Meet Core 4 Champions: Lacey Kalina and Devan Trussell

Lacey Kalina has been with Dallas ISD for nine years, and Devan Trussell has been working in the district for one and a half years. They create video content for departments in Academic Services.

What attracted you to education? 

Being able to create video content and find creative solutions. 

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

The district’s culture tenets are all important to ensure that we can all work together in a collaborative environment to successfully support the district.

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

Being able to apply any of the Core 4 tenets allows us to effectively create content and support departments all while having fun.

What is your go-to Core 4 tenet and why? 

Our go to Core 4 tenet is flexibility. We are always on the go and working on multiple projects and have to be ready for anything to pop up. You might spot us running around with cameras at a campus, event or even your professional development.

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

Outside of Dallas ISD, Lacey films weddings. Devan worked on a commercial film set with an Oscar winner.

Being kind: Random Acts of Kindness Day

People are often motivated by the desire to make a positive difference, and research has shown that this desire to show kindness has positive effects on mental health.

Research has found that kindness can help create a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of stress. And when directed toward oneself, it can help boost self-esteem and well-being. So as we celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day on Feb. 17, think about how you can be kind to others and yourself while reading experiences and tis by Dallas ISD team members.

Glenda Clark, Skyline High School

I am chairperson for a group of teachers called B12. Who are We? We are a group of 12 leaders who have agreed to invoke change and foster a positive impact on our Skyline campus. Our goal is to create a space where not only teachers feel valued and welcomed, but also to boost the moral between the students and team members by continuing to motivate and uplift each other. We randomly surprise teachers and employees with gifts and prizes. We have created events like Coffee with B12, State Fair of Skyline (we created a State Fair scene in our student center and gave faculty and other team members free state fair type foods, prizes and more events. 


T’Shaunda Davis, SPED/Vision

The principal at Bishop Arts STEAM Academy, Ruth Roman-Meza, is always so kind. Every time I enter her campus, she greets me with a smile, asks how I am doing and thanks me for working with her students. Once, when I came to the campus, she told me she was so glad I was there. She always makes me feel welcome, and I thank her so much for her kindness especially since I am new to the district.


Kamron Barton, Edward Titche Elementary School 

I pay compliments daily. My mother, a retired DISD counselor, sent all Titche counselors a box of chocolates for National School Counseling Week. 

Tip: During next week’s guidance lessons my students will write kind notes to people of their choosing.


Tamara Handy School Leadership Region III-IV

It all starts with a smile and hello, serving a warm welcome rather it’s over the phone or in person can make all the difference for someone who may not be having a good day.

Each day, the team I work with is always willing to step in and offer support; it’s like a real work family.  No job is too big or small. We stand ready daily as a team to make a difference in the lives of students, parents, leaders, departments and stakeholders.

Tip: Wall of Kindness/Greatness. Post simple acts of kindness, words of encouragement/inspiration, helping people understand that they have a light and it’s important to keep it bright for themselves and others. Random acts of appreciation and celebrations with music, cards, colors, chants or a dance. Pass the wave with a random act of kindness and pay it forward and continue on to make it contagious.


Mohammad Zamad, school bus driver

Three years back, one of the drivers got in an accident and was admitted to the hospital. We needed to fundraise for her family during medical leave. Later, we found out that she was a coffee lover, and she didn’t get a chance to have a sip of coffee. With the money I donated we were able to buy coffee for all 280 drivers for a month. So with my supervisor’s permission, I decided to buy all the coffee ingredients. In the hard cold morning, a sip of coffee can wake up a driver and increase performance a lot. Everyone loved this idea. Now a few colleagues also help me with these coffee ingredients. 


Susan Floyd, Solar Preparatory School for Girls at James B. Bonham

I bought my colleague flowers and a card to thank her for being an amazing partner and to wish her a Happy National Counselors week!

A student handed me a note this week that said you remind me of the sun!

Tip: Give compliments and smiles out as gifts! You never know who may really need it.


