Ribbon worthy… again!

Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy and Trinidad “Trini” Garza Early College High School at Mountain View have earned National Blue Ribbon School status for the second time in less than a decade.

National Blue Ribbon status is one of the highest U.S. Department of Education recognitions for campuses where students perform at very high levels or where exemplary progress is being made toward closing achievement gaps.

Both campuses are among the first Early College High Schools created by Dallas ISD. Each early college high school partners with a higher education institution to offer students the opportunity to earn credit for both high school and college courses. College tuition fees are waived, allowing students the possibility of earning an associate degree or up to 60 hours of college credit—which can be applied toward a four-year degree—upon high school graduation.

“Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy and Trinidad Garza Early College High School have a history of success for all students no matter the demographics, academic background, or income status,” said Cheryl Nevels, executive director of Dallas ISD’s P-TECH & Early College Programs. “The goal of increasing college attendance for historically underrepresented scholars is being realized through the rigorous coursework, the culture of excellence, and the firm academic foundations these campuses are providing. Preparing scholars to achieve college and career success is second nature for these campuses. They truly believe that every child can achieve if provided the chance to do so each and every day. We are honored that two of our early colleges received national recognition, once again, for being among America’s most successful schools.”

The Gilliam Collegiate Academy partners with Dallas College Cedar Valley Campus to develop students from minority and low-income communities into scholars who excel at college work. The collegiate academy was able to earn National Blue Ribbon status in 2014 and again this year because of their focus on college access and success has remained unchanged since the campus opened in 2008, said Gayle Rodgers, the campus’ inaugural and current principal.

Housed inside the Dallas College Mountain View Campus, Trinidad “Trini” Garza Early College High School offers a supportive academic program that blends high school and college work. Garza ECHS first earned National Blue Ribbon status in 2015 when current principal, Macario Hernandez, was an assistant principal. Hernandez said the school’s biggest strength is a culture of acceptance, inclusion and unity, which hones excellence, motivation and creativity in both his students and staff.

Transforming Tuesdays 

Central Staff leaders, the HCM Central Staff Leadership Development team encourages you to transform your leadership by learning and practicing key skills during October and November with a series of engaging sessions.  All sessions are aligned to one of the four performance evaluation domains in the CMS and CSEI systems. Sign up in Cornerstone for any of our upcoming live facilitated online learning sessions that take place select Tuesday mornings at 10 a.m.

Mindset in the Workplace – Oct. 5 or 12

Providing Actionable Feedback – Oct.19 or 26

Multiple Generations at Work – Nov. 2 or 9

The 5 Languages of Workplace Appreciation – Nov. 16

While the content is tailored to leaders, anyone can participate. Registration for each session closes the day prior to the session, and those registered will receive a link to join the session. You can attend one or all the sessions.


SPED eliminates referral backlog

Thanks to a team collaborating and working together, Dallas ISD has successfully eliminated a backlog of about 2,000 unprocessed referrals for Special Education services.

Nearly 400 Dallas ISD employees have worked since late May to process the backlog.

As part of the district’s ongoing commitment to educate all students, last spring, Dallas ISD discovered the backlog of about 2,000 unprocessed evaluations and referrals for Special Education services. The program is one of the district’s fastest growing areas.

To process the backlog, the Dallas ISD Special Education team reached out by phone, email and in-person to connect with every family with an unprocessed evaluation or referral. Parents then decided whether to consent or decline a student evaluation for Special Education services. The district has up to 45 days to complete the evaluation after the parent consents but is working to complete evaluations much sooner.

“There is still a lot of work to be done, but it’s amazing how a team with a common vision, goal and deadline can race to the finish line together and pick each other up along the way,” said Gena Koster, assistant superintendent of Special Populations.  “We are committed to not only processing the backlog, but also to revising processes, inputs, and expectations that have led to this problem.”

Dallas ISD has partnered with Stetson & Associates, a nationally recognized firm that supports special education departments across the country, to help redefine the district’s processes and procedures.

Koster added that the district will diligently work to ensure such a backlog never happens again.

“We’ve turned the first corner, but we still have room to grow and improve,” Koster said. “But thanks to a team that is dedicated to helping meet every student’s needs, we are confident that we will ensure all of our students CAN!.”

To learn more about the backlog, visit www.dallasisd.org/spedforward.

Embracing the Core 4 spirit

For a year and a half, they have been at the frontline of Dallas ISD’s efforts to keep staff and students safe from the spread of COVID-19, often working shorthanded, on weekends, and late into the night. Through it all, the district’s 948 custodians have exemplified the core tenets of the district’s culture—fast, flexible, focused and friendly. Celebrate National Custodian Day by saying thank you to the custodians at your campus or department.

