Health club champions positive change

Guardians of the Green Conservation and Health Club, the newest club at Edward Titche Elementary School, is teaching students, families, and team members about hygiene, waste reduction, fitness, and nutrition.

The club is the brainchild of Kamron Barton, and it demonstrates her commitment to the well-being of students and the environment. 

“Establishing and sponsoring the group this year has been rewarding,” she said. 

The Guardians of the Green are impacting their school community by promoting food safety throughout the holidays, healthy eclipse viewing, and recycling. 

“In support of Earth Day’s 2024 theme we want to reduce plastic use by at least 60 percent” she said. 

As school counselor, Barton is passionate about education and is devoted to her students. With more than a decade of experience in education, she said she has dedicated her life to educating young minds and creating a culture of conservation and health awareness. Promoting positive exchange is reflected in all aspects of her work, including the health club. 

Despite the challenges of managing the club in addition to her other duties as counselor, she remains dedicated to her students and the goals of helping them improve their lives and the lives of their families.  

“Every staff member sponsors a club that meets at the same time, and all students are expected to participate in one,” she said. “Therefore, consistent meeting attendance can be a challenge, but seeing the enthusiasm and dedication of our members makes the obstacle worthwhile.” 

Barton hadn’t always envisioned herself as an educator, but the tech bust years ago drove engineers into the classroom, where she found her calling. Her experiences in the classroom and as an instructional coach reinforced her passion for counseling. She advises anyone working with children that exposure to new things is key. 

“Providing students with opportunities to experience something new and to learn its value can shape their careers and personal lives in profound ways,” she said.

Barton has also led school diversity and inclusion initiatives and has organized and implemented initiatives for Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Most of all, she is proud of helping students succeed.

“Professionally, I am proud of helping two immigrant Sheltered English students who’d lost their father pass TAKS for the first time,” she said. “I enjoyed learning that these engineers graduated from UT and Texas A&M on full Gates scholarships.”

“This year, I counseled a grieving newcomer despite language barriers,” she said. “I also prioritize guiding fourth-graders to connect learning to future careers. Coming from a low-SES high school without access to such resources, I aim to provide a different experience for my students. At Titche, fourth-graders regularly discuss connections between subjects and their career goals. It’s about showing children, parents, and staff that they are seen, heard, loved, and believed in.” 

Pleasant Grove is my neighborhood

I’m a working mother of two boys—one who is of elementary age, the other already a grownup. I’ve raised my older son, and I’m raising my son in Southeast Dallas, in the community which is known as Pleasant Grove. This corner of Dallas—my corner of the world—feels like home. My son attends Henry B. Gonzalez Personalized Learning Academy, our neighborhood school. I’m also a Dallas ISD team member, who lives, shops, dines, and volunteers in my community because I’m intentional about supporting it.. 

As a district team member, I believe in public education. I made a decision early on, that my children would attend public schools, and that we would work as a family to find that sense of community in our schools. My father was a public school teacher and always taught me the value of public education. I didn’t grow up in Dallas, but I’ve lived here longer than I have anywhere else. I’m proud to live in Southeast Dallas, the home of many hard-working families whose children attend neighborhood public schools that are gems in our community. 

You may hear a lot about Pleasant Grove, not always wonderful things, but those things don’t define us. I can assure you that there are many people who put the “pleasant” in Pleasant Grove. It is my favorite part of the city. We have the Trinity Forest and a public horse park practically in my backyard. On Lake June, across from the Pleasant Grove Branch Library, we have the largest outdoor mural gallery in the country. There are many hidden treasures in our community that should be celebrated, and our schools are no exception.

There’s a sense of connection and synergy that I’ve seen in recent years. It’s an exciting time in our schools and in our community. There are leaders and volunteers, everyday people, who are working collaboratively to advocate for this area that has been historically economically disadvantaged. I see much of this good energy in the schools, as there are active Parent Teacher Associations and different educational and extracurricular enrichment options for students. With many new opportunities available in our neighborhood schools, I see more and more community members sending their children to schools in their own neighborhoods. 

From the moment I step out the door, I see a community that works together. I see parents walk their kids to school every morning, and they are greeted by volunteers, teachers or community members who work as crossing guards. There’s a sense of empathy, unity and a community that cares.