Deborah Shultz, Childfind Evaluations

Abagail “Ms. Abby” Tuazon, special education teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School, was placed with us this year from the “Teacher search goes international” program. She is from the Philippines. (Her husband and two children still live there.) I am the diagnostician at Jefferson,  and am recently recovering from chemotherapy from colon cancer. Abby has gone above and beyond as I returned to campus. There have been several days where I walked into the special education office and the smell from one of the teacher assistants hand cream was extremely comforting. I commented to her on how great it was to get my senses back. (Anyone who has gone through chemo knows that you lose your sense of taste/smell and things you once loved are awful.) Last week, I got an email from Abby asking when I would next be on campus. She explained that she had a special gift for me. The next day I walked into the office and there was a surprise tube of hand cream. The reason this gift is so above and beyond is because Abby does not have a car. She has to use several buses to get to work and home each day. The majority of her money goes back to her family to help pay for her husband and two children still living in the Philippines. Abby lives with several other international teachers in order to save money, and the fact that she spent these valuable funds to make me happy was just overwhelmingly special. She had to take a bus and walk to the store to buy the cream. She then spent her much needed money on me. I think that we take for granted how much we have and when someone goes above and beyond to make your life better “just because” that is the most precious gift. Thank you Dallas ISD international program for bringing Abby to Jefferson High School. I plan on giving her a personal letter of how great she made me feel and a charm for her to keep.


Recognizing Core 4 in your department

Many departments and schools throughout the district already have ways to celebrate team members who embody the district’s Core 4 culture tenets. But for those that don’t, here are some tips. Student success is at the core of the district’s culture tenets. That’s why it’s important to model and recognize when team members exemplify them by being:

  • Focused on transforming student lives
  • Fast by working with urgency for all 
  • Flexible when striving for the yes
  • Friendly to make memorable moments

Department recognitions

Central departments are encouraged to hold monthly recognitions to highlight outstanding examples of those embracing the culture tenets. These employees can then be submitted for recognition in central quarterly recognitions. 

Departments can hold recognitions as frequently as every month by asking team members, parents and the community (when appropriate) to share instances where someone has exemplified one of the tenets in an outstanding way. The example should be specific and mention the tenet and how the person being recognized exceeded expectations during their interaction. We recommend that examples be submitted in writing or by creating a Google form using these instructions. We recommend designating a Core 4 coordinator or ambassador for each department to gather these nominations, to coordinate who is chosen each month for recognition, and to share them with the department and, later, the districtwide recognition committee.

Once team members have been chosen by departments, we encourage you to share their names with the rest of the team by:

  • Setting up a Core 4 Board in the employee lounge
  • Announcing them in meetings
  • Adding a Core 4 card to their door or workstation

Keep an eye on The Beat for the next call for Core 4 champion nominations. To see the winners from this past quarter, click here

Elementary school drumline inspires and builds community

A drumline with dancers, typical in a marching band, is not a common part of the elementary school experience—but that didn’t stop teacher Andra Birdsong from making it happen at her school. 

Birdsong, a music teacher at Daniel Webster Elementary School, first got the idea when her students were invited to participate in a community parade after Justin F. Kimball High School’s boys varsity basketball team won the state championship in the Spring of 2023. Kimball is the high school into which Webster feeds.

Nearly a year later, she has at least 25 students performing as either part of the drumline or as dancers. Birdsong, who used to be part of a drumline when she was a high school student, wanted to bring that experience to her students. She got the idea when she saw some orange paint buckets and turned them over to convert them into drums. She purchased more orange buckets and already had a small drum set—and that’s what she used to begin the student drumline. 

After a while, she realized her students were ready to advance. She then borrowed some percussion instruments from Jimmie Tyler Brashear Elementary School and Kimball High School. Through her resourcefulness, and with the support of her school and community partners, she’s been able to realize her vision of a drumline. 

To watch a video of her students performing, click here.

“Ms. Birdsong is not only expanding opportunities for our students through the drumline, as they are learning to play instruments at an early age, but she’s also giving students more tools to be successful beyond their elementary school years,” said Clement Alexander, Webster principal. “The students look forward to her class, and the sense of pride and joy that they exude onstage is contagious not only in the school but in the community.”

