Free academic support in different languages through Translation Services 

The translators and interpreters of the district’s Translations Services Department help schools make meaningful connections with families every day by bridging the language gap, but since 2017, the department’s tutors are helping students make important connections by providing academic support in languages other than English and Spanish.

Translation Services Department offers document translation and interpretation during meetings, as well as services through the interpreter hotline and academic support in Arabic, Burmese, Chin, Kirundi, Swahili, and, recently, Pashto. The academic support offered through the tutors in these six languages is offered at no cost to the school.

Every day, over 80 languages are spoken in schools throughout Dallas ISD. According to data from the home language surveys collected by schools during enrollment, the top five languages for the district are Spanish, English, Swahili, Amharic, and Arabic.

“Given the number of newcomer students from various countries, these types of services are important,” said Adriana Saucedo, director for the Translation Services Department. “Not only do the tutors provide academic support to contribute to student success, they also serve as a bridge of communication between the families.” 

The tutors also help newcomer students adapt to what could be the first time they are exposed to a school structure or schedule as well as a new environment, which can be overwhelming at first, Saucedo said. On top of that, there’s a language barrier. 

“Having a team in our district that is able to communicate with the student directly, is almost like a relief for the student, to know that there’s somebody there to help make the transition smoother,” Saucedo said. 

For example, the tutors often provide support at the school by serving as interpreters, assisting the school in connecting families to community resources, or talking to them about successes and/or challenges the student may be experiencing. 

While the tutor might not be at the school everyday, the school coordinates with Translation Services to determine which days work best for the school and the tutor.

To inquire about how to bring these free services to your school, schools can contact Desi Mier, who oversees the program, at 972-925-5882 or at You can also visit the Translation Services Department for more information at


Save the date

As the district begins planning for the busy spring semester, it’s important to avoid conflicts, and the best way to do it is to make sure that big events that affect several schools or departments are included in the Districtwide Datebook. This online calendar is the chief means of scheduling districtwide activities and keeping everyone up-to-date on major happenings around the district.

The Districtwide Datebook can be found at Placing your department’s major events on the datebook will help others avoid booking events on the same date. Departments who already have scheduled dates for events and activities on their online calendars in the district’s website are encouraged to push them to the datebook as soon as possible.

Department directors and administrative assistants are asked to update their department calendars (when available) and the districtwide datebook by following the steps below. If your department has a calendar on the district’s website, post your events there with the following information:

  • the name of the event or activity
  • a short description of the event
  • the start and end time
  • the venue name and address of the event location
  • a department contact person and phone number or email address

If you need help pushing an event from your department calendar to the districtwide datebook, send an email to

What events should be included in the datebook? The datebook is only for events that involve (or are of interest to) the entire school district or large sections of it. For example: STEM Day, Discover Dallas ISD, MLK Oratory Competition, districtwide principal meetings, recognition events and opportunities, job fairs, flu clinics, retirement seminars, districtwide trainings, etc. 

Departments that do not have a website-based calendar can add districtwide events to the datebook by visiting and clicking on the form to submit the required information. 

For questions about adding items to the Districtwide Datebook of the district’s main calendar, send an email to


Budgeting for the holidays

With all the excitement and feelings of generosity that the season engenders, it’s easy to overspend and find yourself facing big bills in the new year, which can affect your mental health by creating stress you don’t need. The key to keeping holiday spending under control is budgeting. Below you’ll find tips for celebrating while setting and sticking to a holiday budget.

Setting a holiday budget

Preparation is key to getting holiday expenses under control. There are four main areas in which most people spend: gifts, entertaining, travel, and decorating. And each of these areas comes with hidden expenses. Knowing in advance what your commitments are and how much you can spend in each area will help you make better decisions and look for creative solutions. Keep in mind that there are often hidden costs beyond the price of a product. For example, gift-giving costs can be much when you consider the cost of wrapping and shipping gifts.

Make a gift list. Take the time to make a list of everyone for whom you’d like to buy gifts. Include teachers, mail carriers, co-workers, newspaper delivery people, and anyone else you may give a gift to. Next, consider your list. Are there people who could receive a card rather than a gift? Finally, set a price limit on each gift. For example, you might decide that you’ll set a $30 limit on immediate family members, $20 on children in your family, and $10 on acquaintances like co-workers or teachers. Don’t forget to include the cost of wrapping paper and shipping.

