Meet Your Candidates for Dallas ISD District 1 Trustee

Three candidates are on the ballot for the May 4 Dallas ISD District 1 race, which represents northwest Dallas and parts of Preston Hollow.

Each candidate filled out a People Newspapers questionnaire. See their responses below.

Lance Currie

Please provide a brief “elevator pitch” for your campaign in 100 words or fewer.

I’m running because I love public schools. I come from a family of educators, and I am the proud parent of two Dallas ISD students. I’ve volunteered weekly as a tutor in Dallas ISD for eight years, and I’ve served in many leadership roles in public education nonprofits.

I’m running because it is incredibly important. If we don’t win, it’s possible no school board trustees will have kids enrolled in Dallas ISD next year. We need a trustee living through the experiences of a DISD parent. My choice to enroll my children in public school sets me apart.

Please give a quick bio about yourself.

Public education has always been an important part of my life. My mother was a schoolteacher in Arlington, who earned her master’s degree while raising my brother and me to become an elementary school principal. I moved in with my father for high school in West Texas. A key constant in my life is our family’s century-old ranch near San Angelo, where I learned to value ingenuity, commitment, and hard work.

I went to undergrad at Baylor and law school at the University of Texas. I am a partner at the Carrington Coleman law firm where I started my career 15 years ago. I am board-certified (in) construction law, and I will bring important knowledge to the Dallas ISD — one of the largest property owners in Dallas.

When my wife, Rebecca, and I moved to Dallas after law school to start a family, it was important to us to send our kids to public school. They both attend Dealey Elementary, where I became heavily involved as the Dad’s Club president and chair of Dealey’s Site-Based-Decision-Making (SBDM) committee.

In 2016, after rolling off as chair of the Young Professionals of the Dallas Regional Chamber, I was introduced to Reading Partners, a nonprofit that tutors K-2 students. For eight years, I’ve volunteered every Wednesday morning for Reading Partners. I ultimately became the Chair of Reading Partners North Texas and Educate Dallas— the Dallas Regional Chamber’s public education initiative. As part of that work, I met most of the education leaders and Dallas ISD trustees, including current District 1 Trustee Edwin Flores. Dr. Flores is retiring, and I am honored that he is endorsing me to follow him as trustee.

I participated in the Leadership ISD Dallas Class of 2022. I also graduated from Leadership Dallas in 2018 — the best class ever — and I was one of five advisors to the Class of 2019. And I previously was a 40 Under 40 Award honoree by the Dallas Business Journal. I’m excited to take the lessons I’ve learned in leadership and service to the Dallas ISD school board as District 1 trustee.

Do you have children in District 1?

Both of my children attend school in Dallas ISD. My daughter, Ashleigh, is an eighth grader at Dealey Elementary, and she just learned she was accepted into Booker T. Washington as a theatre student for high school. My son, Logan, is in fifth grade at Dealey.

What do you think the main issue facing District 1 is right now? And what do you plan to do about it?

District 1 needs a committed advocate for public schools. There are many amazing public and private school choices in District 1, and it’s good for parents to have the ability to choose what is best for their kids. I want to ensure, however, that it is not easy to choose another option over our great public schools. Our District 1 schools offer incredible opportunities for students and families, and they deserve a trustee who can tell their stories to the community. I am ready to lead by example after supporting my children’s public school and helping other communities do the same.

What does that look like? It’s partnering with local community groups, like the North Dallas Early Childhood PTA to host a school fair. (My wife, Rebecca, is a past president of NDECPTA.) It’s working with the local realtor association to educate realtors about the great things happening in our schools. It’s inviting neighborhood associations to visit campuses and partner on making school grounds part of our neighborhoods (while prioritizing preserving them for student use). Most importantly, it’s understanding that because parents have choices, recruiting is now part of building great schools. We need to give all schools — and especially our neighborhood schools — the tools to educate families on why they can trust our teachers and administrators to give their kids an excellent education.

What do you think the district as a whole needs in a trustee?

First, we need trustees committed to prioritizing kids above all by making decisions focused on maximizing student outcomes. Too often, we let adult issues interfere with making great decisions for kids. When we talk about outcomes, however, I believe the purpose of K-12 is to improve students’ lives after they graduate. I will push the district to measure and set goals for student outcomes post-graduation.

