A Special Message from Dr. D’Andre Weaver, DeSoto ISD Former Superintendent

D'Andre Weaver
Photo courtesy DeSoto ISD Facebook

At last night’s special called DeSoto ISD Board meeting, there was a 4-3 vote to accept Superintendent Weaver’s resignation. DeSoto ISD had been under fire due to the misuse of funds under previous administration. TEA released their results over a week ago, and DeSoto residents have been vocal about the need to move forward and put the children first.

Dr. Weaver’s Farewell Message to DeSoto

Dear DeSoto,

My earliest, fondest memories of my grandmother, Alberta Weaver, occurred in our home in Chicago. It was the home that she purchased almost 50 years ago after saving a portion of her bi-weekly paycheck in a shoebox, hidden under a floorboard in a small apartment located in one of the notoriously unsafe “projects” in Chicago. My grandmother was the first in her family to own a home and she earned the money working the night shift at R. R. Donnelley manually assembling advertisement catalogues. She usually returned home about 7:30 AM and spent the next several hours watching me while my mother went to work. It was during our time together that she would affirm how special I was and how one day, I would “be somebody.”

I’ve worked my entire life trying to live up to the words spoken to me by Alberta Weaver. She was my example of a hard worker—someone who would never throw in the towel, someone who cared enough about others to sacrifice her own needs, and someone who would give her last dollar to a stranger if it was needed. She was the nurturer in our family—she was my “somebody.”

After taking my dream job here in DeSoto, I sold the home my grandmother worked her whole life to own. I moved her and my mother to a surrounding area to be closer to me, hoping to fill the last few months of her life with pictures, media clips, and stories of her grandchild making her proud. On November 1, 2019, I stood next to two trustees and recognized several of our high-performing students before a home football game while my grandmother passed away alone in an Arlington hospital.

Since I started in DeSoto ISD, I’ve been unapologetically committed and fiercely loyal to improving this school district so that our children can feel the same sense of accomplishment I’ve felt every single day that I’ve served as your superintendent. In spite of the very public and gut-wrenching challenges our District has faced, I have worked alongside our Board of Trustees, the talented members on my team, and every teacher, leader, and staff member in DeSoto ISD to make this District whole again. While I was new to the role and to DeSoto ISD, I was not new to leading through difficult times, addressing financial missteps, solving complex problems, fixing broken systems, repairing culture and building community, inspiring creativity, caring for people, leading with integrity, compassion, and transparency, and improving student learning…among other things.

Through our collective work and collaboration, we’ve been able to accomplish the following:

What was once a negative fund balance in 2018 is now $7 million

Saved the District $11 million over ten years by addressing debt management issues

We went from being overstaffed and under-enrolled in 2018 to appropriately staffed consistent with our enrollment and staffing guidelines today

Because we took action and made some difficult decisions during the 2018-2019 school year, our financial rating has improved from an F to a C

Our accountability rating improved from a 67 (D) in 2018 to a 79, or (C )in 2019—one point shy of a B rating for academic achievement. In fact, 2020 projections had us earning an 86 (B)

1,005 new students have enrolled in DeSoto ISD (as of 8/31/2020)

Raising the district’s College, Career and Military Readiness rating from 53% for accountability year 2019 for the Class of 2018 to 69% for accountability year 2020 as based on the performance of the Class of 2019

Led 100% student engagement in the Dallas County Promise ensuring every senior in DeSoto ISD has access to higher education

Supported seniors in earning more than $33M in scholarships for the graduating classes of 2019 and 2020 which included both athletic and academic scholarships to some of the top colleges and universities across the country

Redesigned Katherine Johnson into a PreK – 8th grade admission-based campus creating in-district choice for families and renewed interest in DeSoto ISD

Created forums for community, parent and student voice to shape various initiatives increasing engagement and collaboration

Most recently, our virtual learning framework, designed out of our crisis response to remote learning needs during Covid-19, has garnered local and national recognition for how we’re reimagining learning and was one of four plans from districts across the state recognized as an exemplar by the TEA for re-entry design planning and implementation.

