Maple Lawn Elementary staff give back to the community

The staff at Maple Lawn Elementary School is dedicated to giving back to the community it serves.

Members of the school’s staff have been volunteering at the Salvation Army to serve meals to those in need. Maple Lawn Elementary team members originally volunteered in December as part of “Wellness Wednesday,” singing Christmas carols along with serving meals. They had such an amazing time that they returned in February as part of “Kindness Month.”

“It truly makes the heart warm to give back and the people are always so gracious, appreciative and thankful,” said Stacy Owens, counselor at Maple Lawn Elementary.

Dallas ISD initiative aims to engage, encourage, empower students

The African American Success Initiative (AASI) has a student advocacy component that focuses attention on students who have the potential to perform well and make academic and social strides given the right support and nurturing.

The program provides a student advocate coordinator who creates and monitors educational plans, improves educational services, empowers and supports students, and builds a supportive network in the school.  AASI has identified these best strategies and targeted initiatives to increase achievement at 25 campuses this school year:

  • A literacy initiative that includes a structured literacy program, reading intervention and targeted professional development;
  • A mentoring program that provides additional resources and support for students, including mentors, tutoring and peer support networks;
  • Community and business partnerships;
  • Professional development;
  • Debate, chess club and mindfulness yoga.

AASI was originally established in 2006 to adapt the gaps that group had compared to other demographic groups on standardized math tests. After a brief hiatus, the program was re-established in 2015 by Dallas ISD Trustee Dr. Lew Blackburn.

“AASI strives to educate all students for success through customized, innovative programming and curriculum support for students,” said AASI Director Regina Rice. “We’re excited by what’s going with student participants and teachers.”

ASSI has evolved to assist students in reading and math and is overseen by Dallas ISD Chief of Staff Pam Lear as one of Superintendent Michael Hinojosa’s strategic initiatives.

Learn more:

Superintendent: Dallas ISD mourns with Broward County community, reviews security procedures here

Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa has issued a statement about the Feb. 14 shootings at a high school in Florida.

“Amidst heavy hearts today, Dallas ISD joins in mourning with the Broward County community in the wake of Wednesday’s tragic attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The senseless loss of so many lives is a national tragedy that is especially difficult for everyone connected to schools.

“Student safety is Dallas ISD’s top priority. Campuses are trained and equipped to support students by teaching and modeling social and emotional skills. Teachers, students and staff are always encouraged to monitor the school environment and to bring to the attention of administrators and security any potentially troubling behavior.

“In the wake of this horrible event, Dallas ISD is reviewing all safety and security procedures to ensure students, staff and community remain safe. Additionally, counselors stand ready to assist any students experiencing emotional distress.”

UNCF campaign kickoff set for Feb. 15; Campuses and departments urged to send representatives

The UNCF/Dallas ISD Kick-off Rally will be held at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, February, 15, 2018, at the Center for Community Cooperation – Oak Corner Building, 2900 Live Oak St., Dallas.  All schools and departments are urged to send a representative to the rally to receive campaign information.  Representatives should register via Schoolnet at for Activity #100010358 by Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018.

Each year, Dallas ISD supports the United Negro College Fund through a workplace campaign to raise funds for scholarships for deserving college-bound students. Annually, UNCF, the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization, provides scholarships to 60,000 students to help them pursue higher education and become productive citizens for our nation.

Funds raised through our UNCF workplace campaign will be awarded as scholarships to Dallas ISD seniors of all races who plan to attend a historically black college or university (HBCU) or any other four-year accredited U.S. college or university in fall 2018.

The workplace campaign runs from Feb. 16 to April 16, 2018, and students, staff, and community members are welcome to donate. Contact Keitha Shelby at 972-925-8929 or with questions.

Dallas ISD to stand united with “Dreamers”

In an effort to ease the uncertainty that many families throughout the county, including those in Dallas ISD, face due to the recent changes to the DACA (Deferred Action Childhood Act), Dallas ISD launched, a web page with resources, and information for those who are impacted.

“I’ve had a lot of questions from the community about what will happen to them if DACA goes away,” said Superintendent Michael Hinojosa during a presentation of the resources page to the Board of Trustees. I tell them “do not panic!”

Hinojosa stated that if the federal government does not approve a plan for individuals under DACA, many school districts would be impacted in multiple ways.