I feel good knowing that my child is attending a Dallas ISD school, where he feels nurtured, seen, heard, and where team members work with him and other students to help them be the best scholars they can be. As a parent, I genuinely feel that the district is playing an important role in fostering a happy, healthy, and future leader, whether his role in the world is big or small. They make me feel like my child is significant, like every child is significant. He loves art and choir and is an avid reader who loves numbers. He expresses his feelings and says things like, “Mom, that makes me happy,” or “Mom, that frustrates me,” and tells me why. His school is working with me to raise not only a smart, active child, but an emotionally intelligent child. 

A friend, who is a small business owner in the community and who grew up in Mexico, says the language of her heart is Spanish. She would tell me about her dreams of her son being the first in his family to go to college. He attended schools in our neighborhood, and when it was time to attend high school, he and his mom chose W.W. Samuell High School because of the Early College option. It was his mother’s biggest, boldest dream for her son to graduate with his associate degree and attend college. Her dream came true. Her son graduated with a two-year degree and is currently attending a local university. His mother recently told me that the years of sacrifice, the blood, sweat and tears were well worth the effort. 

This is what my community is made of—hard-working families that want the best for their children, and they’ve found it in our Dallas ISD schools, where there is something for every child. My community is changing the narrative of what Pleasant Grove used to be known as. These leaders—from administrators, teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians, to students—are making history and changing the future. 

Seeing things from the lens of a parent, at Gonzalez PL Academy, I found exactly what I always wanted for my child. I’m thankful that I can find it a couple of blocks from my home. I don’t just see this in my son’s school but in all of the schools in my community. It is fitting to see the names of history makers like Sylvia Mendez and Henry B. Gonzalez in our neighborhood schools where future history makers are growing up today. When my son says he is a senator (the school’s mascot), I think to myself that maybe someday he will be one in the U.S. Congress. Whether the kids that we are growing up in our neighborhood schools will become senators or not, they are the ones who will lead us into the future and they are learning how to lead in their neighborhoods.

Civic engagement clubs empower students

It’s never too early to get students interested in becoming civically engaged, and at North Dallas High School, that engagement comes in the form of a voter registration drive at school, sponsored by the Student Voter Empowerment Club.

The Student Voter Empowerment Club is a nonpartisan, student-led organization under the March to the Polls umbrella, whose projects include promoting civic education, increasing student voter turnout, and instilling a commitment to voting and civic engagement beyond the high school years. 

Rubi Chavez, office manager and the sponsor of the student-led League of United Latin American Students (LULAC) chapter at North Dallas began the SVEC chapter last year to help youth at her school understand their civic responsibility to vote. This school year, Chavez invited Jo Rohde, an English demonstration teacher and debate sponsor to join forces to co-sponsor SVEC. 

Rohde and Chavez say that it seemed like a natural fit to bring together their students, who collectively have a passion for civic engagement and who were already doing similar work.

There are approximately 25 Dallas ISD schools that have a SVEC chapter like the one at North Dallas High School. Students in grades nine through 12 can participate. For more information about SVEC and March to the Polls, click here

“Students are hearing about the importance of voting directly from student voices, and it encourages other students to go out and vote,” Chavez said. 

Even though Chavez and Rohde organize the monthly meetings with SVEC and have a mentor from March to the Polls who helps and guides the students, they ensure that it’s the students who will be leading the voter registration drive at the school. 

Right now, the SVEC chapter is in what Rohde describes as phase one—students are starting to get the word out to their peers. The team has been split up into two committees. The social committee will share general information on social media about the upcoming May election as well as links to voter registration. The poster committee is working on getting posters up around the school and making announcements. After spring break, the students will move into phase two, which will include picking the date for the voter registration drive and finalizing the details. 

According to Chavez, the March to the Polls organization has helped them every step of the way, including sharing resources with the students so they can be better informed about voting and the registration process. This includes resources in Spanish, as an effort to be inclusive of the Spanish-speaking population. Voter registration cards are in English and Spanish, Chavez said. 

“I want them to get all the information regardless of their age, and for them to know that they have a voice and they can express that,” Chavez said. 

While not all students might be eligible to vote this year, Chavez said students can use platforms they are passionate about to get the word out. Chavez believes that the more this generation is exposed to voter education, the more likely they will talk about it among their peers and family members, and become lifelong voters. 

As a debate coach for the last 12 years, Rohde has seen her students research local and national elections and said she has really seen the impact when students inform themselves about their elected officials and where they stand on different topics. 

