After pointing out the Rookwood tile fireplace and refinished hardwood floors in the M Streets home, our real estate agent then shared with me and my husband a fact clearly intended to close the deal. “Your elementary school is … Stonewall.”
We looked at her blankly and nodded politely. This was 15 years ago, more than a decade before our first child, and we knew nothing about Dallas ISD or the local schools. Realizing our ignorance, our real estate agent educated us on the greatness that was Stonewall Jackson Elementary: its exemplary status, its sign language program, its active PTA, its garden.
“Stonewall” quickly became part of the identity of our new home when we described it to others. Our fellow East Dallasites immediately understood the significance. “Ahhhh, Stonewall,” they would say, “what a terrific school.”
And it is. So after all this time, it’s a bit unsettling to struggle with where to send our firstborn next fall. It’s not that Stonewall has deteriorated in any way — if anything, it has improved over the last decade. And it’s not that we’re looking to go private. It’s that another nearby public elementary school has us intrigued.
Sitting just a mile south of Stonewall is Robert E. Lee Elementary. Lee has long been overlooked when compared to Stonewall and Lakewood elementaries. But that is changing. Lee, like Stonewall and Lakewood, is a state exemplary school. It has an integrated dual-language program and is applying for International Baccalaureate certification, which would make it the second IB elementary school in DISD. Like Stonewall, Lee has an award-winning education garden managed by a Master Gardener in conjunction with Texas A&M University.
Most significantly, Lee is garnering tremendous support from the surrounding community. In mid-November, Dallas City Councilmembers Philip Kingston and Adam Medrano, along with DISD Superintendent Mike Miles, Board President Miguel Solis and East Dallas Trustee Mike Morath, held a kick-off event at the school to promote Lee. More than 100 residents, business owners, community leaders and parents joined them to hear the new principal, Bridget Ransom, describe all that Lee has to offer and the exciting changes that are just around the bend.
The fact that we can even consider an elementary school outside of Stonewall’s boundaries is attributable to DISD’s new program that allows parents within the Woodrow Wilson High School feeder pattern to choose among its six elementaries. Preference is given to families within the elementary school’s boundaries, and then those outside the boundaries may apply.
When I sought Morath’s thoughts about our Stonewall versus Lee quandary, he advised us to run, not walk, to Lee’s dual-language program before pointing out the real selling point for the school: “They have a rock wall in the gym. A rock wall.”
Morath is quick to boast about all the schools in the Woodrow feeder pattern, noting that Stonewall and Lakewood’s academic outcomes are equivalent to those of Armstrong Elementary in Highland Park, that Lakewood’s Outdoor Learning Area and Math Maniacs program provide an incredible math-science education, that William Lipscomb Elementary, like Lee, has two-way dual-language classes and is seeking IB accreditation. Mount Auburn Elementary is transforming into a Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) academy and Eduardo Mata Elementary recently re-launched as a remarkably successful dual-language Montessori school described as an “educational Xanadu” by parents.
Solis argues that the tremendous community support and alignment among the school district, principals, teachers, parents and neighborhoods has propelled the Woodrow feeder schools to success: “Imagine what the future of Dallas would look like if we were able to capture the synergistic energy brewing in the Woodrow feeder pattern and spread it across the district.”
Yes, but all these great schools create some really tough choices for parents. Now we’re considering not only Lee, but Mata as well (dual-language Montessori!?!). When I lamented our conundrum to Kingston, he chuckled. “That’s the beauty of living in East Dallas. It’s a great problem to have.”
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