And perhaps, most importantly, for the first time ever—DeSoto ISD, the cities of DeSoto and Glenn Heights, a higher education institution and a medical system have united for a Joint Strategic Plan that is really going to catapult our community on a path of sincere, sustainable progress

Although notable on all accounts, these accomplishments aren’t the ones that would make Ms. Alberta give that big ol’ grandma smile.

What she would have appreciated more were the times I visited almost 20 student homes — often with my two young daughters in tow — to discuss the life lessons and real-world consequences of a poor decision that was made in school.

She would have appreciated the times that I’ve prayed with colleagues going through hard times, the personal, handwritten birthday cards that went out to staff each month (I’m a little behind J), the home visits to check on students whose parents were diagnosed with COVID-19, the long nights and endless hours my team and I spent trying to save as many jobs as possible during the reduction in force, the families we’ve sponsored with food, hotel stays, clothing, and basic necessities.

Ms. Alberta would have been proud of how I prioritized meeting with critical members in our school community—parents, teachers and staff, and students at each campus to better understand their experience. She would have especially loved that I held monthly meetings with all of our principals—just us—to check on their health, family and well-being and how we always ended our meetings in prayer for one another.

Even more than that, I think my grandmother would have been proud of the way I boldly represented DeSoto ISD during a time when the school system was at its lowest, the proud advocacy for each student in the system, but especially the African American and Latinx students who historically have been marginalized in society and public education, and the personal sacrifices of time I’ve made in the evenings and on weekends to be highly visible by students, teachers, staff and the community — oftentimes at the expense of Chyla, Ava, and Elle Weaver.

She’d be proud of the way that I’ve loved DeSoto ISD.

Last night, I chose to move on so that DeSoto ISD can move forward. I am thankful that I’ve been able to fix the things I’ve been able to fix, solve the problems I’ve been able to solve, and bring a sense of purpose and fight back to a district and community that should be the envy of North Texas. I know for certain that DeSoto ISD is on firmer financial, academic, and organizational ground today than it was when I first started. And, for that, we should all be proud.

I know that my tenure would not have been remotely successful had it not been for every adult who rolled up his/her sleeves and jumped into this fight alongside me. To every teacher in our system, thank you for your agility, sacrifice, and for going the extra mile for our students.

To every principal and district leader, you all lived the #TogetherWeWill spirit in a way I could have only imagined. We were successful because of your collective will and strength to fight through what has been challenging and unusual times.

To the past and current members on my senior team — I love each of you and I am proud of the way we’ve led — this is what murmuration looks and feels like.

To the current and past members of the Board of Trustees — thank you for trusting me with the responsibility of leading this community. We’ve led through one crisis after another without reprieve for the last two years and my prayer is that a sense of calm and stability exist in DeSoto ISD soon.

To Senator Royce West, State Rep. Carl Sherman Sr., Mayor Curtistene McCowan and the members of the DeSoto City Council, Mayor Harry Garrett and the members of the Glenn Heights City Council, our community members/organizations, local and national partners, pastors, the families that invited me into their homes to share a meal, and the barbershop and beauty shop owners who’ve engaged me in conservations, strategic planning, problem solving, joint partnerships, or who’ve called to lend their support or offer a word of prayer – please accept my deepest and sincerest appreciation for welcoming me into this community and making me feel like “somebody.”

To the parents and students of DeSoto ISD, thank you for your commitment to the District, for showing up each year, and for never giving up hope for what DeSoto ISD could become. You are why this District exists. I love you and I am so thankful that I’ve been able to be a part of your lives.

And to my family, who so willingly followed me from Chicago, and then to Houston, and then to DeSoto; to my wife and two girls who sacrificed quality time with their favorite guy, so that he could live out one of his dreams — thank you for giving me permission to lead.