Dear Friends,
It's been a wild ride this first few weeks of the new year. Our country has changed its leadership and with that change there has been an unprecedented rise in political dialog around very important and emotionally charged issues. Communities are paying attention to government and much of that attention is turning local.

In education, Betsy DeVos, the new Education Secretary, has already indicated that she will support ceding more control to local governing bodies. Our state legislature is grappling with an ineffective and outdated school finance system, and a renewed debate about additional ways they can strip even more money from the education of our students - 85% of whom currently attend public schools.

It is clear to me that the education of our children is up to us - the cavalry is not coming.

The one shining light from the political upheaval is that citizens are recognizing their role in shaping policies that affect children. More people, all over the state, are paying attention to legislation, holding our representatives accountable, and running for political office - including for their local school boards.

This is great news. There is so much power at the local level and it is critical that more of us engage, but as we wade into these waters we must strive to remain informed and connected--to make decisions based on data and the stories of those impacted by the data.

For instance, Dallas ISD School Board Trustees approve a $1.4 billion budget that impacts the lives of 155,000 kids and families and around 10,000 teachers. They also write and pass policies that affect every taxpayer in this city. That is a tremendous amount of responsibility for an unpaid position, and yet they are elected by less than 6% of the voting population. Local governance and advocacy are important - but INFORMED governance and advocacy are essential.

We are responsible for our communities and as citizens must turn up! Learn about the issues. Hold decision-makers accountable. Consider running for office. Apply to the 2018 LISD Fellowship.

Together we can be the change we need for ALL students.

Warmest Regards,

Patricia Arvanitis
Executive Director

Exciting News for Leadership ISD! 

The rumors are true...Our expansion to Harris County is official! Thanks to the generous philanthropy of Houston Endowment and the Kinder Foundation, and under the direction of Patra Brannon-Isaac, Leadership ISD is well equipped to begin developing advocates and building a better informed electorate who will make a lasting, positive mark on public education in Harris County. Read the full press release here.

They have hit the ground running and will be launching the inaugural Harris County cohort this Fall! If you know any great candidates in the Houston area, please nominate them!  
We are thrilled to have Patra on board as our Harris County Regional Director, as well as the newest addition to our Tarrant County team, Jackie Walker! Check out their bios below. 

Patra Brannon-Isaac
joins Leadership ISD as the Regional Director of Harris County. Prior to joining Leadership ISD, Patra served as the General Manager of Talent Acquisition for Houston Independent School District, where she oversaw recruitment, selection, on-boarding and organizational development initiatives for the nation's 6th largest school district. A Houston native and product of public education, Patra is passionate about her community and improving educational and economic opportunities for all residents. Patra is a graduate of Iowa State University with a B.S. in Finance and holds a Masters in Business Administration from Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business. Patra currently resides in Pearland, TX with her husband. She enjoys volunteering, mentoring, reading, decorating, traveling, meeting new people, and spending time with family and friends. 

Jackie Walker joins the Leadership ISD team as the Tarrant County Program Manager. She has spent her career working in nonprofit and higher education. Most recently, Jackie served as the community engagement manager for Reading Partners, managing a team that equipped schools across North Texas with over 1,000 literacy tutors. Previously, she worked at Birmingham-Southern College and SMU, where she gained experience in service-learning, community engagement, volunteer management, and program development. These experiences cultivated a deep sense of social justice and a desire to advocate for equitable education for all. She has a bachelor's degree from The Ohio State University in international development, gender studies, and religious studies and a master's degree from Southern Methodist University in gender studies and organizational dynamics. She is an enthusiastic lover of her dog, Rumi, and believes ketchup is a food group.

The Latest Inside Leadership ISD
The application is open for our 2018 cohorts in Dallas, Tarrant, and Harris Counties! 

We are looking for challengers, champions, and change-makers. We seek candidates with diverse life experiences, representing every ethnicity, industry, age, gender, and background. We believe that diversity in every dimension creates a rich learning environment and helps shape powerful and responsive solutions.

