The Dallas Examiner
Monday Night Politics: Meet the Candidates, presented by The Dallas Examiner, held its final forum March 5 at the African American Museum for candidates running for Dallas ISD Board of Trustee District 9 positions: incumbent Bernadette Nutall, Justin Henry, Edward Turner and Ona Marie Hendricks. Hendricks was not present.
Henry kicked off the discussion with brief story about his childhood in relation to his potential position.
“As I stand here one the shoulders of these giants, I think about our kids in DISD and the opportunity we’re missing with them,” he said. “I feel like it is time for us to turn the page. It’s time for us to stand up and advocate for our kids, the same way the giants of our present and our past advocated for us. That’s why I’m running for school board.”
Nutall followed detailing her mission for the district upon her return.
“I’m seeking re-election again because there is still work to be done,” the current trustee said. “I’m seeking re-election to continue that work, to ensure H.S. Thompson [Elementary School] opens up in 2020 and to ensure that our kids get all the opportunities that they deserve.”
Turner closed the introductory segment specifying his goals to the audience.
“As your next trustee, I am going to focus on early childhood [development], expanding pre-K, college readiness and creating authentic community engagement,” he stated. “The community knows the work I have done in these schools. They trust me because they know I care about the best interest of our kids and as your next school board trustee I promise you I will put the trust back into trustee.”
The platform ended with a briefing between audience members and the nominees featuring various questions about their campaigns and decision-making process.
Question: How would you describe the state of education in District 9?
HENRY: District 9 is a very diverse district . There’s different demographics across the district. The state right now is not where it needs to be and that’s one of the reasons I am running. When you look at the schools in South Dallas, we have five that are IR – the highest we’ve ever had. When you look at East Dallas they have all these opportunities though. They have a school lifeline that has montessori programs with dual languages both ways. In the Grove we don’t have anything yet. The state of District 9 is very diverse. You have pockets with a lot of opportunities but then you have other places with a lack of opportunity. That’s why I’m running. I feel like these programs that parents are demanding need to be in all of our schools and included in the heart of sunny South Dallas. So, the state is not where it needs to be and that’s why I’m running. I plan on working on that and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last eight years in Dallas.
NUTALL: We just approved for Frederick Douglass [Elementary] to be an innovative STEAM campus. We have two early learning colleges at James Madison and Lincoln [High School] as well as the Lincoln culinary program that’s going on. J.P. Starks [Elementary] just became a vanguard school so it’s going to go from third grade all the way to eighth grade. The Board just approved that. While we do have several schools in District 9 in South Dallas that are low-performing are when we look at the last five years under the last administration we’re reaping the bad benefit of those bad decisions and bad policies that happened within the Board. The TEI is one of those policies that we are reaping now in District 9 and those five low-performing schools. They took all the principals out of those schools four years ago except one principal. So now we are trying to play catch up from that.
TURNER: The state of District 9 is very fragile in my personal opinion. And the reason for that is when you look at a community like South Dallas where you have five low-performing schools, which is unheard of, and we’re not looking at opportunities of bringing in schools of choice like H.S. Thompson, which is rightfully so closed because of population dwindling and things of that nature. As the next school board trustee, I will definitely work with the community to talk about how can we increase the amount of kids that are in our school and how can we enter other opportunities to increase enrollment and produce better programs for our kids.
Q: What are the top three goals you would like to accomplish if elected or re-elected?
TURNER: The top three things I would like to accomplish is early pre-K. Why that is important is because the data shows when we have kids that are pre-K ready they are more likely to finish high school. I also want to focus on college and career readiness apprenticeship programs. We know that every kid is not going to go to college but when it comes to apprenticeship programs we can give these students training and ready to go into the workforce. That’s one reason why I focused on our support of district innovation, which opened up those opportunities for professors as well as trained professionals that come in and teach our students. The last thing I will focus on is the racial equity assessment because we definitely have to tackle the racial equity divide that is in our community.
NUTALL: One of the things that I worked on was the racial equity committee. I was the chair of the racial equity committee and the board will be discussing a policy this Thursday. That will be a policy for racial equity. The things that I will focus on is … first of all, we all know we need great teachers. We need to get a great evaluation system. TEI is not working for our schools in the southern sector or working in our district period when you understand the detail of TEI. Secondly, we want to open up H.S. Thompson. I was able under my leadership to get $29 million allocated to H.S. Thompson, so we will have a new H.S. Thompson in South Dallas. We want to see it through and get After8toEducate,[a shelter and drop-in center for homeless Dallas students] open. That will open at the end of this year. Frazier House, which is a social wrap-around service because as we understand Dallas is No. 4 in poverty, we want to get that open so we can start reaching our kids in a greater way for those things that impact them outside of the school day. Those are just a few things that I want to finish and accomplish.
HENRY: So I want to go back to the first question first. When we talk about the state of District 9 and what we’re not providing for our kids, they’re academic achievement and outcomes are not where they need to be. I don’t think we mentioned that before and we need to press on that. The kids are the most important, and to provide our confidence is the most important. So the three things I want to focus on is with the first being along the lines of providing for our kids quality early childhood education. What that means in particular is I want to focus on literacy. Our babies need to read before third grade. If we don’t have them reading before third grade, they’re going to be playing catch up for the rest of their lives. In addition, we need to make this early pre-K viable and accessible to all families. Not half day, not ending at 4 p.m., not ending at 5 p.m. but ending when we get off work. The second thing is racial equity. I told you about the story about me growing up. Still today, Black boys are under-educated and overdiscplined in our district and there’s other inequities that are within our system that we need to break down and dismantle. The third piece I want to focus on a a former educator and math teacher is elevating teaching as the profession that it is. Teaching is the most important profession out there and we need to treat it that way and support our teachers that way.
Q: For the opponents, in a recent article about education reform your reason for why you were running was because the Board didn’t approve a 13-cent TRE. Why would you support a 13-cent tax hike that would put us into recapture and would go to the federal fund and not the schools?
TURNER: I was in support of the 13-cent as well as the 6-cent. You make a good point the 13-cent would definitely put us in recapture, but DISD was facing a $40 million shortfall at that time and we continue to have budget cuts. When you go to our schools we don’t have counselors. We don’t have additional resources that we desperately need. I felt like the 6-cent as well as the 13-cent would have helped fill the gap. The 4-cent would have been enough for us but the 2-cent tax swap as well as the 2-cent tax increase would have provided additional raises for teachers but it wouldn’t cover the support our school so desperately needed. So it’s one thing to vote for rate raises; It is another thing to vote for equity. I wanted to vote to make sure the teachers not only had a raise but they also had the funding and support that they needed to take on the challenges that they are facing at the school so that’s why I voted for 13 cents. That’s why I supported the 13 cents as well as the 6 cents.
HENRY: So Mr. Turner put out a lot of the points that I put out there. What you have to think about with that 13-cent is…property values go up. If enrollment stays the same, it goes down we’re going to be into recapture. It’s inevitable unless we can get more students into our schools which is why I’ve been pushing for more programs, services and opportunities within our school no only to serve the kids within our schools but provide reasons for other kids to come to school. That’s the type of opportunities we need to bring to families who live within the district. With the TRE, I understand the recapture but we’re going to get into recapture. At that moment if there’s turn in the mission where we need the money, we’re going to need the money now. So, we’re not going to be saved by the state. We’re not going to get saved from 45. We have to do something locally here to provide for ourselves.
The joint elections for cities and schools will be held for May 5.