Plan your entertainment. Are you going out to a party and need to bring a dish? Are you having a party? Are you hosting the family dinner? Many people forget to factor in the cost of holiday entertaining, and those costs can quickly add up. Try to think of ways in which you can cut back in this category. For example, if you are hosting the holiday dinner, ask family members to contribute a dish to your holiday meal instead of supplying all the food yourself.

Map out your travel. If you’ll be traveling during the holidays, even if it’s by car, be sure to include these costs in your budget. 

Decking the halls. Decorating can add up even when you are using previous years’ elements, but planning ahead can help you decide how big you want to go and if that extra reindeer for the yard is worth the cost. 

Add up the estimates from all four areas. If the total amount is more than you can afford, go back to your lists and see where you can cut back. If you find you can’t cut out anything else, we have some tips below that can help you save.

Ways to spend less

Don’t blow your budget. Remember that you can still celebrate and show your loved ones you care within your budget. The best gifts are those chosen with an eye toward what’s personal and meaningful to the recipient. These kinds of gifts don’t have to cost a lot.

Set expectations with friends and family. If you’re worried about finances this holiday season, talk about it with friends and family. Let them know if you’ll be cutting back on the number of gifts or how much you plan to spend. This is especially important for children, who often have unrealistic expectations about gifts and don’t fully understand the cost factors. Discuss having a gift exchange for adults and setting a limit on the price. 

Make a shopping plan. If you are able to plan a trip to brick-and-mortar stores, don’t head out without a specific list of gift ideas and price limits. This is how you end up spending more than you budgeted for. Look through catalogs or websites for ideas and develop a list before you add it to your cart.

Look for bargains. Take the time to look for ways to save money on decorations and gifts. Consider buying items during the post-holiday sale season and put them away for next year. Try to buy several things from one Internet site to save money on shipping, or better yet, look for sites that offer free shipping. Comparison shop using the fliers that come in the weekend papers to find the best deal around or use sites like the Google shopping site, Pricegrabber, or Honey. Consider buying gifts on sites like eBay or Overstock, both of which offer many new, high quality items at discount prices.

Cut back on mailing expenses. If you always send boxes of gifts or holiday cards to loved ones far away, think of ways to save on or eliminate shipping costs this year. Buy magazine subscriptions or send online gift certificates instead of shipping gifts. Send holiday postcards or even e-cards instead of regular cards. If you’ve already bought cards, save the leftovers for next year. And be sure to mail things early so you don’t have to pay extra for fast shipping.

Keep it simple. Focus on enjoying the simple pleasures of the holiday season, like spending quiet time with family or taking a walk to see the holiday decorations in your neighborhood. These kinds of activities often capture the spirit of the season better than expensive gifts or elaborate celebrations.

Use your credit card wisely. Finally, be very careful about using your credit card to pay for holiday expenses. Don’t use your card unless you know you can pay it off right away. If possible, use a card that doesn’t already carry a balance. Remember, buying a sweater on sale with a credit card and making monthly payments could end up costing double the price. You don’t want to start the new year off with an oversized credit card bill.

Source: Lifeworks

If you need additional support with managing debt and mental health, take advantage of Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) by LifeWorks, which is free for employees, 100 percent confidential, and available to all employees and their dependents. 

Sessions through the EAP are available by phone, virtual, and in person. Employees can also find tips, articles, self-assessments, and topical features focusing on specific EAP resources available through the EAP smart App.

To start on your wellness journey please visit or reach out to the EAP by calling 972-925-4000 and selecting option 3 for EAP. 


Empowering Global Lee McShan Elementary’s Learners: A Counselor’s Journey from Kindergarten to College

Joseph Medaris, principal at Lee McShan Jr Elementary School, writes about the work his school’s counselor is doing to create opportunities for students in this special submission for The Beat.

In Dallas ISD’s Lee McShan Jr. Elementary—one of the unique schools with a diverse community—there exists a dedicated school counselor whose mission goes beyond the conventional boundaries of education. Maria Araceli Slette, a passionate advocate for empowering young minds, takes on the extraordinary task of guiding students from different corners of the world, helping them navigate the path from kindergarten to fifth grade, and ultimately, preparing them for college and career success starting at elementary school.

Slette believes that the journey to college and career readiness begins in the early years of education. She works tirelessly to create a nurturing environment where students, regardless of their cultural backgrounds, feel valued and encouraged to explore their potential. 

