In two days, DISD school board trustee elections will be upon us, and we of Unfair Park are way more stoked than we have any right to be. Obviously, we're particularly excited about the District 9 race between the incumbent Bernadette Nutall and her 20-year-old challenger, Damarcus Offord.
You can see why we're into it, right? On one hand, we have Nutall, who's got the experience, the Morning News pulling for her, the Citizen Mike endorsement, multiple PACs' support and $27,798.12 in her coffers as of May 4th.
Offord's got the youth, the passion, the teacher's union, Juanita Wallace, Joyce Foreman, and, as of last week, a war chest worth -$4,802.70, a figure that literally amounts to less than jack shit.
But. But, but, but, but. There's hope for the young lad yet. Even though the candidates agree on most issues, he's managed to turn the race into an attack on "coulda, woulda, shoulda Bernadette," who voted to consolidate 11 DISD schools. Her tough decision was a point of contention among voters, and it might be just enough to push Offord over the top.
Yesterday, both camps email-blasted their constituents with final pleas, which actually turned into a back-and-forth between the two candidates. The first is from Joyce Foreman, the second is a reply from Nutall, and the last is from Offord. They're fun.
I need your help .... If you live in Dallas Independent School Board District 9 (South Dallas, Parts of East Dallas, Parts of Downtown, Parts of Pleasant Grove and Buckner Terrace) or have relatives and friends who live in the district, please vote for, or ask them to vote for Damarcus Offord. Early voting started April 30, 2012 and will end May 8, 2012 Election day is May 12, 2012. Thank you for your support, and for caring about the education of the children in DISD.
The board voted to close 11 schools and 6 will be closed in this district: James Fannin Elementary, H.S. Thompson Elementary, Julia C. Frazier Elementary, City Park Elementary, Phyllis Wheatley Elementary and Pearl C. Anderson Middle School.
Damarcus Offord is our man. If he can't do it, nobody else can!
Your sister in the struggle
Here's Nutall's response:
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Although I have attempted to ignore some of the things that others have said during this campaign, I feel the need to clarify some things. I will tell you that many inaccuracies and false accusations have been said about me during this campaign. That's the nature of politics to some. However, I refuse to play politics or 'politricks' with the education of our children.
I have never refused to meet with any community leader or organization that has sought to have a dialogue with me regarding the difficult choices that must be made as trustee. What I have refused to do is to support any course of action that does not put the educational interests of children first, no matter how difficult. If the hot button issue is the consolidation of schools, then please consider that those schools that were closed, if left open, would not have continued to operate as they have been. Children wouldn't have access to every resource that they should in order to receive their education. More challenges to a great education would have been created. This is what many don't understand or choose to ignore.
Under-populated schools have a higher per student costs than fully enrolled schools. The consolidated elementary schools had a per student cost of $6772 while the district wide elementary cost per student was $4985. This is a difference of $1787 per student. If we spent this same amount per student at every campus our budget would need to increase by approximately $280 million. This disparity created issues with federal regulations which require campuses to either spend or be staffed at a comparable amount per student. If the comparability requirement is not met the district could lose all of it federal programs. Over the last two year the state has already reduced our funding by approximately $100 million and we cannot afford to lose another $200 million by failing to maintain comparability.
Our children need the best education possible. Leaving them in an environment where they wouldn't have adequate resources was not an option for me. Yes, consolidating schools was a tough decision. Yes, it means that sacrifices must be made. However, if there is one thing worth sacrificing for, it's a great education. The sacrifice that shouldn't be made is the educational future of our students who would have attended the schools that will be idled. How can I or anyone look in the mirror knowing that some students would be purposely left in an environment that puts them at a disadvantage? Our community has too many disadvantages already, from high unemployment, low economic development and high poverty rate. When you consider that less than 3 out 100 African American students across the district scored high enough to get into a four year college or were considered job ready while their suburban peers tested at an average of 70 out of 100, then you can see what we are truly facing. I refused to contribute to that situation by sacrificing our children! I didn't vote to close schools to save money, I voted to close them to insure that our children don't lose out on what they should have.
