For The Addy Foundation President Ben Leal and Dallas Afterschool CEO Marjorie Murat, the event was something of a homecoming. The two, who’d worked together several years ago at the Jubilee Park and Community Center, found themselves collaborating again tonight, jointly welcoming guests to an exclusive Welcome Reception for new Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde.
Elizalde, who worked previously for DISD before becoming superintendent of Austin ISD, left the Austin job and assumed the Dallas post earlier this month, succeeding Dr. Michael Hinojosa. The Tuesday evening reception at Highland Park Village’s Park House was organized by Dallas Afterschool and sponsored by The Addy Foundation, whose founders Lydia and Bill Addy were among the 70 or so attendees.
The invitation-only guest list, which was purposefully curated to include leaders of out-of-school programs, included the likes of Olga Gonzalez, Byron Sanders, Amanda Esaena, Ed Franklin, Dione Terrell, Michael Gagne, Olga Martinez Hickman, Erin Weiss-Chupka, Kiersten Rood, Tori Hobbs, Lisa Marshall and Kit Sawers.
Before addressing the crowd, Stephanie confided that she and husband Richard Lewin are currently renting a townhouse here while looking for a new place to buy, having sold their previous Dallas residence two or three months ago. Tall, with a commanding presence, she was clad in a black dress and a pair of spectacular red shoes, which she called her “ruby red slippers” because, she said, “I feel like I clicked my heels together” and got to come back to Dallas.
In her brief remarks to the gathering, the new superintendent said, “We don’t need reform” at DISD. “We need to refine. Let’s lift some things off our shoulders” if they don’t make sense to continue pursuing.
“One of our priorities is to expand the investment in after-school,” Stephanie went on. “We don’t have an achievement gap in DISD; we have an opportunity gap. There are 160,000 students in the district, but [the various after-school programs] serve 14,000. So we need all of our partners — and that’s only possible through you. We’re going to strategize and work together so that we’re not duplicating, but expanding, services.
“I’m so thankful that you took the time out of your day to come here,” DISD’s new leader concluded, her voice cracking. “This is the only job I ever wanted!”
Once the hearty applause died down, Marjorie took the mic and summed up the feelings of many in the room: “If that isn’t passion and commitment, I don’t know what is!”