While this year, the Oct. 2 celebration falls on a Saturday, any day is good to thank the men and women who have embraced the additional duties of constantly disinfecting high-touch areas, spraying at least once a week to kill the virus on surfaces, and stepping in any time additional cleaning is required. And when the city was paralyzed by an unprecedented freeze, some of them even slept at their campuses to prevent damage.

When the pandemic started, they eagerly learned new skills to disinfect their schools and buildings, distributed thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment, and set up clear plastic partitions to help combat the spread of COVID-19 and welcome students back to the classroom. This in addition to their regular duties of sweeping, mopping, cleaning, taking out the trash, troubleshooting repairs, keeping track of work orders and the general running of the buildings to which they are assigned.

“They are doing a lot of the heavy lifting behind the scenes,” said Aaron Stephens, assistant director of Custodial Services. “Everybody is doing what they need to do to meet the needs of keeping students and staff safe.”

A testament to their focus and flexibility is the fact that they have been instrumental in keeping schools running through tornadoes, arctic freezes and pandemics, said David Bates, assistant superintendent of Maintenance and Operations. Bates also boasts of a 4 percent vacancy rate and high morale among custodians despite the challenges presented by the current situation and credits the department’s 12 supervisors for making this happen by keeping the culture tenets in the forefront.

“Custodians have been through the ringer,” he said. “But when we had to get schools ready in the shortest summer ever for 100 percent face-to-face instruction, they did it. We had three school opening dates and not one issue.”



Teachers to be evaluated under full TEI this year

With the return of students to in-person classes this fall, Dallas ISD is poised for a return to using the Teacher Excellence Initiative’s full measures and metrics and the implementation of critical changes to address equity.

Disruptions to teaching and learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as early as March 2020 led to a shift to virtual learning and other adjustments that made it difficult to gather the achievement and academic growth data necessary to continue evaluations and ratings. The Texas Education Agency, for example, suspended accountability ratings for districts and schools.

Without sufficient and appropriate data for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, Dallas ISD paused the use of the full TEI scorecard. This means that over 35% percent of teachers in the district will be evaluated under the full metrics and measures of TEI for the first time in 2021-2022. Changes approved in February 2020 as part of the system’s continuous improvement model were impossible to implement without this data—until now.

TEI relies on student achievement, student academic growth and student experiences to evaluate teachers and place them in effectiveness levels that determine their salary and advancement. The suspension of the full evaluation system has provided a unique opportunity for the district to do a refresh that ensures all teachers receive a fair, accurate, and rigorous evaluation.

The changes will address equity within the system by:

  • Utilizing an updated version of the Student Perception Survey and modifying the point distribution for this Student Experience component
  • Increasing points available for High Priority Campus service from 5 to 10
  • Modifying the targeted distribution process for evaluation ratings to provide two sets of cut points for comprehensive schools and admissions magnets.

While there were no changes in effectiveness levels for teachers in the past two years because of lack of sufficient and appropriate data, Dallas ISD is a fully approved participant in the state’s Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) program.  This month, 579 additional highly effective teachers will be submitted to the state for TIA designation. Of these teachers, 43% work in the district’s 80 high priority campuses and will become eligible for additional HPC stipends this year. 

The changes in the system and additional compensation through state funds to sustain TEI salaries and provide targeted stipends will help retain the best teachers throughout schools in Dallas ISD and ensure that highly effective teachers are attracted to campuses with the most need. In fact, teachers cannot reach the highest salary levels in TEI without having worked at high priority campuses, and the district projects the number of teachers at the Master Effectiveness Level to more than double in 2022-2023. 

Since TEI implementation in 2014-2015, increased access to proficient educators at high priority campuses has gone up by 47% through strategic staffing and partnering with Leading and Learning to provide targeted support that develops teachers who are “near-proficient” and “near-distinguished.”  Since  implementation, retention of teachers identified as Distinguished has exceeded 90% annually. The average teacher salary has increased more than $10,000 since 2014-2015, with the average returning teacher salary projected at more than $64,000 this year.   

TEI is one of several key initiatives that has driven a dramatic rise in student achievement since 2014-15. The TEI system is grounded in high expectations and growth-oriented feedback.  This has led to a 90% reduction in the number of failing schools—from 43 to 4—with the percentage of Dallas ISD students enrolled on a campus rated “failing” by the state declining from 19% to 1% in five years.




Teacher night at the Arboretum

Dallas ISD educators are invited to celebrate fall and the beginning of the school year with colleagues from all over DFW at the Dallas Arboretum’s annual Educator Open House. Learn about the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden and the eight acres of interactive, hands-on education programming offerings while networking and exploring one of the most beautiful spaces in Dallas. Educators who attend may even take home fabulous door prizes!

