Dallas Public Schools: Should We Stay or Should We Go Now?


Photo: Bethany Erickson

Photo: Bethany Erickson

When my husband bought the home we live in now – a 1950s bungalow in Midway Hollow – he was a bachelor. He told me several times during our courtship that he bought the house thinking that he would sell it when he got married, because three bedrooms and ONE bathroom is kind of cozy.

Well, I like cozy. When we married, we decided that staying put made sense, but if we ever had kids, we would give the situation another gander.

Then we had our son, and between the fatigue of a newborn and the decision to go to one income, we decided we would wait until the kiddo was nearing school age before we made any decisions. Potty training with one bathroom was fun (she said, in the most sarcastic way possible in print), but we managed. But now that we are really staring down the barrel of elementary school (and three people trying to get ready at once in the morning), we realize we need to start actually making some decisions.

And then Candy and I began talking, and realized that there are probably a lot of us in this boat – trying to figure out the best options for education and real estate. On somewhat of a budget. Possibly even in a neighborhood where the march of gentrification is creeping toward your house, meaning a possible increase in value. Do we stay? Do we go? What are our schooling options? Where do we move, if we were to move? Should we renovate? If we do, who should we hire? How much should we do ourselves?

I hope you’ll join me in our joint adventure. And look out for more postings from me about all the pretty houses on the market in my wonderful neighborhood, as well as other important discussions about Dallas ISD and finding the right school in the right neighborhood.

20 Comment

  • Welcome to the blog, Bethany! I will be reading all of your stories as we find ourselves in the same position!

  • When are the people of Dallas going to rise up together and take back the public schools for our children? Or is it just easier to move to HP or pay ridic amounts for private school? Someone needs to lead the way. Sometimes I think I should do it. But then I remind myself that it would just be easier to move to HP or pay for private………..

    • Which is exactly what we did. But you know what ticks me off? SOME Dallas schools haven’t changed since my children were youngsters, now they are still a mess for THEIR children. This despite all the millions of dollars we tossed to education. Maybe we ought to privatize them. But I’m no expert on this, that’s why we have Bethany on board!

  • Wow, the intersection of real estate and schools. You’ve hit the mother lode on a topic that’s sure to get a lot of people talking. As someone who faced these same decisions about 8 years ago (from my own Midway Hollow home, no less), I’m so glad you’re starting this public discussion. I would’ve left it at that, but I can’t help myself from commenting about Clay’s sentiment (shared by many I’m sure), that we need “take back the public schools.” Who, exactly, needs to “take” the schools back, and from whom? If you think schools belong to tax-paying homeowners, not those who merely rent without paying property taxes on schools, that just leads down a slippery slope. Under that theory, homeowners without children shouldn’t have to pay school taxes. Commercial properties shouldn’t pay the tax. In that case, only people with children in school should pay for school. If so, why pay for it so inefficiently through taxes, why don’t we just shut down public schools and make education the financial responsibility of each family who wants it for their children? If that’s what you believe, then we’re unlikely to ever agree on a solution for the state of our public schools. But if your true sentiment is a wish for public schools we all can be proud of, then we have a lot of common ground to work with.

    • Absurd comment! Using this logic you should only pay taxes for the fire department when your house is burning, taxes for police after your child has been murdered or taxes for the Army after your home has been invaded by a foreign country.

  • This will be an interesting series. We considered this in our 2012 move to the Royal Northaven neighborhood (roughly bounded by Midway, Strait, Royal and Northaven). Withers elementary is supposed to be one of the best elementary schools in DISD. Walker Middle School and WT White High School are also among the better schools of their kind within the district.. Another neighborhood at a somewhat lower price point (beginning around 400k) is Disney Streets/Northaven Park area, which also feeds into Withers. Other options that we have discussed: Lake Highlands (where we used to live and where a lto of young professional couples/families seem to choose), private school and HPISD. The other option within DISD is magnet schools, including Dealey Montessori, Travis and Talented and Gifted High School (knowing that admission is not a given). I will be interested to hear what Bethany considers.

    Candy, did your kids go to Withers at any point or did they always attend private schools?

    • From Jonathan’s post: “Lake Highlands (where we used to live and where a lot of young professional couples/families seem to choose)”

      LH is not perfect. RISD is not perfect. But together they’ve been pretty good for multiple generations. Many LH grads move back into the neighborhood to raise their kids (full disclosure, I’m one of them). You get a Dallas address, close to downtown, Uptown, White Rock Lake, and other attractions. You want a brand new custom home for 800K – 1M, check. You want a 1950s ranch with original hardwoods for around 300K, check. You want somewhere in between, check. Come join us!

    • People need to forget about Dealey. We live in that neighborhood and put our daughter through what they call an application process (I call it a joke). Only about 2-3 kids from each of all of the DISD areas get admission and about 200-300 apply for each of those. Dealey is deteriorating badly, and from what I saw I would not have put her in there even if she had been accepted.

    • Always private. We started at Northaven Coop, which is fabulous, then Cassie went to Hockaday for 12 years. Tres started at what was then St. Michaels, then onto St. Mark’s. I am looking back now, figuring what that money would have done in the stock market (ha!) and wondering: was it worth it?

