Dallas ISD considers turning two South Dallas campuses into TAG schools

The Dallas ISD Board is set to vote Thursday night on whether to turn two campuses in southern Dallas into schools for talented and gifted students.

With no TAG schools in the southern sector, it is an idea that has been in the works for years.

Trustee Lew Blackburn says this time around, he supports the plan because unlike last year’s proposal, the kids who attend the schools now won't be asked to leave.

"We do many projects in here and it’s pretty cool," 4th grade gifted and talented student Edith Sanchez said.

If the school board gives the okay Thursday night, a lot more students like Sanchez will be enrolling at Roger Q. Mills Elementary.

[REPORTER: "Do you like that one-on-one attention?] "Yes, because we can focus," replied Austin Jeter, a 5th grade gifted and talented student. "In TAG, there are kids trying to actually learn, not get you off focus."

Lester Houston, president of the Zoo Creek Park Neighborhood Association, says the campus was once vibrant, with 1,300 students.

"I started [at] Roger Q. Mills fall of ’62. One year after that, it was integrated," Houston said. "Shortly after that, we had a massive exodus. Whites left the neighborhood and it became predominantly African American neighborhood."

Now, with just 290 students, Houston believes turning the school into a magnet will attract DISD's best and brightest back to the neighborhood.

"We’re excited about re-designation of this campus. Residents are hungry for an academically challenging program for their kids," he said. "We think this will fit it, and encourage additional economic development."

Roger Q. Mills and Mark Twain elementary schools would be the first magnet schools for talented and gifted students in the southern sector..

"It will provide opportunities for our students to meet their academic and social needs, and for them to be closer to home," said Marisa Saenz, principal of Roger Q. Mills Elementary School.

“[Mark Twain Elementary School] was one of 47 going to be demolished. I said no way,” Dallas ISD Trustee Joyce Foreman said.

Foreman believes the new focus for Mark Twain will also boost enrollment at a school that is currently less than half-full.

"I’m really hoping we can attract students back to the district who have left, particularly those who have left for charter schools," she added.

Current students at Mark Twain Elementary School will also be allowed to stay until they complete elementary school.

To qualify for DISD TAG schools, students must score at the district’s 70th percentile on the STAAR test, among other factors.

The district does provide transportation for all students outside a two-mile radius.