Grant winner brings aquariums to elementary classrooms

Harry Monroe, a science teacher at Dallas ISD’s Environmental Education Center, has always had a passion for teaching students about the natural world that surrounds them. One of the ways he is able to do this is through his classroom aquarium, something he will be sharing with elementary teachers across the district thanks to a Junior League of Dallas Grant for Innovative Teaching.

With 48 years of teaching experience and 31 years in Dallas ISD, Monroe has seen students alight with curiosity and wonder time and time again when interacting with living creatures like guppies, goldfish, Gambusia (or mosquitofish), and more.

A few years ago, Monroe helped establish a professional development workshop to guide other Dallas ISD teachers through setting up and maintaining an aquarium. 

“It created a lot of interest because the teachers who had been out here had been studying interdependence and ecosystems,” Monroe said. “They wanted to do something similar back in their classrooms, but a lot of the time, the only way they could do that would be to spend money out of their own pocket. So we came up with the professional development session and provided everybody with an aquarium kit.”

The session was so successful that Monroe decided to apply for a Grant for Innovative Teaching last school year to purchase 15 aquarium kits and host another workshop, which is scheduled for October.

Each kit will include tools like a thermometer, aerator, filter, and light to maintain the aquariums in a classroom setting. Monroe said he is especially looking forward to introducing new teachers to the enriching classroom experience and seeing them create memorable moments for their first set of students.

“The last time we were able to do this project, it created a kind of network because the teachers were able to get support from some of the vendors that make the equipment and from each other,” Monroe said. “I am hoping to put together some extra aquarium kits, and we are going to try to impact as many students as we can.”


Hispanic Heritage Month: Principal follows his “why” 

Roberto Gonzalez, principal at Biomedical Preparatory at UT Southwestern, did not set out to become an educator, but he said in many ways, teaching was all around him as he was growing up in Cartagena, Colombia.

His mother worked as a math teacher and then as a principal in Colombia, inspiring Gonzalez to pursue a life of service—one that started out in the medical field.

“I always liked to help,” Gonzalez said. “My mind was helping people, so I went into the medical field and became a family practitioner working with underserved communities.”

Due to violence that made it increasingly difficult to live in Cartagena, Gonzalez ultimately decided to leave Colombia and come to Dallas, where his sister was working as a teacher. She invited Gonzalez into her classroom to record a video of her teaching, and Gonzalez said he “fell in love with teaching.” 

Not long after, he became an educator himself. While it was a big transition, Gonzalez said he did not lose sight of his purpose because he always remembered his “why.”

“My why was never being a medical doctor or being a teacher—it was helping people get better,” Gonzalez said. “Education and medicine are very related. You have to prescribe something so a patient gets better, and you have to prescribe a good curriculum and good lessons in education so everybody gets better.” 

Gonzalez first joined Dallas ISD in 2006, working as a teacher, then as a coach, an assistant principal, and a principal. No matter the role, Gonzalez said he has remained committed to bringing equity and opportunity to the forefront for every student. 

His dedication led him to being a founding member of Biomedical Preparatory at UT Southwestern, which has “intertwined his two passions into one place.” 

Gonzalez has seen countless student success stories since Biomedical Preparatory started classes, but some of his recent favorite memories were taking students to a simulation center, where they got to experience an operating room of mannequin patients, and, of course, bringing a kangaroo to campus. 

“Seeing the joy on their faces and seeing the joy of my team members makes it all worthwhile,” Gonzalez said.

Throughout the 2023-2024 school year, Gonzalez and his team will continue working tirelessly to bring new opportunities to students—and to make them feel like they belong. Gonzalez said leaning into that sense of belonging is what celebrating culture and heritage mean to him, and he wants to ensure his school creates a culture of belonging for every student it has.

“During Hispanic Heritage Month, they will see what Hispanics can bring to the table and the struggles we have had,” Gonzalez said. “But I also look for ways to highlight every student on campus. We will celebrate Black History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and more, and we won’t just talk about it. We will try to live it and make our students feel at home.”

While there is always work to be done, Gonzalez said he is proud of his team and the welcoming, innovative community they have created together. He said he especially wants to thank Assistant Principal Gina Maffucci and Coordinator Natalie Cruz-Garcia for supporting his goals for their campus. 

“They read my vision, and they go with it,” Gonzalez said. “The biomedical team is amazing. It’s because of them that I’m here and this dream job is my reality.” 

New approach for parent conferences

Twice a year, every year, certain days are designated to give teachers the opportunity to meet with parents and discuss their students’ progress. This year, parent conferences will be a little different. 

More flexibility is being built around parent conferences by designating a parent conferences week and counting the parent conference time as one full teacher work day each semester, which is seven hours and 45 minutes per DK (LOCAL). 

This fall, the conferences are to be scheduled and conducted to meet the needs of the parents and teachers during the week of Oct. 23. Teachers will put in a cumulative total of a work day to conduct parent conferences throughout the week.

Teachers may schedule the parent conferences in person, virtually or by phone before school, after school, or during their conference period to meet the needs of their students’ parents.

The week of Jan. 22 has been designated as the spring parent conference week.

