Dallas ISD Votes to Close Historically Black J.W. Ray Elementary, Despite African-American Trustee Objections

Nearly 2,500 students could be heading to different schools next year after Dallas ISD trustees voted on plans to potentially shutter five campuses during a board meeting Thursday night.In front of a crowd of 200 at Lincoln High School, with over 40 public speakers, the board voted to move a middle school -- Edison Middle Learning Center -- to an existing high school and combine two elementary schools, J.W. Ray and John F. Kennedy to another elementary campus.Two other schools, Carr and Titche Elementaries, would be closed depending on their performance on state assessments .The closures -- particularly Ray and JFK’s -- weren’t without fireworks, however, passing on a 7-2 vote.“The optics of that just don’t look good to me,” trustee Bernadette Nutall said about Ray’s closure. “This school is predominately African-American.”The vote on Ray -- one of the district’s smallest neighborhood campuses, located next to Roseland Estates, a public housing complex not far from Uptown -- came down largely on racial lines.The two of the board’s three African-American trustees, Nutall and Joyce Foreman, lobbied hard for the school to have a chance to stay open if its accountability scores improved.Four DISD schools -- Edison, J.W. Ray, Carr and Titche -- have been graded by the state as “improvement required” for four or more consecutive years. If any of the four schools miss state accountability marks this year, a new state law requires the Texas Education Agency to close the campus, or take over the operations of the entire school district, appointing a board of managers and a new superintendent.Unlike any other district in the state, DISD has asked the TEA if it can approve contingency plans for Carr and Titche, allowing them to stay open if they meet accountability measures. Other large districts, like Waco, San Antonio and Houston ISD, have voted to either close campuses outright, or allow charter school operators or non-profits to take over their failing school’s operations.District administrators and the school’s trustee, Miguel Solis, said that the declining enrollment at schools all throughout that area necessitated the consolidation, moving Ray and Kennedy to nearby Cesar Chavez Elementary.Solis acknowledged the difficulty in closing the campus, saying that bad urban planning in decades prior forced the district's hand. He praised that the district's administration efforts to "do what's right by kids."Over the last four years, the three elementary schools have collectively lost 700 students, board president Dan Micciche said.“In my professional opinion, it’s in the best interest in the district to not have a back-up plan,” superintendent Michael Hinojosa said.Foreman dismissed the argument that the school was being closed because of enrollment, pointing to the district’s support of lower-enrollment specialty campuses such as CityLab and Solar Prep.“We are creating an atmosphere of choice schools and away from neighborhood schools,” Foreman said.But Micciche strongly objected, saying that Ray’s declining enrollment couldn’t be compared to schools that haven’t been fully built out.“You have to look at the projections for all four years,” Micciche said. “You have to make it apples to apples.”The vote was 7-2 with Foreman and Nutall opposed.  Continue reading...

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