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Dallas Students Offer Ideas For Improving Schools, But Home-Rule Wasn't Among Them

Bill Zeeble
Adamson High School student Rebecca Woo shared some of her thoughts on how to improve her school. She attended a summit of students who voiced their opinions in front of school and city leaders including three DISD trustees.

For weeks, Dallas parents, teachers, administrators and politicians have been buzzing about the controversial home-rule effort to overhaul Dallas’ school system. On Friday, students had their own thoughts on what could make their schools better. Kids from five different Dallas high schools voiced them in a summit.

Forget for a few minutes those promoting and opposing home-rule -- or promises it could either build a better Dallas Independent School District or doom it. Julianna Bradley says: “Let’s hear from the students.” She helped organize  SOS, Support Our Students.

“We’re just trying to make sure students are part of the conversation, especially given that in Dallas right now there’s so much upheaval," Bradley said.

So 70 Dallas high school students got a chance to speak out. With parental permission, they gathered in the future UNT law school downtown.  Hardly any knew about home-rule, let alone details of its ins and outs. Instead, they offered their own ideas about how to improve their schools.

16-year-old Rebecca Woo, from W.H. Adamson said it’s their regular teachers they need in class, not substitutes.

“The teacher should be there just like us,” Woo urged those listening. “When you push us out of our comfort zone to put us with a total stranger, a teacher we haven’t known all year, we’re not going to do our best.”

Woo said it’ll pay off in better test scores for the kids and the school.

Tyandria Palmer, a South Oak Cliff sophomore, said more mentorship programs would help.

“The reason why is because everybody goes through something," Palmer said. "We let our personal life get to us and our education. If we have more mentor programs, it’ll help us deal with problems and education.”

Another South Oak Cliff student, DeJuan Queen, said problems outside the school need to be addressed, too. He mentioned the recent rise in teen HIV and AIDS in Dallas County.

“We need to have parents that’ll step up and say this is the right way to do things even if it’s hard sometimes to face reality and know that our children are having unprotected sex,” Queen said.

Dallas school board members, including Mike Morath, listened and responded.

“I really appreciated all the suggestion and actually wrote one down one because I was going to take it back to the superintendent, which was to rate schools based upon the vacancy and substitute rate," Morath said. "I think we can actually do that.”

These students covered a wide range of issues from the pressure they get from other kids about being smart, to the way hands-on classes make learning more fun.

As for home-rule? It never came up. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.