A classroom at home 

Dallas ISD is committed to providing an excellent education to every student in the district, so when the COVID-19 pandemic put immunocompromised families at risk, the district searched for innovative solutions like a virtual academy. 

With about $360,000 allocated from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund, Dallas ISD hired staff to oversee and support the virtual program during the 2021-2022 school year. Through the worst of the pandemic, nearly 60 teachers from different campuses stepped up to provide virtual instruction to approximately 1,100 students. 

Derinda Hunter, the director of the virtual academy, said they opened enrollment to all no-show students under the age of 12 who could not receive the vaccine and to any medically fragile students in that same age range. They also extended spots to students who received recommendations from their doctors or whose family members became immunocompromised and could not risk having their child carry the virus home from school. 

“During  the pandemic, we wanted to make sure we sent the message that we do care about our students, we do care about the families,” Hunter said. “Health is important, and education is important, so this is how we responded to supporting these families during the pandemic.” 

The virtual academy followed the base calendar for the school year and ran in nine-week cycles. After each cycle, families were able to decide to send their children back to in-person classes at their home campus or continue remotely. The virtual academy had about 690 students enrolled in its most recent fourth cycle. Most of these students were the same ones who first entered the program, but their number decreased as their families grew more comfortable with face-to-face learning. 

Students at the virtual academy followed a similar schedule to their in-person counterparts. They logged in around 8 a.m. and dove into four blocks focused on content classes: math, science, English and social studies. Two other blocks were built in for specialized subjects like world languages and physical education. The students then finished the day with a period for intervention. This intervention time allowed teachers to give them extra support, whether they were struggling to keep up or required additional acceleration opportunities.  

The success of this initiative was due in part to the creativity it sparked among teachers, students and parents. Teachers had to find new programs and methods to successfully engage their students from home, while students and parents had to adapt to online learning and gain new virtual skills. The initiative also gave families a way to stay with Dallas ISD when they did not feel safe on campus. 

“Our parents in the program swear by Dallas ISD,” Hunter said. “They loved their campuses, and wanted to remain in the district. So one of the big successes of having the virtual academy is that we were able to retain those families who truly did not want to leave. They consider us family.” The virtual academy was intended to last only a single semester, but the continuing severity of the pandemic extended it. Overall, the program allowed Dallas ISD to meet families where they were and to provide a safe, high-quality alternative to in-person instruction. 

“We’re all human, managing life in different ways,” Hunter said. “We’re just trying to be compassionate and supportive as much as possible, and that is the message I share every time that I’m speaking to a family or a staff member.” 

To learn more about how the Virtual Academy works, visit https://www.dallasisd.org/virtualacademy. To learn more about Dallas ISD’s pandemic relief and recovery efforts, check out https://www.dallasisd.org/esser

Funding education

The Association of Hispanic School Administrators awarded $13,000 in scholarships to Dallas ISD staff and students earlier this month. The organization also honored Superintendent Michael Hinojosa for his years of service to education and Dallas ISD.

Dr. Michael Hinojosa Pursuing Excellence Scholarship (Given to AHSA members)

  1. Ashley Fortner-Dominguez, LEAD—$1,000
  2. Marina Spataro, teacher at Jerry Junkins Elementary School—$1,000

Adelante Educators: 

  1. Beatriz Bustamante, teacher at the School for the Talented and Gifted at Pleasant Grove—$1,000
  2. Angelica Casanova, teacher assistant at Cochran Elementary School—$1,000
  3. Linda Stackhouse,  teacher assistant at Arlington Park Early Childhood Center—$1,000

Si Se Puede College Bound Seniors

  1. Noemy Burciaga—$1,500
  2. Syra Castillo—$1,500
  3. Jennifer Gomez—$1,500
  4. Tania Morin—$1,500
  5. Samantha Sanchez—$1,500

The mission of the Association of Hispanic School Administrators is to cultivate a pipeline of effective Hispanic leadership that reflects school district demographics and ensures educational equity for all students.

Mental Health Matters: You can manage your grief

Grief is an inevitable part of life, and the complicated emotions attached to it can recur months and even years after the initial loss of a loved one. These feelings are normal and, in fact, demonstrate how important that relationship was in your life. In the words of Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

When grief arises—either right after a loss or down the road thanks to a reminder like an anniversary, holiday or birthday—it is important to recognize the signs. Those include anger, depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, sadness, fatigue, guilt, pain, crying spells and loneliness. Each of these powerful emotions can be difficult to manage, but having coping mechanisms in place can help you process and continue onward. 

Plan ahead. If you know a holiday or tradition is coming that will bring grief to the forefront of your mind, take some time to mentally prepare. By reflecting on and predicting your emotions, you can strengthen your understanding of them and even create new opportunities for growth and healing when the anniversary arrives. 

