Implement a Universal Cooperative Pre-K to Increase and Sustain Parental Involvement:
We know that the educational outcomes of children are closely tied to parental involvement, so we must work to initiate this engagement while children are just beginning their education. I believe we can do this by instituting a universal cooperative Pre-K program where parents volunteer a certain number of hours, based on capacity and availability, alongside teachers. As parents volunteer, they will learn valuable skills along the way that they can carry on at home, and may even be useful in future professional work. In addition to learning, parents become comfortable and familiar with involvement, forming a habit, thus sustaining their engagement. Additionally, families make connections and build community along the way. This could not only change the dynamic of parental involvement, but there is minimal impact on the DISD budget.
More parent volunteers? Our parents already volunteer a significant amount of their time and many are unable because they work one or more jobs that prevent them from engaging more. In addition to this not being a policy because you can’t force parents to come and volunteer, I think it misses the point with PreK. We have several very strong and active PTA and other parents groups in many of our schools, especially in District 2. “Make parents do more” doesn’t sound like a sustainable strategy and because parents are already able to volunteer, I can’t view this as a unique or original idea. Still, parent involvement is a good thing.
Develop a Foster Care Task Force to Improve Outcomes for DISD students in Foster Care:
As a former foster mom, I understand that the children in foster care face unique challenges and truly need the support of their entire community, particularly from their school. Children who are facing issues in their home life often have a more difficult time learning, connecting with their peers, and staying in school. While the District has implemented stronger counseling programs over recent years, we have significant room to grow in how we support children in foster care who attend our schools. In partnership with the Department of Counseling Services, I will work to implement a Foster Care Task Force that will be comprised of educators, counselors, social workers, and community members who can offer insight on this issue. The Task Force will work towards identifying specific problems, identifying realistic solutions, and supporting the execution of any solutions that are determined to improve outcomes for students in foster care.
Students in foster care do face a unique set of circumstances that should be addressed. No argument here. What I’m interested in would be resolving the funding question for counseling services as well as the overburdening of our staff currently serving all of our students. To effectively meet the needs of our students from a counseling perspective, we need more funding and more staff. As much as making a Task Force sounds cool, the last thing DISD needs is more talk. Dallas ISD needs action and funding. Again, I think this misses the point. In a world (our world) where the optimal student to counselor relationship is around 1 to 800 for elementary students and 1 to 400 for high school students, it will take more than a Task Force to correct our problem. This year we had 381 counselors and 99 psychologists/psychiatrists/psychotherapists. More services means more money. There, I just did the job of your task force. All public information on the Dallas ISD website.
Strengthen Support Services for the Special Education Department:
DISD is a highly-impoverished district and many children in our district face learning differences. Currently, there a gap in services being provided for children with impaired cognitive and emotional functioning as a result of poverty-related stress. I would like to work closely with DISD partners, such as Communities in Schools, to expand and strengthen efforts to close this gap. We have room for improvement here and I would like to champion this cause for the betterment of our children in need.
Let me say this once to candidate Kirkpatrick: Poverty doesn’t cause mental health issues. Being that she is a medical professional, I wouldn’t have expected such a simplistic and non-scientific contextualization of the mental health issues in Dallas ISD. It’s both offensive and, again, misses the point. Having taught in both Dallas ISD and in a private environment, I can tell you that learning differences aren’t unique to students that lack financial resources. My Dallas ISD seniors are about to graduate this year and, quite frankly, I don’t like how this particularly narrative makes them look. I think this shows a profound lack of understanding of schools and students district wide. You can’t champion a cause you fundamentally misunderstand. Having taught and worked with the students she is describing, I can say that there is a diagnosis, treatment, and service provision need that can’t be addressed without sufficient staff, funding, and most importantly, understanding of the stakeholders involved.
Enhance Outreach and Utilization of the Wrap-Around Services, particularly Mental Health Outreach:
As a medical provider at the DISD campus-based clinics, I would like to expand awareness of the clinics and as well as the broad range of services provided to ensure our students are getting the help they need. Additionally, with the rate of child and teen suicide on the rise, we have a need to address mental illness for children in our communities. I would like to expand the programs offered at the parent center and partner with mental health community organizations to bring these programs to the neighborhoods we serve. By addressing the needs of the whole child, we will have a student who is ready to learn and thus more likely to succeed.
While I’m glad that “poverty” wasn’t included in in this particular section as the cause of mental health issues, what’s missing is a root cause or contributing factor at all. Why not mention bullying? Why not propose training or intervention strategies for professionals on campus to recognize and react when mental health issues present themselves on campus? Again, this looks like it was written by someone with a profound lack of experience and context. I understand that Kirkpatrick isn’t a mental health care provider, but a little more science and information would be nice. I’m a huge proponent of mental health but it’s rooted in experience and not surface level “I think people should have healthy brains and that’d be nice” coffee talk. We need more from whomever ends up being our next trustee in District 2. I’m not seeing anything here that would inspire confidence in Lori Kirkpatrick. In fact, I see four red flags. The most glaring of which is that none of these ideas address the most obvious issues facing Dallas ISD.
Credit for original content - 4 Ways I Will Work to Strengthen DISD - Lori Kirkpatrick Campaign Website
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