While Dallas ISD does not track the number of undocumented students, the district has around 70,000 English Language Learners (not all under DACA). Meanwhile, the district has 78 employees under DACA, 36 of them are teachers.

“Their contributions, both in and outside the classroom, are vital to prepare our students to become future leaders,” said Superintendent Hinojosa in a letter included on the web page. “As Congress makes a decision on the future of DACA, our attorneys will continue working to determine how we can best support these valuable employees.”

The page, which is in English and Spanish, includes frequently asked questions to help school staff address questions from their specific community. A list of community organizations, which provide immigration services is also included, as well as a list of scholarship opportunities for undocumented students and personal stories.

Dallas ISD Translation Services expands languages offered

Ninayo habli njema! That’s the Swahili translation for “I have good news,” and it’s true!

Dallas ISD Translation Services has expanded the number of languages available to serve district students and parents. American Sign Language, Kirundi, Kinyarwanda and Swahili have been added to Arabic, Burmese, Chin, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish — languages that were already offered by the department.

To request an interpreter for a meeting, or a document translation, please use the request forms available at Due to high demand for certain languages, please call for interpreter availability before scheduling the meeting.

Schools and departments should plan ahead and send documents for translation, such as student handbooks, brochures, graduation requirements, letters to parents and medical forms now, before the back to school rush.

Academic tutoring is available for students new to the country whose native language is Arabic, Burmese, Chin and Swahili. To inquire about tutoring for your student, contact Adriana Cabeza at

Enrollment records reflect that more than 67 languages are spoken in the homes of district students. Go here to learn more about Translation Services.

Three schools earn statewide counseling award

Three Dallas ISD schools have received a statewide award that recognizes great work happening in school counseling programs!

The Texas School Counselor Association sponsors the CREST Award, which allows counselors to demonstrate the work they do helping students.

The Dallas ISD CREST Award recipients are:

Billy Earl Dade Middle School

Counselors: Norma Wright, Rhonda Woods, Edordu Nwakaego
Principal: Tracie Washington

Emmett Conrad High School

Counselors: Brenda McCoy, Jenny Garner, Sonya Gilb, Johnny Moore, Nitzy Mosquera
Principal: Temesghen Asmerom 

Onesimo Hernandez Elementary

Counselors: Jeffrey Todd Bingamon, Marquetta Harris
Principal: Oscar Aponte 

The award winners will be recognized at the Annual Professional School Counselor Conference on Feb. 17 at Moody Gardens in Galveston.

Dallas ISD is among school districts celebrating National School Counseling Week during the week of Feb. 5-9.

Special week highlights important work of school counselors

Dallas ISD is among school districts celebrating National School Counseling Week during the week of Feb. 5-9. As part of the celebration, district counselors will organize and implement various activities on their campuses.

The week is sponsored American School Counselor Association (ASCA) to focus public attention on the unique contribution of professional school counselors within U.S. school systems and how students are different as a result of what school counselors do. National School Counseling Week highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for college and career.

Juany Valdespino-Gaytán, director of Student Engagement & Counseling Services, applauds Dallas ISD counselors for being actively engaged in helping students examine their abilities, strengths, interests and talents.

“Professional school counselors are certified, experienced educators with a master’s degree in guidance and counseling,” Valdespino-Gaytán said. “The combination of their training and experience makes them an integral part of the total educational program.”

Rusk Middle School educator a finalist for $1 million teaching prize

Thomas J. Rusk Middle School Spanish teacher Akash Patel began his education career in small rural communities in Oklahoma where people had never seen or met “a brown Indian guy who spoke five languages and had traveled to over 30 countries.”

In Oklahoma and Dallas ISD, Patel uses his travel experiences to design all of his lessons. And Patel’s dedication to teaching is being nationally recognized: he is a top 50 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize. This annual $1 million teaching prize recognizes a classroom teacher who exemplifies global citizenship teaching and learning.

“I am humbled and honored to be a finalist for this prestigious recognition,” Patel said. “This prize will bring great attention to our children, our school, our district, our city and our country.”

The Varkey Foundation awards the annual $1 million prize to underline the importance of educators. The top 10 finalists will be announced in February, and those finalists will fly to Dubai in March to the Global Teacher Prize Awards Ceremony.

Rusk is in its first year as an ACE (Accelerating Campus Excellence) school, a district effort that staffs academically struggling schools with experienced, proven educators and also requires an added commitment from students and parents to strive for excellence.

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