Give yourself permission to feel. Emotions are complex and involve countless ups and downs, so allow yourself to laugh and cry at the same time. It is OK to experience depression or a sense of loss, just as it is OK to feel joy and happiness when you think of the person you lost. 

Reflect on your time together. Be intentional about celebrating your relationship with your loved one. Focus on your favorite memories together and on everything you treasured about them. You can even write a letter to your loved one to share these memories, which you can expand whenever a new memory comes to mind. 

Schedule a distraction. You do not have to be alone with your grief and memories. Plan a picnic or dinner on an important anniversary, or simply pick up the phone and connect with your friends and relatives. They can support and comfort you as you process your emotions and help you feel less alone.

Create a new celebration. Traditions are not set in stone. You can start new ones to help celebrate the person you lost by making a donation to a charity in their name, planning an annual dinner in their honor or planting a tree or flower on their behalf. The opportunities are endless.  

Rely on your connections. We are all stronger and better together. Reach out to your friends and family members, and fall back on your support systems. You can also seek out encouragement by joining a grief support group or meeting up with a friend who will reassure you. 

Grief runs on its own timeline. If your emotions are overwhelming you today or if you find yourself in need of additional support, help is available through Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks. 

This confidential, secure platform has free counselors available for Dallas ISD staff 24/7. All you have to do is reach out to LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000, or visit www.dallasisd.org/benefits and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information. Your health and well-being are important, so do not hesitate to get the support you need. 

*Source: Mayo Clinic

Transforming lives and hearts through the Core 4

Gracie Lara lives and breathes the Core 4 culture tenets as a Mental Health Services billing specialist, a mother of two who graduated from Dallas ISD and a cancer survivor. She was inspired to join Dallas ISD as an administrative assistant over 21 years ago after volunteering at district schools.

In her eyes, being fast, focused, flexible and friendly all comes down to being a team player. 

“Having the right team and working with the right people and supporting each other, it makes the job easier for everyone,” Lara said. “We have to help each other by prioritizing effectiveness, working well under pressure and performing well in everything that we do. I don’t think the district would be where it is if we didn’t have help from each other and knowledge from everyone.” 

Lara shows up every day determined to give Mental Health Services 110 percent of her passion and dedication. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015—in the same month that one of her co-workers was diagnosed with brain cancer—her entire perspective changed. 

“You learn to appreciate not just your job, but the people around you, friends, family—literally everything,” she said. “You don’t take anything for granted.” 

Fortunately, after a month of chemotherapy and radiation, she said she “bounced back,” and she has felt “blessed” to continue learning from others and leading by example, whether she is at work or interacting with her two children. 

“The district has an absolute gem of an employee in Gracie Lara,” said Denise McCorkle, an administrative assistant in Mental Health Services. “She goes out of her way to help anyone who needs anything at all. She volunteers her time whenever she can, rushes in to help wherever she is needed, takes up the slack of other staff who are overwhelmed and never complains.”

Lara has benefited greatly from taking advantage of as many professional development opportunities as possible and getting to know more people and departments in the district to gain a better understanding of what services are available to staff and students. 

“I appreciate life. For me, it’s a second chance,” Lara said. “I’m always putting myself in other people’s shoes: ‘What if I was that employee who needs help? What if I was that parent who needs services? What if I’m that stranger who’s new to Dallas?’ I always try to help out, regardless of what gets in the way.” 

It’s almost time

Benefits Annual Enrollment for the 2022-2023 plan year begins July 5 and runs through Aug. 18.

This year, annual enrollment will be passive. This means that if you want to keep the benefits for which you are currently enrolled, you do not need to make new elections. The benefits for which you are currently enrolled benefits will continue for the next school year, except for HSA and FSA, which require action every benefit year.

Several scheduled webinars to present general enrollment information will be provided. Additional information on Benefit Open Enrollment webinars will be provided in the coming weeks.

The HCM Benefits Department is ready and available to assist you with questions about your benefits. The department has appointment options for individualized in-person and virtual appointments to assist employees with their specific enrollment questions and process. For an individual in person or virtual appointment, please email Benefits@dallasisd.org, and a team member will connect with you to schedule an appointment.

If you need assistance, please  contact the Benefits Call Center at 972-925-4000, or call or email a Benefits team member at 972-925-4300, Benefits@dallasisd.org.

Don’t miss out on summer learning   

Don’t forget to take advantage of the abundance of free professional development opportunities for teachers this summer, and 3,116 staff members have already taken advantage of the innovative sessions. 

Project Manager Stephanie Ford and the rest of the Professional & Digital Learning team have been hard at work developing and promoting the Summer Learning 2022 Catalog. Their main goal is to encourage teachers to review, reflect and refine their classroom practices and tools, but Ford said “anyone and everyone” is welcome to attend. 

