"It's our turn to be heard"

With Hispanics the majority among Dallas schoolchildren and a Latino superintendent in their corner, Jesse Diaz and other activists say

"The most important thing to me is not the color of one's skin or one's ethnicity, but what's in their heart--their commitment to children," she said. "But in looking at the pool of people from whom to pick to serve children, the numbers of Hispanics are just not there. I want to make sure they have every opportunity to be part of that pool."

For years, Gonzalez said, it has seemed as if the district's Hispanic population were invisible. Now, "With the appointment of a Hispanic superintendent, the psyche of the system has shifted," she said. "My appointment was startling. It was an affirmation of the growing population. My appointment was symbolic--and it made a lot of people uncomfortable."

For good reason, it turns out, considering the candid comments she's made about the inevitability of having to shift district resources from blacks to Hispanics. "Equity is an issue for all communities," she said. "But I'm not going to deny resources to Hispanic children whose needs have been overlooked for years. The truth is, we're speeding up what we should have been doing all along."

Gonzalez said she's accelerating recruitment efforts for bilingual teachers and Hispanic administrators, and may eventually push for more early education programs for Hispanic children.

The superintendent realizes that her actions have set her on a collision course with black Dallas. "No doubt, I will become a lightning rod again, but the majority of our children need to get what they deserve," she said, referring to Hispanic students. "When I become a lightning rod, I don't enjoy it. But it is the right thing to do.

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