Petition to Keep Mrs. Darlyn Morris-Hildenbrand as Assistant Principal at Stemmons Elem.

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August 15, 2017

Dr. Michael Hinojosa
Superintendent
Dallas Independent School District
9400 North Central Expressway, Suite 1400
Dallas, Texas 75231

Dear Dr. Hinojosa:

On Behalf of the Leslie A. Stemmons Elementary Families and Friends, thank you for your service to the students of Dallas ISD. We realize that you have a very challenging job as Superintendent and we commend you for your work in moving our district forward. It is because of your leadership that Stemmons has had the opportunity to benefit from our amazing teachers, staff, and administrators.
We understand that much of your attention and focus is dedicated to ensuring that the daily operations of the district at the main administration buildings and sometimes may be unaware of circumstances that occur at an individual school level.

Principal turnover affects student achievement. According to a study published by Ashley Miller of Princeton University and a report by School Leaders Network, principals account for about 25 percent of a school’s total influence on student academic performance. Unfortunately, the report also suggests that low-income students are likely to experience the effects of principal churn at greater rates than others. The report shows that high achieving principals tend to migrate to schools with higher income levels, higher achieving students, and fewer minorities.

How that affects our students? Many of the students established relationships with Mr. Zuniga, Mrs. Morris-Hildenbrand, and Mrs. Robin Smith. All three individuals together encompassed our school’s administrative team. Mr. Zuniga has since accepted a position at another school and Mrs. Robin Smith has since retired. This left the students with one individual in which they entrusted, Mrs. Morris-Hildenbrand. Having a new administrative team, with cause many students who established bonds with said individuals to feel abandoned. Forming relationships with most of these students wasn’t easy, however, Mrs. Morris-Hildenbrand was always ready and willing to take on the challenge. To move Mrs. Morris-Hildenbrand to another school shows that the district is not at all concerned with the wellbeing of our students.

Rebuilding positive momentum with a new principal takes time. It can take a new principal up to three years to regain positive momentum in math and English language arts performance—years in which student growth can stall and students lose critical learning time.

How does this affect Stemmons? Stemmons currently leads our Feeder Pattern in distinctions and has received distinctions for our achievement in reading and science. While the incorporation of Mr. Tovar is a great addition for his former school receiving distinction in Math, it only makes sense to continue keeping Mrs. Morris-Hildenbrand in our school so we are able to form distinctions in Reading, Math and Science. To bring in an individual with no prior experience with receiving distinctions in their current school is a kick in the gut to Stemmons Elementary. This comes across as a punishment for exceeding expectations, especially in a school that has a 94.6% economically disadvantaged student enrollment count.

Leading change in a school requires a multi-year investment. Stable leadership matters. Keeping school leaders in place for multiple years—and improving their performance—has a positive effect on student outcomes, particularly in high-poverty schools. It takes principals an average of five years to put a vision in place for a school, improve instructional quality and fully implement policies and practices that positively affect a school’s performance. Schools that don’t retain principals beyond this point will inevitably struggle to get a foothold on meaningful change.

We know that with a new principal we may see students' scores decrease as the report referred earlier shows that the year immediately following a vacancy students perform lower due to morale. It takes about five years for a principal to really put his or her vision in place at a school and significantly change the school's performance. However, Mrs. Morris-Hildenbrand can help lead the transition and make it much easier for students, teachers, staff and families to get on board.

Principals set the tone and climate in the schools they lead. Strong leaders contribute up to 25 percent of the school factors that influence a student's academic performance, according to the report. And teachers often make decisions about where to teach and how long they stay at a particular school in a large part based on its leadership. Mrs. Morris-Hildenbrand’s relationship with our members of our has made it possible for us to retain so many of our great teachers, staff and students.
One of your responsibilities as Superintendent is to “assume administrative authority and responsibility for the assignment and evaluation of all personnel other than the Superintendent”.

We humbly request that you investigate the reason behind the move, as there was no opportunity given to the stakeholders, families, teachers, staff or friends of Stemmons Elementary. We ask that you take a step in supporting our students, families, teachers and staff by keeping Mrs. Morris-Hildenbrand at Leslie A. Stemmons Elementary School.

As Thurgood Marshall once remarked, “none of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because a parent, a teacher…bent down and helped us pick up our boots.” As individualistic as our framework of government encourages us to operate, it is imperative that within our public education system we operate as a unit with our sole goal to produce the most successful and developed students we can. Mrs. Morris-Hildenbrand is that individual that unites our school. Removing her increases the potential to revert back into a low-performing school something we have worked to hard to get away from.



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