African Americans in Dallas ISD; Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing

What better time to look at how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go, in the education of African Americans in Dallas ISD than during African American history month.

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, Till earth and heaven ring. Ring with the harmonies of Liberty.

Historically, our district does not have a great track record of educating African American students. We were the last district in Texas to implement desegregation in September of 1961, and in 1970 a lawsuit charged the district with the use of a dual school system, resulting in a federal court order for desegregation. It wasn’t until 2003 that a federal judge declared Dallas ISD fully integrated, and the order was finally removed.

Let our rejoicing rise. High as the list’ning skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

We have made great strides since our rocky start with including African Americans in the district. Today Dallas ISD looks quite different than it did in 1970. Of 221 schools, about 18% are predominantly African American in student population. African American students comprise 23% of the nearly 157,300. About 40% of the district’s estimated 20,500 employees are African American, including 37% of the 11,300 classroom teachers. Imagine over 50% of school leadership is African American. According to a recent study, minority students in Dallas ISD are more than twice as likely to pass an Advanced Placement (AP) test as students in other larger urban school districts.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.

While we are moving in the right direction, the achievement gap for African American students still remains, not only in Dallas ISD, but across the state. This group leads the district’s dropout rate, and since 2010, their four-year graduation rate is consistently three percentage points behind the district average. That’s not to say we haven’t made advances – the dropout rate for African Americans has declined from 9% in 2007 to 3.5% for this past school year, and the four-year graduation rate has increased 20 percentage points over the past seven years, to reach 84% in 2013.

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.

All of us, as a community, must do more to close this gap. With more than 18,000 approved volunteers for Dallas ISD, only 13% are African American. If we expect our students to work toward closing the achievement gap, we need to show them that we are here to support them. They need to see successful African American adults who care about the leaders of tomorrow.

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

It is imperative that African American students take advantage of the opportunities in the district designed to help them overcome this history. With a task force of nearly 50, I am leading the process of reviewing the district’s African American Success Initiative and exploring ways to improve its effectiveness.

Let us march on till victory is won.

We can close the achievement gap and improve the experience for African American students in Dallas ISD, but only if we work together.

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing!

King Photo 8

Dreams of Realities

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told of a dream of hope, desire, and aspiration. Some say his dream has been realized, with the expanded social opportunities for people of color, and especially with the election of President Barack Obama, an African American.

But what are dreams? Are they illusions of grandeur, with no chance for reality? Or, can we imagine the possibilities of dreams coming true? More than 40 years after Dr. King’s speech, his dream has been realized even more so than ever. His dream!

We all have dreams. My dream is that I will have a positive effect on others; that my life will enhance the lives of others. I dream of a better life for my grandchildren than my children, or I. My dream is that they will have many opportunities for a higher quality life, and to enhance the lives of others they encounter. My dream!

What are your dreams? Are you making plans for your reality dream? Enhance the world, one person at a time, with your positive attitude towards humanity. Dream of yourself, your family, and your community living in peaceful harmony. Your dream!

Our dream as a nation could be that we as very diverse communities will live in harmony; people of all races, genders, and economic levels. Imagine living with love, peace, and happiness at home, school, work, and in our community. Our dream!

Dallas ISD dreams of becoming one of the best urban school district in the nation. Imagine it; Dallas Reaching Educational Achievement Model Status! We can make it a reality. Before we can reach this dream, we must improve the education of African American students, who had the lowest passing rates last year on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, STAAR. Dallas ISD must be successful with the African American Success Initiative, whereby we are targeting students needing assistance with their academic challenges.  African American students can be successful. Their dream!

Remember Dr. King’s dream. Have your own dream. Dare to make our collective dreams come true. The United States of America, Texas, and Dallas have positive people with great attributes and attitudes that could make life better for all. Start today. Dare to make our collective dreams come true. Live the dream!

Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for your dream. You have inspired our nation and the world to have the audacity to hope, desire, and aspire.

Happy New Year

Dr. Lew Blackburn’s New Year’s Message

Success comes in the New Year to those who are prepared for it.  Keep moving forward, and always have courage to meet new challenges.  Triumph over your vices and embrace the virtues.  I wish many successes for you in the year 2015 as you achieve goals you have set.  I predict more successes will come for Dallas ISD.

