Dallas ISD is doing what it can to keep its students in West Dallas. But for some in that community, its efforts are too little and too late.
Shortly before trustees were to act on resolutions that would potentially close five campuses across the district, DISD altered its plans to keep a middle school facility in West Dallas.
The district will still close Edison Middle Learning Center, a sixth- through eighth-grade campus on Singleton Blvd. It will still move sixth-graders from Edison back to the five neighborhood elementary campuses within its feeder.
The change, however, comes with what DISD will do with Edison’s roughly 350 seventh- and eighth-grade students. Instead of the original plan — which would have bused students south of Interstate 30 to North Oak Cliff’s Quintanilla Middle School, leaving West Dallas without a middle school — the district will move the students in Pinkston High School.
“Keep them in West Dallas,” Dallas City Council member Omar Narvaez said. “The last thing I want to do as a council member is to vote to approve a charter school because DISD shipped our students out of our community.”
Pinkston, with less than 1,000 students, is far under capacity, and has plenty of space to accommodate the younger students in a separate wing, said DISD chief of school leadership Stephanie Elizalde.
Edison was one of five campuses that could be affected by changes the board was considering during Thursday’s board meeting. The final votes on the schools’ fate were scheduled to happen late Thursday night.
DISD has four schools that have been rated by the state as “improvement required” for four or more consecutive years: Edison, and three elementary schools, J.W. Ray, Carr and Titche. If any of the schools miss state accountability marks this year, the Texas Education Agency must either force DISD to close the campus, or take over the operations of the entire school district, appointing a board of managers and a new superintendent.
In DISD’s plan, the fate of Carr and Titche would depend on their efforts on state tests, being merged with other neighborhood schools only if they missed their marks.
Edison would be rebranded if it didn’t get off the ‘IR’ list.
The district held a community meeting about Edison on Wednesday night at Quintanilla Middle School.
Renato de los Santos, the field director of LULAC’s National Education Services Center, said during the meeting that when he met with community members earlier in the week, they were frustrated because they felt as if their concerns hadn’t been heard.
That displeasure spilled out during Thursday’s board meeting.
West Dallas residents “need to be at the table when you make these decisions,” community organizer Hilda Duarte said. “They don’t want to move, and it’s been hard on them since the ‘50s.”
“I know how our kids feel, because you treat us like that,” said Debbie Solis, who lives in the area. “I’m disgusted with DISD.”
Ronnie Mestas, the chairman of the Los Altos Neighborhood Association, said that he’d welcome a state takeover of the district, given how its treated West Dallas.
“My disappointment [with DISD] has gone from disappointment to disgust,” he said.
Others spoke out against the plans surrounding J.W. Ray Elementary.
J.W. Ray — a predominantly African-American elementary located next to Roseland Estates, a public housing complex not far from Uptown — is one of the district’s smallest schools, with 224 students.
DISD plans to close J.W. Ray and another elementary school, John F. Kennedy Learning Center, and combine the attendance zones with Cesar Chavez Elementary. It will then use the vacated campuses for specialty schools. Ignite Middle School, a personalized learning speciality campus, is slated to open at the J.W. Ray campus in August 2018.
A year ago, DISD administration pushed a plan to merge Ray with Chavez before pivoting to keep the school open and put it in its Accelerated Campus Excellence turnaround program.
Trustee Joyce Foreman, a long-time booster of Ray, stepped down from the stage at Lincoln High School to address the board. She asked why Ray wasn’t being afforded a chance to stay open if its scores improved, like the other “predominantly Hispanic” schools.
“Black people are tired of sitting and settling for anything,” she said.