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With the help of SMU and Toyota, Dallas ISD will open a STEM-centered K-8 school in West Dallas
by Corbett Smith, Staff Writer | August 9, 2018
Dallas ISD is embarking on another public-private partnership to prepare its students for jobs in the high-tech industry. This time, though, the district is targeting its youngest kids.
On Friday, the district announced that will open a new K-8 science, technology, engineering and math school in West Dallas, with support from Southern Methodist University and Toyota’s charitable educational endowment, the Toyota USA Foundation.
“We just happen to be at the right place at the right time where we can come and celebrate this together,” DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said.
SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development will receive a $2 million grant from the Toyota USA Foundation to develop STEM-centered curricula for the new school, provide professional development for the teachers, help coordinate wraparound services for students, and evaluate and monitor academic progress.
Hinojosa hinted that the school district would renovate the aging Pinkston High School campus as the site for the model school, which is slated to open in the fall of 2021. DISD has shuffled a handful of campuses in West Dallas in recent years, in part to find a site for a new Pinkston. As far back as the 2015 bond program, the district planned to build a brand-new K-8 school in West Dallas. But that plan was set aside as DISD tried to figure out how to best use its resources in that part of town.
“We’re putting a capital ‘W’ in West Dallas with this project,” Hinojosa said.
Stephanie Knight, the dean of SMU’s Simmons School, said the key to the collaboration will be the generous timeline to get the K-8 campus off the ground.
“We’re learning to dance,” Knight said. “The faster that we can bring these joint resources to bear on this, then the better off we’ll be.”
While her school won’t try to “reinvent the wheel,” instead looking to adapt proven STEM curricula, Knight said there will be careful study of how best to install those plans in the classroom and to train and support teachers to make it work.
“I would like to involve the [Pinkston] feeder-pattern schools as much as we can in this, create a network so that the other elementary schools in the district are benefiting from what we are doing at the model school,” she said. “It would be good work if it’s just a one-off. But it will be great work if we can take this model and adapt it for other settings.”
DISD has jumped at the chance to go into partnerships with businesses and other education entities in recent years, most notably with its early-college high schools. Working with the Dallas County Community College District and a wide variety of businesses, the district has put collegiate academies in nearly all of its comprehensive high schools and paired business partners to work on career development and job placement at those schools.
Mike Goss, general manager for social innovation for Toyota Motor North America and president of the Toyota USA Foundation, said his company’s eventual goal is to help grow local talent for its Plano headquarters.
When Toyota moved its North American headquarters to Plano last year, the company brought in thousands of employees from California, Kentucky and New York.
“While this kind of talent influx is good for the region, we believe it’s also important for the vitality of North Texas to develop local talent,” Goss said. “What we’ve learned about this neighborhood — and many others — is that they just need access to education that leads to good jobs.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said that if organizations in Dallas can continue to come together with these types of partnerships, “we will win this game.”
“I’m excited about what’s happening in Dallas here in the short term, in the next few years,” he said. “The momentum we’ve got is remarkable. … The question is what are we going to be like in 20 years; that’s the question that we’ve got. And the only way we are going to answer that in a positive way is to focus on education — in closing the gaps between the haves and the have-nots. And the only bridge that will get you there is a great education.”
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