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: 


Quarterly headshot signups are now open

Are you new to the district, haven’t had your headshot taken before, or simply in need of an updated headshot? Now is your opportunity. Signups for the quarterly headshot session are now open. 

In an effort to meet the growing photography needs of the district, our district photographer will offer a professional headshot week with two dates available once per calendar quarter. The quarterly sessions will be the only times available for headshots, so don’t miss your chance.

Dallas ISD team members are invited to sign up for the next professional headshot session on Tuesday, Feb. 27, or Wednesday, Feb. 28. Hurry, as spots are limited and are filling fast. 

The photo sessions will take place at 5151 Samuell Blvd., Dallas, TX 75228. Each photo will only take a few minutes.

Who can sign up:

  • Central team members
  • Campus principals 
  • Executive directors
  • Associate superintendents
  • Chiefs and deputy chiefs
  • Board of Trustees

The district photographer is unable to photograph team members in group photos or any on-location requests of headshots outside of 9400.

Having a photo taken can be stressful for some. The district photographer will take great care to help you look your best by helping you pose, selecting your best headshot, and providing basic retouching on the finished image. 

Reserve your spot for the third quarter session by 5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23. Additional instructions will be emailed to those who sign up a few days ahead of their session. 

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.