Devin Rambie of LegacyTexas Title, Dr. Stephanie Elizalde, Michael Hinojosa. Photo by Carol Toler.

Former Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and current Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde spoke to Realtors about the state of the school district and the options it provides to Dallas residents.

The presentation was given at a back-to-school breakfast at Lakewood Country Club, sponsored by LegacyTexas Title, which recently opened a new office in Lakewood.

Attendees were met by the sound of marching bands and the sight of drill teams from W.T. White, Hillcrest and Woodrow. Chandra Hooper-Barnett, the new principal of Woodrow Wilson High School, also attended, among other Dallas ISD staff.

The gist of the leaders’ message can be summed up in a statement Hinojosa made at the beginning of the talk: “Dallas ISD has great schools.”

W.T. White High School students. Photo by Carol Toler.

Though the district is trying to revamp neighborhood schools, Hinojosa said, there are also choice schools for families. These include the PTECH/ECHS, single-gender, Montessori, STEAM/STEM, magnet and hybrid schools, as well as the career institutes.

“We’re going to hope to prove the case that we are transforming every school in Dallas,” Hinojosa said. “In your business, that’s very important to you. But also know that if the school in your neighborhood that you’re trying to sell is not a high-quality school, you’ve got options.”

Debbie Sherrington is a Realtor and board member of the Hillcrest High School Community Foundation, as well as the parent of four Dallas ISD graduates.

“I just feel like we’ve got to get the word out to people that Dallas ISD is an option,” Sherrington said. “The Realtors are the first people that folks coming into town develop a connection with. We have to change the narrative that you can’t go to Dallas ISD schools.”

In the 2020-21 school year, Dallas ISD received 505 student transfers from Richardson ISD, Hinojosa said.

Michael Hinojosa. Photo by Renee Umsted.

Elizalde, who lives in the Preston Hollow area, said a few neighborhood schools, including Woodrow and Hillcrest, offer the International Baccalaureate program. Dallas ISD also partners with UT Southwestern and Paul Quinn College to offer additional opportunities for students.

“When you feel empowered that I’m choosing to go here as opposed to I’m forced to go here, it makes a huge impact on how successful our students are,” she said.

Elizalde also talked about diversity in schools and how residents are worried about concentrations of poverty. Dallas ISD sometimes implements a 50-50 model on campuses, where 50% of the students are economically disadvantaged, and 50% aren’t. Schools such as Solar Preparatory School for Girls have this enrollment.

After the presentation, there was time for Q&A. The first question was about school safety. Hinojosa mentioned safety vestibules — controlled entrances and exits — at campuses. And Elizalde said every exterior door at every campus is checked once a week to make sure they are functioning properly, and door sensors are being added, which will trigger a sensor every time a door is opened. Bullet-resistant film is being added on certain windows, but not all, because it prevents people from exiting.

Elizalde finished the discussion with a report on how her time as superintendent has gone so far.

“I’m joyful about what I’ve experienced, and I’m eager to continue the work that [Hinojosa] left for us to do,” she said.

And Hinojosa noted that he started a consulting business, the Together Network for Transformation.

“I love this city, and I love this district,” Hinojosa said. “And I’m 66 years young. I got a lot of energy.”