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Dallas ISD bond package proposal

Why some board members, parents are saying ‘No’ to Prop. 1

KENYATTA GIDDINGS | 11/2/2015, 9:33 a.m.
The faint, unpleasant aroma of the Trinity River filled the air as District 6 parents gathered at Kimball High School ...
Dallas ISD Trustee Joyce Foreman of District 6 File Photo

The Dallas Examiner

The faint, unpleasant aroma of the Trinity River filled the air as District 6 parents gathered at Kimball High School on Oct. 21, one of 12 meetings held across the city to discuss concerns about how the proposed $1.6 billion Dallas ISD 2015 Bond Package would impact all nine districts.

The proposal is based on the recommendations of a task force composed of Dallas ISD staff, school administrators and community members, along with commissioned facility assessment reports. The greatest percent of the bond would go toward building and replacing schools and classrooms. The proposal will add or replace nine schools in Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9 – four of which will be in District 5.

Community leaders have become increasingly vocal about their concerns about the distribution of funds.

“I’m pushing that the bond proposal doesn’t pass and we go back to ensure all the children have the same access,” District 6 Trustee Joyce Foreman said. “Where [DISD Board of Trustees president] Eric Cowan’s daughter goes to school was indexed by the Parsons report as ‘good.’ A few parents went over there with one administrator and now they’re getting a new building. That’s not fair. We have all these other schools rated bad but because of the politics, they see change. It’s not fair to the kids.”

The bond package will also include adding new classrooms to 19 schools in every district, with the exception of District 8.

Southern district schools, District 5, 6 and 7 would receive an additional 68 classrooms. District 6 receiving the lowest with only four added classrooms. East Dallas schools, District 4 and District 9, would add 58 classrooms. While North Dallas districts would add 150 new classrooms.

A smaller percentage would be used to construct or repurpose schools for new programs such as early childhood schools and career technology programs.

Other improvements would include HVAC, roofing, plumbing, etc.

“We need more time to make sure there’s equity within the bond package,” said Foreman, who has served as trustee for about a year and a half. “My district has more charter schools than anywhere else in DISD. Those charter schools are there because DISD is not taking care of the kids.”

Skeptical community member were also overwhelmingly critical of Dallas ISD’s plans for the bond package.

“I’ve been observing bonds for many years, and this is the first one that doesn’t have it together,” said Shirley Daniels, a 43-year advocate of the district and mother of eight Kimball graduates. “Every meeting they’ve added and taken away, and they don’t have minutes for us to view.”

A lack of transparency was a common complaint of the meeting. Clouded language, conflicted messaging and an unstable breakdown of the tax rate, which is not expected to increase according to Dallas ISD, were all areas of crossed wires.

“There’s no transparency with this bond,” said Christopher Edwards, a father with children at District 6 schools. “It’s been shoved down our throats and we’re supposed to just sign off on it. Don’t let this be a rush job. There are still issues from the 2008 bond that haven’t been addressed.”

Vague terminology isn’t helping the district earn trust with District 6 parents or their trustee. During the meeting, Daniels highlighted that when Dallas ISD speaks of improving Southern Dallas, they often keep those efforts east of I-35, leaving schools in the west with little help. Politics and snubs of the past are now being reignited, as community members fear old patterns will come to fruition.

Early voting on the bond began on Oct. 19 and will continue through Friday. Election Day is Nov. 3.