Employee giving benefits DEF

For over two decades, Dallas ISD has proudly organized an employee giving campaign to show our appreciation for organizations that support our students and families. This year, Dallas ISD is giving back to the Dallas Education Foundation (DEF), the direct and designated philanthropic partner of Dallas ISD!

By contributing to the Dallas ISD Employee Giving campaign, you are making a valuable investment in the future of our students, teachers, counselors, support staff, and schools. Every donation is directly invested back into Dallas ISD to improve educational outcomes for all students.

Your contribution will count towards our overall goal of raising $75,000 this year. With over 22,000 team members in our district, we have the capacity not only to meet but to exceed this target!

The elementary and secondary campus with the highest participation percentage by Dec. 1 will win a breakfast sponsored by Whataburger, one of our dedicated community partners! There are also incentives for individuals and champions like winning tickets to the DEF Heart of Teaching annual gala! Visit the website to learn more about all of our giving perks

Donate today by visiting Download the campaign poster found here.

Celebrating a Core 4 culture

Are you focused, fast, flexible, and friendly in your interactions with colleagues, students and the public? If so, you are already embracing good customer service practices, which this week are being recognized during National Customer Service Week. 

The Core 4—the district’s culture tenets—are rooted in practices that exemplify the best customer service. Keeping each one of these tenets at the forefront of everything we do helps us keep focus on being a premier district in Texas and in the nation. 

Focused – We Transform Student Lives. These are the team members that make decisions that are intentional and grounded in the needs of students and equity groups, and who are great at consistently and effectively implementing the necessary support to ensure the social, emotional and academic needs of students, families, and equity groups are met.  

Fast – Urgency for All. These are the team members who return and deliver messages within 24 hours during normal business hours, and are wonderful at consistently responding in a timely manner to requests between students, families, and team members.

Flexible–We Strive for the Yes. These are our team members  who do whatever it takes to meet the needs of our students, families and team members. They eliminate barriers and embrace innovative problem-solving.

Friendly–Make Memorable Moments. These are the team members who build respectful relationships that are grounded in communication, and embrace the positive and expect the best of each other. 

Recognizing those who best exemplify these tenets if part of the Core 4 experience. If your department or school has been recognizing every month those who go above and beyond to be Core 4, keep an eye out for a way to submit their names for a quarterly recognition. 


Celebrating healthy meals for students

Nearly 30 million children throughout the country participate in the National School Lunch Program each day, and to recognize the importance of the program, Dallas ISD is celebrating National School Lunch Week Oct. 9-13.  

“Level Up with School Lunch” highlights the importance of a healthy school lunch to a student’s success both in and outside the classroom. Dallas ISD students have access to nutritious free school breakfast and lunch.

National School Lunch Week will highlight the nutritious foods available daily in district cafeterias with fun activities for students, healthy meals, and fun challenges and giveaways. 

“Thanks to government waivers, school meals are free for all students all school year, so it’s a great time to give school lunch a try,” said Debi Rowley, interim executive director of Food and Child Nutrition Services. “National School Lunch Week helps us educate parents and students about all the wonderful benefits of our lunch program.” 

For more information about national School Lunch Week visit

Dallas ISD goes pink

Dallas ISD is helping to give breast cancer the boot during October—Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink out days for Dallas ISD will take place Thursday, Oct. 19, and Friday, Oct. 20, to bring additional awareness to the need for regular check ups, mammograms and other prevention tips. Employees who wear pink on these days will be able to wear jeans on one of the days. 

Information regarding prevention and support will be shared in The Beat during the month. The Benefits Department is distributing pink lapel ribbons to all campuses, service centers and central departments. 

If you are a breast cancer survivor or someone who has supported a survivor, we want to hear your story and share it with others throughout the month of October. If you want to share, please, fill out this form. For additional tips and information about breast cancer, download the flier.

National Coaches Day Spotlight: Claudio Urbina

When Claudio Urbina, athletic coordinator, and head football coach at W.H. Adamson High School, first learned about being named the new athletic coordinator for his alma mater, it was a powerful moment for him. Dallas ISD is celebrating coaches like him on National Coaches Day on Oct. 6 and throughout the month.

“Even now when I drive into work, it’s still somewhat surreal,” Urbina said. “I can’t believe this is what I do for a living. I really enjoy what I do, and I know what we’re doing has a direct impact on the kids in this community.” 

For Urbina, who attended Dallas ISD schools from kindergarten to Adamson High School and has taught for 16 years in the district—Dallas ISD is home. 

“I’m a product of Dallas ISD and Adamson High School, and what better platform is there to be able to teach and guide students,” said Urbina, who graduated in 2000. 

Before his position at Adamson, he was football defensive coordinator and head boys soccer coach at Wilmer-Hutchins High School, where he spent the last nine years until January, when he accepted his current position. Prior to that, he was at Pinkston High School where he was the boys soccer head coach and football coach for six years. 

For Urbina it’s been a journey that led him exactly to where he wanted to be. He had originally wanted to be a professional football player in the National Football League, but his dream changed along the way. Part of this shift stemmed from having had many great teachers and coaches and knowing the impact they had on him growing up. 

