DRC connects local leaders to Dallas ISD Schools at 23rd annual Principal for a Day

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) partnered with Dallas Independent School District (ISD) Tuesday, Oct. 17 to host the 23rd annual Principal for a Day (PFAD), presented by Capital One for the 14th year.

PFAD matches business and community leaders with an elementary, middle, or high school in Dallas ISD based on the participant’s areas of expertise, interests, and the school’s need. The participant gets to experience a day-in-the-life as principal in a local school.

Amazon’s Vickie Yakunin speaks to students at Townview

“Our mission at the DRC is to help make the Dallas Region the best place in America for all people to live, work, and do business. That all starts with a strong public education system,” said DRC President & CEO Dale Petroskey. “More often than not, a high-quality education leads to a good job and a good life. That’s why the DRC is so proud of our partnership with Dallas ISD because they have become a model for urban school districts in America.”

This year, nearly 200 business and civic leaders from around the Dallas Region served as volunteer principals at Dallas ISD schools.

During his PFAD experience, Tellis Bethel, Group Vice President and Chief Social Innovation Officer for Toyota North America, visited classrooms, learned about upcoming school events, and discussed school-wide curriculum at the West Dallas STEM School.

Toyota partnered with Dallas ISD and Southern Methodist University to open the school in 2018 to offer project-based, hands-on learning to address STEM gaps in learning. West Dallas STEM School’s principal and assistant principal discussed how they are encouraging teachers to have a more hands-off approach in the classroom to allow learning to happen as children come to solutions by struggling through the problem with their peers in this new learning approach.

“It’s no surprise there’s a parallel in the course of the corporate world,” Tellis commented, as employee ownership in training becomes more and more important. Allowing students and employees to grapple with a concept enhances their learning.

Throughout the day, participants got to teach classes, share school-wide announcements, meet with student organizations, attend school performances, read to students, observe teacher and administrative planning sessions, and participate in several other activities.

Vickie Yakunin, Head of Community Affairs for the North Texas Region at Amazon, was the principal at Townview School of Science and Engineering. She visited Townview earlier this year to surprise two high school seniors with Amazon’s Future Engineer Scholarships. As principal for a day, she spoke to a class of seniors about her job, college, and the Amazon scholarship, which awards students $40,000, an Amazon internship, and a mentor.

“At Amazon, we believe education is the most important driver of future success and economic prosperity in our community,” emphasized Yakunin.

After the school day was completed, participants gathered for a reception hosted at Gilley’s Dallas, sponsored by Amazon. There, participants and their partner principals reconvened alongside elected officials and other civic leaders to discuss their experiences and encourage further participation in Dallas ISD.

At the reception, participants heard DRC President & CEO Dale Petroskey, event sponsors, and Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde.

PFAD reception

“There is something that absolutely unites all of us, and that is that we know a strong public education is the foundation to economic mobility in our city and in our community,” said Elizalde. “Our teachers are the program and principals are the platform from which everything is supported.”

Future involvement and lasting connections between the companies and organizations and the schools they volunteered at are some of the key objectives of Principal for a Day.

“Get to know what’s happening with our students in our future workforce, create opportunities to build a future workforce, and create some linkages between what we can offer as industry to the organizations that provide education to our students,” said Andrella Thomas, Social Innovation Manager at Capital One.

Visiting Dallas ISD’s schools and engaging in the work it takes to run a public school gave many participants a newfound respect for the public school system.

“What I saw today was inspiring. I was reminded that hard work still matters and that no matter what zip code you live in, you have a chance to succeed if you focus on your goals,” said Yakunin. “Be persistent, believe in yourself, and show up every day; roll up your sleeves and do the hard work. That was demonstrated to me throughout all the students that I met in my experience today.”

Thanks to the PFAD presenting sponsor, Capital One, and the reception sponsor, Amazon. Thank you to the Dallas Independent School District for their continued partnership.

To learn more about the work the DRC is doing in Education & Workforce, visit our website.