Please spread the word to the public school advocates in your networks! leadershipisd.org/apply-now

Hot Topics Across the State

State's New A-F Accountability System Raises Concerns
Vouchers, ESAs, Tax Credit Scholarships...The debate continues 
While the final system goes into effect in August 2018, lawmakers required that school districts and campuses receive a preview of the state's new A-F accountability ratings based on the 2015-16 school year. Districts have been pushing back on the new A-F measures, saying that there is too much weight put on a single performance metric (the STAAR test). Many districts have approved resolutions calling on the Texas Legislature to repeal the letter grading system.    

Dallas Morning News - Jan 5

Statesman - Jan 5

KERA News - Jan 13 
Whatever you call it, the legislature is proposing policies that would allow for Texas taxpayer dollars to be used to help parents send their kids to private or religious schools. The two-part Senate Bill 3, proposes Education Savings Accounts that could be combined with tax credit scholarships, which parents could combine to cover the entire cost of private school tuition.

School choice bill pitches savings accounts, tax credit scholarships
Texas Tribune - Jan 30

Slip-Sliders and Knaves Live on Both Sides of School Voucher Debate
Dallas Observer - Jan 26

Texas education bill hailed as civil rights breakthrough, scorned as 'school voucher on steroids'
Dallas Morning News - Jan 30

Local Issues Right Now

Although Black students make up only 13% of the elementary school-age population (Pre-K through 5th grade) in Texas schools, they account for 42% of out-of-school suspensions.

Read all of our highlights from the February Board Briefing HERE

TOMORROW--Thursday, February 23--Dallas ISD will be voting on updates to their student discipline policy, FO(Local), which are aimed at creating a more equitable and restorative school culture for all students.  Proposed updates to the policy include: 
  • All school based staff will receive ongoing training in research-based approaches to discipline--restorative justice, PBIS, etc.
  • All schools will be required to post their disaggregated discipline data on their websites at least annually
  • Elementary schools with more than 6 out of school suspensions for pre-K through 2nd grade for the previous school year will get additional support and accountability to improve school climate and reduce suspensions
  • Dallas ISD will have a goal of eliminating discretionary out of school suspensions for pre-K through 2nd graders over the next 5 years
See the full text of the proposed FO(Local) policy HERE, and a summary of important data HERE

Leadership ISD--including the majority our alumni surveyed--supports this proposal and we encourage you to activate your collective voice around this important issue.  There are a few ways you can engage at the February 23rd Board Meeting--6 PM at 3700 Ross Avenue:
  • Join the press conference at held by TOP at 5 PM outside the admin building. 
  • Sign up to speak at the Board Meeting -- call (972) 925-3720 to sign up by 5 pm on Wednesday, Feb 22. Tell them you'd like to speak regarding the FO(Local) policy.
  • Invite your friends, family, and kids to join us for the Board meeting. Here's a Facebook event link 
  • Call, email, tweet, and FB message all DISD Trustees to ask them to vote for the proposed changes to FO(Local). You can find Trustee contact info here.

To sign up as a speaker you must call Board Services at 972.925.3720 no later than 5 p.m. on the day before the meeting.
Upcoming Dates:
Thursday, February 23rd - 6:00pm (Board Meeting)
Thursday, March 9th - 11:30am (Board Briefing)

DISD Administration Building
37000 Ross Avenue
Dallas, TX 75204

Just for Fun...

Barry White, Jr., a fifth grade English teacher at Ashley Park PreK-8 School in Charlotte, North Carolina, has an elaborate, personalized handshake with every one of his students. 

Thank you to our generous donors for their support of Leadership ISD's mission 

Communities Foundation of Texas, Kinder Foundation, Houston Endowment, Bill & Lydia Addy, The Meadows Foundation,  Sid Richardson Foundation, Williams Family Foundation, and many individual donors.
Leadership ISD is an independent 501c3 non-profit organization that equips 
citizen leaders to advocate for educational equity and excellence.