Birdsong, who began her teaching career at Webster in 2017, is a graduate of Texas Women’s University and is a certified music therapist as well as a modern band teacher at her school, in addition to teaching the drumline. 

“I know that musicians like to teach quarter notes,” Birdsong said. “But I like to teach emotions. Every time somebody comes into my classroom, I check-in on them.” 

She tries to keep the line of communication open and uses the strategies she has as a music therapist to help students express those emotions on their instruments. That’s why, she believes, that when people hear them perform, they feel happy—they are hearing the students’ emotions transmitted through their instruments, Birdsong said. 

Working with her colleagues, she is trying to help build community and unity. One of the things she has done is create songs for each house at Webster, which is part of the Ron Clark Academy House System. Birdsong is part of House Amore. To see her students sing their house song, click here.

She says her program not only gets students excited about learning, but also thinking of the future. Several of her students have already expressed interest in attending historically Black colleges and universities to pursue a higher education and be part of a marching band.  

She makes sure to include other genres that her students are interested in such as hip hop, music on TikTok, and is looking to incorporate mariachi music in the near future inspired by third-grader Jade, who performs with her family’s mariachi band and who wants to be able to sing mariachi at the school. 

Birdsong says that one of the motivations of bringing different music opportunities to her students is because of the important role music played in her education. 

“When I was a student, I lived and breathed music,” Birdsong said. “I’m also trying to provide something that I didn’t get as a student– the emotional support and the opportunity to play instruments at this level in elementary school. I’m giving them something that I wanted as a kid,” she said. She does it for the “love of music.”


Meet the Core 4 Champions: Tabatha Sustaita-Robb

Tabatha Sustaita-Robb has been in education for 32 years and with Dallas ISD 11 years, the last four of which she has worked as a Library and Media Services coordinator.  

What attracted you to education? 

I knew in sixth grade that I wanted to be a teacher with the help of Mrs. Lowry, my fifth- and sixth-grade social studies teacher at Lenore Kirk Hall Elementary School. Her passion and love for the subject and her students inspired me to follow in her footsteps.

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

The district’s culture tenets are important because they help to create a positive, inclusive, and effective environment. They also help guide our decisions and actions, contributing to the overall success of the district.

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

After my husband passed away, it was Robert Abel who made a difference in my family’s life by exhibiting all the Core 4 tenets. Mr. Abel assisted me with information the insurance was requesting quickly, friendly, focused on what I needed and who could help me and I’m sure flexible since this was an unexpected request. Thank you, Mr. Abel!

What is your go-to Core 4 tenet and why? 

I think for many of us in education our go-to core 4 is flexibility. There are so many things that happen in and out of school that are out of our control that we have to be flexible and do the best that we can in our daily walk.

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

I think my coworkers would be surprised to know that our former Superintendent Michael Hinojosa was my seventh-grade P.E. coach and interviewed me for my first teaching job when he was head of HR in a nearby school district.


Prevention and innovation at the heart of health

High blood pressure, obesity and other risk factors continue to contribute to high rates of heart disease and stroke worldwide, including in the United States where annual deaths from cardiovascular disease are approaching 1 million.

That’s according to an exhaustive statistics report released annually by the American Heart Association that details what’s known about heart and brain health.

The “2024 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics: A Report of U.S. and Global Data From the American Heart Association,” published recently in the AHA journal Circulation, details the strides made in reducing cardiovascular disease risk—such as the decline in cigarette smoking. But major advances in how to prevent heart disease and stroke have failed to reap the benefits they could, said Dr. Seth Martin, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore and chair of the 43-member group that wrote the report.

“We know so much about what works to improve outcomes for patients, but there are still major gaps in translating that into daily practice,” said Martin, also a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “There is a strong need to innovate in our implementation so that we can close those gaps.”

Here are highlights from the report about some of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

High blood pressure

Nearly half of U.S. adults—more than 122 million—have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. The condition damages and weakens arteries, making it easier for them to burst or become blocked. That can lead to heart attacks, strokes and other problems.

