“Every single time I hear about Grand Prairie ISD, I think about innovation. I think about the future.”
Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia echoed the thoughts of many in North Texas education with this quote from the Dallas Morning News. From their pioneering literacy training for teachers to a hugely successful summer learning initiative, the leadership of Grand Prairie has demonstrated a willingness to take bold action in order to maximize student success in a district whee 7 in 10 students qualify for free-and-reduced lunch.
Grand Prairie’s innovative strategies are the likely reason why, on Nov. 3, author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott announced a $16 million gift to the district. It is the only gift of its kind being given to a school district in Texas, and currently one of only two like it in the country. Importantly, there are no restrictions on how the money can be used beyond remaining completely apolitical – illustrating the trust Grand Prairie ISD leadership has built up over the years.
That trust is the legacy of Susan Hull, who served as Grand Prairie Superintendent for 12 years before tragically passing in a 2019 accident. As Commit CEO Todd Williams wrote at the time, Hull “was unyielding in the conviction that every child in her community had tremendous talent, and that it was therefore incumbent upon all of us to do everything we could to support and unleash that potential.”
In 2011, early in her tenure, Hull was facing declines in both enrollment and student outcomes. But Hull was “unafraid of data… regardless of the hard truths it might contain.” As Director of Literacy, Dyslexia, and Academic Interventions MJ Bowman recalled, Hull responded to a decline in reading scores by asking “Well, what are we going to do about it?” And then they set about creating a literacy academy for early education teachers that now serves as a model for the state.
This spirit of immediate response to student needs has continued in the wake of Hull’s passing through the current leadership of Superintendent Linda Ellis. After the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted traditional instruction, the district quickly implemented a summer learning model that allowed educators to accelerate learning for students who may have otherwise fallen behind.
These are just two of the largest examples of Grand Prairie’s recent innovations, which also include the creation of a state-of-the-art career high school, a top-ranked School for the Highly Gifted, a partnership with the Uplift charter network, strategic compensation for effective educators, and a massive expansion of Pre-K.
“Grand Prairie is relentlessly consumed with doing everything possible to transform the trajectory of the children and families they serve.” says Commit Superintendent-In-Residence Dr. Jeannie Stone. “It's heartening to see when others recognize and make investments to further elevate game-changing work like what we are seeing in Grand Prairie.”
Supt. Hull’s email signature always contained the question: “Is your vision big enough?” It’s clear Grand Prairie’s vision is big enough for MacKenzie Scott, and with her generous investment, it will only continue to grow.