Sick of Waiting on DISD, Lakewood Elementary Parents Are Raising $15 Million for Expansion

LakewoodExpansion2.jpg
leefdallas.org
Compile a list of Dallas ISD's best elementary schools, the ones that convince affluent young parents to forsake the lure of private schools or the suburbs, and Lakewood Elementary will rank at or near the top. Spend a moment browsing through the Texas Tribune's public schools explorer. Its students crush the district and the state on the TAKS test. Teachers never seem to want to leave. Lakewood never fails to show up on the Texas Education Agency's roster of exemplary schools.

So, the academics are superb. The school itself -- the actual, physical building on Hillbrook Street -- not so much. It was built in 1951 and is showing its age. The bigger issue, though, is space. More than half of Lakewood's nearly 700 students are crammed into portables that were planted on campus decades ago and never left.

This is a problem, says parent Dorcy Clark. "We have the academics; we have the programs," Clark says. "What we don't have is a place to house all these kids."

Nor is DISD, saddled with more pressing needs elsewhere in the district, particularly keen on funding any serious renovation. So, Lakewood parents have taken the task upon themselves, hoping to raise $15 million in private funds to double the school's footprint, from 45,000 to 90,000 square feet, and update much of the existing building.

Clark, who is spearheading the effort as president of a newly created nonprofit, the Lakewood Elementary Expansion Foundation, describes the fundraising goal as "doable, but ambitious." And, as one would expect with a project of that magnitude, the strategy is a couple of degrees more sophisticated than a series of PTA bake sales.

Clark didn't get into the specifics of the campaign but said that a large portion of the money will come from local companies and foundations, with families and alumni chipping in the rest. Pay enough, and you can get your name on just about everything but the school itself, from the library ($1.5 million) to the rain-collection system ($150,000).

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The group has until the end of December 2014 to raise the money, which Clark hopes to beat. Even if they fall short, it's a remarkably ambitious effort, more reminiscent of a private school's endowment campaign than something cooked up by a group of parents. The only somewhat comparable example in memory is the $57.1 million public-private redo of Booker T. Washington High School a few years back, but that comparison breaks down pretty quickly. Booker T. already had bond funding, and it had the distinct fundraising advantage of being a well-known arts magnet in a high-profile corner of downtown.

Just as remarkable is the disparity it highlights between DISD schools. It says a lot that a single elementary school in an affluent neighborhood can -- or reasonably believes it can -- raise $15 million while Superintendent Mike Miles gets $20 million for Imagine 2020, his public-private effort to transform the Lincoln, Madison and Pinkston High School feeder patterns, which encompasses 21 schools.

That's not the fault of Lakewood parents, who are merely investing in their children's education. In the end, it's also good for DISD, even if it does heighten those disparities. Much better to have parents funneling cash into an already well-off public school than shipping it off to St. Mark's or Hockaday.

As a side benefit, the hope among Lakewood parents is that their effort can serve as a model for other schools that need improvements but are too far down the priority list to merit DISD's immediate attention. So, perhaps the improvements will spread.


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44 comments
Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Anyone know how much of the 15m LEEF has raised so far?

Haven't heard anything from/about them since they announced thier plan.

Subnx
Subnx

Not gonna happen. The trustees and the administration and JWP need control of the funds so they can give the contracts to their political supporters.

ItsSoSad
ItsSoSad

The Board of Trustees must 'accept' every large donation to the school district. They have been know to deny donations to individual schools because they want "every student in the district to benefit" from the largesse. So a $10,000 technology gift to one school turns into 1 computer per campus.

They have accepted some directed donations recently, and then publicized the gift widely. Apparently because the gift was made to the 'right' school, i.e. majority African-American.

I sure hope the Lakewood parents already have an approval from the BOT that their fundraising will ONLY be used to upgrade their campus. They cannot independently have a building constructed on a District campus and pay for it themselves. Would be rather illegal.

Good luck Lakewood. I wish parents at my schools cared half as much!

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

I wholeheartedly support what the Lakewood parents are doing.  Parents should also be allowed to pay a bonus to principals and teachers they value so that those employees will not leave the campus to make more money, which is currently just about the only way principals and teachers can increase their earnings.  Our children's DISD school wanted to pay our principal extra to stay, but could not and that principal left for a promotion (which came with a raise).  The school and neighborhood has suffered since.