Second, the most important driver of student outcomes is great teachers. Our trustee must be a strong supporter of the Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI) and Accelerated Campus Excellence (ACE) programs, where the district identifies great teachers, rewards them with performance-based pay, and incentivizes them to teach our most under-resourced students. Under TEI and ACE, the number of students meeting grade-level expectations has nearly doubled while the district is retaining up to 90% of its highest-performing teachers.

Third, the district needs trustees who will support Dallas ISD’s culture of innovation—its greatest strength in my view. Innovation is critical because the district must maintain its sense of urgency in exploring, learning, and perfecting our public education system. The future of 140,000 kids hangs in the balance. Their lives cannot wait.

Finally, trustees must be excellent stewards of taxpayer dollars. I’ve advised several clients facing some of the most significant budget challenges in the lives of their companies. Now Dallas ISD is facing a budget challenge, and we need leaders with experience. As trustee, I am committed to fiscal responsibility, healthy accountability, and full transparency.

How do you plan to tackle issues in the community?

The role of a trustee includes being an excellent listener and connecting those facing challenges to the right people to help. As a school board member, I will listen to parents and work to improve communication in District 1. I intend to start a District 1 newsletter, mirroring the newsletters put out by Trustee Ben Mackey (District 7) and Trustee Sarah Weinberg (District 2). I also plan to host regular office hours to meet with parents and community members, likely at a local restaurant or coffee shop every other Friday morning. And I will encourage people to reach out to me if they are facing challenges so that I can direct them to the best district resources and staff to address their issues. I’ve spent many years building relationships with leaders in the community and in Dallas ISD, and I know who to call to resolve an issue. In short, I will listen to and be available to the District 1 community.

What does District 1 do well?

District 1 has some of the best neighborhood schools in Dallas. There are wonderful parents and community leaders committed to seeing District 1 students succeed. They continue to give time, effort, and treasure to support schools they love. They are incredible advocates to the broader community about the successes of public schools.

If elected, what are your goals?

First, my goal is for student outcomes to continue to improve in all District 1 schools.

Second, my goal is to support our teachers, who strive every day to teach the kids they love.

Third, my goal is to increase community involvement by inviting neighborhoods to embrace our schools. Great schools build great neighborhoods, and schools thrive when neighborhoods embrace them.

Fourth, my goal is to continue to innovate, as every student in Dallas ISD deserves an excellent education.

Why are you the best candidate for this position?

I am a proud Dallas ISD parent with a demonstrated commitment to public education. I’ve walked in the doors of our public schools for eight years, tutoring and serving in leadership roles for public education organizations. I’ve built relationships that will help me represent District 1 starting on day one, as shown in the many elected officials from both political parties who have endorsed my campaign. I have the experience, knowledge, demonstrated commitment, and relationships necessary to be a great Dallas ISD trustee for District 1.

Chris Roberts

Please provide a brief “elevator pitch” for your campaign in 100 words or fewer.

Voters should have a choice of a qualified, competent, passionate candidate whose sole focus is on the students. While the past 27 years of my career have been in technology, the first few were teaching at middle school, high school, and college levels. The people in the community I have spoken with prefer a school board member with some experience in education and think there have been enough lawyers in the role. I believe my IT career may be even more applicable to the role of Trustee, as I have provided real solutions to every business leader within financial services companies (and school districts have those same complex challenges). I want to take all my experiences (from inside and from outside the classroom) to the Dallas ISD school board to help every student.

Please give a quick bio about yourself.

I was born to a single mom who married someone who brought substance, emotional, and physical abuses into the family. There are students in Dallas with similar situations and, like me, education is their way to a brighter future.

I worked to become my school’s valedictorian and went to college to be a teacher. I earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees mathematics education and taught math at the college level while earning my bachelor’s degree in music education. After a successful run at being a band director at the middle school and high school level in East Texas, I began a career in technology as a software engineer and IT leader.

I expanded my educational ventures during my 27-year IT career that included authoring a book (How to Make First Chair) that funds a 501(c)(3) for Music Education that I founded, and I have volunteered as a financial literacy instructor for audiences ranging from elementary school students to those experiencing homelessness in Dallas. I am married to a Dallas ISD graduate (and) lifelong educator who has spent nearly 20 years of her 27-year career in Dallas ISD. Collectively, our five children are all products of public schools, one graduating (from) Dallas ISD this year, two in Dallas College, one in College Station, and one training in the Dallas Fire Academy.

