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Could Redrawn Dallas ISD Boundaries Put Schools at Risk?

By Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 reporter: Stonewall Jackson Elementary, among DISD's rare, nationally-recognized blue ribbon schools, maintains a successful garden for its 579 students, a deaf-education program, consistently high test scores, but also fourteen portable classrooms. When parents learned the school board might consider new attendance boundaries this fall to avoid overcrowding, and that fifty or more children could be shifted to Robert E. Lee Elementary, a mile away, they protested.

Karl Zimmerman, Stonewall Jackson Parent: It's to preserve what we have.

Zeeble: Karl Zimmerman, a Stonewall Jackson parent in Oklahoma on the day of this interview, says his family lives in Jackson's attendance area because the school - rated exemplary in 2002 - is so good. Like other parents, he'll forgive the portables, but says he'll move if he's zoned into another school.

Zimmerman: That would have cut off the head of what we've got going.

Zeeble: In the meantime, Zimmerman and several dozen Stonewall parents decided to improve Lee Elementary, which is rated acceptable. They could, for example, help revive the school's garden program and develop other after-school activities.

Zimmerman: If we don't help others help themselves, then redistricting will keep surfacing because of the attendance imbalance among the schools. It is definitely a fledgling effort. We've reached out before but we really want to put something together and make it stick.

Zeeble: There's interest from Robert E. Lee as well to build a two-school relationship. The school board's decision to consider redrawn boundaries around Stonewall Jackson isn't expected until September. But the parents' activism has led the area's board representative, Jack Lowe, to work with them and school officials to find a way to keep the current lines.

Jack Lowe, School Board Representative, District 2: The rumors are, people tell me, 'I know, there are people who go to Stonewall Jackson by falsifying their address.' Eliminating, minimizing those - I've been led to believe, and I don't have hard numbers yet, that might solve the problem for a while.

Zeeble: Even if that's the case, Bette Canalakes, Stonewall Jackson's incoming PTA president and the mother of 10-year-old triplets, is committed to building closer ties to Robert E. Lee anyway. Both schools send students to Long Middle School.

Bette Canalakes, Stonewall Jackson Parent and PTA member: They wouldn't be isolated, but they would already have formed friendships and it wouldn't be so intimidating.

Zeeble: The former teacher and administrator also wants to reach out to additional area elementary schools, for the same reason. Then, as other issues arise in the district, this new coalition might be able to address concerns together, with a stronger voice. Jack Lowe praises Jackson parents, already among the most active in the entire school district, for reaching beyond their own campus. He's not seen that before. For KERA 90.1, I'm Bill Zeeble.

Email Bill Zeeble about this story.