“Something we’ve learned in debate is how important the local elections are and how they drive us,” she said. “For me, wanting to be part of this SVEC club and helping students get the knowledge they need to become those informed voters who can really make a change is what motivates me.” 

Primaries early voting

Early voting for the March primaries is going on now through March 1. For more information about early voting and the March 5 primaries, visit


Professional experience helps build student skills in new program

Jason Hamilton graduated from Justin F. Kimball High School in 2002, and has now come back to Dallas ISD to put his 24 years of culinary experience and 18 years as an executive chef to use in the district’s newest career and technical education initiative.

Hamilton, a career and technical education coordinator, is overseeing the management of the district’s food truck initiative, ensuring smooth operations across participating schools. 

He ensures that students are taught the technical, culinary, management and entrepreneurial skills needed to run a food truck. The food truck program is set to transform the student learning experience, Hamilton said. 

The food truck is expected to be fully functional by the 2024-2025 school year when the initiative will roll out to another six culinary programs. Once it is in operation, the food truck will rotate among the high schools and serve meals at high school games and special events, following the culinary instructor’s decisions and getting approval from CTE and campus administrators and with the appropriate permits from the City of Dallas. The rotation system will allow time for training and proficiency development among students and instructors, Hamilton said.

“We’re excited to see our students gain hands-on experience in entrepreneurship, budget management, and culinary arts,” Hamilton stated. 

Intuit inc., a software company that specializes in financial software, provided a fully operational food truck with a commercial-grade kitchen, allowing career and technical education students to learn the technical, financial, and entrepreneurial skills required to manage a business. This mobile kitchen is the third in the nation and the first food truck to be donated in Texas as part of this initiative. Bryan Adams, Moisés E. Molina, and Skyline are the three high schools that will be involved in the launch of the food truck initiative.

Students from each participating high school will contribute to various aspects of the food truck’s operation. Business students will handle marketing, point-of-sale operations, and budget management, while graphic design students will design menus, truck wraps, and promotional materials. Culinary arts students will oversee menu selection, truck operations, food preparation, sales, and cleaning.

“The concept of the food truck is to allow the student experience to expand from the classroom into the real world through collaboration from multiple programs of study,” Hamilton said. 

His experience in the culinary world allows him to manage purchases, support students and teachers, and identify requirements for equipment. He also more efficiently communicates with vendors and other program partners while staying organized, he said.

In addition to his work in the school district, Hamilton runs and operates a catering company called BACN (Bringing Affordable Catering is Necessary). Founded with a college friend to provide meals for university events, the BACN now caters just three events a year. 

The key to Hamilton’s success in the culinary world is due, in part, to his mantra—“Talk it like you walk it.” This is the same approach he brings to his work in Dallas ISD as he continues to work with teachers and students to overcome the obstacles of setting up a food truck and getting the program off the ground. 

Despite facing challenges such as obtaining permits and determining logistics like street maps for truck height restrictions, the project has seen significant successes.

“We’ve received the keys and title for the truck, and the students have been able to witness their creation come to life through project-based learning,” shares Hamilton. 

For many students in Dallas ISD’s Culinary Arts programs, the food truck initiative represents more than just a learning opportunity—it’s a path to employment and entrepreneurship. Hamilton believes that the food truck will motivate students to keep learning and improving, key aspects of being successful in school and in life. 

“This expansion of the classroom is a game-changer for our students,” Hamilton said. “To be a part of this unfolding journey is truly priceless.”


Dallas ISD pilots TEA safety assessment

In its continued efforts to prioritize the safety of students and team members, the district conducts regular safety audits throughout the school year. The success of these audits has attracted the attention of the Texas Education Agency, which is developing a statewide vulnerability assessment.

TEA teams of assessors spent a week in Dallas touring district facilities and attending meetings with Operations Division team members to determine the district’s vulnerabilities based on their 11-point assessment that then will be used by school districts across the state.

“Dallas ISD volunteered to be the first in the state to have a vulnerability assessment completed on their district,” said Chip Roberts, TEA senior agent for the North Sector. “Over 100 campuses were assessed last week with the assistance of the School Safety, Resources and Monitoring Department. It is evident that safety is top of mind for district leadership, making Dallas ISD a leader in school safety within the state.”

Dallas ISD has been keeping safety in mind since the 2015 bond, which was used to add doorbells and secure vestibules in schools, work that has continued in subsequent years, said Marlon Brooks, executive director of School Safety, Resources and Monitoring.

