Will Dallas ISD wind up as a home-rule charter district? Will neighbors be successful in carving out a White Rock ISD? Perhaps both, and perhaps neither. But based on these recent efforts, something’s gotta give, says Allen Vaught, creator of the White Rock ISD Facebook page.
“I think the takeaway is there’s just a lot of people dissatisfied with DISD and want to see something different,” Vaught says.
The Facebook page is now up to nearly 3,000 “likes,” and Vaught established 2,000 as the threshold for holding a public meeting. He plans to hold one before the end of the school year. Vaught also set up a nonprofit corporation through the state called the White Rock ISD Project. The corporation board consists of Vaught, who is a former state representative, as well as former DISD trustee Leigh Ann Ellis and local attorney Wil Angelley. Vaught says he formed the board simply to set up the corporation. After the town hall meeting, a steering committee will be formed “to take the ball forward.”
Plenty of neighbors have expressed interest in a White Rock ISD, Vaught says, and have offered to be part of the steering committee. Vaught doesn’t want just anyone, however. He’s looking for people who “have leadership capabilities, time to spend, and can work with others and be constructive.”
Vaught hopes the end result is “something smaller, more efficient and more responsive to local needs.” He is fed up with years of a “dysfunctional board of trustees.” However, he says, “I don’t want this to be Allen Vaught’s thing; I want it to be a community thing.” He believes a town hall meeting will shed light on neighbors’ frustrations and what they want from their schools — though he admits that, after his experiences as a state representative, town hall meetings “kind of make me nauseous.”
“It’s an important part of democracy, but it’s also usually painful for the people who are holding it,” Vaught says. Still, education is critical enough that “if we’ve got to stay there all night long, then we’ll do it,” he says.
The home-rule effort, officially called “Support Our Public Schools,” seems to be gaining steam with endorsements from current Mayor Mike Rawlings and, most recently, former mayor Ron Kirk, who says he “welcome[s] this conversation about how we can improve and modernize Dallas ISD.” Its website and Facebook page include FAQs and links to recent news, including a DMN story on Lakewood resident and DISD trustee Mike Morath’s role in the effort. Morath first discussed the home-rule idea at a Woodrow Wilson Community Council meeting last fall.
Vaught says he doesn’t know enough about the home-rule effort to know whether it would accomplish the same goals as a White Rock ISD.
“Maybe we love what they do — who knows?” Vaught says. “Maybe it’s better, maybe it’s not, but it’s hard to envision anything worse than what we’ve got right now. We’re looking at home-rule with an open mind, but until we hear something better, we’re marching forward with the detachment effort.”
The goal as of now is to have something on the ballot for the November 2016 presidential election. The law under which Vaught is proposing to form a separate district “was set up to make it really difficult” in terms of voter turnout, so a presidential election affords the best shot, he says.
“We have plenty of time to do all this, so we’re going to proceed very cautiously and be smart about it.”