The upcoming school year isn't looking too sunny for DISD workers. Teacher shortages and burnout left administrators struggling to break through the gloom. But one ray of sunshine for scholars and faculty came last week in the form of a viral music video.
Tito Salas, principal of Oak Cliff’s John F. Peeler Elementary School, surprised students and staff on Aug. 8 by welcoming them with an exclusive music video. Using the empty school building as his set, Salas embodied the school’s mascot, a pirate, and rapped his own iteration of Duke & Jones and Louis Theroux’s “Jiggle Jiggle” (yeah, that same one) in a video called "Peeler Pirates – Dream in Gold.”
“Everything I do is really to create excitement,” Salas says. “Excitement in reading books, to create excitement in learning math, to create excitement in wanting to even wake up to come to school every day.”
With the help of Apollo Films’ Mauricio Montoya, who is also a DISD employee, the video was completed in a span of a week over the summer. They spent one day recording the audio in a studio and three days filming in the empty school. Salas wrote the song one line at a time over two weeks.
On Instagram, the video was shared by account dallastexas_tv and accumulated over 31,000 likes. Peeler alumni are now proudly announcing their affiliation with the school.
“Thank you for this! Gave me chills! Peeler pirate champion here! Best of Luck kiddos,” Dallas real estate agent Laura Cano commented on Apollo Films’ Instagram.
“We did it with this intention for his school only. We didn't expect it to go viral,” Montoya says. “I'm glad it did because the positive message that he's putting out there is perfect right now.”
For students, the video’s takeaway is the inspiration to persevere.
“He wanted people to go school, and if you build up to your dreams, don’t believe that you can’t do it, you’re going to find a way to do it,” says Peeler fourth-grader Levi Espinoza.
Last Monday, Peeler’s first day of school, staff members and students heard the song for the first time. Teachers were excited to hear their names in the lyrics and students were shocked to see their principal riding around the halls in a scooter. Faculty shared videos of their classes ecstatically dancing and singing along with the video’s premiere. Salas beamed.
Espinoza and his peers have memorized the video’s lyrics. The words “My pirates don’t dribble dribble, they score,” now echo from the school walls as smiling faces settle into the school year.
“As long as I can impact one student, to me, that's a win," Salas says. "But now to know that more and more people are reacting to the video and they are excited about welcoming their students back, that's definitely a bonus. It was already a victory after I saw the success with my own students.”
Salas, who has never rapped before, says the school is still short a music teacher.
“If I can recruit a musician out there that is spinning the beat and that can come over here and elevate the music here at Peeler, I really am in need of somebody,” Salas says.
Entering his second year as principal, Salas aims to create a working culture that centers on teacher appreciation.
“The teachers are the ones that do the heavy lifting here in the schools,” Salas says. “My job is to support them and create a platform for them to be successful, because if they're happy coming to work every day, then that means my students are going to be happy learning every day. The opposite of that is what we don’t want.”
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Desiree Gutierrez is a music and culture intern at the Dallas Observer. Equipped with her education from Dallas College Brookhaven Campus and the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism, Desiree has transformed the ability to overthink just about anything into a budding career in journalism.