How a rat problem in a Dallas ISD cafeteria eventually changed the face of the school board


“Patricia Arvanitis’ role in today’s vastly improved Dallas ISD began a decade ago, when, as a parent, she was upset that no one seemed to care about rats in an elementary school cafeteria.

Today, Leadership ISD, the organization Arvanitis created out of that frustration, is relishing a trio of school board victories for trustees who vow to focus solely on student achievement — not politics, grandstanding or other silly distractions.

The one-of-a-kind organization has evolved into a powerful player on the local political scene. Leadership ISD works with schools in Dallas County and has expanded its efforts to Tarrant and Harris counties since its 2011 founding. More than 800 participants have graduated from its training and countless others have gained knowledge from those original fellows.

The nonprofit must officially stay out of elections, but Arvanitis, now Leadership ISD’s CEO, always hoped the work also would result in a pipeline of well-informed trustee candidates. Her organization's training programs — and its army of alums -- has made a powerful difference in the last two DISD elections. And kids will be better off for their work.”

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