Hundreds of Dallas elementary school students had a special visitor as they walked through the doors on the first day of school Monday, interim Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.
Hinojosa stopped by Oneismo Hernandez Elementary School a few minutes before the first bell rang, greeting teachers, staff and students as they walked through the doors for the first day of the 2015-2016 school year.
He then made a brief speech during a school assembly, talking about the importance of education and listening to your teachers and having fun.
“I think the parents are the most excited of all because we’re taking the kids off their hands,” Hinojosa joked.
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Hernandez Elementary has 370 students in grades Kindergarten through 5th and first year principal Marisa Saenz has been preparing for this day for months.
“I think we’re all a little nervous on the first day, including our teachers, our students, and our parents as well," she said. "But we've been had so many workshops and meetings and we've been planning for this day really even before the last day of school last year."
NBC 5 saw everything from crying and scared kindergarteners to excited fourth graders ready to learn. Parents were able to meet the teachers and accompany their kids in the classroom today to help settle those first-day nerves.
Dominique Key has four kids from Pre-K up to 2nd at the school.
"I can't explain it. It's euphoria," Key said with a smile. "I've been having a countdown clock for at least the last three weeks. I've been ready for this, to get them out of the house and back to school."
But she admits that now, it's a bit bittersweet. Her youngest child is in Pre-K, so all of her children are in school.
"I did cry this morning because it's his first year and he looked so handsome in the uniform," she said. "He still doesn't know how to use that backpack, he's still learning about that."
Not all students are nervous. Neo Nesich turned 10 just a few days ago and now the excited 4th grader is ready to get back into a classroom.
“I'm most excited about learning. Learning about science, my science teacher is awesome,” Nesich said. “And math. I have a great math teacher here. So I’m going to have fun in class.”
Hinojosa echoes Nesich’s passion for education.
“We need to have fun. School should be about fun. The teachers need to enjoy it, the principals, and most obviously the students,” Hinojosa said.
Hinojosa is serving as an interim superintendent but he said he is open to taking the job permanently if the board wants to keep him around.
“I feel like I still have the energy, I'm having fun. I'm comfortable in this setting,” Hinojosa said. “So if the board wants me to stick around I’ll certainly consider it. But if they feel like they need to go in a different direction, I’m fine with that too. I’m really just enjoying this and being back in the school environment.”
The Dallas ISD has 227 schools and more than 10,000 teachers, but it’s kicking off the school year with a teacher shortage. Despite a major marketing campaign to fill every vacancy, the district is still looking for 150 teachers.
Hinojosa points out that's less than one teacher per school, and said that no student's education will suffer.
“It's virtually impossible [to have every teaching vacancy filled] when you have as many schools as we have. But we are very, very close and we have some great permanent substitutes helping us getting staffed. And there was a very large turnover this year,” he said.
Hinojosa also said the district is still reviewing applications to fill those positions.