The catalog has a wealth of information about the 234 unique sessions focused on disciplinary literacy, 132 sessions targeting acceleration and 63 sessions honing in on racial equity. It also has options to navigate these sessions by date or category. 

Staff still have time to participate in the face-to-face sessions on July 11 and July 12, or they can join the virtual sessions on July 13 and July 14. 

Available in-person sessions include: 

  • Build on Your MTSS IQ: Root Cause Analysis & Interventions—Multi-Tiered Systems of Support
      • In this session, participants will build upon their basic understanding of MTSS and explore root cause analysis methods and the characteristics of high quality interventions. 
  • All About Parents—Dual Language ESL
      • Let’s get connected! Student achievement and parent engagement are inextricably tied together. In this workshop-style experience, participants will learn to connect parents of emergent bilinguals with the educational environment. 
  • Beginning Gardening with Kids—Early Learning
    • Learn the basics of starting a garden with Rikki Schramm, nationally certified Junior Master Gardener Trainer at the STEM Environmental Education Center. Educators will leave this session knowing how to take their garden from the planning stages to harvest with plenty of inquiry-based, hands-on activities for children along the way.  

Available virtual sessions include: 

  • Self-Care Lounge—Social and Emotional Learning 
      • Self-care is valuable for all those working with children. In this session, participants will understand the importance of self-care, explore potential signs and causes of stress and take an assessment of your own self-care. Participants will then create self-care strategies, which can include mindfulness. 
  • Understanding Autism Summer Series: Introduction to Autism—Special Education
      • This session will provide participants with an overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders. 
  • Culturally Responsive 101: Let’s Get Started—Science and Wellness
    • Do you want to learn how to start being culturally responsive in your classroom? Then, this is the session for you! In this session, participants will learn strategies and skills to use in cross-cultural/multicultural settings. BEign a culturally responsive educator can be a game-changer in the pursuit of educational equity. This training is designed to give science educators pedagogy grounded in cultural competences for responsive teaching. 

Specific times and session locations, as well as a full list of available courses, can be found in the Summer Learning 2022 Catalog. While Professional & Digital Learning recommends registering for in-person sessions through Cornerstone, Ford said people can show up regardless because they are “not turning anyone away.” As for the virtual sessions, they require no registration. Participants can access the courses directly by clicking on the Zoom links in the catalog. 

“We really want teachers to come,” Ford said. “We want them to celebrate the growth and the learning that their students have, so why not do the same for teachers? This is the time to go, take it all in and plan for the upcoming school year.” 

If you have any questions, you can find a full list of session contacts here

Celebrating Pride Month with supports

Mahoganie Gaston of Dallas ISD’s LGBTQ Youth Services recently attended a high school’s Gay Straight Alliance panel, where she met a student who exemplified the “why” behind everything Gaston does. The group was small, so the 16-year-old student felt comfortable expressing that he did not have any support at home. 

“It was really heartbreaking because he was basically saying that he didn’t want to be gay because no one supports him in his family,” Gaston said. “Leaving that space, he realized that on his campus, within that room, there were five adults and other members of the LGBTQ community who were there to support him.” 

That is why celebrating Pride Month throughout the district is so important to Gaston. She said knowing the policies Dallas ISD has in place is one of the best ways to support students on every campus. To learn about the policies, visit https://www.dallasisd.org/lgbtq.

Students also have access to various gay-straight alliances. These extracurricular, student-led clubs are protected by the Equal Access Act of 1984, and they currently exist on 25 percent of Dallas ISD’s secondary campuses.

LGBTQ Youth Services’ goal is to one day see gay-straight alliances at 100 percent of the district’s secondary schools, and that starts with support from staff. Gaston is encouraging all campus staff to reach out to her to see if there is already a Gay Straight Alliance they could join as a sponsor. For anyone on a campus without a Gay Straight Alliance, Gaston can help you get one started. 

“The data shows that when you have a gay-straight alliance on campus, the campus culture is a lot healthier for all students,” she said. “Students are always looking to see who those staff members are on campus, because they are those safe spaces when something is going wrong or they need someone to talk to.” 

As for central staff, LGBTQ Youth Services and Mental Health Services organized a small ally group that they are hoping to expand this upcoming school year. If you are interested in joining as a member of the LGBTQ community or as an ally, contact Gaston at mgaston@dallasisd.org

In collaboration with Mental Health Services, LGBTQ Youth Services also put together a detailed resource guide that can be shared with parents, staff and students alike. It is broken down into several categories, including housing, medical support and mental health. A few key resources for staff include: 

To see the full list of resources, visit www.bit.ly/DISDLGBTQ. You can also email mgaston@dallasisd.org to request Dallas ISD-specific trainings on district policy and establishing Gay Straight Alliances. 