“We have been focusing on being proactive,” he said.

Through the years Dallas ISD has enhanced safety at campuses and facilities by making sure that all doors remain secure, installing card readers at secure entrances, updating policies and procedures, developing 3-D maps of facilities, upgrading safety features and other measures.

“The study will help us improve,” Brooks said. “It will help us see if there are any weaknesses we haven’t seen and align what we want to look for in all schools. The pilot will also help students across Texas.”

Neighborhood schools prepare students for the future

For generations, public schools have been the backbone and the fuel for economic progress in their communities as they prepare students for success. During the week of Feb. 26-March 1—National Public Schools Week—Dallas ISD and districts across the country will celebrate how public schools continue to do this by offering more choices in their neighborhoods. 

“National Public Schools Week is a great time to check out the choice, opportunities, and excellence that Dallas ISD offers to every single child,” said Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde.   

In addition to special schools and programs across Dallas ISD students have a variety of opportunities to explore careers and develop skills at traditional campuses. Neighborhood schools play an important role in the district’s commitment to equity, with opportunities readily available in every neighborhood. From International Baccalaureate to career and technical education programs to leadership academies—Dallas ISD’s neighborhood schools are growing future leaders in communities throughout the district. 

At the secondary level, some of those opportunities include career and technical education programs that help students prepare for a career field where they will earn a living wage, find  advancement and lifelong learning opportunities. National Academy Foundation programs are part of the CTE offerings in high schools across the district. 

In this program, students take industry-specific classes in addition to their core academic courses and participate in work-based learning activities. NAF academies offer different themes in the areas of engineering, finance, health sciences, hospitality and tourism, and information technology. For more information on which neighborhood schools offer these programs, visit here

Neighborhood schools are also home to International Baccalaureate programs, which can be found in nine Dallas ISD schools. The International Baccalaureate program is designed to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. 

Neighborhood schools also offer students the opportunity to earn college credit through Advanced Placement courses. 

IB works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programs of international education and rigorous assessment. To learn which schools offer an IB program, visit here

In addition to multiple academic programs readily available for students in their neighborhood schools, there are other ways for students to grow their talents and develop leadership skills that will help them in the future, including athletics, cheer, visual and performing arts, esports, debate, newspaper and yearbook, University Interscholastic League competitions, chess, and much more. For more information on different student activities available in neighborhood schools throughout the district visit here

To learn more about what neighborhood schools offer, visit the More Choice Expo on March 23. 


Meet the Core 4 Champions: Brandon Harper

Brandon Harper has been in education for 17 years—14 as a classroom teacher and three as a coordinator.

What attracted you to education? 

My journey into education began with the strong influence of close friends and relatives who were educators. Their stories and classroom experiences always fascinated me. Eventually, I made the decision to pursue teaching, even though I wasn’t sure where it would take me. Over time, I found success in teaching my content area and building rapport with my students. Witnessing their growth and success became my driving force. Like many of us, I am also a parent. I strive to be the kind of educator I would want for my own children. I am committed to passing on my knowledge, investing my time and attention, and dedicating myself to education to benefit the next generation.

Why do you think the district’s culture tenets are important? 

In simple terms, the core tenets are like the district’s compass, guiding how things are done and why. They’re all about sparking new ideas, making sure everyone feels welcome, working together, and never giving up on giving kids the best education possible.

Is there a time when one of the Core 4 tenets made a difference for you or someone else? 

Absolutely, there have been countless times when the core tenets of Dallas ISD, particularly flexibility, have made a significant difference. One instance that stands out is when unexpected circumstances arose during a project deadline. Instead of panicking, I remembered the importance of flexibility and adapted our approach to meet the challenge head-on. By embracing a flexible mindset, we were able to pivot our strategies and still achieve our goals effectively. In life, change is inevitable, and being flexible is not just a Dallas ISD core tenet; it’s a life lesson. It’s about being resilient, adaptable, and open to new possibilities. Like a tree bending in the wind but not breaking, flexibility allows us to navigate through life’s twists and turns while staying rooted in our values and goals. As educators, it’s crucial never to lose sight of the impact we have on students, the community, and society as a whole. Our ability to adapt and remain flexible directly influences the quality of education we provide and the future success of our students. So, while techniques and practices may evolve over time, the core value of flexibility remains constant, guiding us through the ever-changing landscape of education.

Is there something your coworker would be surprised to know about you? 