“There are students who are looking for somebody to look up to and that pushed me a lot,” Urbina said. “Being Latino and being from this community, many of my students can identify with me. I let them know that they can achieve their goals.”

Urbina has always valued and prioritized his passion for education and sports. He attended Paul Quinn College where he was captain of the football team and received his Bachelor of Education degree in 2005. He also has a master’s degree in educational leadership from Lamar University. 

National Coaches Day recognizes the important role coaches play in their schools and communities. They often have to play multiple roles as teachers, mentors and sometimes advocates—roles that Urbina knows well. 

He says the goal for him and his staff is helping students grow up to be productive citizens, guide them to make the right choices, and help lead them in the right direction. One of the valuable lessons that Urbina says students get out of being athletes is learning time management skills and discipline, skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.

Urbina attributes part of his success to his uncle, Roberto Urbina, who was one of his role models growing up. His uncle was a coach at Adamson while Urbina was a student, and his uncle continues to be the boys track and cross-country coach at the school.

“As kids, we have dreams and aspirations and seeing someone that grew up in the same neighborhood and kind of from the same background, it gives you a little bit more motivation and makes you feel like you can accomplish your goals,” Urbina said.  

While many former students didn’t become professional athletes, Urbina says he sees them doing great things in the community, such as being teachers, doctors, or working in other professions, including coaches. And that’s what’s important to him.

“Being a servant leader is what this position really is,” Urbina said. “You’re working with the coaching staff, administration, and this community. Parents sometimes need guidance as well—so the main thing is practicing empathy and to serve.”

For more information about Dallas ISD Athletics Recognition Weeks, download this flyer


District’s 2023-2024 budget includes salary increases for staff

The Dallas ISD Board of Trustees has approved the 2023-2024 school year budget that includes a 2% raise for exempt campus and central team members, a 3% raise for support staff, increases in select tiers for the Teacher and Assistant Principal Excellence Initiatives, and an increase to $16 an hour for the district’s minimum wage.

These increases amount to $47.4 million in the 2023-2024 budget and focus on the district’s compensation priorities: market competitive salaries, advancing equity, strategic compensation and high priority and retention stipends.  

Trustees also approved setting the minimum teacher salary at $61,000 and adjusting the new hire schedule for teachers to match market rates. 

“We are grateful that the Board of Trustees supports our recruitment and retention efforts through this approved budget,” said Chief of Human Capital Management Robert Abel. “These salary increases and incentives have been crucial in attracting and retaining teachers to the district. In fact, this May alone, we have had a total of more than 6,000 teacher applications, more than any May in the past five years, allowing us to provide our principals with a high quality candidate pipeline to fill their classrooms.”

Proposed 2023-2024 TEI Compensation Levels

Returning teachers will receive a projected average teacher salary increase of approximately $2,200 or 3.3%, based on the greater of three increases:

  • Change to effectiveness level
  • Change to compensation level value
  • Board approved differentiated salary increase

Proposed 2023-2024 TEI Compensation Levels

Compensation levels for TEI

High priority campus stipends

The board also approved $4.1 million to fund an expansion of eligibility for high priority campuses as well as an increase in stipend amounts for other levels. Teachers in the Proficient I effectiveness level will now be able to receive a $4,000 stipend for working in a high priority campus. Proficient II or TIA Recognized teachers will see a $2,000 increase in the stipend they receive for working at an HPC.


Increases for Excellence Initiatives

The budget also includes increases for other employees who are evaluated through an excellence initiative—assistant principals, principals, executive directors.

Minimum wage and other central increases

The approved budget increases to $16 per hour the minimum wage, which places Dallas ISD as a regional leader in minimum wage among area school districts and primarily impacts support and operations team members.

Non-Excellence Initiative employees will see the greater of two increases:

  • Minimum wage adjustment to $16 per hour
  • 3% of the midpoint for support (non-exempt) employees and 2% of midpoint for professional (exempt) employees

Non-excellence-initiative campus and central team members will see their compensation increase starting in September if they were hired before Dec. 31, 2022.

Retention incentive

The district has established another round of retention incentives for the 2023-2024 school year using $63 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds. Employees who are not on an excellence initiative or who have no level in an excellence initiative will receive a $2,500 incentive to come back next year while those in excellence initiatives will receive amounts depending on their level ranging from $2,500-$4,000. To be able to receive the incentive, employees should have been working in Dallas ISD no later than May 1, 2023. All eligible employees with at least five years of service with Dallas ISD as of Sept. 1, 2023, will get an additional $1,000. For more details on the 2023-2024 retention incentive, click on the link.

Cybersecurity: Safe file and document storage 

USBs are susceptible to viruses and malware, which is why the district moved to cloud storage to safely store data and information. Learn more about the benefits of using cloud storage:

  • Cloud storage allows you to access your documents anywhere.
  • You never have to worry about your data getting infected or corrupted.
  • Cloud storage facilitates consolidating all your documents and information in one place for easy access.
  • Safely share documents through links instead of with documents or attachments that could get infected.
  • Dallas ISD provides team members with unlimited storage for OneDrive and Google Drive.

For more information on how to use OneDrive and Google Drive, visit Cornerstone.