Family Day

Saturday, Oct. 2 from 9 a.m.–12 p.m.
Register and get up to three additional tickets to bring your family to explore the Children’s Adventure Garden. Then head over to the Main Garden to see our famous Pumpkin Village.

Educator Night

Wednesday, Oct. 6 from 4–7 p.m.
Network and collaborate with other educators while exploring the Children’s Adventure Garden. Enjoy food and beverages while learning more about what makes the Dallas Arboretum a great field trip for students. This is an educator-only event. Individual registrations only.



Teacher admission is free at the Dallas Arboretum. Visit the educators page to register for these special events.

Core 4 Tip: Timing is essential

Whether entering grades, responding to a parent concern, providing a service to a campus or delivering information crucial for a project, at Dallas ISD good customer service implies having a sense of urgency for all.

That doesn’t mean that you must constantly drop everything you are doing to immediately take care of requests. It does mean being responsive, accurate and accountable to each other while seeking timely solutions for all. Sometimes, however, situations will require immediate and urgent attention.

In most cases, managing expectations for customers and prioritizing between what is important and what is urgent leads to positive interactions with customers. Be clear in your communication about how long fulfilling a request will take or when you will be available to to work on it. If you tell someone you will have in 30 minutes, knowing that will be impossible, you are creating a false expectation that will lead to a negative customer service impression.

A better approach would be to look at your tasks and prioritize, then provide a more accurate timeline that takes into account your urgent and important tasks and where the new request fits. Customer service that meets the Fast culture tenet of the district involves:

  • Responding accurately to emails and phone calls within 24 hours of receiving them during normal business
  • Accessing data, policy, and all other relevant information sources to provide accurate and timely responses, regardless of requestor
  • Aligning time in relationship to task importance and consistently responding in a timely manner to requests from students, families, employees, and equity groups
  • Consistently adjusting responses to problems and unforeseen circumstances to ensure equitable outcomes

Hispanic Heritage Month: A bicultural Mexican heritage

IT support specialist Fabiola Galeazzi was born and raised in Mexico within a unique community that has given her a different perspective about being Hispanic in the United States. Her parents are descendants of a unique group of immigrants who migrated to Chipilo, México, from a small town in Italy, known as Segusino, in 1882. This makes Chipilo a one-of-a-kind community where Italian culture, food, and dialect have been kept seemingly intact to this day. The dialect, Veneto, is spoken by approximately four generations and 4,000 descendants of the original Italian immigrants.

What parts of your heritage are most important to you?

My Italian heritage has provided me with a unique story and a warm culture that has impacted the way I raised my children. My Mexican heritage has provided me with delicious recipes and a relentless work ethic to be the best we can be. I am very proud and honored to pass both languages and cultures on to my family’s future generations.

How does your background and heritage help make Dallas ISD a more inclusive district for staff, students and the community?

The nature of having a heritage based on two special ethnicities makes me appreciate the blending and nurturing of more than just one culture and one way of life. When I look around Dallas, I see a beautiful blend of unique people that all have different stories to share and most likely more than just one heritage that precedes them. With my background, I choose to see everyone for who they prove themselves to be at their core; and definitely, more than just what I see on the outside. In addition to my unique blended heritage, I am a proud mom of a son who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. Every day of my life, I make an effort to learn who people are and not just judge based on appearances and/or personal preferences. I encourage us all to make an effort to not only embrace diversity, but also nurture belonging and inclusivity for all through small acts of kindness, when and where possible!

How do you personally contribute to the success of students and the district, keeping in mind the skills and knowledge your background gives you?

When I get home, I am excited to share with my family the ways I was able to help DISD colleagues that day or how one or more helped me, either personally or professionally. I begin every day with a positive and professional attitude to brighten people’s day. The work I do for the DISD is important and I value my position for the work I do, but what I most value are the connections I make to the dedicated educators and professionals that I get the chance to help on a daily basis. The most wonderful experiences I have are when I get positive feedback and encouraging messages from those I directly help. These messages reinforce that I am not only ensuring our district’s technology is working effectively, but also impacting and facilitating the work of many others across various departments who utilize technology every hour of the day, and especially as our world becomes increasingly dependent on technology.

If you are bilingual, how do you relate to people in either language and is language one of the things that helps you connect to your heritage?

I see my Spanish-speaking skills as a superpower and one that I am extremely proud to yield. Speaking a minority language in our widely diverse America is absolutely one of the most effective and impactful ways to create connections with others around us. I absolutely feel like it also connects me to my heritage and provides more opportunities to create a sense of comfort and confidence with those that share similar backgrounds. Our bilingual powers will forever be valued, not only for professional purposes, but also for the feeling of mutual encouragement it creates in any set of circumstances!