My coworker might be surprised to find out that I’m a passionate DIY enthusiast when it comes to construction and home improvements. While I’m dedicated to my work during office hours, I also love rolling up my sleeves and tackling various projects around the house during my free time. From building custom furniture pieces to renovating rooms, I find joy in the hands-on process of enhancing my living space. It’s a hobby that allows me to unleash my creativity and problem-solving skills in a completely different setting outside of the workplace.



Summer professional development offers stipend for teachers 

Summer is right around the corner, and with it, various opportunities for free professional development for Dallas ISD teachers. One of those free opportunities is the Sue Rose Summer Institute for Teachers, which is currently accepting applications. 

Dallas ISD teachers from all grade levels and disciplines are welcome to participate. In partnership with the University of Dallas, the institute will provide a stipend of up to $1,000, books, lunches, seminars, and professional development credit of up to 98 continuing education hours, and up to six hours of graduate credit. Participants will explore profound literature across all subjects, fostering inclusive discussions. 

The institute will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays from Thursday, June 27, through Friday, July 19, with the exception of July 4 and 5. Participants have the option of attending all three weeks or may register for whichever week or weeks best suit their schedule. 

To register for SRSI click here. Although the link says “sold out,” the institute is giving priority to Dallas ISD teachers. There is no registration deadline indicated on the website, however the Dallas ISD Social Studies Department recommends that teachers sign up as soon as possible to secure their spot. 

If you have any questions, contact Michael McShane at 262-770-5217 or

Need help paying for college?

If you are thinking about furthering your education, don’t hesitate to apply now for the 2023 William H. Cotton Scholarship for Dallas ISD educators who want to pursue post-graduate degrees. The deadline to submit the completed scholarship application is March 31.

The scholarship—worth $20,000—was established by Credit Union of Texas to honor the legacy of Cotton’s 46 years of dedication and service to Dallas ISD and the Credit Union of Texas. It is awarded to one district educator or administrator seeking to pursue continuing post-baccalaureate education, including certifications, to further their career in the field of education for the benefit of the Dallas ISD community and its students. Cotton was a long-time principal and administrator who was also the first African-American president of the Dallas School Administrators Association. He retired in 2000 as an associate superintendent.

Who is eligible?

  •   Must be a CUTX member with a checking account or a loan product prior to submitting an application. Please note that
  •   Checking account, and all other accounts at CUTX, must be in good standing.
  •   Must be a full-time or part-time Dallas ISD faculty or administrator.
  •   Must intend to further your career in education and serve the Dallas ISD community during the course of the scholarship term.
  •   Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident.
  •   All required attachments must be submitted with the application.

Please note that these eligibility requirements must be met annually for renewal. CUTX employees and family members of CUTX employees are not eligible for this scholarship. 

The rules

  •   Incomplete applications or those missing any required documents will not be considered.
  •   Applications postmarked after the deadline will not be considered.
  •   Scholarship funds will be paid directly to the educational institution. Continued disbursement of scholarship funds requires a grade of C or better in a graded course and passing in a pass/fail course.
  •   The scholarship value will be awarded in increments of $5,000 per semester over a period of four semesters.

For more information about the scholarship and to apply by March 31, visit



Retired teachers support education

Three teachers recently received $750 grants from the Dallas Retired Teachers Association for innovative and creative programming that will have a positive impact on their students and their schools.     

Amber Holmes-Turner, teacher at Hillcrest High School, was awarded her grant to promote students’ understanding of broadcast journalism, media development, laws surrounding free speech and ethical considerations, all while providing timely and relevant information to the school community. The funds enabled the school to invest in essential equipment to enhance their video production capabilities and engage the school community.

Armina Wrice, teacher at Henry W. Longfellow Career Exploration Academy, was awarded her grant to acquire a set of computer drawing tablets in order to facilitate hand-written equations, hand-drawn images, graphics and diagrams. This created information rich content for a virtually interactive learning atmosphere.

Heidi Zeko, functional life skills teacher at Victor Hexter Elementary School, was awarded her grant to enable her students to gain skills in work experience, communicating with others and money counting while running a school store. A simple cash register, table, display bins or shelves, and a cooler for drinks will also be purchased.  Signs advertising the store will be put in the school office and lounge to advertise the store and its operating hours. 

Dallas Retired Teachers Association awards these grants annually and applications are accepted during fall. The grant application information is available on their website: