A new nonprofit is offering a two-semester long course to inform community members on the ins and outs of the city’s public schools. Leadership DISD will accept up to 60 applicants for its first course, which starts in September.

“The ideal candidate will be someone who is really passionate about the quality of public education in Dallas,” says Justin Coppedge, executive director of Leadership DISD.

They could be teachers, parents, business leaders, churchgoers or any taxpayer.

“Our primary focus is to get folks educated with background information, so that they’re able to analyze what’s happening and then encourage people to make decisions based on that information,” Coppedge says.

The course is modeled after Leadership Dallas, whose aim is to create leaders for the city. Leadership DISD gives people the opportunity to be informed on the complexities of DISD so they can “raise the level of conversation” and become leaders in their neighborhood PTAs or all the way up to the school board.

The goal is to “build the capacity of the community to support the school system,” says District 2 school board trustee Mike Morath. Morath is an advisor to Leadership DISD, which is the brainchild of Coppedge and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts PTSA member Patricia Arbanitis.

Geographical diversity is important for the success of Leadership DISD, they say. The aim is to get representatives from every section of DISD’s reach.

“We’re trying to get the broadest swath of people to participate in the program so that it really becomes a Dallas-wide way to improve our school system and not something that’s divisive,” Coppedge says.

Leadership DISD is taking applications now (get the application here) for the course that starts Sept. 2. Tuition costs $200, and participants must commit to attend an overnight orientation, Sept. 23-24. They must also attend meetings, from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., on the second Friday of each month, from October-June.

The course will employ guest speakers, but the participants themselves are the ones who run the course. At the end of the course, participants create a “capstone project”. That could be anything from improving DISD school buildings to implementing a mentoring program and “whatever they see as a need they can address directly as a group,” Coppedge says.

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