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Dallas ISD Candidates Differ On Superintendent, Reforms And Charters


Seven candidates are running for three Dallas School Board seats.  We asked them:

  • Why are you best equipped to serve your district?
  • How do you rate Superintendent Mile Miles performance?
  • What changes would improve student education
  • What role should charter schools should play in the district. 

District 4

Nancy Bingham, Incumbent

  • Did not respond to questionnaire

Luis Hernandez 

It’s time for a change to the Board. It’s time for new ideas and the courage to change the system by returning focus to the relationship between teachers and students. As someone who understands the lives and values of the people in District 4, and someone who has knowledge of accounting and budgeting, I am an ideal candidate for the Board of Trustees.

District 5

Lew Blackburn, Incumbent

  • 56
  • Educational Administrator

With my leadership experiences on the board, I can help my fellow trustees lead and govern the district.  I am excited about helping to guide Dallas ISD towards greater heights academically and operationally.  There is still much work to accomplish.  My knowledge and experiences, and institutional knowledge are valuable assets to the board’s work. 
Linda Wilkerson-Wynn

  • 59
  • Community Activist

I can better serve the community in the Dallas ISD school system, because I live here. I have been involved from as early as 1988. I began under Dr. Yvonne Ewell as a steering committee member for District 5. I will have an open line of communication as well as on going community meetings with all the stake holders. I am not for sale. I am in schools often, eating in the cafeteria, using the girls’ restroom. I always want to see how the students are being taken care of out side of the classroom. When issues arise that I need advice on, I will reach out to former educators and employees of this district. Trustees are elected by the people, therefore the people must hold the trustees accountable out side of the boardroom. I am on good working relationship with most of the Principals and teachers in this district.  
District 7

Eric Cowan, Incumbent

  • 41
  • Hospitality Revenue Management

As the current DISD Trustee, I am the most qualified, experienced candidate on the ballot for District 7. With a daughter in DISD and another who will enter Pre-K soon, I am invested in the success of our public school system. I understand that decisions made in the boardroom will have a lasting effect on all of our children. Over the past 3 years, I have advocated for the needs of all children by successfully sponsoring district-wide full day pre-k, pushing for increased efforts to recruit and retain quality educators, supporting the “breakfast in the classroom” program and many other policies and programs focused on helping our kids be more successful. During my next term, I will continue to advocate for the needs of our neighborhood schools and all children in DISD, focus on the improving financial state of our district, and strive for more accountability across the district.
Rafael Narvaez

  • 27
  • Office Manager for a law firm

As a candidate who has roamed the halls of this district from elementary through high school, I think that gives me some inside experience. I’m not saying I know it all but I have a perspective that I can bring to the table that can make a difference.  In addition, I have been active in the community from an early age beside my active parents and believe my communication skills in connecting with my constituents will go far as building bridges in order to work together.
Jose Arturo Sierra 

  • Did not respond to questionnaire

Question:  What is your opinion of Superintendent Mike Miles’ performance thus far?

District 1

Hernandez: Mike Miles' performance so far is disappointing.  Mike Miles has not fostered communication and cooperation between teachers and administrators.  His policies have not focused on improving the fundamental relationship between teachers and students. As such, any progress will be painful and slow.

District 5

Blackburn: Superintendent Mike Miles has started with a big bang!  Many changes have been made.  Superintendent Miles' strategies to improve classroom instruction are a good start. The "Spot Observations" focus on effective planning and teaching, whereby students know what they should learn, and the teachers constantly assess their students' learning. Principals and teachers are learning more about the goals of Destination 2020, including the Core Beliefs. Beyond this basic rudimentary approach, we need a more rigorous curriculum and effective instruction.

Wilkerson-Wynn: I feel Mike Miles could be an asset if he works with the principals and teachers. He is under so much pressure to satisfy a small group of people that don't live in this district. He has great plans, but he must be a team player so that everyone is working for the students.

District 7

Cowan: Superintendent Mike Miles has shown a sense of urgency in trying to raise the bar of expectations and level of accountability in his first year. As a result, he has made some decisions that haven’t worked out as anticipated. It is our responsibility as a board to do a better job guiding and managing him as we all work to improve our school district.

Narvaez: I believe that we all have a lot to learn including the superintendent.

Question:  What changes would you like to see within DISD that would improve the education of our students?

District 4

Hernandez: I would like to see a focus on improving the relationship between teachers and students. I want to see a reduction in class sizes so teachers can be more effective and children can better learn. I want to see more resources made available to classrooms. I want to see a defined work day to improve teacher morale. These are the changes that will improve education in DISD. 

District 5

Blackburn: The top three challenges include effective teachers, effective leadership, and engaged parents and communities. Students in all categories could improve academically.  I will continue to encourage, recommend, and suggest ideas for improving academic achievement. Teachers and principals need professional development so they can become their best in their position.  I will advocate and encourage providing improvement for all employees.  Many of our students need their parents and community members to become more involved in their education.  I will continue to encourage and advise parents on how to support their child’s education.  I will continue to invite community members and organizations to maintain partnerships with our schools.

Wilkerson-Wynn: We really do not need changes, we need to enforce the plan, policies, and procedures we have already in place. We need to mandate community service. We need to mandate PSAT for all freshmen. We need to mandate SAT and ACT for all Junior. These programs should not be an option. Students must get grade level ready before they can get college ready. There should be an assessment for in coming freshmen. If they are not on level, the teacher should be working on getting them there by the end of the first six weeks. Next would come the college readiness.

District 7

Cowan: In order for DISD to be successful, we need to continue to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and principals, invest and create more parental and community involvement programs, and manage our finances in a way that will yield the greatest results for our children.

Narvaez: More parental involvement, better communication from all sides, positive atmosphere for employees, and the proper resources for our students to accomplish their goals.

Question:  Explain your perspective on charter schools within DISD, and whether you support adding more charter schools in the district?

District 4

Hernandez: While some charter schools are effective, I do not support an expansion of charter schools because they take away scarce resources from DISD.

District 5

Blackburn: I understand the opportunity of choices that charter schools offer parents.  Dallas ISD should immolate the successful charter schools, and offer the same quality of schools, whereby parents would choose Dallas ISD’s Schools of Choice, with varying formats, programs, and themes.

Wilkerson-Wynn: Charter schools are not being monitored. I keep hearing that there is not enough staff at TEA. If the Dallas ISD still control the funds for the in district charter school it should not be a problem. Our problem comes in when we lose those funds to some other organization. I do not approve of many charter schools. I have has to help parents get their students in a public school after the charter school put them out. The student has a behavior problem, but instead of getting help for him, it was easier just to put him out. I am always for new ideals to improve student achievement.

District 7

Cowan: DISD has the option to create in-district charter schools, as we did in West Dallas at Gabe P. Allen Elementary. Supporting the creation of more in-district charters would require parental and community support within those neighborhoods.

Narvaez: Anything that takes money away from public schools is not good.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.
Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.