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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!

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The Journey to Greatness: Dallas ISD – A Premiere Urban School District

The vision of Dallas ISD is to become a premier urban school district. How the district earns that designation depends on several factors, including, the selection of a strong and proactive superintendent, which I believe we have accomplished. It will take some work on everyone’s part, working towards established goals.

Imagine Dallas ISD being on a special plane ride to our destiny, “A Premiere Urban School District”. Are you ready for the ride?

The Dallas ISD plane has several major sections for passengers. The Board of Trustees has adopted nine goals (major sections) to shape Dallas ISD into the operation necessary to move the district to a higher level of performance altitude. These goals address highly effective teachers and school leaders; safe, secure and welcoming environments; shared responsibility; rigorous curriculum; a positive and compassionate culture; professional development; data driven decisions; supportive central services; and, well-maintained facilities. Which area is yours? What part will you play?

Each section of the plane has a purpose, just as each goal of the district has defined strategies. However, goals and strategies without adequate resources for successful implementation are mere words on paper. So, what are our next steps? What will be your purpose for holding a seat on the plane? What benefit will you provide to Dallas ISD?

The Board has set the course for our destination. The plane is fueled and ready to move forward. Several schools are making great strides in many areas. Our graduation rate is the highest it has been since 1983, and I expect it to climb even higher this year. The Council of Great City Schools has declared Dallas ISD one of the fastest improving urban school districts in the nation. But, there is still much work to be done.

Over the next few years, all of Dallas must step up to the counter with your boarding passes, get on the plane, find your desired section and buckle up and get prepared to address our responsibilities to our children; the future of Dallas depends on it. Before we take off, visualize the Dallas ISD as “A Premier Urban School District”; a vision of the destination for our journey on the plane. Use whatever level of creativity you possess to see the district in this new light and believe the vision is possible. Believing the vision can lead to ownership of the goals and acceptance of your role in making the vision a reality. As you look out the windows of the plane, can you envision Dallas ISD becoming “A Premier Urban School District”?

The belief can only become as real as the people who take part in making things happen. Citizens across Dallas, including Mayor Mike Rawlings, have chosen to partner with the district to make a difference. What about you? The opportunities to join the flight to greatness are vast and can begin in every home and classroom across Dallas. Will your business or organization get onboard the plane, taking a seat, doing your part to make Dallas ISD “A Premier Urban School District”?

The Board of Trustees and district staff must acknowledge, accept and put into action our role with purpose and intent, supporting the superintendent’s reforms. Parents and families need to encourage and support their children to strive to be the best in every endeavor. Neighborhoods need to aid their community schools by providing fiscal, physical, and human resources. Businesses and faith-based entities, small and large, must join hands with Dallas ISD schools and administration. Civic and social organizations can mentor and tutor students to greatness. We all have something to offer. It’s just a matter of finding where and how you can make a contribution. Are you still willing to get on the plane?

We cannot continue on the flight path we have been traveling. It is imperative we change course with a higher altitude towards reform and innovation using creative and engaging approaches that helps every student perform at or above their grade level. Combined with other districts, we can set common core standards that are higher than the state standards. Hand-in-hand with area social service resources, we can help meet the multitude of student needs that impact the educational process. Can we count on you to get on the plane?

Every flight path we travel must take our students closer to the ultimate destination; ready for college and career. And we have to do this within the budgetary restraints and other requirements under which we operate. I believe it can be done. Get your board pass! Step up to the gate! Take your seat! Buckle up! Get ready for take-off! Destination: A Premier Urban School District!

Visualize and believe in Dallas ISD. Contact a local school, or call the Office of Community Relations at 972-925-3920 to discuss how you can become engaged.

As always, I am available to meet with your organization to discuss these opportunities and the many successes in Dallas ISD in general and in District 5 in particular. Contact my office at 972-925-3718 to schedule a meeting with your group. And, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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Dallas Reads to Dallas ISD Students on 11-11-11

At 11:11 a.m. on Nov.11, 2011, students throughout Dallas ISD will spend 11 minutes of their day reading a book, magazine, or other printed publication.

With an emphasis on literacy, we are recruiting as many as 1,111 volunteers to join students on that day for 11 minutes of reading.  On 11-11-11, at 11:11 a.m., district staff and high school students will join a host of volunteers from the business community, service organizations and others to read with and to elementary students throughout the district.

11.11.11, a literacy campaign I conceived, is part of Dallas Reads!, a larger city-wide initiative to encourage everyone to read.   Through Dallas Reads! the district is joining forces with the City of Dallas, local organizations and businesses, and parents and community members to emphasize the power of literacy.

Students who read are infinitely better prepared for life and personal success than those who do not.  On 11.11.11, Dallas ISD students and adults alike will be reminded of the importance of literacy to our lives.  Click on the link below to begin the process of signing up to volunteer to read to elementary school students in Dallas on 11.11.11.

Encourage your colleagues, family and friends to join us.  Register now.  We’ll see you Friday, 11-11-11 at a school near you.  Students will be waiting for you.

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Dr. Lew Blackburn Receives Education Award: Five Stars in the Lone Star State

The National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) held their annual conference November 17-21 in Fort Worth, Texas. On Thursday, November 18, as part of the opening night reception, five Texans were recognized as the Five Stars in the Lone Star State. I was recognized for my contributions to the field of education, and especially for advancing the education of African American students. I accepted this award from Dr. Carroll Thomas, President, NABSE, on behalf of the students in Dallas, as well as those throughout Texas, and the United States. I appreciate this recognition, and the honor.

The National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) is the nation’s premiere non-profit organization devoted to furthering the academic success for the nation’s children – particularly children of African descent. Now in its 38th year, NABSE boasts an outreach to more than 10,000 preeminent educators including teachers, administrators, superintendents as well as corporate and institutional members. Founded in 1970, NABSE is dedicated to improving both the educational experiences and accomplishments of African American youth through the development and use of instructional and motivational methods that increase levels of inspiration, attendance and overall achievement.

I have been involved with NABSE since the beginning of my teaching career in 1986. The Dallas Regional NABSE (dr/NABSE) was instrumental in shaping my early perspectives of teaching. We held monthly meetings that were more professional development in nature. I learned from educational leaders in the Dallas area, and throughout the state, as they came to Dallas to share their expertise in curriculum, pedagogy, best practices, and research. I am grateful for dr/NABSE and the efforts they make to improve the education of African American students in Dallas ISD.