The New Year brings opportunities for new ideas and hopes for us to make our lives good to better, and better to best.  Along with all the new hopes and promises that the New Year will bring, I hope it also brings us a lot more opportunities to work together for Dallas ISD.

In the New Year, hold on to new hopes, prepare for new plans, entertain new efforts, feast on new feelings, count on new commitments, aspire as you aim, develop your dreams, and believe Dallas ISD students and educators will achieve.

Our best is yet to come! Happy New Year!

Celebrating Academic Excellence!

District 5 Pep Rally Banner

The latest District 5 Academic Pep Rally was held Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. at L.G. Pinkston High School, 2200 Dennison St., Dallas, TX 75212.

We were joined by Greg Fields, WFAA, Channel 8 meteorologist, and Thomas Joyner Jr., President of the Tom Joyner Foundation.

Dr. Jill Waggoner, from Methodist Charlton Medical Group, encouraged the students to think of food, fitness, and future.  She emphasized eating well, exercising, and planning for the college or a career after graduation.  Texas State Senator Royce West encouraged students to study, and do well in academic.  Four seniors, two each from Townview Health Magnet and Pinkston High School, were offered summer internship through the Dr. Emmet J. Conrad Leadership Program, after their first year in college.

SONY DSCBands, cheerleaders, steppers, singers, and other student groups perform to pump up excitement about doing well in school.  We had older kids telling younger kids it’s cool to make good grades.  It was really exciting to see students cheering together about good grades and academic excellence. It was ecstatic! 

We gave away prizes.  Students who have made “A’s” in core subjects: Math, Science, English/Language Arts and History/Social Studies were eligible to win prizes like gift cards valued from $25 to $100.  Prize winners were from Townview School of Health, Pinkston, C.F. Carr Elementary, George W. Carver Creative Arts Academy, and other schools. It was exciting!

Dr. Lew Blackburn

We accentuated students being SMART: Students Making Academics Real Today! Imagine students from elementary school through high school cheering about the good grades they made! You should experience the excitement!


Join us Saturday, January 24, 2015, at Wilmer-Hutchins High School as we continue celebrating academic excellence! It is SMART!

Faith-Based Partnerships with Schools

The Village Church in northwest Dallas organized 1,000 church and community members to attend a workday at Dallas ISD’s Edward H. Cary Middle School a few years ago. It became an annual tradition and grew into other connections between the church and both Cary Middle School and neighboring Thomas Jefferson High School’s staffs and students. Throughout the year, the church hosts breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the schools’ teachers and various student groups and provides mentors to students. St. Phillips Church, in south Dallas, partners with surrounding schools in similar ways. The Turn Around Agenda initiative at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship provides mentoring and tutoring services for several schools.

At Dallas ISD we have seen how these partnerships with community churches have improved the learning for our students by supporting them outside the classroom. Often members of the churches are able to provide students needed connections that can help get them through another semester of school.

Studies tell us that having an adult involved in a child’s life, no matter what their age, increases their likelihood to graduate and decreases their risk of abusing drugs, alcohol and becoming a teen parent. We are seeing that churches are a beneficial source to provide this support to our city’s school-age children.

Why? They are already organized with members who believe in a mission to help others. They have experience in implementing programs to serve others. Their members already meet weekly, giving them the chance to connect and discuss new needs that they have discovered during their outreach with students and schools over the past week. And there’s a church near every school.

Sometimes these needs are as simple as providing a classroom for a Girl Scout or Boy Scout troop to meet or learning that the choir needs new three-ring binders for their music. Many Dallas churches have visited their community schools and helped paint classrooms, hosted teacher appreciation breakfasts or delivered food to students’ families in need.

Dallas ISD has traditionally welcomed the opportunity to work with churches. Today, however, we are even more committed to taking this one step further by initiating a district-wide effort to explore avenues to partner with faith-based organizations.

Are you a member of a church that could organize a small or large group to help a school near you? It could be as simple as asking your members to volunteer as Reading Buddies for third grade students or planning a monthly teen night for the middle school to give that age group a place to be one night a month.

