I don’t care for Mayor Tom Leppert’s stance on a number of important city issues (Trinity tollroad, taxpayer subsidized convention center hotel, Reunion demolition, to name a few), but he seems sincere about the cooperative initiatives he has been promoting with DISD. The DMN has a good story again discussing Leppert’s projects — scholarships, summer jobs, early literacy and sprucing up older DISD schools — in Sunday’s newspaper. But there’s nothing new in this story except some indication that the early success (PR and otherwise) of these partnerships could lead to even more projects bringing together DISD and the city.

The stated reason for Leppert’s interest in public education is that a great city needs a great school system; Leppert’s well-heeled business buddies are keenly aware of the PR problem DISD has in Dallas, which is primarily the reason so many of them don’t send their kids to DISD schools if they live in Dallas. Until enough of those people — the people who control the PR and money in town — start believing DISD is good enough for their kids, DISD can’t get where it needs to be. And as admirable as it is to help some of DISD’s poorest kids with a few scholarhips and jobs, if that’s all Leppert has up his PR sleeve, it’s not going to be enough to really change the perception of most Dallas residents.

Ultimately, the most important thing the city can do to help DISD — and help itself — is expand the partnership concerning city parks and recreation facilities, some of which simply aren’t being fully utilized because the city can’t afford to maintain them properly. Longer hours for pools and parks, coupled with better maintenance and facilities, would be a great boon for the city and for DISD (and for the Metropolitan YMCA, too, if that entity also is brought into the mix). And as much difficulty as the city has allocating resources for those types of issues, it’s much easier for DISD and the YMCA to raise funds for specific parks because those parks mean more to various neighborhoods than they do to the city as a whole. That would be a truly win-win situation that would help boost DISD’s reputation citywide, while lowering the city’s maintenance burden. And it would impact a whole lot more kids than a few scholarships for the city’s poorest students.

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