Dallas ISD School Board Race Heads for Saturday Runoff

District 2 candidates differ on their views of teacher merit-based pay system

North Texans head to the polls Saturday for run-off elections. In Dallas, the race for the battle for the a seat on the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees is about much more than just the school district.

The two candidates in District 2 hold opposing views on a key issue: the teacher evaluation system for raises.

In the general election only about 300 votes separated incumbent Dustin Marshall and challenger Lori Kirkpatrick, with Kirkpatrick holding the edge.

"We're just on the home stretch trying to finish it off," Kirkpatrick said.

Marshall won the seat last year in a special election, when board member Mike Morath left to become the Texas Agency Commissioner.

"I have worked pretty over the last 11 months, and even prior to that, since I have been on the board, to basically favor data-oriented improvements to our system that help improve outcomes for kids," Marshall said. "Those range from everything from expansion from quality Pre-K, to teacher evaluation, to expansion of choice schools. And there is lots of evidence that shows the reforms that I have been part of, along with some fellow trustees, are working."

But Kirkpatrick says she is concerned about reforms in the district.

"The reason I got into this race, and what is most important to me, is that every single child across our city has an equal quality educational opportunity. I see that as being somewhat under attack by this reform agenda that is the majority on our board, and I want to make sure that we continue to have a strong public school system for everybody across the city," Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick attended public schools, and she has a daughter at Lakewood Elementary School. Marshall's children attend private school. NBC 5 asked him about that decision.

"I grew up in a poorer, single-parent household and had the opportunity to attend Greenhill as a kid, and it changed my life. It set me on a course to get into a good college and get a good job, and helped me become the husband and father and business man I am today. And I am grateful for that opportunity," Marshall said. "I had a positive experience there, and I wanted my kids to have that same experience. It was never a decision between public and private. It was just a decision in favor of my alma mater."

"Frankly, I made that decision at a time when running for the school board was not even on my radar screen, and I am not willing to, you know, break the friendships my children have already formed for political reasons," he added.

NBC 5's media partners at The Dallas Morning News report that the District 2 seat could have a big impact on the overall board. The candidates have opposing views on the Teacher Excellence Initiative, which is how merit-based raises are calculated in the district. The raises are based on test scores, evaluations and student surveys.

"We have lost quality veteran teachers, and in addition to that, morale is very low with this TEI. I am not opposed to merit-based pay, I am opposed to TEI," Kirkpatrick said.

When asked what should replace it, she said, "That is the million-dollar question, right? So in terms of merit-based pay, teachers are happy to be held accountable. They are not afraid of accountability, but we need a fair accountability measure. And I think a fair accountability measure would be student growth. So measuring student growth."

Marshall supports the Teacher Excellence Initiative.

"We have got some great teachers in DISD, and some of them have been in the district for a long time, and some of them are relatively new teachers. And they both, in my opinion, should be rewarded at a higher level for being strong performers," Marshall said.

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