Tomorrow is C-Day, the day we find out if the Dallas Independent School District will consolidate nine elementary schools and two middle schools in order to grapple with its looming $38-million budget gap. Months of public hearings, protests in front of 3700 Ross and staking signs in front of schools should, barring any last-minute changes, be resolved tomorrow night.
The money is not coming, said DISD administrator Leslie Williams. "That's just the reality, the clear fact. That's where we are. Regardless of your views, that's where we are."
He said this last night as he and other DISD staff explained the consolidation proposal to D.A. Hulcy Middle School teachers, students and parents.
The DISD presentation showed that Hulcy is only at 45 percent student capacity. By sending the school's students elsewhere, laying off or redistributing teachers and shutting down the building, the district would save $1.59 million. The reorganization is predicted to save an estimated $11.5 million district-wide, including more than $9 million in salaries alone.
Williams opened the floor to the audience for questions, and they came fast and furiously: Is this the only proposal? What will happen to the laid-off educators? What about my kid's safety? There's no rainy day fund? Will there be after-school transportation? Why are they closing so many schools in the black community? If we need to cut, why are we still funding Teach for America?
Williams answered what he could and passed on what he couldn't. Staff was guarded about their feelings toward the potential school closings, but trustee Carla Ranger, of course, was not.
"I believe that schools should not be closed," she announced, sparking applause. "Because there had not been appropriate discussion by the board. ... Closing schools should be a last resort."
Ranger applauded the questions that were raised, admitting that she hadn't even thought of many of them. She then pushed parents and teachers to sign up and show up for the final district-wide public hearing at 4:30 p.m. Thursday before the board's final vote. (Some board members have requested to postpone the vote, but as of now, it's still on for tomorrow's meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m.)
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"Your voices need to be heard," she said. "The board members need to hear all the questions to be raised."