Do you have children in District 1?

Our youngest attended our neighborhood District 1 elementary (DeGolyer Elementary) and is graduating from Dallas ISD’s Townview TAG in May. I continue to support DeGolyer through the DeGolyer Dad’s Club as an “alumni” member, and my wife is nearing retirement as a counselor at DeGolyer.

What do you think the main issue facing District 1 is right now? And what do you plan to do about it?

We must acknowledge the negative impacts of technology on our youngest students, specifically in reducing attention spans. As this phenomenon comes into the classroom, it is not conducive to learning.  I would like us to create a campaign we have for the parents and a peer-positive environment for the students with something like “Smarter kids today, smartphones later.” We should include messaging along these lines from meet-the-teacher night and reinforce it on every newsletter, every auto-dialer message from the district, and every website.

What do you think the district as a whole needs in a trustee?

The district needs a trustee with no political or commercial agenda, whose only mission is to help students fulfill their potential and be prepared for any of the paths they choose.

How do you plan to tackle issues in the community?

No response provided.

What does District 1 do well?

My observation for the past 12 years in District 1 is that parental involvement is high compared to most other Dallas ISD districts. 

If elected, what are your goals?

Support our teachers in establishing the best learning environment possible, which in turn is the best case scenario for our students. One aspect of achieving that goal is requiring every student to adhere to the student code of conduct to remain in the learning environment. As a former teacher, I value a positive learning environment.

Financial literacy is crucial, especially where there have been sustained negative economic cycles. As a former band director, I want to advocate for and maintain funding for arts education because of the academic benefits, the fostering of leadership and collaboration, and for the valuable social connections made in those activities.

Why are you the best candidate for this position?

School districts on the scale of Dallas ISD are complex. There are many working parts that must work well together. My 30-year career both inside the classroom (as a middle school, high school, and college teacher) and outside the classroom (as a software engineer in financial services and IT leader) gives me the broadest experience for the role of trustee in district with as many working parts as Dallas ISD.

I understand educational excellence and want to help the students of Dallas ISD achieve that.

When an incumbent chooses his successor, that is some other form of government. I am proud to have a very different background than the other candidates or anyone on the board, and the strongest teams have complementary skill sets.

Maureen Milligan

Please provide a brief “elevator pitch” for your campaign in 100 words or fewer.

I’m a former public school teacher and prosecutor, which makes me uniquely qualified to serve. I’m running because Dallas ISD spends $18,000 per student but only $7,000 of that funding directly reaches the classroom. While Dallas ISD boasts some of the top magnet schools in the country, which should be celebrated, our outcomes for all students need to improve. Only 40% of our third graders are reading and doing math on grade level. Nearly a quarter of our young men are not graduating high school within four years. I have a practical approach to improving our schools without raising taxes.

Please give a quick bio about yourself.
For over a decade, I worked with community leaders throughout Dallas to make neighborhoods safer for kids and adults alike. During my extensive career in the Dallas City Attorney’s Office, I got drug houses demolished, partnered with federal prosecutors to prosecute violent offenders, and stopped dangerous businesses from operating close to schools. Always a problem solver, I was part of a team that founded a second-chance court for young adults charged with felony and misdemeanor offenses and I drafted state legislation that made it easier for cities to deal with vacant and abandoned homes. My commitment to public safety and community resilience extends beyond my professional career to my volunteer service. I served as an adult literacy instructor for many years through the Junior League of Dallas. Currently, as a Rotary Club of Dallas member, I help provide scholarship funding to Dallas ISD teachers. I also serve on the board of the Lone Star Justice Alliance, a nonprofit that was selected by the Texas Governor’s office to represent child survivors of human trafficking who are charged with crimes. I have led large teams and administered multi-million dollar budgets. I have managed controversial public projects that required transparency and regular consultation with diverse groups of stakeholders.

Do you have children in District 1?

I am the mother of two young boys who attend a private Montessori school in District 1.

What do you think the main issue facing District 1 is right now? And what do you plan to do about it?

