She was only 22. The Dallas ISD graduate is also a senior associate for Commit, the cradle-to-career education partnership operating in North Texas. The organization recently named a conference room in her honor, acknowledging her status as an education pioneer in the community.
Dallas’s high-profile D Magazine, drawing on a report that ranked Dallas last among major American cities in economic inclusivity, observes that “a city’s economic success does not necessarily affect all of its residents.” It suggests “that’s why Dallas, bristling with shiny new development … can fare well on so many economic measures while leaving so many people, most of them Black or brown and living in the southern half of the city, behind.”
I have a ticket to social mobility, better health outcomes, better life outcomes simply because a concerned adult set me off on an education journey beyond my family’s means at the age of 10. It’s the high-quality education I dream of for all of Dallas’s students.
That confrontation is part of its commitment to bring greater diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to a 60-person staff that is now 50 percent people of color. Commit has been having internal discussions about issues of race since 2016, when the organization was one-quarter of its current size. It is not the organization it was in 2011 on numerous fronts.
Before starting Commit in 2011, Williams, the founding chair and CEO, served as both a partner and a global co-head of Goldman Sachs real estate private equity investment area, which he says was “gender diverse but 95 percent white.”
Williams reflects on being a commercially successful white male in the private sector prior to forming Commit and his own personal DEI journey.
“She was from a small town in Louisiana and was the first Black woman in her neighborhood to own a home and the first Black teacher at my elementary school. I do everything for her. I am her legacy.”
Smith reports that internet connectivity dominated conversations. So, Commit convened the chief technology officers of nine Dallas County school districts to develop solutions. Jack Kelanic of Dallas ISD is one. He now co-chairs the group with Smith.
The coalition has grown to more than 40 community leaders, including the chief technology officers of the nine districts, the Dallas Regional Chamber, City of Dallas, the Dallas Innovation Alliance and the Federal Reserve Bank.
Commit CEO and founder Todd Williams believes there is hope for Dallas County because of leaders like Jeannie Stone. “Jeannie Stone is a courageous superintendent committed to serving all of her students,” says Williams of the leader of the Richardson Independent School District (ISD), one of Commit’s school district partners. Superintendent since 2017, Stone has been an assistant superintendent, an adjunct professor, principal and teacher.