I know that the decision angered many. I can accept and understand that. Initially I was going to vote no to the consolidation, but when provided the data regarding how the schools would have functioned, I could not support keeping them open. Understand that just as this happened in the 70's with school closings in North Dallas and they were reopened, the schools in District 9 will reopen when the population returns.
I know many of you are questioning the building of new schools. This is the result of two actions. The first being the demographic shift in population to other areas of Dallas. Secondly, the voters voted for the new schools in the bond election before I was elected. New schools are built with bond money, not out of district operating funds.
Although I could have hid behind a 'no' vote for re-election purposes, I chose to remain true to my campaign platform of three years ago. That was, "I will always act in the best educational interest of our children." Nothing has changed. Character is what you do or say when others are not around or when you are faced with a difficult decision. You may question my beliefs, but please don't question my character.
I am not asking you to vote for me or to support me. That is not the purpose of this email. The purpose of this email is to articulate why a decision was made on my part. I have been repeatedly asked to run my campaign like my opponent, but I refuse to do that. I choose to focus on children, the value of a good education and increasing educational opportunities. I conduct myself differently. Some appear to have other priorities.
What I will ask, is that everyone get involved with what is going on inside of the schools. Volunteer. Be a tutor. Be a mentor. I would also ask that you galvanize as a community to find ways to bring back population in South Dallas. As a whole, we can continue to play checkers by yelling and telling, or we can realize that the game being played is actually chess. We must be strategic and effective.
I serve at the discretion of the voters, but I do so by putting children first. As Dr. King stated, "How you do anything, is how you do everything."
And finally, Offord's answer:
Damarcus Offord's response to Nutall's Last Ditch Hail Mary
Bernie, Bernie, Bernie.... You just don't get it, do you? You came down to HS Thompson and told the community that you were not going to vote to close the schools. And you lied. All of the things that you are explaining now, you should have been explaining then. Instead you want to wait until election time to bring this up. The community of District 9 are not idiots. And it's time to get rid of that culture in DISD that sets policy that affects the community in a negative way and then 6 months later you come back to us trying to explain your way out of it. The truth of the matter is, the super PAC that funded your campaign gave you $10K in campaign contributions the week of the vote. When you look at your financial statement, it's big North Dallas business interest that gave you $54K in contributions.
The truth of the matter is, DISD has failed the tax payer. Their money, $1.6 Billion dollars of it, goes to you guys every 12 months. And what does the tax payer get in return? 4% of our graduates are college ready! And the tax payer is tired of it! The tax payers are tired of their money going down the drain, while our dollar gets the big North Dallas business interest rich. On Saturday, if I become the trustee of district 9, I will put teachers and parents and the students back as a top priority in fixing our schools. It's very sad that you rented a white van that is going around South Dallas, paying people to go vote for you with EducateDallas and DallasKidsFirst PAC money. Everyone in South Dallas knows that I have signs on every corner, but they are gone now. And you got the nerve to write this letter saying you are not running a negative campaign. Who are you kidding? People from all over the city over the past 3 years have tried to meet with you, called you, left messages with you, only to have you ignore their calls. Who are you kidding Trustee Nutall? It's funny how you voted to close exemplary schools, yet DISD has 43 unacceptable schools in the district. The common sense approach would have been to close down some of the unacceptable schools and integrate them with the exemplary schools.
As a community, we need to come together and send Trustee Nutall packing to her ministry, which is Circle of Support. But making policy for our kids.... Trustee Nutall may be the worst trustee District 9 has ever seen. The late, Great Kathlyn Gilliam is turning over in her grave, may she rest in peace. The choice is clear. If you want North Dallas business interest making decisions for our kids in DISD, vote for Nutall. If you want somebody that is going to fight for the community, fight for the tax payer, fight for each and every student in DISD vote for me, Damarcus Offord. See you at the polls.
See you at the polls, he says! Bernie, he says! God, we're psyched. We need more friends.