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, what is the most important thing people should know about our culture?

I believe the most important lesson, that continues to be reinforced in my life, is that just because we are Hispanic/LatinX does not mean we are all the same. Even our Hispanic heritages can be blended and unique to that person’s background. All Hispanics are not all just Mexican, or Venezuelan, or Honduran. We are all unique and have special backgrounds that can bring us together to welcome and share even more diversity within our own minority group!


Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.

The theme invites us to celebrate Hispanic heritage and to reflect on how great our tomorrow can be if we hold onto our resilience and hope. It encourages us to reflect on all of the contributions Hispanics have made in the past, and will continue to make in the future. It is also a reminder that we are stronger together.

Art award for Dallas ISD

Dallas ISD is among the 40 winners of the 2021 District of Distinction Award announced recently by the Texas Art Education Association. The districts received the honor for providing a well-rounded education that advocates and integrates a visual arts curriculum to inspire creativity and build social emotional learning that connect learners to their community and beyond.

TAEA is the leading advocate for the visual arts in the state. The organization has previously honored outstanding TAEA members for work in their classrooms and districts. This is the third year that TAEA is honoring districts that meet rigorous criteria as evidenced from data.

“This is a tremendous recognition of the talented student and teacher artists throughout Dallas ISD,” said Tim Linley, executive director of Academic Enrichment.  “Designation as a TAEA District of Distinction places Dallas ISD’s Visual Arts program in the top four percent of school districts in the state. Dallas ISD is the largest school district by far to have earned this recognition. Here in Dallas, we’ve always known that our student and teacher artists are simply the best. Now the rest of the state knows it too!”


For the 2021 award, over 1,100 districts were eligible to apply. Each district submitted documentation they met from the 14-point rubric over the 2020-2021 school year. Only 40 districts met the high standard and will receive the outstanding honor indicating they are in the top 4 percent in art education of districts in the state.

“Dallas ISD has set a high standard for visual arts advocacy, integrated visual arts curriculum, encouraged creativity, community participation and student growth,” said Stacia Gower, Chair of the Administration and Supervision Division of TAEA. “The past school year, educators faced a great many challenges associated with constantly changing guidelines and instruction procedures as well as participation in contest and visual art events. It is a true testament to our visual art educators’ skill, dedication, and flexibility that the quality of their programs continued strong and comprehensive.”

The winning districts will be honored at the TAEA Administration & Supervision Division meeting and during the TAEA Fall Conference General Assembly on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021.


Top educators are Dallas ISD Darlings

Before they became two of the top educators in Dallas ISD who inspire students to reach their full potential, Elisa and Peter Morrissey were just two undergrads falling in love in San Marcos at Texas State University.

A chance meeting in the school’s cafeteria led to some dates, a wedding, and two kids who now attend Dallas ISD schools. The Morrisseys are also possibly the first Dallas ISD married couple where each spouse has been named a top educator in the district: Elisa was named the 2018 Dallas ISD Teacher of the Year, and Peter was a finalist for 2021 Dallas ISD Teacher of the Year, both at Alex Sanger Preparatory.

“Working with students and serving in education is something we are both passionate about,” said Elisa, who now works as an assistant principal at George W. Truett Elementary School. “Dallas ISD really is home for us.”

Elisa graduated Texas State with a degree in Sports Medicine. She worked community health fairs and went into schools to help connect parents without insurance with healthcare. Through these health outreach efforts, Elisa felt called to become a teacher through the district’s alternative certification program.  Later, she received a Masters degree in Bilingual Education at Southern Methodist University.

“I realized I could make a greater impact by working in a school and helping students break the cycle of poverty,” Elisa said. “I see myself in these students and come from a similar background as many of them. This is more than a job: it’s a passion.”

After he graduated college, Peter went to work in the mortgage industry. A highlight of his job was volunteering at J.W. Ray Learning Center, where he used his design skills to illustrate stories written by students at the school.

Peter soon found himself spending almost every lunch break at J.W. Ray. He felt a passion he missed in his day job. Peter quit his mortgage job, became a substitute for a year, and then a full time Dallas ISD teacher

“Being able to connect with students and make a difference, there really is no other feeling like that,” Peter said.

Peter and Elisa help each other in their jobs and are able to offer advice and support. But when their kids sit down at the table for dinner, they turn off their educator hat and become mom and dad again.

And while they are appreciative of the Teacher of the Year recognition, they both say that nothing beats getting to help students achieve beyond what they thought possible.

“Being educators and parents is who we are,” Elisa said. “And I’m so glad we ended up meeting each other back in the Texas State cafeteria so many years ago. It’s been an amazing journey.”