The most pressing issue facing District 1 is declining or stagnant enrollment at many schools, which is also a district-wide problem. Dallas ISD has lost nearly 20,000 students in the past 12 years. Dallas ISD used to be a system of 157,000 students and 236 schools, and now it is a system of 139,000 students and 240 schools. That’s correct – DISD has lost 20,000 students but added school facilities. This is a fiscally unsustainable approach that is negatively impacting student outcomes. And because Dallas ISD has not right-sized itself to match enrollment, Dallas ISD’s total expenditure per student has risen from nearly $12,000 in 2017 to nearly $18,000 in 2023, which is a 50% increase in 6 years. Practically, this means that great teachers and principals are spread thin across too many campuses that have low enrollment. We need to get back on track. We must adapt to the changing landscape by finding innovative solutions to address declining enrollment and reduce fixed costs without compromising the quality of education. This must include assessing our facility usage, developing board-level strategic priorities that focus on school models that supercharge student success, and involving more parents and community members in school-level decision making.

What do you think the district as a whole needs in a trustee?

Dallas ISD needs a D1 trustee who understands the school district’s financial position and is an excellent steward of taxpayer dollars. Trustees approve hundreds of millions of dollars in vendor contracts each year, but many of these contracts have no measurable performance metrics. The D1 trustee should be intensely focused on ensuring that expenditures benefit students and neighborhoods, not special
interests. No trustee should feel comfortable when only 40% of third grade students are reading and doing math on grade level and nearly a quarter of our young men are not graduating high school within four years. Our young students enter school with the capacity and the eagerness to learn and our school board must ensure that we provide each child an excellent education that prepares them to read, do math, and be critical thinkers.

How do you plan to tackle issues in the community?

Dallas ISD needs to be a better neighbor. Voters have told me about being locked out of using outdoor school walking tracks and not being thoroughly informed about construction activity at schools. One of my year one goals as Dallas ISD trustee will be to adopt a revised DISD school facility usage policy that prioritizes reasonable and free community access to outdoor facilities during non-school hours. I believe one way to improve the school-community relationship is for more parents and community members to participate in each school’s Site-Based Decision Making (SBDM) team. According to the District, SBDM teams are designed to decentralize decision making and campus-level strategic planning through a collaborative effort that includes parents and community members. However, in practice, many SBDM
teams do not have any independent community members who participate. One of my year one goals as DISD trustee will be to increase the number of parents and community members serving on D1 SBDM teams by 50%.

What does District 1 do well?

District 1 is a district composed primarily of neighborhood schools that accept all students and don’t require an application, a readiness assessment, or a student observation. Two of District 1’s elementary schools — DeGolyer and Withers Elementary Schools — are great examples of how parents and school leaders can build strong bonds that lead to increasing enrollment and good student outcomes for
all students. Additionally, W.T. White High School offers students the unique opportunity to take numerous credit courses related to theater and the performing arts. W.T. White also runs a top-notch athletic program that emphasizes success on the field as well as success in the classroom. The newly rebuilt Thomas Jefferson High School is strongly supported by a large and committed group of alumni and the school provides over 100 students the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree during high school while also receiving mentoring from industry partners.

If elected, what are your goals?
Year one:

  • Increase the number of parents and community members serving on D1 Site-Based Decision-Making teams by 50%.
  • Revise the DISD school facility usage policy to prioritize reasonable and free
    community access to outdoor facilities during non-school hours.
  • Form a District 1 Advisory Committee composed of parents and community
    members who meet monthly to advise me on district matters.
    Request and receive from the superintendent an assessment of school
    capacity vs. enrollment at each of DISD’s elementary, middle, and high
  • Note – The newly-elected District 1 trustee’s first vote in 2024 will be to
    approve or disapprove the 2024-2025 budget. Therefore, in Year 1, the D1
    trustee will have limited ability to guide budget priorities.

Year two and three goals:

  • Advocate for the development and adoption of a comprehensive education plan that outlines the strategies for providing public school choice while rightsizing the district’s facilities so that more resources flow to classrooms.
  • Work with fellow trustees to ensure that the new 5-year student outcome goals and the school board’s strategic priorities are guided by the district’s comprehensive education plan.
  • Adopt a budget that prioritizes expenditures in the classroom.
  • Continue to meet with the D1 Advisory Committee on a monthly basis.

Why are you the best candidate for this position?
I am uniquely qualified to serve as the District 1 trustee. As a former public school teacher and prosecutor, I know first-hand what drives student success. And I have experience in getting things done for our local neighborhoods. I’ve worked with big budgets, developed public policy, and engaged with neighbors throughout Dallas. Our school district has come a long way, and I’m the leader who can bring the district to the next level.

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