Dallas voters have plenty of complaints about Dallas ISD. It’s poorly run. It wastes tax dollars. It’s both inefficient and inept at educating Dallas’ children. And its trustees spend too much time posturing and pandering to actually do anything about these problems.
But come Election Day each year, these complaints are drowned out by a chorus of apathetic silence.
Voters will choose three DISD trustees on May 9. Two involve our neighborhood: In Far East Dallas’ District 3, David Lewis is challenging incumbent Dan Micciche; and in District 9, incumbent Bernadette Nutall faces her second challenge from Damarcus Offord.
Nutall’s district is largely a southern Dallas seat, except that it encompasses Mata Montessori, largely populated by students in the Woodrow Wilson High School feeder pattern, and also the Hollywood/Santa Monica neighborhood, whose students are zoned to Lakewood Elementary.
And if every registered voter who lives in Hollywood/Santa Monica takes time to visit the polls May 9, that one small neighborhood could decide who will represent District 9 on the board.
More than 77,000 people of voting age live in District 9. Nearly 53,000 of them are registered to vote. Yet in 2009, when 12-year incumbent Ron Price decided to step down and four candidates vied to replace him, only 2,383 people showed up at the polls. Nutall and Sally Cain wound up in a runoff with even fewer voters — 2,065 — and roughly 1,362 votes gave Nutall the seat.
To break that down, 2.5 percent of voters elected one of nine trustees who manage a school district that educates 160,000 of our students and has an annual budget of $1.6 billion, funded by Dallas taxpayers.
This apparent lack of concern, however, means that one small segment of the population truly can sway the outcome of the race. The stakes are high, and we are Ohio.
Lakewood Elementary could face some major board decisions in the near future. One is whether trustees are willing to grant interim funding to Lakewood’s aging facility, which recently landed on the district’s list of “most pressing facility needs.” Another is what to do about Lakewood’s overcrowding, and some trustees have suggested rezoning as a solution. Hollywood/Santa Monica sits physically closer to other schools, so this concerns not only parents, who want to keep their children at the Blue Ribbon elementary, but also property owners, whose home prices have benefited from the school’s strong reputation.
Though Hollywood/Santa Monica comprises only a small chunk of District 9, on its streets live more than 1,900 registered voters — almost as many as the total number of voters in the 2009 election. So if neighbors believed that casting ballots is a useful way to voice their opinions about DISD, they could almost singlehandedly choose the trustee for District 9’s 109,000 residents.
That’s how few people vote in Dallas ISD elections.
It’s not likely to happen. In 2012, the last time Nutall and Offord faced off, only 123 Hollywood/Santa Monica residents voted. That was actually a strong showing for the neighborhood’s two precincts, compared to most other precincts in District 9.
But if it did happen — if a couple thousand more voters in District 9, or any DISD district, turned out in force May 9 — it could decide the election.
Register Thursday, April 9 is the last day to register to vote in the May 9 joint election. Register, or check to make sure you are registered, at dallascountyvotes.org.
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