As for Miles' effectiveness?  That same principal we parents wanted to pay to keep was put on a growth plan by Miles but the terrible one there now has not been. 

We need ineffective teachers and principals removed BUT MILES IS NOT DOING THIS.  I get it that he says he is, but he is not and anyone who believes him is fooling themselves.  In fact, just the opposite is happening:  effective teachers and admins are getting out asap.  Withers was building the same momentum as Lakewood, but the principal abruptly resigned to make a LATERAL career move to Plano.  It's happening all over the district.

DISD must be broken up, but charters don't want this to happen.  Strong schools = a thriving Dallas.  Unfortunately, strong schools also = no need for charters.  Those who demand big salaries on the backs of poor kids (like overpaid superintendents and their "cabinet" hires) will lose out if DISD is broken up, too.

Guess who will win?  Hint: it won't be the parents and kids.  


ChrisDangerShow
ChrisDangerShow

Anything that'll help out a deserving school, im all for it. Heck, I think this should become a model for future school projects in the district. In fact, i'd love to see something like this for the schools the district shut down awhile back because they wanted to prop up failing campuses..

icowrich
icowrich

This is a great trend, as it allows DISD to allocate their money where it is needed most.

Obummer
Obummer

Yo ya’ teaches uh chillen ta read, an' he or her will be able ta pass uh literacy tess.

Elaine Liner
Elaine Liner

please correct "supurb" -- it's a story about education!

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

One would like to think, more parents, at more schools would start doing this kind of thing and momentum would build up.  Next think you know, there'd be parents in the halls, checking on things, quizzing teachers on their children's performance.  Perhaps we'd even get more than 4-7% turnout for DISD elections!?  Why, left unchecked, inspiration like this could lead to the school district administration and even the board having to be accountable to parents for what goes on the district.

However, this is Dallas.  Most of the negative comments below will probably come true.

NewsDog
NewsDog

I don't know who did the artist rendering but they obviously don't live in Dallas. Look at the line of cars, not a Suburban or other full size SUV in the lot.    

RVWildcat
RVWildcat

The bond program was hard to negotiate. Woodrow was not slated to get an addition in the original plans. SBDM Parents provided information to the District and were able to convince the DISD that the addition was needed. As for the IB Program, it was also the Woodrow Parents and Early Childhood PTA that initially funded the money. So, while DISD can sit and ponder, the Lakewood Community gets involved and makes sure that the programs and additions get built. I can assure you that most of the focus is on the schools that are not performing at the top. It is a constant battle getting funding to schools like Lakewood.

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

Actually the Lakewood - East Dallas area got quite a bit in the last bond program. Renovations at several elementary schools and complete renovations of J. L. Long Middle and Woodrow Wilson High. Woodrow got a 40,000 square foot addition with state of the art science labs and all sorts of performing arts goodies, including a black box theater. Did you know that Woodrow has the largest dance program in DISD? Larger than Booker T.

That bond program started in 2008-2009 so I don't blame the Lakewood parents for moving ahead. All the schools in the area are full with hundreds wanting to transfer in. This is a true success story for our city.

frederick
frederick

Lakewood Elementary also serves some students who are not rolling in dough, so it's not an elitist thing. About 80% of the kids from Lakewood go on to Long and maybe even more to Woodrow - both those schools recently received $20 million in renovations and a STEM / Arts addition at WWHS from the 2008 DISD bond election. When the Lakewood kids are at Long and Woodrow they are mixed with more lower income students and that mixture seems to benefit both ends of the spectrum. 

You have to hand it to the Lakewood (and Stonewall) parents - they aren't running off to HP or Plano and are putting their money where their mouths are - they are also the reason Woodrow and Long have International Baccalaureate. Any student in Dallas can apply for transfer so it's of benefit to all of Dallas. 

MOUse
MOUse

I hope they were smart enough to get an MOU signed and sealed as were the folks at Booker T. Not sure if other schools have such an understanding, but it would be worth an ORR to see theirs and check for any others. 

DallasGuy
DallasGuy

I think this is going to be the first volley into breaking up DISD...

