DALLAS -- Mayor Mike Rawlings has been traveling the city the past few weeks, meeting with adults and talking about the need for change at DISD.
Friday afternoon, the mayor was invited to receive input from the students themselves -- students who have come up with their own list of needs at DISD. Fifty students from five inner-city, DISD high schools all gathered at the University of North Texas Law School on Main Street, just a few blocks from City Hall.
They were anxious to become part of a conversation they feel they've been cut out of: How to improve academics and the graduation rate at DISD.
They want the mayor to know they have ideas and input, too, as he tries to sell the public on the idea of switching from state control to local control of DISD.
One of the students' shared concerns is teachers need to be allowed to teach.
"They are not in their comfort zone,” said Rebecca Woo, a sophomore at Adamson High School. “They are not going to give us their all. They are not going to push us and go the extra mile to make sure we are achieving."
The students started their summit by putting their unified concerns down on paper. Some of the common themes, concerns, and questions: Where is the money going? Where are the supplies? Too much focus on testing. Too much emphasis on sports. Teachers need more passion. More parental involvement.
"One-hundred and forty eight of our teens last year were diagnosed with HIV or AIDS,” said South Oak Cliff sophomore DeJuan Queen. “We need to have parents that will step up and say this is the right way to do things."
Some of the students were nervous about speaking out, others understandably shy. Yet for the first time since the home-rule controversy sparked an education debate in Dallas, the students' voices are being heard.
But not by the guest of honor, the man leading the charge for change, Mayor Mike Rawlings, who sent word around mid-day, apologizing for being too busy to attend. A spokesman from his office said the mayor had agreed to "drop by today's event, only if his schedule permitted."