It’s Tuesday morning at Billy Earl Dade Middle School, and Sen. Royce West is leading students in singing Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” The song starts softly, but by the chorus, West and the students are hitting notes that would make the King of Pop proud.
West and Dale Long, the community outreach coordinator and Public Information Officer for the City of Dallas Public Works Department, are serving as Principals for the Day at the Dallas ISD middle school. After the impromptu song, West and Long make school announcements over the PA system and visit other classrooms to share encouraging words.
“Dream your wildest dreams, and then work your hardest to make those dreams come true,” West says.
Long and West are among the more than approximately 150 community leaders and professionals from the private sector who participated in Principal for a Day on Oct. 13. The annual event, which Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said is one of the best things the district does every year, aims to increase awareness and understanding among individuals in the public and private sector of the strengths and challenges of schools in Dallas ISD. The Dallas Regional Chamber and Capital One help sponsor Principal for a Day, which also looks to form ongoing partnerships between individuals and businesses with Dallas ISD schools.
“Think about your business expertise and how that can apply to the school,” Angela Farley, senior vice president of education for the Dallas Regional Chamber, told PFAD participants at a training on Oct. 1. “Your expertise is valuable.”
Over at Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, Carol Nichols, the regional commercial executive at Capital One, talked with students about the importance of working hard.
“Education is the most important thing for our students, and part of that education is showing them role models in the business community and inspiring them to reach their full potential,” she said.
Erika Beltran, who serves on the Texas State Board of Education, volunteered as Principal for the Day at Trinidad “Trini” Garza Earl College High School to get a better sense of what’s happening in Dallas ISD. She said she was particularly interested in learning more about the early college high school model.
Pattie Buikema, a regional sales manager at AT&T, served as Principal for a Day at Edward Titche Elementary. One thing she noticed were the similarities between being a principal and running your own business.
“You have HR issues; you have logistics issues—a phone or lights don’t work; you need to get the lawn cut; you need to help this teacher be better. It’s just amazing how many things a principal is culpable for,” she said.
At Ignacio Zaragoza Elementary, Dallas ISD Trustee Miguel Solis served as a way to learn how he could better serve the district and take care of Dallas ISD employees and students. He said the campus was particularly excited about going from a low-performing school to one of the highest performing elementary schools in Dallas ISD. He credited much of the turnaround to Principal Carlotta Hooks.
Dallas City Councilwoman Tiffinni A. Young was a guest principal at Skyline High School.
“I love the fact that Skyline is in District 7 – I think it’s one of the highlights of the district,” Young said. “It’s important that community leaders have the chance to step out of their regular environments and delve into what teachers and students are facing every day. This gives me the opportunity to see firsthand how the policies we’re setting in City Council affect our youth and understand what we can do to make a difference.”
At the Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship Academy at James W. Fannin, Dallas Regional Chamber President Dale Petroskey and Teaching Trust CEO Patrick Haugh got an inside look at one of the district’s two new choice schools. The two began the day by talking with students in a focus group that meets regularly with Principal Sarah Ritsema and Assistant Principal Courtney Eggleston. Petroskey and Haugh toured the classrooms and talked to several of the school’s 113 ninth-graders.
At Paul L. Dunbar Learning Center, Don Williams, chairman of the Foundation for Community Empowerment, enlisted kindergartners to read a book aloud with him. The rest of the class had to guess the missing word at the end of the sentence, and correct guessers got to take a turn. Williams saw the entire school and noted several improvements that could benefit Dunbar students.