Through interactive guidance lessons, engaging activities and one-on-one counseling sessions, she instills confidence, resilience and a love for learning in the young students. Of course, this journey takes the help of each of the teachers and team members of Lee McShan Jr. Elementary. Without the help and support of each of them, this journey will be impossible, because it also starts in their classroom with the teachers and with the support employees.

Highlights of Slette’s emphasis on college and career readiness include organizing field trips to colleges/universities and career days for the entire school. The recent field trip to Richland Community College exposed students to the vibrant atmosphere of higher education institutions.  Through campus tours, interactive sessions with the professors and conversations with some college students, the Mighty Mustang fifth grade students were given an opportunity to dream big. Slette demystifies the college experience, making it accessible and tangible for fifth graders.

Slette’s unwavering dedication to her students illuminates the path from kindergarten to college. By fostering a supportive and inclusive learning environment, addressing challenges, and instilling essential life skills, she prepares students not just for higher education, but for life’s myriad opportunities. As these young minds graduate from her care, they carry with them the knowledge, confidence, and resilience to shape their future where possibilities are limitless and dreams are within reach.

Creating joy one rocking horse at a time

For the past 19 years, Terry Stotts, has been teaching his students how to make wooden rocking horses, first at the Multiple Careers Magnet Center and now at Career Institute South, where he became a construction teacher this year. The students who worked on the rocking horses to develop skills will donate them to the Ronald McDonald House, an organization that provides resources to families with sick children.

Stotts says that this process of making the wooden horses teaches his students to give back to the community, while learning a new skill. Students spend the semester cutting, sanding, staining, and putting the horses together. He makes sure the students undergo safety training in their classes before even beginning to work on the wooden horses or any construction project. In fact, Stotts has three classes that are working on safety training, and two that are working on wooden horses.

Later this month, the horses will be delivered with the help of community volunteers, including Dallas ISD team members.

To help fund the materials for the project, Stotts applied for a Junior League of Dallas grant for Innovative Teaching. He was one the Dallas ISD team members who won up to $2,500 to  support programs that fall outside of school budgets. 

For years, the rocking horses were an annual tradition for Stotts and his students at the Multiple Career Magnet Center, and the tradition carried through to the Career Institute when the career and technical education clusters merged this school year to provide state-of-the-art facilities and an inclusive experience to students receiving special education services. 

Stotts, who has primarily worked with students who receive special education services, now also works with general education students. Students who had previously attended the MCMC school location are now attending the Career Institute North or Career Institute South. 

Stotts has seen firsthand what this type of career skills development program does for young men and women, as well as the changes that occur throughout the course of the year. He says a lot of his students gain confidence and self-esteem, compared to when they first entered his classroom.

“They start making things, and they take it back to their home campus and all the other kids see what they’re doing, and they want to be a part of it too,” Stotts said. “It just helps them feel good about themselves. It’s more than just teaching a subject matter.” 

Stotts has received positive feedback from parents throughout the years about the program, and said a lot of his students’ parents are surprised when they see the skills they develop in his class. Many of his students go on to get jobs with the skills they learned and stay in contact.  

Stotts is also the kind of teacher who establishes a connection with parents and calls them to update them on their children’s progress, challenging the stereotype of calling parents only when students are having challenges.

With 41 years of experience as an educator and over 20 years in the district, Stotts said he is eligible to retire, but stays on the job because he simply loves his students and doing what he does. He is also thinking about the sustainability of his yearly rocking horse project and is teaching other colleagues at his new school about the grant and how to construct the rocking horses.

“I’ve told my colleagues, ‘You all can keep doing this.’ This program needs to continue not only for what it means to our students and families, but to the children who are receiving this gift during the holiday season,” he said. 


Learn about retirement

Even if you are not planning to retire this year, it’s always a good idea to know what to expect and how to prepare so your retirement years can be all that you hoped for. Dallas ISD is here to help with a series of in-person and virtual meetings hosted by the Benefits Department.

The webinars will include updates, information on steps to take to prepare, resources, and tips on topics like medical insurance. 

You can register for the in-person seminars by clicking on your preferred date on the Districtwide Datebook. You will need to be signed in through the Portal to register. The in-person seminars will be held at 5 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

  • Dec. 19, Linus D. Wright Dallas ISD Administration Building
  • March 5, Thomas Jefferson High School
  • March 26, L.G. Pinkston High School

To register for the virtual webinars, click on the time and date you prefer. Once you register, you will receive a confirmation email with the link to join.

