The news about the DISD in the past year hasn’t exactly been something to write home about. Its former superintendent is serving prison time after a humiliating spectacle that played out in the media day after day.

“It seems that every time you pick up the paper and read something about Dallas schools you may not be hit by a very favorable impression,” says neighborhood resident Jon Dahlander, the DISD’s chief spokesman. “We understand that, and that is the nature of the news.”

That’s why the district is working to get the word out on its achievements and special programs through a marketing effort that includes a website, brochures, a district newspaper and community task groups.

The district’s website gets an average of 5,000 hits a day and includes links to individual school websites as well as information about the district and its programs.

DISD has put out brochures on 14 new schools over the past three years in an effort to mobilize residents to support and become involved with the new schools.

This year it began putting its community outreach publication, District Times, into grocery stores, bookstores and libraries in an attempt to bring its “good” news to a wider audience. The publication also goes out to DISD parents, and lets them and students know about things they may not see in the newspapers or on television — like news about students who went to Japan as young ambassadors and teachers who left the corporate world to become educators in DISD.

The 160,000-student district – the nation’s 10th largest – has a lot going for it, and is working to get the word out, Dahlander says.

“We have a number of special programs that we are real proud of,” he says, rattling off a few: its magnet schools, its career programs, its school-to-work program.

The district has nine magnet high schools that offer targeted courses of study, ranging from the arts and communications to science, engineering and health professions. Seven middle school academies and six elementary vanguard schools in the magnet program offer younger students a chance to explore areas of interest. Its Town View Magnet Center has three schools on the exemplary list – the highest ranking a school can receive from the state.

DISD’s career program includes Skyline High School, where students can choose from more than 25 career and academic clusters, including computer technology and aeronautics.

Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts is a Blue Ribbon School, Dahlander says. “We’ve had students graduate from there and go on to win Grammies,” he says.

Its school-to-work programs include opportunities for students to do internships at businesses in their fields of interest.

“We have a lot of hardworking people in our district who are very dedicated in what they do to improve the lives of children,” Dahlander says.

— Kerry Curry

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