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On his resume, Parks also says he is currently taking graduate-level courses in counseling and religion at Liberty University, a private, church-affiliated school in Lynchburg, Virginia. Officials at Liberty confirm that Parks enrolled there during the winter 1994 semester, and he last took classes during the spring 1997 semester. "He skipped a couple of semesters. He was in our external degree program where they take classes by video," says a woman in the registrar's office. She adds that Parks is not currently enrolled as a student.
Unlike the other candidates, Parks has actually run for public office. In 1990, before he relocated to Dallas, he lived in Mississippi and ran for Congress. Parks was the Republican nominee for the 4th Congressional District largely because no one else wanted to run.
"Republicans weren't ready to challenge [the Democrats], so nobody got into the race," says a Republican Party spokesman. "This Jerry Parks filed at the last minute to get in. He ran unopposed in the primary and received the nomination," says the spokesman, adding that Parks was a conservative Democrat who became a Republican. "He was sort of a gadfly."
In the general election, Parks was humiliated, garnering about 20 percent of the vote. But he says the experience taught him a thing or two about politics and changed his approach to this campaign. "I'm not driving from the backseat," he says. "I have a plan. I know it'll work. I have a vision."
If he were elected trustee, Parks says, his priority would be to bring more computers into DISD classrooms. And he means that he personally will bring the computers. "I have a source that sends me computers for free. All I have to pay is the shipping fee."
On his application for school board candidacy, Parks lists his profession as "minister," but he claims his real job is running his own computer consulting company--a company located in his home.
Jessie Pitre, the director of the Crescent Academy day-care center in South Dallas, can vouch for Parks' computer skills and his ability to work with children. Pitre met Parks in 1994 at the West Cliff mall, where Parks was asking shoppers to hire him as a part-time consultant.
Immediately, the two hit it off, says Pitre, who brought Parks to work at the academy to teach the students computer skills. Pitre says Crescent Academy is a day-care center that has an academic component. Students can take Spanish, improve their reading skills, or learn how to use a computer.
"We had a great rapport with each other," Pitre says. "I needed some help, and it was summertime. He accepted the position first as a volunteer. As my enrollment increased, I hired him on as a full-time instructor."
Besides teaching at Crescent Academy, Parks also works as a teacher's assistant at the Martin Weiss Elementary School, where, according to DISD officials, he has a good record for teaching students how to design computer programs.
In addition to being a part-time teacher at two schools and a computer consultant, the 35-year-old Parks also works part-time as a driver for United Parcel Service. So how will he find time to serve on the school board, assuming he wins the election? "I'm prepared to do this for a long time," Parks says of the trustee position. "I'm telling you, they need me on that board."
Se-Gwen Tyler would disagree, but not too loudly. She readily admits that she doesn't know all there is to know about the Dallas school board, and instead points to her extensive record of volunteerism as the reason she should be elected.
Since 1992, Tyler has served on the Dallas City Council's Community Development Commission, where she has gained a reputation as a consensus-builder on issues involving federal housing funds.
The 39-year-old high school graduate has volunteered as an election judge and served on numerous neighborhood committees, ranging from crime watches to after-school programs. Tyler says her goals as school trustee will be to secure additional funds for after-school programs, work to improve students' reading and writing skills, and increase the number of computers in the classrooms.
On the telephone, Tyler makes a convincing argument that she has the strength to handle the pressures put on school board members. "I'm stern. I'm honest. I'm not one that they can pull strings and do what they want me to," Tyler says. "I'm not easily intimidated."
In person, however, Tyler doesn't come off so well. During the DAI forum last week, she was visibly nervous, and she spoke softly into the microphone. When a photographer zeroed in on her, his camera clicking and whirring, Tyler looked timid and uncertain. It seemed that if she were ever confronted by hostile community activists at a school board meeting, Tyler might melt in the heat of controversy.
And then there is Yul Lynch, the only candidate at the DAI forum who was worried that a Dallas County sheriff's deputy just might show up and haul him off to jail. In 1992, Lynch was charged with two misdemeanor cases of theft by check; the first for passing a $43.75 hot check at a Minyard supermarket, the other for writing a $25 worthless check at the Sears in Red Bird Mall.