I grew up with a lot of adults around me who led by example. Are you a member of a church with adults who are willing to pay that forward to children in our city who aren’t as lucky as we were?  Form a partnership with one of the District 5 schools today.

Contact Dallas ISD Office of Family and Community Engagement to get started today; Main Line: (972) 925-3916, Email: family@dallasisd.org.

I am available to meet with your group or organization to discuss Dallas ISD in general and District 5 specifically. Contact me at (972) 925-3719 or at lblackburn@dallasisd.org. Thanks for supporting Dallas ISD.

Nativity-Scene 1

Holiday Gifts of Love, Peace, and Happiness

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. As a child, I looked forward to the gifts that Santa Claus would bring, separate from the gifts I expected from my parents.  During my teenage years, I began to think about gifts I would give to others.  As a parent, I became the giver of gifts for my children, Lew, Jr., Dorsha, and Clinton.  And now, I am a grandfather of Emma, Zoe, Elle, and Erin, reliving the joys of children’s laughter at the thought of Christmas gifts.  It is one of my greatest gifts of all.  But, there is still a greater gift.

I enjoy Christmas so much because of the giving spirit it brings.  People give to those who do not have much at all.  Even those who don’t have much are giving what they can to spread good cheer to others.  You may recall a story of another gift giver, who appeared to not have very much.

Many of our students in Dallas ISD will have a wonderful Christmas holiday because of their parents, families, friends, and generous supporters of education.  May they have a very merry holiday season.  I want to thank Dallas ISD employees for their caring spirits, dedication, and commitment to our children.  I hope their hearts are filled with good cheer this season.  May they remember the real reason for this season; the greatest gift giver.

When people ask what I want for Christmas, my simple response is that I want love, peace, and happiness.  It is based on a bible passage, Luke 2:10-14; And the angel said unto the shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you.  Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

And so to you, I hope you will feel the spirit of the best gift of all.  May you give and receive lots of love, peace, and happiness.

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving Cornucopia

Giving Thanks

Thanks.  A simple word to show gratitude.  Thank you.  A short phrase to express appreciation to others.

Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks.  Give thanks for your family and friends.  Give thanks for your co-workers.  Give thanks for the ability and opportunity to help others.

I give thanks for the opportunity to serve on the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees, representing District 5.  I am thankful that I have the responsibility of helping students get the best education we can provide.

I give thanks to the teachers and other educators who work with our students each day.  They deserve many thanks everyday.

Thank you, Dallas ISD students and parents, and staff and family.  Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day!  May it be joyful and full of happiness.  May your table be full, and your home festive with those you love.


LewBlackburn SignB




District 5 High Achieving Graduates 2014

L.G. Pinkston High School

Raul Reyes III

College: Southern Methodist University; Major: Law

Alondra Alvarez

College: Texas A&M University at College Station; Major: Biology

Franklin D. Roosevelt High School

Liliana Santillan-Frausto

College: Texas Woman’s University; Major: Nursing

Andrea Reyes

College: Texas A&M University at College Station; Major: Political Science

South Oak Cliff High School

Orial Anthony

College: Texas Wesleyan University; Major: Biochemistry

Sidney Ray Owens II

College: Sam Houston State University; Major: Physical Therapy

Wilmer-Hutchins High School

Jimmy James Gailey

College: University of Texas at Austinl Major: Psychology

Abigail Zavala

College: University of Texas at Austin; Major: Nursing

Dr. Wright L. Lassiter Jr. Early College High School at El Centro College

Linda Pamela Portillo

College: Texas Woman’s University; Major: Criminal Justice

Anna Bernice Yao

College: University of North Texas; Major: Biology

Judge Barefoot Sanders School of Public Service: Government, Law and Law Enforcement at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

Daniela Duron

College: Georgetown University; Major: undecided

Kimberly Loza

College: Texas A&M University at College Station; Major: Undecided

School of Business and Management at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

Audelia Torres

College: University of Texas at Austin; Major: Business Administration

Joseph Pioquinto

College: University of Texas at Arlington; Major: Civil Engineering

Rosie M. Collins Sorrells School of Education and Social Services at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

