Dallas ISD District 2

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has endorsed Dustin Marshall in the race for Dallas ISD District 2, while three Dallas city councilmen say they’re behind his opponent, Suzanne Smith. Get your popcorn, people, because this race is shaping up to be an interesting fight.

The district, which wraps around the Park Cities, touches five council districts and encompasses the wealthiest areas in the city. Marshall jumped into the race in early December, the day after Trustee Mike Morath announced he was vacating his seat to become Governor Greg Abbott’s appointment as Texas Education Agency Commissioner. By the end of the month, his campaign had raised $56,000 and garnered a statement from Rawlings during his State of the City address that he “couldn’t be more thirlled” that Marshall was running and he would “make an excellent trustee.” His first campaign finance report reveals solid backing from the Dallas business establishment and mostly Preston Hollow addresses, and his early gains, both financially and politically, placed strong pressure on anyone considering a run against him.

Despite this, Smith entered the race early last week, and did so with the backing of councilmen Philip Kingston, Mark Clayton and Adam Medrano, who all represent portions of East Dallas. Both Kingston and Medrano are formally endorsing Smith, with Clayton saying, “I’m in her corner.”

Rawlings confirmed to us this morning that he is endorsing Marshall, and that endorsement combined with Marshall’s financial backers indicate that he will be the establishment candidate in this race. Smith, on the other hand, is finding favor with the “new Dallas” faction.

Last May’s council races, especially Clayton’s win in District 9, indicated a shift in Dallas politics — are the same politics at play in the Dallas ISD elections?

Rawlings says he’s endorsing Marshall because “his background is intelligent, his vision is very consistent with the past runs to improve DISD, and we need them to keep it going.”

Rawlings says Dallas ISD knows how to have great public schools, specifically mentioning the Talented and Gifted and Booker T. Washington magnet high schools as well as Woodrow Wilson High School in East Dallas.

“But we don’t have a great system yet,” he says, “and what we have to do is have an attidtude of significant change, significant growth to be able to turn that around.”

Rawlings brought up the “great foundation” DISD trustees have laid with accountability for teacher performance, school choice, empowering principals to hire their own teachers and early childhood, which he says is “the most important to power through.”

“We’ve got to be agressive about executing this plan, and I believe Dustin’s got that attitude, that sense of determination. He’s had it his whole life,” Rawlings says.  “I’m pleased with all the supporters he’s got. He has a plethora of community supporters.”

Rawlings refers to the education reform strategies that Morath championed during his almost 5-year tenure. Kingston argues, however, that both Marshall and Smith are proponents of education reform.

“The difference is that Suzanne has a much, much better resume, and in terms of her background, is head and shoulders above Dustin,” Kingston says. “Sitting on boards is fantastic, and we need all of that we can get,” he adds, referring to the long list of boards in Marshall’s resume, “but she’s been a DISD volunteer and an actual DISD contractor, and the in-the-trenches stuff — that’s a whole deeper level of knowledge.”

Smith is Kingston’s appointee to the South Dallas/Fair Park Trust and has served on committees and commissions in City Council District 14 “since Veletta Lill,” Kingston says, who was councilwoman before Kingston’s predecessor, Angela Hunt.

Kingston compares all the money going into Marshall’s campaign to the business community’s backing of Bertha Bailey Whatley in 2014’s DISD board race against Joyce Foreman, who won the election.

“They tried to buy the thing,” he says. “It didn’t work, and it’s not going to work with [Smith].

“It’s as simple and Civics 101 as it could possiblty be — when candidates are vetted through the crucible of an election, you see who they really are and what they really stand for, and that helps the people who are invested in public schools know how to vote.”

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