“We are putting words into action,” Gaston said. “Dallas ISD fully supports the LGBTQ community. By highlighting Pride Month, it shows not just individuals within the Dallas-Fort Worth area but across the nation that this is what we do in Dallas ISD.”  

Add resilience to your toolbox 

Life has a way of throwing obstacles in our paths as often as it clears them away. To persevere through the ups and downs, we all need to develop psychological resilience. Some of that resilience comes naturally as we cope with daily stressors and learn to keep moving when the going gets tough. We can also strengthen our resilience by taking care of ourselves and building support systems into our daily routines. 

It takes a village to thrive, and that is no less true when it comes to building resilience. Surround yourself with family, friends and colleagues who will help you process your thoughts and feelings. They will give you the support you need to move forward when you are uncertain, exhausted or anxious. Just do not forget to give as much as you receive! People who volunteer and support their communities in other ways, big or small, feel more connected and purposeful. Something as simple as a smile or a kind word can make a co-worker’s day—and your own in the process.

Another core element of resilience is caring for your needs. One option is to create a third safe, relaxing space for yourself. You already have your home and your workspace. If you do not have one already, find another physical location where you can recharge, socialize or pursue a hobby. Try a favorite park, a gym, the closest public library or anywhere else you can think of that will help you de-stress. Outside of your safe space, keep an eye on your physical needs. Look up deep breathing exercises, set up an exercise routine and pay attention to how you are feeling. Early warning signs of stress will remind you to reach out to your support system and make sure you have what you need. Some warning signs include headaches, irritability or frustration, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping and digestion problems. 

Finally, pay attention to your mind. Self-criticism has a noticeable effect on decreasing resilience, so practice being kind and gentle with yourself. You can also build up your resilient thinking toolbox. The most resilient people work hard to keep their problems in perspective and focus on solving the issues they can control. They may keep a gratitude journal or rely on mindfulness to keep themselves grounded in the present. 

Psychological resilience is a powerful tool to keep yourself on track in your personal life and beyond. By committing to these practices and concepts, you will be able to grow your resilience and manage the stressors in your life more effectively. Of course, resilience is not a panacea. If you find yourself overwhelmed and struggling, Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program by Lifeworks is here to help. 

The EAP has counselors on call every hour of every day, and Dallas ISD employees can reach out to them at any time at no cost. Contact LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000 or visit www.dallasisd.org/benefits and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information.

*Source: LifeWorks 


Copier switch coming

Dallas ISD’s contract with Canon is expiring, and the district will be replacing Canon color copiers with Xerox color copiers. Schedules have been set up for delivery of the new copiers and for pickup of the old ones during the transition period.

To find out when the copier switch is scheduled to be delivered to your site, click on Delivery Schedule. A Xerox representative will call the school/department a day before delivery to confirm building access. In preparation for the Canon pick-up, please place all toner, consumables, and supplies on top of the machine. If needed, move office furniture or fixtures to clear a safe pathway. 


Each user must download the PRINT DRIVER from the Dallas ISD Software center. Once the driver is installed, you can print by choosing the Paper Cut option in the drop-down menu. If you are unable to Add Printers or see available printers in your Paper Cut Print Deploy client or while installing the secure print driver, call the Dallas ISD IT helpdesk to place a ticket to have your workstation IP address added to the appropriate zone in Papercut to resolve the issue.

Additional information regarding network integration, training and print driver install information can be found on the Print Smart. Save Smart webpage, https://www.dallasisd.org/Page/42043 (Login required). 

XEROX SUPPORT – 469-702-4059




Things to remember:

  • To relocate XEROX equipment please use the Xerox Move Request Form to submit your request after delivery is complete. 
  • Xerox Copiers are LEASE TO OWN. Excessive opening and closing of the paper cassette drawers create wear and tear that could damage the drawers, sensors, and increase paper jams. Proper machine handling will avoid unnecessary maintenance and repair fees.
  • All equipment should remain powered on 24/7.
  • Supplies are auto replenished, and meter reads are automatic as long as machines remain powered ON and connected to the network.


Enjoying summer

Summer has taken a hold of North Texas and Dallas ISD staff are either enjoying or enduring it.

Several of you shared your feelings about summer and some of the activities you are enjoying. Most like the short nights and long days that let them take short walks around the neighborhood in the evening or partake of some retail therapy before dinner. And during the day, they enjoy being inside where it’s cooler.

Others enjoy the time spent with family doing fun things outdoors like swimming and splash parks, mowing the lawn and sharing outdoor meals on the patio with family and friends. Of course, finding some shade in which to enjoy the heat is a must. 

As you enjoy the summer, don’t forget to stay hydrated and use sunscreen! For more tips for a healthy summer, visit https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/healthy-summer.htm.