Guesty
Guesty

I will be very interested to see how this goes, both in terms of fundraising and response by the South Dallas agitators.  

My sense is that the LEEF folks underestimate the differences in raising donations for a high profile arts magnet for poor kids all over the DISD (rich people love the "arts" and pretending that they care about poor people) and raising money for an elementary school that serves an upper-middle class neighborhood.   It probably makes financial sense for home owners to kick in a few thousand each to make this happen because they would see a return on investment in property values, but I don't see major donors lining up and homeowners will probably hold out in the hope of free-riding off the other's donations.

But I think it will be even more interesting to see how the South Dallas agitators respond to this kind of effort.  They will scream to high heaven about how South Dallas is always short changed.  And they might have a point.  This type of neighborhood school funding would, in effect, allow richer/whiter neighborhoods to improve their own schools without forcing them to also improve poorer/browner neighborhood schools.  Once that happens, how hard will richer/whiter neighborhoods fight for public school funding?  Why vote for taxes that will be wasted by the DISD when you can make sure your money is targeted to your own neighborhood school?  As soon as the fate of North Dallas schools in nicer neighborhoods is decoupled from the fates of South Dallas schools in bad neighborhoods, will anyone with money and a good education fight to improve the DISD, or will they be satisfied that their school is good enough even if the poor kids schools are not?

anneDallas
anneDallas

"So, the academics are supurb." 'Supurb'? In a story about education? Nice.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Meanwhile, hidden in a deep recess of the DISD adminstration building, in the 3rd subbasement, through a Men's Room door marked "Do Not Enter", "Out of Service" past a set of filing cabinets labelled "Future Renovations" there, at a scarred wooden desk labelled "Surplus", "Dispose of in July 1962 Sale", sits a pale, pasty faced career bureaucrat who has not seen the light of day in about twenty seven years who while picking up a pencil mutters, "Well, we can take that one off of the renovation list".  He immediately, without any sense of urgency or speed, begins drafting a memo stating that $15 million may be available for reallocation in the 2015/2016 school year.

Lorlee
Lorlee

Meanwhile they tore down the recently remodeled school on East Grand and 30 and are building a new one.  One wonders at their priorities.  


DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

Also, will the money raised factor into Lakewood Elem's comparability numbers?  That could cost them teachers/services/supplies/etc.

jmw6019
jmw6019

DISD is ultimately responsible to provide kids, teachers, and administrative staff with a healthy work environment. Current Lakewood facilities include classrooms that are too small, ant infestations in decades-old "temporary" buildings, un-repairable hvac systems and more. All of this and the district continues to promote Lakewood as a top school because of its test scores.

I believe DISD is a complete mess; should be split into smaller districts. Perhaps, then, we could expect an organization who can manage its finances so that all constituents are housed and working in a decent workspace.

In the meantime, let's hope LEEF raises the entire $15M with no problems so that these already high-performing students have the facilities and the opportunity to do even more. They are among Dallas' future leaders and DISD expects them to learn while the classrooms they provide reach 90+ degrees and ants crawl into their lunch.

adam578
adam578

@icowrich That's right. Miles' cabinet ain't getting paid if the district if wasting all its money on facilities.

observist
observist topcommenter

@Elaine Liner 

A supurb is the opposite of a suburb.

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

@NewsDog Actually I believe architect Larry Good, who attended Lakewood and graduated from Woodrow, contributed to the design...believe it or not East Dallas is not HP  nor North Dallas/Collin County.  It's the "real" Dallas.

observist
observist topcommenter

@LakeWWWooder  

"state of the art science labs"   

By Jove, I think you've found the problem with science education today!  We need state-of-the-science science labs!

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

@MOUse Yes they did - the Woodrow Community Foundation is set up as 501(c)(3) umbrella organization for fund raising for all the schools in the feeder pattern.  Its initial purpose was to obtain International Baccalaureate accreditation. It also helps lower income students and awarded 19 scholarships to Woodrow grads last month.  See:  http://woodrowfoundation.com/

Flabbergasted
Flabbergasted

@Guesty "Bad neighborhoods?" Wow, talk about throwing kids to the wolves. Those "bad neighborhoods" are IN OUR CITY. Typical selfish sentiment----keep out stuff from their filthy hands. Don't have our kids mixing with theirs.

