New schedule of learning opportunities available for central staff in spring

Central Staff employees can access more than a dozen professional learning opportunities during the spring semester. Topics range from team building and business writing to Excel and effective feedback. Formats include face-to-face and online. Go here to download a list of classes, available dates and links to class descriptions. Direct questions to Staceye Randle at

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.”

New Technology Chief brings two decades of technology expertise to Dallas ISD

Jack Kelanic is the district’s chief technology officer. Kelanic brings more than 20 years of technology leadership experience to his new post. His responsibilities include developing the long-range technology plan to enable digital learning for Dallas ISD students and improving technology support for schools and district business operations.

Prior to his appointment to Dallas ISD, Kelanic served as the director of information technology for the city of Tacoma, where he led key initiatives such as open data and analytics, mobile government services, digital equity, and technology infrastructure modernization. He also served as the chief information systems director for the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he worked for nearly 14 years in various technology leadership capacities.

Kelanic holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Vanderbilt University.

Volunteers needed for Amazing Shake, round two, on Feb. 2

Central Staff employees are invited to serve as volunteer judges at the second round of the Amazing Shake Competition, from 9:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Friday, Feb. 2, at the Dallas Education Center, 9400 N. Central Expressway, suite 1350.

Each division is asked to provide 15 to 20 volunteers to score young scholars on how well they introduce themselves, shake hands, smile, and make eye contact. Volunteers can participate for 30 minutes or remain for the entire session. To volunteer, sign up here.

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.

Dallas ISD names its three teachers of the year

Dallas ISD named its three Teachers of the Year at a special reception on Jan. 17.

The 2017-2018 Teachers of the Year are:

  • Josue Tamarez Torres, fifth-grade math, Annie Webb Blanton Elementary School
  • Beth Poquette Drews, mariachi, orchestra, guitar for grades 6-8, L.V. Stockard Middle School
  • Nedra Johnson, science for grades 6-8, Alex W. Spence Middle School

The three teachers, who will each receive $5,000 from Central Market,  were among the 10 finalists for 2017-2018 Teachers of the Year. The other finalists, who were also recognized at the reception sponsored by Central Market, are:

Elementary Finalists

  • Tamesha Connaughton, physical education, George Bannerman Dealey International Academy
  • Gina Maffucci, fourth-grade reading language arts/social studies, Arthur Kramer Elementary School
  • Sarah Jane Rust, second-grade math/science, Stonewall Jackson Elementary School
  • Courtney Thomas, kindergarten, Urban Park Elementary School

Secondary Finalists

  • Jennifer Cambre, Pre-AP Biology, Pre-AP Chemistry, AP Chemistry for grades 9-12, School of Science and Engineering
  • Emily Schick, sixth- and seventh-grade Pre-AP science, Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School
  • Kayla Takats, seventh-grade language arts, Ann Richards Middle School

All teachers named Teacher of the Year at their campuses were honored at a reception in October. This group of campus winners were invited to apply for the district award.

The application process included a review of the candidate’s community involvement, professional development, two written essays and required three endorsements from students, parents, colleagues or a mentor. A variety of current and former Dallas ISD school leadership, former winners and finalists and community supporters assisted in a blind review and scored the essays and endorsements. Separating the teachers by categories, the average of those scores led to the finalists who were interviewed by a panel.