Blood pressure is considered high in teens and adults when the systolic, or top number, is at least 130 mmHg, or the diastolic, or bottom number, is 80 mmHg or more. Children also can develop hypertension.

Having high blood pressure in childhood can lead to serious health consequences earlier in adulthood, said Dr. Latha Palaniappan, an internal medicine doctor and a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University in California. Palaniappan is vice chair of the report’s writing committee.

“In the long term, we could be starting medications much earlier, and we really have to be on high alert for strokes, heart failure and other issues at an earlier age in the decades to come,” she said.

To lower blood pressure, the AHA recommends eating a well-balanced diet that’s low in salt, limiting alcohol consumption, staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, managing stress and taking medication as prescribed.

Physical activity

The report cites data from 2020 to 2021 that showed only 15% of teens met federal physical activity guidelines of an hour or more per day.

Adults are doing better, but still only 1 in 4 meet the guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities two or more days per week.


“Most of the U.S. population does not follow a healthy dietary pattern,” Palaniappan said.

Indeed, among all cardiovascular health measures in the report, diet was one of the worst. On a scale from 0 to 100, diet scores averaged 24 to 48 across various groups based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2013 to 2018.

Federal dietary guidelines recommend people follow an eating pattern that includes nutrient-dense food and beverages, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and nuts and seeds, while limiting sodium, added sugars, saturated fat and alcohol.


The report found 42% of U.S. adults have obesity, as well as 20% of children and teens.

“The proportion of people in the U.S. who are overweight or obese has steadily increased in recent years. It’s very alarming,” Martin said.

“This report tells us we need to promote healthier behaviors starting in youth, and we need to embrace evidence-based weight loss interventions at scale,” he said. “Obesity is a big problem that requires multipronged solutions.”

Tobacco use

The nation has made significant progress in reducing cigarette smoking, with consistent declines among U.S. youth and adults in recent decades.

But, the report found, many youth have turned to e-cigarettes. Among high school students, 1 in 7 reported using e-cigarettes, particularly the flavored versions, in the last 30 days.

A growing body of research suggests e-cigarettes are harmful to human health and much remains unknown about how they may affect the heart and lungs.

“We need to be very vigilant about the health effects of e-cigarettes,” Palaniappan said. “We are trending in the wrong direction.”

What’s next?

Risk factors for heart disease and stroke affect some groups more than others. For example, the frequency of high blood pressure among Black people in the U.S. is among the highest in the world, the report said.

“In terms of cardiovascular risk factors and disparities, there is a clear indicator that we need to redouble our efforts and really build on what’s been learned over the last century,” Martin said. “But we must also develop new, creative approaches.”

And it will be critical to make sure no one is left out of these strategies, Palaniappan added.

“We need to make sure we are reaching every nook and cranny of our population, including rural areas and those in the underserved parts of our country affected by adverse social determinants of health, including lower socioeconomic status and lack of access to education, health care, healthy foods and safe neighborhoods,” she said.

Source: American Heart Association

Master Teachers: A Series

Master teacher Michael Chang first came to  Dallas ISD in 2018 to teach fourth grade math and science at Annie Webb Blanton Elementary School, where he continues to impact students’ lives. Prior to coming to the district, he taught math and science in Tulsa, Okla., and is now in his 10th year as an educator. He is originally from Manitowoc, Wis., and graduated from Marquette University in 2014. 

What drew you to education?

Born and raised by immigrant parents in a low-income family, I was always told by my mother that education was the key to break the cycle of poverty in which my parents and grandparents lived. My junior high school principal once told me that she hopes I come back home after college and give back to my community. I was blessed to have had teachers and sports coaches who provided me with the support that led me to be the first in my family to graduate from college. Although I did not move back home after college, I believe I was drawn to teaching as my way of giving back to the community in which I serve. It takes just one teacher to make a meaningful difference in a student’s outlook on life. If I can be that teacher for my students, I will have fulfilled my duty as a teacher and my role as a changemaker.

How are you creating opportunities for your students?

I create a safe space for my students to be honest and vulnerable with themselves, in order for them to grow as a student and as a child with goals. I work closely with them to set social and academic goals. Then, I instill in them a growth mindset to be able to handle mistakes and setbacks and view them as opportunities for growth.