Call for holiday/winter drive events 

Is your family, department or school hosting an event that benefits the community, a school or other families to make the end of year celebrations a little better for others? Let us know about them. Your efforts can include food drives, toy drives, collections for homeless students, adopting a school, or partnering with a community organization.

Please share these efforts with us using this form so we can include it in the Giving from the Heart wrap up that will appear in the Dec. 21 issue of The Beat. 

You have until noon on Friday, Dec. 15, to submit a description of your efforts along with a photo if you have one. If all you have is a description, share that so we can include it. We look forward to learning all the wonderful things Dallas ISD team members do for others.

Master Teachers: A series

The Beat has interviewed master teachers across the district to share their stories and introspections about their careers, including tips for teaching. Meet Master Teacher José Ramos-Villicaña.

José Ramos-Villicaña, a master teacher at Stevens Park Elementary School, first came to Dallas ISD in 2006. He was living in the city of Monterrey, Mexico, when he  learned about the district’s  Alternative Certification Program. When representatives from recruitment were in his city, he decided to apply—and a year and a half later, he began teaching in the district. 

Fast forward 18  years and he is happy that he made this leap of faith to find his calling as a teacher in Dallas. 

What drew you to education?

I was contacted by a friend who was already working as a teacher in Dallas. I had heard how rewarding this profession could be, and when the opportunity presented itself to apply to teach in Dallas, I thought, why not? Even though my professional background was in a completely different field, I knew teaching was something I wanted to try out.

How are you creating opportunities for your students?

I like to get to know my students as much as I can. I find out what they are passionate about and I try to incorporate their ideas and interests into the overall classroom culture. This helps to get them motivated about their learning. I believe when students are genuinely motivated, they have a better chance of showing all they can accomplish.  

What is your best teaching tip?

Be clear about your expectations and allow time for relationship building during the school year, 

What would your student be surprised to find out about you?

They would probably be surprised that I could not speak a single word of English when I was their age. Also, there is virtually no vegetable I don’t like!

What inspires you the most about being an educator?  

Seeing the big impact I can make in the lives of my students is what inspires me the most. 

Procurement learning opportunity

Procurement Services is inviting Dallas ISD team members to participate in its monthly lunch and learn events. These learning sessions are especially relevant to office managers, coordinators, administrative assistants, financial clerks, and specialists. Check out the list of events and dates to determine which sessions are best suited for you by visiting

During the sessions, topics on procurement and vendor information will be discussed including:

  •       Awarded or registered vendors
  •       The procurement webpage
  •       M/WBE vendor information
  •       Vendor registrations
  •       General Q&A

The sessions will be held one Wednesday a month via Microsoft Teams. The final calendar of events and the meeting link are available on the Dallas ISD website under Procurement Services on the “Dallas ISD Staff Forms” tab. 

For more information, contact

Building community through volunteers 

The opportunities to volunteer on Dallas ISD campuses are endless, and the volunteers who show up every day to take advantage of them are an invaluable part of the district’s team focused on student success. 

“Our most important partners and volunteers are our parents, as student success is heavily impacted by parent participation and engagement,” said Candace Sledge, director of the Partnerships and Volunteer Engagement department. 

In recognition of volunteers in Dallas ISD and everywhere, Dec. 5 has been designated as International Volunteer Day. This year’s theme is “The power of collective action: if everyone did.” 

Established by the United Nations General Assembly, this day is a unique chance for volunteers and organizations to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to promote their work among their communities, organizations. For more information, visit

“Volunteering is a good opportunity for business leaders and community members to experience the culture of schools, learn more about the needs in education, and collaborate with teachers, parents and administrators to meet those needs that our families deserve,” Sledge said.

Volunteers, especially parents and community members, can be recruited by team members at schools by encouraging them to fill out the volunteer application form at or by downloading the Voly app on Google Play or iTunes. 

One of the tips that Sledge shares is reaching out to community leaders who participated in Principal for a Day to continue to build relationships, invite them to get involved. 

Another tip for schools to recruit volunteers is to take advantage of events or celebrations to engage with families and partners, keeping in mind the different cultures of the students, families, and team members on campus. 

“Volunteers get a ‘boots on the ground’ perspective from the students and the school and are able to draw from it,” said Sandra Martinez, coordinator in the Partnership and Volunteer Engagement department. “Sometimes parents don’t feel that they have talents that they have to offer in order to volunteer, but the most valuable gift is time. Dedicating your time to help your school and community goes a long way.”

For more information on how to create volunteer opportunities on your campus or department, visit the Partnerships and Volunteer Engagement department website.