her can-do spirit and dedication have earned her the trust of her teachers, leading to invitations for hour-long “library on the go” lessons in their classroom. From exploring character traits to reinforcing the parts of a story, delving into math graphs, and discovering Greek mythology,  Lockridge seamlessly integrates literacy into engaging lessons that support her teachers’ Amplify curriculum.

Nicole Williams, librarian at T. G. Terry Elementary School

Nicole Williams creates an environment that is conducive to active and participatory learning. To support real-world experiences and science content,  Williams has a small aquarium with tadpoles which teachers and students visit regularly. The students use the district-purchased online resources to take their learning about amphibians a step further. Williams also provides engaging opportunities for students to use technology in the learning process. She leads the students in producing the virtual announcements for her school once a week.

Carrie Bruce, librarian at E.B. Comstock Middle School

At E.B. Comstock Middle School, students are combining literacy with innovative tech tools for more engaged learning. Carrie Bruce organized a lesson centered around fairy tales and used Strawbees—a STEAM technique that uses connectors and building straws that are placed together to build unique creations– to build representation of the stories. This approach enhances the students’ literacy skills, creativity, critical thinking, and the practice of using technological tools for learning. Puss in Boots built a chair and footstool for the King, Little Red Riding Hood built a closet for the wolf to hide in, and Cinderella built a pumpkin, her pink dress, and a magic wand. Kudos for innovative teaching taking place in the Comstock library.

LaShonda Roberson, librarian at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

To support her Marvin E. Robinson School of Business and Management at Townview students, LaShonda Roberson participates in the student run entrepreneur space. The “library booth” is an opportunity for the library to circulate books, Social Emotional Learning activities, has a creative writing station, promotes the Dallas Public Library, and helps students build their personal home library with free books. The library booth is updated monthly.

For information about school libraries and happenings in the Library & Media Services Department, follow Dallas ISD Library and Media Services on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @DISD_Libraries or visit their website at https://www.dallasisd.org/librarymediaservices.

District support helps extracurricular coaches stay the course

It takes time and effort to provide high-quality extracurricular programs to students, and Dallas ISD academic coaches understand that. They are committed to guide students through a variety of competitions and enrichment opportunities that have a positive impact on academic outcomes, attendance, and social-emotional growth.

More than 1,800 coaches have signed up to sponsor a Student Activities extracurricular program at their school for the 2023-2024 school year. The recruitment of qualified teachers is crucial to the department’s ability to offer a variety of activities for students to choose from, and these teachers have stepped up to the challenge.

To encourage teachers to become sponsors, the department works to remove all barriers to running a strong extracurricular program, said Sharla Hudspeth, executive director of Extracurricular and Extended Learning.

“We place a great focus on our coaches, and we want Dallas ISD students to have access to superior extracurricular programs without any barriers like cost, availability, or transportation,” she said. “Removing the barriers to involvement and supporting coaches is key to high-quality extracurricular programs.”

Providing coaches with stipends and training, means creating opportunities for students that can help them increase academic performance, make lasting friendships, and grow socially and emotionally.

Teachers receive study materials, supplies, and direct support from the Student Activities team to help them build and prepare their students for competitions, workshops, and tournaments.

Not all coaches come to the table with experience, but they do come with a passion to engage students in after-school programs, said Michelle Read, Student Activities coordinator.

“All coaches must receive support to help them feel confident in their role,” she said. “This is especially true of new coaches because we want to make sure they have a positive experience.”

The new Law Magnet debate coach, Vanessa Lee, felt ready to lead her team following a series of workshops sponsored by the department earlier this fall.

“I have felt nothing but supported as a new coach,” Lee said. “I feel like I have a newfound level of comfortability teaching the context, and the collaboration with other coaches has been invaluable.”

Veteran debate coach Matt Summers of Thomas Jefferson High School has always found support through the department and its partner for the district’s debate program, the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance (DUDA).

“I have always found that DUDA and Student Activities bend over backwards to provide coaches support and resources, even where we did not anticipate a need,” he said.

The Student Activities Department often partners with outside sources to lead professional development for coaches. DUDA is one such partner. Cheer Express is another partner that provides training and development for Dallas ISD cheer coaches.

At the recent elementary cheer coach workshop, Cheer Express led coaches through an interactive evening of cheers and chants in the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy gymnasium.

During a break, Crystan Barnes, Sam Houston Elementary School cheer coach, discussed how she previously had to get financial support for the cheer program from parents, families, faculty, and fundraisers.  Expenses were such an issue that they were only able to do a few performances at their campus and were unable to travel to outside events.