What is your best teaching tip?

Building strong relationships precedes students’ social and academic growth and success. Take the time to talk to students outside of instructional time. Ask them questions and watch their curiosity peak. Listen and show interest in what they share with you. Follow through with the things you tell your students you will do. Doing so will lead them to perceive you as someone they can trust, and thus they will feel cared for and heard. If students respect you as their teacher in the classroom, they will want to learn anything from you

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

In the spring of 2017, I was featured on Fox 23 News in Tulsa for receiving the Golden Apple Award. This award recognizes teachers who display commitment and excellence. I share the video with my students at the beginning of every school year to set the tone–that if they put forth their best effort and strive for growth, they will have the mindset and habits to be successful beyond my fourth-grade class.

What inspires you the most about being an educator?

What inspires me the most about being an educator is the daily opportunity I have to bring positivity and joy to my students despite how they may be feeling or going through outside the confines of school. They spend a third of their day at school, so if I can make their day better, then that’s an opportunity I will always take.

¿Sabes acerca del depósito directo?

Los miembros del equipo de Dallas ISD pueden recibir su salario directamente a sus cuentas de banco y puede hacer cambios en línea a través de Oracle utilizando la opción de Human Resources/Payroll Employee Self-Service. Para realizar cambios, pulse en Employee Self-Service, seleccione el folder de Payroll Information, y pulse en el enlace de DISD Direct Deposit. Los empleados deben de estar dentro de la red del distrito o conectados a través de VPN para acceder al enlace. El Departamento de Nómina no aceptará correos electrónicos o faxes con la nueva información bancaria. El banco del distrito imprime cheques de nómina y los envía por correo a aquellos empleados que actualmente no están registrados para depósito directo. Alentamos a los empleados a asegurarse de que su dirección esté correcta en el sistema o configurar una cuenta de depósito directo.

Four pillars of mental fitness

The importance of physical fitness in maintaining healthy and vibrant lives has been well researched. What is not as well known is that mental fitness is equally important. In fact, the two are intertwined. Supporting your mental health can make you more resilient to life’s ups and downs and more likely to make positive lifestyle choices. Likewise, if your body is functioning well, you’re in a better position to achieve mental fitness.

What is mental fitness?

Just as there are four components to physical fitness—cardiovascular endurance, strength, flexibility, and a healthy weight—there are four components to mental fitness. 

  • Emotional. This includes self-acceptance, self-esteem, resilience, and the ability to manage strong emotions.
  • Social. Friends are important because they bring companionship, support, and enrichment to our lives. Considerable research has shown that people who have friends are generally physically and emotionally healthier and enjoy a better quality of life.
  • Financial. A substantial number of people experience stress due to money issues. Financial wellness is not about having a certain amount of money at your disposal; it’s about feeling in control of your finances, being able to handle financial setbacks, and being on track to achieve your financial and life goals.
  • Physical. Mental and physical fitness and health are intertwined. You can improve both through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep. You can also reduce your risk of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression.

Taking steps to build your mental fitness can boost your ability to cope with stress and improve your physical health, productivity at work, relationships, and overall happiness. If you would like more support as you work to build your mental fitness, contact Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program or visit  ​​

Source: LifeWorks

Going from teacher to librarian 

Library Media Services is excited to present a series of meetings for Dallas ISD teachers who want to learn more about library sciences. These informative talks will feature representatives from major colleges with well-known school librarian programs, providing insights and information for educators interested in pursuing a career as a librarian.

All meetings will be held remotely. Join on the dates and links indicated below to take the first step toward a new career. All sessions take place from 5 to 6 p.m. 

Virtual meeting schedule:

  • SHSU virtual meeting link – Feb. 12 
  • UNT virtual meeting link – Feb. 15  
  • TWU virtual meeting link – Feb. 20  
  • SHSU virtual meeting link – March 20 
  • UNT virtual meeting link – March 26 
  • TWU virtual meeting link – April 4 

If you have general library questions or questions about these meetings, email Tabatha Robb at or go to Library & Media Services.