August 2nd marked a new beginning for the Dallas Public Schools. It was Superintendent Bill Rojas’ first day. New beginnings are always exciting, and this one is even more significant considering recent history. First, in discussing positive changes ahead, it is only natural to assume the prior administration was lacking. Comments in this article are not meant to diminish the contributions of Jim Hughey and his team. He was absolutely right for the job he was asked to do and he has performed as well or better than one could ask. Dr. Rojas’ mission is enormous: increase academic performance, reduce the dropout rate, and bring credibility back to the district. All these are to be accomplished under a Board with a very poor record. How can it be done?

The community can have comfort in the fact Dr. Rojas has accomplished some of these tasks before in other districts, with circumstances similar or more difficult than those facing Dallas. San Francisco Unified School District’s academic improvement has been heralded across the nation The 1.5 million-dollar, three-year fraud audit was designed to rebuild credibility. For Dr. Rojas it was not enough. He was the plan and wanted closure. In late June, has asked the Board to approve the expansion of the audit to include all computer systems, virtually leaving no stone unturned. Dr. Rojas’ comments regarding the audit indicated he wanted aggressive action. “Give me surgery and chemotherapy.” Auditors will report to the board in late August.

Improvement of how well the Board works with the Superintendent is more problematical, but it can be accomplished. The Board committed this spring to using the governance model developed by Dr. John Carver. After six days of training, the board is developing new policies of governance. These allow for a very strong CEO, who has great freedom to operate within defined parameters. The superintendent, his staff and all district employees will be better able to discharge their duties and, at the same time, will be held more accountable than in the past. The board will monitor the performance of the superintendent based on measurable objectives.

And, speaking of new beginnings, there a few locally. New principals are in place at three neighborhood schools. Welcome Harold Busby to Lakewood Elementary, Yolanda Gonzalez to J.L. Long Middle School (formerly at Lee) and Jose Munoz (formerly at Woodrow) to Lee Elementary.

During this time of new beginnings, drop by your neighborhood school and offer to volunteer. Dallas needs the entire community involved in their schools.

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.