Suzanne SmithFormer trustee Mike Morath left Dallas ISD roughly a month ago to head the state’s top education agency, and already two candidates have filed to run in a special election to finish out the remaining year of his three-year term.

Preston Hollow resident Dustin Marshall was the first to announce his candidacy, and today, Oak Lawn resident Suzanne Smith rolled out her campaign via a website and social media.

Smith says Marshall is a friend and says, “I think he’s a great guy, but there are some fundamental differences we bring to the table, and I think people deserve choice.”

One major difference she cites is her and Marshall’s backgrounds in public education. Smith grew up attending public schools in Rockwall and her parents are career educators, she says, with her father spending 22 years at DISD’s Reinhardt and S.S. Connor elementaries in Far East Dallas. Marshall’s alma mater is Greenhill, a private school in Addison, where his two oldest children currently attend.

“You have to have someone who believes in education and is a product of public education,” Smith says.

Smith is not married and doesn’t have children “yet,” she says, noting it’s something she hopes for down the road. Her website describes her as “best aunt ever” to her five nieces and nephews. Professionally, she is an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas and the owner/founder of Social Impact Architects, a nonprofit consulting firm.

She also emphasizes her track record of public service; when she moved back to Dallas as a young woman, she says she was concerned about losing green space in Uptown and contacted former councilwoman Veletta Lill, who appointed Smith to the city’s Board of Adjustment.

“I think I was the youngest member ever appointed,” Smith says. “Since then, I’ve done everything I can to help shape Dallas.”

Her website notes her stints on the Board of Adjustment as well as on the Landmark Commission, and her current roles on the Leadership Team of the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty as well as the South Dallas/Fair Park Trust vice chair.

What does she want to accomplish? Smith tells us her top three priorities:

1) A great start. There’s quite a bit of momentum around pre-K, which Smith says she is enthusiastic about and has been involved in via her consulting firm. “Our next battle to win the war is third-grade reading,” she notes, citing studies that show third-graders need to learn to read at grade level by third-grade because “after that, they’re reading to learn. I want to tie the two together.”

2) A great finish. “An ideal finish is not whether or not a child graduates,” Smith says. She wants every Dallas ISD student to graduate and then be one of three things: employed at a living wage, enrolled in a 2- or 4-year school, or enlisted. “Education is one piece of puzzle but we need to set them up for their future life,” she says.

3) The whole child. Smith is very interested in social-emotional learning, the kind of education that teaches children not only academics but also the grit and resilience they need. “We’re seeing the pendulum shift away from all testing, all the time,” she says. Attention also needs to be given to kids who come to school hungry, whose asthma problems inhibit their activity, who are being bullied at school, she says, because things like these affect learning.

Smith describes herself someone who can “get along with everybody” and says she spent the last three weeks meeting with people to ask questions about “what the school board needs and whether I was the right person.” This district hasn’t had a contested race since 2002 when former trustee Jack Lowe beat out two others for the seat vacated by Roxan Staff, and Smith believes an election is a prime opportunity to engage both parents and taxpayers on DISD issues and successes.

At its Jan. 28 meeting, the board is expected to call a special election for the District 2 seat in May, when three other trustees also are up for election.


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