Three now vying to be East Dallas trustee with first forum tonight

MitaHavlickJust in the nick of time, a third candidate has entered the race for the Dallas ISD District 2 trustee seat. Yesterday, one week before the Dallas ISD filing deadline and one day before the first candidate forum, M Streets resident Mita Havlick tossed her hat into the ring.

That means three people are now vying for the seat vacated by Lakewood resident Mike Morath when he was appointed as the new Texas Education Agency Commissioner. Preston Hollow resident Dustin Marshall and Oak Lawn resident Suzanne Smith launched their campaigns in December and January, respectively. Both of them have been on the meet-and-greet circuit, but the Lakewood Neighborhood Association forum tonight will be their first public encounter.

And now, Lakewood residents will listen to not just two candidates but three make their case to be District 2’s next representative.

What led Havlick to join the race right under the wire? She says she believes the other two candidates are qualified, and have ample credentials and backgrounds in public advocacy. She told people as much when they approached her about running weeks ago.

“But then I went deeper and I realized that neither one of those candidates represents what I would want in a board trustee because they don’t represent a parent with children in public education,” Havlick says. “You can say you’re an advocate of public education, but are you truly involved in public education if your kids aren’t there?”

Havlick’s two children attended Dallas ISD’s Stonewall Jackson Elementary and are now in fourth- and seventh-grade at Travis, the district’s talented and gifted magnet school for fourth- through eighth-graders. Marshall’s children attend Greenhill, a private school in Addison. Smith does not have children.

Havlick has a degree in physics and computer science but made the decision to leave the workforce when her son was 2. She says she is “fortunate to be in a posiiton where I can stay home and focus on my children and their education and our community.” In terms of experience for the position, Havlick points to the time she has spent in classrooms and administrative offices, on field trips or campaigning for “bridge finance” funds.

“It’s parent perspective and parent experience, not just from I sat on this council or advisory board but from being in the trenches,” she says.

Havlick says she has always been a public education advocate and a community volunteer. Her son’s kindergarten year at Stonewall saw a budget shortfall, and Havlick says she joined the team of parents that saved the school’s garden program.

“That garden program is really the heart of that school. To try to take that away, we wouldn’t accept it,” she says. “When you’re involved with DISD, there’s always something that needs to be questioned, and I’ve always asked.”

Havlick says “I am getting my feet wet quickly” but already knows a couple of her goals as a trustee:

• She wants to increase parental involvement at schools. She points to Stonewall, Lakewood and Hexter elementaries, J.L. Long Middle School and Woodrow Wilson High School as examples of strong communities that are excelling. “We need to find out what that recipe is and find out how to replicate it and do it well. For the property taxes we have to pay for all of our schools, they should not just be adequate but be excellent.”

• Havlick also wants to improve Dallas ISD’s facilities. She points out that, as a transplant from Chicago to Dallas, she has seen how the city has evolved into a world-class city over the past several years, “and I keep asking myself, why are public schools not on that list? For a city that has this many great assets?” The district does have some beautiful schools, she says — recently constructed Conrad High School in the Vickery Meadow area is one example — but “all our schools should be beautiful. Our students should not be distracted from their learning by the lack of modern and safe facilities.”

Since Morath exited the stage, “everyone fully expected a parent to stand up and say, ‘I’m going to do this,’ and it happened,” Havlick says. “I wasn’t expecting it was going to be me.”

That said, “I’m energized and excited for the parents of District 2,” she says. “I really think they need an advocate who is a parent, really speaking as a parent.”


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