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Special to The Dallas Examiner

Dallas ISD pledges action in response to demographic report

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and Dallas ISD trustees discussed a recent demographic report that revealed a slight decrease in student enrollment this year, stating that it was a call to action to determine ways to bring families back to the district.

The student enrollment in 2015-2016 is 158,692, which is down from the 2014-2015 student enrollment of 160,253. The largest enrollment drop – approximately 1,000 students – came at the kindergarten level.

The district’s demographic statistics shows 22.6 percent African American, 70.3 Hispanic, 4.8 percent White, 0.6 multi-racial and 1.8 percent other enrolled. Male students are 74.3 percent, while only 25.7 are female.

Hinojosa said the slight student enrollment decrease is a wake up call for anyone who believes the district can go about “business as usual.”

“We must determine why students are leaving or not choosing to come to Dallas ISD, and we must address the issue head on,” Hinojosa said. “This will take a total team effort to address this issue.”

In initial conversations during this month’s board briefing on how to potentially stop the enrollment slide, trustees suggested the district could more aggressively market and advertise Dallas ISD to show the great things happening in the schools. Other preliminary ideas trustees discussed included continuing to increase the number of choice schools; figuring out what is working well at schools and spreading that information and those practices to other schools; continuing to focus on and expanding pre-K; improving Dallas ISD schools; and continuing to reach English language learning students.

Hinojosa added that the district should conduct an external analysis to help identify what issues must be addressed to stop an enrollment slide.

“We will look at every possible angle,” Hinojosa said. “This information is powerful, and together we can come up with a solution to take our students back.”

National School Choice Week

AUSTIN – National School Choice Week Began Sunday in Texas and across the country. According to National School Choice Week’s organizers, families in Texas can use the Week to look for K-12 schools for the 2016-2017 school year. Parents in the Lone Star State can choose from the following education options for their children: traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online academies, private schools and homeschooling. In some parts of the state, open enrollment policies allow parents to select the best traditional public school, regardless of where the school is located.

“The goal of School Choice Week is to raise awareness, to let parents know that when it comes to their children’s education, they do have options. And it’s also to give people an opportunity, who might want more options for their kids, to have their voices heard,” NSCW president Andrew R. Campanella said. “Parents know their children best, and they know that when their children have the opportunity to learn in an environment that meets their talents, their skills, and their challenges, their kids are happier. They graduate at higher levels, too, and that is why school choice is so important.”

There are 1,204 events planned in the Lone Star State to raise awareness about K-12 school choice, and 16,140 events nationwide. The events in Texas, which are independently planned and independently funded, include everything from information sessions and open houses at schools to rallies, policy discussions and movie screenings organized by community groups.

On Friday, more than 2,000 supporters will rally at the capitol for school choice. Gov. Greg Abbott, the mayors of Allen, Amarillo, Arlington, Denton, Irving, Killeen, League City, Lewisville, Midland, Pharr, Richardson and Wichita Falls, and county leaders from Fort Bend and Smith counties have issued official proclamations recognizing Jan. 24 through Jan. 30 as “School Choice Week.”

“School choice continues to be an important issue for Texas families and Texas leaders,” Campanella said. “National School Choice Week will shine a positive spotlight on the education options available to children and families in the Lone Star State, while also raising awareness of the importance of providing even more families with educational opportunity.”

With a goal of raising public awareness of effective education options for children, NSCW will be the largest celebration of education options in U.S. history.

ENGAGE mentoring conference

In recognition of National Mentoring Month, the Lancaster ISD and Lancaster ISD Police Department will partner with the city of Lancaster to host ENGAGE: A Mentoring Youth Conference. The event is free and will be held on Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for about 250 students in the sixth through 12th grade at the Lancaster Recreation Center, located at 1700 Veterans Memorial Parkway in Lancaster.

“Mentoring is a valued step in bridging the gap between a student’s economic and social opportunity. It provides platforms for students to be encouraged, empowered and excel,” said Dona Mitchell, Lancaster ISD truancy coordinator. “This conference will highlight the importance of student mentoring with a focus on truancy prevention, mediation and current mentorship programs within the city and school district.”

State Sen. Royce West and Lancaster Mayor Marcus E. Knight will be keynote speakers during the open session.

“Every community partner involved in this event has a personal story regarding overwhelming challenges,” said Smith. “This event will allow our students to hear about some of those turning points and showcase how mentorship shaped their lives and share its positive experience.”

Afterward, students will divide into small groups and attend three sessions designed to address specific teen-related issues and interact with community leaders.

At the conclusion of the conference, students will have the opportunity to register for mentorship programs. Parents and community members will also have the opportunity to sign up to become a mentor.

For more information, contact Dona Mitchell at 972-218-1648.

African American Student Success Initiative

During Dallas ISD meet and greet on Jan. 12 to welcome Dallas ISD Chief of Staff Dr. Cynthia Wilson, more than 70 community and faith leaders were briefed on the district’s effort to help ensure African American students succeed in school and beyond.

Trustee Lew Blackburn spearheaded the event that provided details on the African American Student Success Initiative, which aims to close the achievement gap and increase access to opportunities for African American students. Blackburn, along with Trustee Bernadette Nutall and Superintendent Michael Hinojosa joined the community and faith leaders in attending the meet and greet.

“When members from the community step up to help our students and schools, great things happen,” Wilson said. “It’s a privilege to meet community partners who are dedicated and passionate in ensuring every student in Dallas ISD succeeds.”

Attendees filled out “exit slips” detailing how they would like to help with the initiative. Toska Medlock Lee, the owner of a marketing agency who helped organize the event, said attendees were inspired to action by speeches by Wilson and Hinojosa.

“To be able to hear the vision, hear the agenda, and hear the commitments from these leaders in Dallas ISD really put a fire underneath everyone at the event,” Lee said. “I know that we as faith and community leaders are excited to partner with and help students in Dallas ISD however we can. I expect more great things to come.”

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