Carmen Lanette Gills

College: Texas A&M University at Commerce; Major: General Business

Gabrielle Renee Dotson

College: University of Texas at Dallas; Major: Environmental Engineering

School of Health Professions at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

Thu Anh Doan

College: Texas Woman’s University; Major: Biology

Yulissa Irais Alva-Cortes

College: University of Texas at Austin; Major: Nursing

School of Science and Engineering at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

Wesley Jamal Runnels

College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Major: Math/Physics

Danh Nguyen

College: Southern Methodist University; Major: Mechanical Engineering

School for the Talented and Gifted at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center

Lynn Lee

College: Georgetown University; Major: International Politics

Abigail Elaine Cartwright

College: Rice University; Major: Civil and Environmental Engineering


Memorial Day: A Day of Rememberance

We celebrate Memorial Day in many ways; picnics, parades, family gatherings, etc.  While we take time away from work and other responsibilities, let’s not forget the reason for the holiday.

On the last Monday in May, we pause to remember the men and women who died while serving in the military to protect our country.  Many place flowers and flags on the grave of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service.  Let remember and honor our military in a meaningful way.

Honor Our Military

 Let’s honor our military,
The men and women who serve,
Whose dedication to our country
Does not falter, halt or swerve.

 Let’s respect them for their courage;
They’re ready to do what’s right
To keep America safe,
So we can sleep better at night.

 Let’s support and defend our soldiers,
Whose hardships are brutal and cruel,
Whose discipline we can’t imagine,
Who follow each order and rule.

 Here’s to those who choose to be warriors
And their helpers good and true;
They’re fighting for American values;
They’re fighting for me and you.

 By Joanna Fuchs



District 5 News

Join me at the last District 5 Academic Pep Rally for this school year on Saturday, May 10, from 10:oo am until noon, at Wilmer-Hutchins High School, 5520 Langdon Road, Dallas, Texas 75241.  There will be lots of fun for students, teachers, and parents.  District representatives will be there to share information with parents and community members.

Prize Drawings for:

  • • Students with “A’s” in core subjects
  • • Pre-K and Kindergarteners with “E’s “ on their report cards
  • • Students with Perfect Attendance
  • • Parents and Teachers
  • • Students who bring a book that they have read recently and give a summary of the book

U.S. Congressman for District 33 Marc Veasey met with L.G. Pinkston’s Math Club to speak with students about the Congressional STEM Competition – House App Challenge, a nationwide event open in DFW to all high schools students living in his district. Interested students must develop an app for a computer, mobile or tablet device. For more information, email daniela.huerta@mail.house.gov.

Congratulations to Jorge Diana from Lassiter Early College High School who won first place in the JFK Competition Finals in the Essay category. Diana will join the six other first place category winners at a reception at the Sixth Floor Museum.

District 5 was well represented at the recent UIL Academics Spring Meet. Students from Pinkston, South Oak Cliff, A. Maceo Smith, Roosevelt, Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center and Wilmer-Hutchins high schools all had students place in multiple categories of the competition.

The Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet debate team of Alex Baez, Lee Carriere, Ruben Delgade, and Vernon Johnson was selected to join an elite group of 12 teams to compete in the Old Parkland Debate Tournament. The students competed against teams from Australia, Canada, England and Mexico as well as teams from five U.S. states. What an honor and great experience for these students.

Culinary students from Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center and Wilmer-Hutchins High School contributed healthy snack recipes for the “Kids Teaching Kids” snack book created by Children’s Medical Center. The books will be distributed free to all Dallas ISD elementary schools.

On April 3, students from Lassiter Early College High School met at the Sixth Floor Museum with TIME Magazine reporter/photographer Robert Nickelsberg to participate in an international video conference telecast to schools across the world.

I am available to meet with your group or organization to discuss Dallas ISD in general and District 5 specifically. Contact me at (972) 925-3719 or at lblackburn@dallasisd.org. Thanks for supporting Dallas ISD.

MLKing Speech

Remembering The March: “I Have a Dream”

August 28, 1963, Washington, DC

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends — so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day. This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died; land of the Pilgrim’s pride; from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi — from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring — when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children — black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics — will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”