“Now, with expenses not being an issue, every child gets a uniform, every child can attend the cheer camps and compete in competitions throughout the year,” she said. “The students are so excited about being part of this team. It has had a significant impact on their behavior, academics, work ethic, and emotional health.”



Funding education

The Association of Hispanic School Administrators awarded $13,000 in scholarships to Dallas ISD staff and students earlier this month. The organization also honored Superintendent Michael Hinojosa for his years of service to education and Dallas ISD.

Dr. Michael Hinojosa Pursuing Excellence Scholarship (Given to AHSA members)

  1. Ashley Fortner-Dominguez, LEAD—$1,000
  2. Marina Spataro, teacher at Jerry Junkins Elementary School—$1,000

Adelante Educators: 

  1. Beatriz Bustamante, teacher at the School for the Talented and Gifted at Pleasant Grove—$1,000
  2. Angelica Casanova, teacher assistant at Cochran Elementary School—$1,000
  3. Linda Stackhouse,  teacher assistant at Arlington Park Early Childhood Center—$1,000

Si Se Puede College Bound Seniors

  1. Noemy Burciaga—$1,500
  2. Syra Castillo—$1,500
  3. Jennifer Gomez—$1,500
  4. Tania Morin—$1,500
  5. Samantha Sanchez—$1,500

The mission of the Association of Hispanic School Administrators is to cultivate a pipeline of effective Hispanic leadership that reflects school district demographics and ensures educational equity for all students.

Celebrating outstanding educators

More than 300 gathered this week to recognize Dallas ISD’s top teachers and principals at the inaugural Educator of the Year Awards, presented by the Dallas Education Foundation and sponsored by Reliant. The event recognized and celebrated educators’ passion for transforming student lives.

“The fact that we get to celebrate these outstanding educators in person is incredible,” said Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. “I want to thank you for your outstanding work, especially over these past two years.”

The Teacher of the Year finalists were chosen from among the teachers of the year representing each Dallas ISD campus. Principals were chosen districtwide for their transformative campus leadership. The 2021-2022 Dallas ISD Educators of the Year are: 


Elementary Teacher of the Year: Wildrem Andrade Matamoros, Louise Wolff Kahn Elementary School

Secondary Teacher of the Year: Sara Gill, Ann Richards STEAM Academy

Choice/Magnet Teacher of the Year: Aaronda Smith, George B. Dealey Montessori and Vanguard Academy


Elementary Principal of the Year: Antonio Verduzco, B.H. Macon Elementary School

Secondary Principal of the Year: Katherine Eska, North Dallas High School

Choice/Magnet Principal of the Year: Michael Jackson, Sudie L. Williams Talented and Gifted Academy

Each winner received $5,000. All finalists were also recognized and awarded $1,500 each. A list of winners and finalists can be found online at dallasisd.org/toy and dallasisd.org/poy


Increasing efforts to recruit the best

COVID has created a labor shortage across the nation and has affected hiring for key positions at Dallas ISD, both at the campus and central levels. To help mitigate the turnover and recruit the best candidates to fill these critical positions, Human Capital Management has two recruitment coordinators dedicated to work specifically with central departments.

These strategic recruitment efforts to address labor shortages and turnover as a result of COVID are part of one of the many activities funded through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER. There is increased demand for qualified personnel as a direct result of COVID and from the surrounding districts also adding central staff to support activities and programs that are accelerating learning to mitigate the effects of COVID.

“Additional positions and higher than usual turnover in almost all areas across the district due to the impact of COVID has amplified the need for more recruitment and staffing support,” said Chele Andreason, executive director of Staffing at HCM. “COVID has created a need to fill positions in central administration that support schools and student achievement. While recruitment of campus staff remains our first priority, we also need to focus on recruiting candidates for these key central positions so that we can continue to provide excellent support to schools.”

The central administration recruiters have already been hard at work promoting key openings to attract the best candidates. They are:

Jenae L. Parker 

A transplant by way of Columbus, Ohio, Jenae L. Parker has a dual undergraduate degree in human resources management and business administration from Franklin University. She has more than four years of recruitment and selection experience in higher education.




Josh Soto

A product of Dallas ISD, Josh Soto graduated from the district’s Talented and Gifted Magnet. He holds an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree from The University of Texas at Dallas. He has worked in education and the nonprofit sector, where he is committed to helping recruit the best staff who will support student success.

The Beat will periodically highlight central administration openings.

