Improve Visibility, Economic Development & Attract Businesses To Area
DESOTO–Several major entities in DeSoto and Glenn Heights including a school district, hospital system and a higher ed institution are launching an effort to better position these communities to serve residents with hopes of improving visibility, economic development and attraction to the area.
In recent years, DeSoto ISD has experienced leadership turnover, financial insolvency, school and program closures and a sharp decline in academic performance. Additionally, there has been an increase in current and former DeSoto ISD students who are experiencing court involvement, incarceration, and death. Increasingly, students and families are leaving DeSoto ISD to attend school in other districts.
This confluence of circumstances has created a strong sense of urgency by the new DeSoto ISD superintendent, Dr. D’Andre J. Weaver, to invest in the long-term sustainability of DeSoto ISD and its impact on the surrounding communities. DeSoto ISD will improve the culture and climate within DeSoto ISD and partner with community leaders to develop a strategic plan that creates a shared vision, addresses systemic root causes, and maps out clear systems that drive towards stronger accountability and student outcomes.
DeSoto ISD Performance
The City of DeSoto, the City of Glenn Heights, DeSoto ISD, Methodist Medical Center and the University of North Texas at Dallas have a collective interest in the success of DeSoto ISD. Concurrently, DeSoto ISD is managing a misconception that the success of the school district drives economic development and community health. In reality, there are predetermining factors that affect district performance prior to any student entering the school system.
The success of DeSoto ISD is dependent upon collaboration to address larger systemic challenges. While there are many efforts underway to improve DeSoto and its surrounding communities, the work often occurs in silos. The only way to develop systemic solutions is to work together to create a community identity that invigorates economic development and supports community health for the greater DeSoto community.
With this in mind, these entities have come together to rally action around a unified vision which states the following:
- All people live in safe, multicultural communities, have the highest quality education, and are financially strong and empowered.
“This North Star initiative is so important in ensuring everyone who needs to be at the table is at the table,” said City of DeSoto City Manager Brandon Wright. “As we take a look at the school district, the city, the hospital system, there becomes a really important synergy of us working together to make sure we are accomplishing the goals of our community.”
Identifying The Problems
In order to develop the community’s North Star vision, the collective first had identify their problems.
“One of the first things we did was identify the root causes for why we were not already living out our north star mission statement, so really just that exercise of understanding the barriers allowed us to zero in on some strategies,” said Marlon Goff Director of Planning and Development City of Glenn Heights.”
While many areas of opportunity have been identified in the early work of the North Star initiative, three key threads exist within education, jobs and economic development.
“The role of DeSoto ISD in the North Star work is multifaceted,” said DeSoto ISD Superintendent Dr. D’Andre J. Weaver. “Clearly, we are going to be a big driver in the education portion of this work to ensure that people are learning in this community and not just students, but parents and graduates from high school and people who desire to obtain increased professional skills, so we want to ensure that all f these entities are coming together to design what this could look like for the future of our residents.”
City of DeSoto & DeSoto ISD Must Work Together
Emphasizing the importance of ensuring access and resources for learning throughout the community, DeSoto City Manager Brandon Wright echoed Weaver’s sentiments stating, “ The school district plays an important role in that obviously in educating students but the city plays an important role as well.
Education through our parks and recreation programs, through our libraries, education to those who are looking for better skill sets and jobs, and being able to provide incentives and different programs to help in that process.”
Vice President of University Advancement at UNT Dallas Dr. Monica Williams sees the potential of the university’s role in becoming more accessible in communities like that of Glenn Heights and DeSoto.
Williams said, “While we at UNT Dallas do have a pipeline of students from these communities, it’s most important to us that we collectively work with other educational institutions, community organizations and the community-at-large to improve outcomes for student learning, to pitch in and do what’s important for children and education.”
Emphasizing & Addressing Mental Health care
Adding to the development of a continuing education pathway, one key area of access for many communities is regarding healthcare, particularly mental health care, which is why Methodist Chalrton and Dallas Behavioral Health are so instrumental to the project.
TJ O’Reilly, Chief Executive Officer of the Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital noted his organization is already active in DeSoto and the greater metroplex providing mental health services and resources to many, but that through the organization’s involvement in the North Star project, the conversations and collaboration provide an opportunity to discuss mentorship, jobs and training.
As communities like Plano and Frisco have become attractive communities in recent years in the metroplex, DeSoto and Glenn Heights hope the work of the North Star initiatives will attract and support economic development as major access gaps are resolved.
Of realizing this vision, it is clear the only way to develop systemic solutions is to work together to create a community identity that invigorates economic development and supports community health for residents.
“We are here to make sure that the type of future that we desire for our residents really becomes achievable through this common vision so in not only establishing the vision but bringing to the table, the resources, planning and energy needed to accomplish this work,” said Wright.
Moving forward, the community entities will continue to meet to develop a concrete framework for the collaborative initiative including the development of memorandums of understanding for how the entities will work together, each entity’s role in realizing the community vision and action steps to bring the vision to life.