Good for Lakewood Elementary. More power to them. They are working hard to improve a school. Too bad the rest of Dallas with the means to help does not actively help those schools in "bad neighborhoods." Maybe, if they DID, the kids would get an education, go on to get job skills and FIX and UPLIFT that "bad neighborhood."

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

I don't think they'll have as much trouble as you'd think raising $15m. Assuming Woodrow remains a moderately good public high school Lakewood would actually have decent public education. I know my parents would have been thrilled to send me to Alex Sanger Elementary as a kid but it was a mess back then. So instead it was 11 years of St. John's followed by 4 at Jesuit because DISD was/is such a clusterfuck

But you're right, Nutell and JWP will raise holy hell if this happens and sadly it will probably remove any possibility of East Dallas school bond funding for the foreseeable future. Which means improvements to Stonewall or Robert E Lee will probably have to start doing this too.

Flabbergasted
Flabbergasted

@jmw6019 hat is the plan. Blow it up form the inside, so they c an bring  in charter, for-profit schools, gut the neighborhood schools and even close the athletic facilities. Who would get Townview? B T W?

Help us end corruption, not bow down to its will.

ChrisDangerShow
ChrisDangerShow

@jmw6019 I agree, DISD needs to be spun off into smaller neighborhood districts, the main issue I take w/ the current district is they would rather place money into failing campuses and bad mgmt. I may be in the minority, but I like what Miles is doing w/ making teachers and principals more responsible for their campuses. Sure, i'd like to see him get his top staff in order, but its moving in the right direction..

Guesty
Guesty

@Flabbergasted @Guesty Perhaps you should re-read what I wrote without making any assumptions about my perspective.  You will notice that I am concerned that allowing individual neighborhoods to fund multi-million dollar improvements to their own schools will take away the incentive to collectively improve schools in poor neighborhoods.          

Do you think there are not "good" or "bad" neighborhoods in this city?  What do you call a neighborhood with high violent crime, rampant poverty, little to no infrastructure, a large number of unsavory businesses, etc.  Or what do you call a neighborhood where everyone who can afford to leave moves out while the people who can't afford to go are forced to stay?    

observist
observist topcommenter

@Flabbergasted @Guesty  Yes, there is such a thing as a "bad neighborhood" IN OUR CITY: high crime, low income, low test scores in schools, high dropout rate, etc.  People look out for their own kids before they look out for other peoples' kids across town.  Don't you?

Guesty
Guesty

@Mudhoney Maybe.  I know the people involved are very motivated and will work their asses off to make it happen. But when you are asking for multi-million dollar donations (and I think they will need at least a couple of them), it may be hard to avoid the question of why the money shouldn't be going to more needy kids.  Not only that, but you will have to combat the folks who think the DISD will just piss away anything nice you do for it anyhow.    

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

@ChrisDangerShow @jmw6019 Ummm...no. He is not making people more responsible.  The good ones are bailing and he's replacing them with people he likes--or with people like the guy from Baltimore who had a million red flags for financial problems and Miles hired him anyway.  That guy just got indicted, I believe.  

Closer to home, 2 of the teachers with the lowest test scores and worst reputations at my own child's school were promoted because race/nepotism/crony hires still abound.  They will be "instructional coaches" now and, yes, they both got a raise.  At least my child's campus got rid of them, but what about the kids at the new campus?

There is no clear process or no printed checklist used to determine if a principal or a teacher is ineffective or needs to go.  Currently, it seems to be based on whims.  

Teachers' mouths drop open when we hear who is getting promoted because we know how incompetent and corrupt many of these people are.  

Also, did you know that Miles has allowed principals deemed so bad that they must be demoted to keep their principal salary anyway?  You and I are paying droves of people a principal-level salary even though they are not doing that work.  

Flabbergasted
Flabbergasted

@observist @Flabbergasted @Guesty No, I look out, as best I can, for EVERYONE's kids, because if you--I--WE00do not, we can build more prisons, open up more ER's and pay more for the crime we could have prevented.

Priorities. When you stop seeing kids as yours or not, and start seeing them as being all a part of the city, as teachers do, your perspective changes.

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