Share your story—Save a life

Last November, with the promise of an impending vaccine against COVID and a return to normalcy, it was easy to toy with the idea of skipping the annual mammogram. What would be the harm with no family history and no previous suspicious findings?

Then I remembered the dozens of Dallas ISD breast cancer survivors whose stories I had edited for the past two years as part of the Dallas ISD Goes Pink! campaign led by our Benefits Department. They spoke of courage, strength and survival but also of urgency: Don’t wait because early detection is key. They probably saved my life.

Heeding the collective advice, I did schedule my mammogram for the week of Thanksgiving, and, by Dec. 7, after a second mammogram and a needle biopsy, I had been diagnosed with ductal in situ carcinoma. Not skipping the annual screening meant I was very lucky—it was found early.

Because the pandemic made it impossible to travel, I could not rely on family for help through surgeries and treatment. I depended on the family I have made here in Dallas and in the district. I relied on the kindness and directness of the women who have gone through this before and who were there to answer questions as I had to make decisions and face challenges. I relied on friends who just let me cry on the phone when I needed to and still do, on others who cooked for days so I could have protein rich food as I recovered from surgery. I relied on friends who cheered the end of every week of radiation and who celebrated the 15-minute walks I could barely manage as if they were marathons, who were with me at the hospital for surgeries and who spent days with me to make sure I was recovering.

The journey to recovery and, hopefully, remission is not one that should be traveled alone. I was fortunate to have great support and benefits through Dallas ISD—especially the employee assistance program—and to have access to fantastic and compassionate medical personnel at UT Southwestern.

I owe a debt to all the Dallas ISD women whose stories during past Dallas ISD Goes Pink! campaigns instilled the importance of annual screenings and the hope for survival. Had I waited a year, my prognosis and treatment would have been very different. If you are a breast cancer survivor or you are going through treatment now, share you story by sending an email to staffnews@dallasisd.org. We’ll publish these stories through October. You never know, you might save a life.

MariCarmen Eroles

De-stress for your health

Stress is part of everyday life, but the circumstances we are living through have caused unprecedented stress, and this can impact every part of people’s lives—including the ability to accomplish basic tasks, maintain relationships, and even perform physical tasks. The level of stress affecting people across the country is evident in some simple facts:*

  • 61% of adults report experiencing undesired weight changes since the start of the pandemic, with more than two in five saying they gained more weight than they intended.
  • Two in three people say they are sleeping more or less than they wanted to since the pandemic started.
  • Nearly half of people surveyed say they delayed or canceled health care services since the pandemic started.

The American Psychological Association has developed five quick, action-oriented things to help people begin to manage the excessive stress many are currently living with. The tips also provide a brief explanation of the science behind them.

If you need professional help managing your stress, Dallas ISD provides all employees access to the Employee Assistance Program.

Calm yourself

Slowly breathe in and count to four, hold it while counting to four, and then breathe out for a count of six. Repeat 10 times.

Why it works: Slowing our breathing allows our bodies to recalibrate and lowers levels of physiological arousal.

Focus yourself

Slow your racing thoughts by counting backwards by three in your mind from 100 (100, 97, 94, etc.).

Why it works: Focusing on with structure and engaging your brain in a distracting task can disrupt unhelpful patterns.

Relax yourself

One by one, tense each muscle group in your body for 10 seconds and then release. Notice how it feels to let your muscles relax and have the tension leave your body.

Why it works: Actively relaxing our muscles can increase energy and flexibility, helping us feel calmer.

Ground yourself

Do a quick scan of your body and notice the air around you and any surfaces you are touching. If possible, close your eyes and focus on the sensations, textures, and temperatures.

Why it works: Focusing on our physical surroundings helps us become more attuned to details and make more balanced assessments of our environments.

Celebrate yourself

You are dealing with huge challenges. Think about three things that went well today. If they involved another person, recognize and thank them whenever possible.

Why it works: Slowing down to recognize even small successes can increase our sense of control over our environment and help us help others more effectively.

Download and print a card to remind you of these activities to destress.

The Employee Assistance Program

Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) by LifeWorks is a confidential and secure service that offers help with personal and work-related issues. The EAP encourages employees and those close to them to seek help early before a minor problem becomes more serious. The EAP is designed to address short-term issues, identify resources and referrals for emergency and long-term issues. The EAP can provide support, referrals and, resources related to many issues like depression, conflict at work, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, adoption issue, grief and loss and many other issues.

With EAP, there is no contribution that staff need to provide. Counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Reach out to LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000 or visit www.dallasisd.org/benefits and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information.


*Source: American Psychological Association https://www.apa.org/about