Dallas ISD board members vote to improve failing schools

Lots of opinions were expressed at a packed Dallas ISD school board meeting as board members were expected to vote on giving millions more to South Oak Cliff High School for repairs.

The board members also discussed their response to the state after it showed disdain for the way the district plans to turn around eight of its failing campuses.

Over 40 people signed up to speak Thursday night at the meeting. Most of them spent their three minutes vocalizing their opinion on whether or not the board of trustees should approve a $52 million dollar bond for South Oak Cliff High School. At some moments, the conversation got heated.

Reverend Freddie Haynes is one of the dozens of people at the packed meeting who spoke out in favor of the board of trustees upping the amount of a 2015 bond from $40 million to $52 million for a re-design and repairs for the high school.

According to the information attached to the night’s agenda item, the increase will help accomplish additional work discovered in the design phase back in April.

The 65-year-old high school has been plagued with problems like leaks, a/c and heating issues, and most recently a gas leak. But during the meeting, there were many people who turned out in support of 13 other schools that a report found to be in greater need then South Oak Cliff.

“What is happening is you take a school like South Oak Cliff that is very deserving of this issues, you take any gyms, 14 spots, plus increase the amount spent by 400% to $52 million and then you have a lot of the other schools – Skyline, Thomas, Jefferson -- that are going to go without. And it just doesn’t feel right,” said North Dallas resident Ken Barth.

“When it comes to giving money to Oak Cliff schools, they're saying we have to take it from others and therefore pitted student against student and don't like that,” said South Oak Cliff graduate Rev. Horace Bradshaw. “We're happy that we at least have five trustees for us, and we pray that that goes through tonight.”

Voting is expected to happen sometime Thursday night. If the $52 million dollar bond is passed, it will still be several years before students and staff at South Oak Cliff will see any major changes.

The Board of Trustees also debated whether or not to approve a resolution that would require them and the superintendent to complete a two-day training required by the TEA. If they don't, they could be dissolved and replaced by a board of managers, basically the district would be taken over by the state. All of the trustees say they don't have a problem with training but feel the letter sent by the deputy commissioner had a threatening tone.         

Trustees want to know if the training will determine if the TEA will approve or deny of their improvement plan for eight underperforming schools. The TEA has not given them a direct answer.