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'Student management' over discipline, Dallas ISD's next superintendent says

Dr. Stephanie Elizalde reveals some of her plans for Texas' second-largest school district on this week's Y'all-itics episode.

DALLAS — Dr. Stephanie Elizalde has been an educator for more than three decades. 

She’s worked for some of the largest school districts in Texas, spending the last couple of years leading the Austin Independent School District.

She’ll soon move north after being named the sole finalist for the Dallas ISD superintendent job, which would be her second stint with the district.

Elizalde recently joined us for a special, early release edition of Y’all-itics.  

While the conversation primarily focused on school safety and what should be done to keep our kids safe, we also asked her about some of her plans for Dallas ISD.

We specifically wanted to know how she’ll improve performance and equity in the district. And she told us she’d start with what she calls “student management.”

“I don't like the use of the word discipline. Discipline implies that we're doing something to students and that it's all punitive. And I really think we've got to rethink student management, in that it has to become a development of them ultimately becoming self-managers. That's what we're working to create,” Elizalde said on Y’all-itics.  

"It's how do we provide them interventions and tools such that they're able to manage themselves because life is going to be life. It's not what's happening,  It's how do we respond to what's happening," she added.

Elizalde says she also plans to address “unconscious bias,” which she says can often lead to lower expectations for some students, which can limit future success.

One of the biggest challenges she’ll face once she arrives is recruiting and retaining teachers, a problem plaguing districts across the state.

She says it will take a group effort that starts by reconnecting with the reasons they wanted to teach in the first place: making a difference in a child’s life and serving the greater good of a community.

But then, she says, they’ll also have to get creative. 

In Austin ISD, they recently found a way to provide additional planning time during the day, so teachers don’t have to do it all after school.

“We were able to find additional planning time for secondary teachers. We've never been able to find additional planning time for elementary teachers. And our team came up with several unique ways in doing that,” said the superintendent. 

"It is going to cost us a little bit of money in order for that to happen. But if this gives teachers a moment to do some of that during the day instead of after school, that could be something that a teacher might say, you know what, okay, I’m going to stay," she said.

Even little things can make a difference, such as writing a thank-you note, whether that’s from administrators, parents or even students.  

The goal, she says, is to figure out a way to make teachers feel valued, not only inside a school, but also inside the community.

"Because I will tell you, both myself as a teacher and the teachers that I get to work with, what do they really want? They want someone to tell them they're doing a good job," Elizalde said. "They want someone to let them know how important they are in their children’s lives. They want to feel valued. They want to feel that they are making a difference."

Hear more about Dr. Elizalde’s plans for Dallas ISD and her ideas to keep our kids safe and return to the core mission of public education in our latest episode of Y’all-itics.  It is a wide ranging and engaging conversation led by WFAA anchor/reporter Teresa Woodard, who took over for the Jasons (they are both taking some much-needed family time… and we hope you are too during these difficult days)

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