Dallas ISD to close 11 schools, shed 177 positions, extend teacher hours

"If you were a kid and they closed down your school, how would you feel?" 10-year-old Scarlett Perez asked school board members during Thursday's long and raucous meeting.

DALLAS - After a raucous meeting lasting more than four hours with police intervention, Dallas ISD trustees voted to close 11 elementary schools and shed177full-time positions.

In a separate vote, the board voted to extend teachers' work days by 45 minutes, without compensating them for it.

Even though it was in the chilly outside as protesters marched against both issues, Dallas ISD switched on its air conditioner in its large board room before people gathered.

Wake up people; are you asleep? Are you sick? Or what? Joyce Foreman, one of the first public speakers opposing school closures, asked board members.

Tempers were hot. Her speech could have foreshadowed what was to come.

Treating teachers with respect is not that expensive. Do it! said Bill Betzen, a former Dallas ISD teacher.

Teachers turned out to protest the proposal to extend the hours they're required to be at school. The board said it is for additional planning time and to let them collaborate more with each other.

But teachers complain it is extra work without extra pay.

Still, the board voted to approve it by a vote of 6 to 2.

The night, though, was just beginning.

The school board room was at capacity - 327 people. Fifty more watched from the lobby and still others stood outside hoping to slip in.

Most in attendance came angry at the second proposal to close 11 elementary schools; many either recognized or exemplary campuses.

Shuttering them would save save DISD more than $11 million in salaries and operational costs, and help make up for a shortfall in state funding. In addition, 177 full-time positions, including 64 teachers, will likelylose their jobs.

If you were a kid and they closed down your school, how would you feel? 10-year-old Scarlett Perez asked board members.

She was one of several young students to take the microphone in opposition to closing campuses.

For more than an hour and a half speakers blasted the board until one, Joyce Foreman, questioned why several trustees weren t even listening. They had left the room.

That s when the situation spiraled south.

Security, I would like you to escort Ms. Joyce Foreman out of this meeting right now, said DISD Board President Dr. Lew Blackburn.

A team of uniformed Dallas ISD police officers closed in on Foreman, who was standing at the microphone as the crowd erupted in protest.

If you do not get quiet we will move this meeting down the hall and you will not be a part of it! Blackburn said over the loud jeers.

No Justice! No Peace! Foreman yelled, holding her purse above her head as police pushed her back towards the door.

Sir! You need to be quiet! Blackburn said to someone in the commotion.

Seconds later, he suspended the meeting. Trustees, we are moving down the hall!

Trustees retreated to their smaller board room to continue the meeting away from the anger.

The board called in speakers individually, and let the rest watch from down the hall on closed circuit television.

Some questioned whether the board's retreat violated the state's Open Meetings Act, but DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander said it did not as long as two-way communication was established for the public.

Still, trustee Carla Ranger stayed behind in protest.

The board walked out on the community, she told News 8.

By 10 p.m., many had left defeated, including trustees, who said voting to close the schools was one of their most difficult decisions.

That move came after another motion to raise taxes and spare the schools failed.

The campuses will close and teachers' hours will be extended at the beginning of the next school year.

The schools to be consolidated with other campuses include: City Park Elementary School; Julia C. Frazier Elementary School; Phillis Wheatley Elementary School; N.W. Harllee Elementary School; Arlington Park Elementary School; James W. Fannin Elementary School; James B. Bonham Elementary School; Oran M. Roberts Elementary School; D.A. Hulcy Middle School; H.S. Thompson Elementary School; and, during the 2013-14 school year, Pearl C. Anderson Middle School.

Dallas ISD said those campuses that will be consolidated with others are significantly underutilized, have low enrollment or are in close proximity to other campuses with available student capacity.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com


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