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We Go To School With A Dallas Principal-For-A-Day

Every year volunteers with the Dallas Regional Chamber get to be Principal for a Day at a Dallas school. Thursday, on the 20th anniversary of the program, more than 200 got the chance. KERA caught up with one of them at Sidney Lanier Expressive Arts Vanguard, in west Dallas.

Academics and performance fill every day at this pre-k through 7th grade campus, which will run to 8th grade next year. It’s among several Dallas ISD schools that eventually feeds into the renowned Booker T. Washington High school for the Visual and Performing Arts.

"We are the original 'Little Booker T,'” says Alyssa Peraza, Lanier’s 17-year principal, who asked businessman Randall White to be this day’s honorary leader. Why?

“He impacts things that are going around in the community and just helping us be in touch with some of the businesses that are around there,” Peraza says. “We want them to be able to come over and read to kids or buy us popsicles at field day!”

As she says popsicles, another voice echoes her words.

That guy is White. He runs Eletorre, his own consulting business that builds websites and social campaigns. 

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
Three principals on this day at Sidney Lanier Expressive Arts Vanguard: (l-r) Randall White, volunteer Principal For A Day, Alyssa Peraza, who's been Lanier's Principal for 17 years, and Kandes Jones, the school's Assistant Principal

"I adore the fact that it’s the mini-arts magnet," White says. "My own arts education was very important to shaping the kind of professional I became. But I also love the fact that they’re grooming tomorrow’s artists." 

White’s here to learn. 

"The principal, the assistant principal and another staffer are in there reviewing all the teacher schedules for a report called the Classroom Exception Data Verification form," White says. "And it’s mind boggling, the paperwork."

White says he’s also here to help. In a dance class, a dozen 5th graders learn their steps. By the afternoon, twice as many will crowd the same space.

"So space is an issue," White explains. "Additional faculty would be wonderful. These kids need more to be able to be more."

Ten-year-old Penelope Trujillo says it’s get pretty crowded on the dance floor. More space would mean more options to be creative.

"I do gymnastics and there are also people that want to do it," Penelope says. "And I kind of feel like sometimes I don’t really know if I want to do it because I don’t want to hit anybody."

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
10 year-old dancers in Sandra Thomas' 5th grade class, Penelope Trujillo and Evelyn Contreras (l-r). When asked if they need more space, they and the rest of the class said "Yes!"

White stores that bit of information away, along with other school needs. He believes an arts curriculum helps people solve problems in different, more creative ways.

"And that’s what gets triggered here at Sidney Lanier," White says. "And I know that has helped me throughout my career and I believe it’ll also help all of the kids who go through this program."  

White hopes he and others in the community may one day come up with creative and financial solutions of their own to help this and other schools.