    • Always private. We started at Northaven Coop, which is fabulous, then Cassie went to Hockaday for 12 years. Tres started at what was then St. Michaels, then onto St. Mark’s. I am looking back now, figuring what that money would have done in the stock market (ha!) and wondering: was it worth it?

      • Private schools are only an option if you have a LOT of money. Otherwise you are sacrificing your financial future to pay for something TWICE. Once with property taxes and once with exorbitant tuition (not to mention the capital contributions and pledges the private school will hit you up for). If you pay tuition of $15,000 a year for 12 years and assume you could have earned 4% return on it, you could have had an extra $240,000 in your assets. Two kids? Make that $480,000 you just burned through. Just suck it up and move to a GREAT school district and plow the extra money into your retirement or your kids college fund instead.

  • We live in the neighborhood. Unfortunately we are selling our house due to a relocation but had the same conversations you had about schools. After talking to others we have found that the elementary schools, with parent involvement, are loved by parents. If we were staying in Dallas, our future kids would be going to DISD. Not sure I would say the same about junior high and high school.

  • Our solution was to move to a place in Far North Dallas where we could remain Dallas residents, enter RISD and put our kids through the Pearce HS track. We believe Pearce and its feeders are a much more stable environment than Lake Highlands schools.

    We moved to a starter home 10 years ago (4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2100 sq ft), which was a hell of a lot cheaper than buying a smaller house in our old M Streets neighborhood or in Midway Hollow. More recently, we moved into a larger house (3500 sq ft) within 1/2 a mile of our house.

    The downside is that I am no longer in stumbling distance to Greenville Ave bars and restaurants and I have crossed North of 635. Oh, the stigma! I’m over it.

    On the bright side, ever major freeway (635, Tollway, 75, Bush) is 3-7 minutes from my house, so I can make it to downtown or Legacy in 15 minutes. My commutes on the Tollway are ridiculously easy. This area is a cyclist’s dream. The Preston Ridge trail is near my house and I use it frequently to ride to/from White Rock and all connecting trails. I love riding down the hill (did you know FND is on a hill?) through North Dallas neighborhoods > Park Cities > Katy Trail > Oak Cliff > beer > back home. Richardson Bike Mart leads rides North and West every weekend. Crime is low.

    I love the housing stock. It ranges from 60/70s ranch style homes to high-end contemporary custom homes. Few McMansions. Sq footage prices are about $120-$140. It’s more pricey in Northwood Hills where you are not able to go through Pearce HS.

    If you have a growing family, you want good public schools and easy commutes, I recommend looking b/w Preston and Hillcrest, North of Arapaho, South of McCallum.

  • Are you only looking in North Dallas? We have a baby now and are already set on Lakewood Elem which feeds into Long MS and Woodrow Wilson. Lakewood, Stonewall Jackson and now the new Mata Montessori Elementary schools are three very well thought of options over here.. Houses in these neighborhoods range in price and are convenient to Downtown/Uptown/Baylor Hospital/SMU plus you are close to White Rock Lake and the Arboretum. There are some wonderful paths in DISD – check them out!!

  • Growing up in Preston Hollow and going to Preston Hollow Elementary in the 70’s, but then attending private, then back to public for senior year, I myself had my share of the public schools, but also private, and grew up and then lived as an adult in Preston Hollow…and would NEVER do public. I saw first hand the difference, and that was back then. I agree and it kills me we have not been able to privatize Preston Hollow or others and take them back and build them up. Why we have been made to leave our own neighborhoods and pay for private since busing started in the 70’s is beyond ridiculous. Well…fast forward and now I am a Midway Hollow resident, and also remodeling amazing houses here as well, and my children are at ESD, which we LOVE. I honestly had not spent any time in this wonderful area before 2 years ago, with its windy roads, great original architecture, creeks and some of the best properties in Dallas – at least not to really know it and love it until I moved here. I think this is the next M-Streets or Devonshire and will be the next big push in real estate, but still affordable, with great down to earth normal people…and we have stars! Seriously. You feel like you are in the country a bit without all the lights and traffic from Hillcrest and Preston. Main problem I see as is Bethany’s point…is the hood may only be good if you are in private, but they are all close at least. I am a transplant, but from renovating to living, I will not leave soon and want to keep this little known and much loved private oasis just that. We love it here!! #MidwayHollowGreatBuyGreatHood

  • Yep, we had a fab rancher in Lakewood we bought after getting married. 2BR, 2BA. Stayed when we had 1 kid and went to 1 income. Moved when we had the 2nd to Coppell for the fab schools, central location and easy airport access. Don’t regret it for a minute. Move to an apartment or townhouse in HP or come to Coppell!

  • There are a lot of people who are going to be prejudiced against DISD. But you will be surprised if you do your homework and don’t blindly throw away your money on private school (especially the mediocre ones formed to avoid integration). I’ve seen private school kids transfer in for IB in East Dallas (Long and Woodrow) and they can’t handle the rigor. However, they like the schools and drop into the AP track – they don’t go back to private. IB is intense. We are luck to have this program in Dallas and it’s taken a lot of dedicated people doing a lot of work get them – it takes about three years after the school is chosen as a candidate school.