DALLAS — After months of a national search, Dallas ISD leaders have chosen someone who has a history with the district for its next leader.
During a closed-session, special-called board meeting on Wednesday night, Dallas Independent School District's Board of Trustees unanimously voted to name Dr. Stephanie Elizalde as their lone finalist to become the district's next superintendent.
There will now be a 21-day waiting period before Elizalde can officially be offered the job. Once confirmed, Elizalde will serve as the successor to Dr. Michael Hinojosa, who announced his plans to step down from the role in January.
A native Texan, Elizalde has served as the superintendent of Austin ISD since 2020. She served as Chief of School Leadership for Dallas ISD before moving onto Austin ISD.
Elizalde first joined Dallas ISD in 2011 as Director of Mathematics in the division of Teaching and Learning.
Wednesday's announcement comes as superintendents have begun leaving the education industry in droves across the country. North Texas is in the middle of its own transition period: Since November 2021, 10 superintendents from 10 local school districts have announced that they are leaving, resigning or retiring from their leadership positions.
Throughout her education career, Elizalde has served students as a teacher, a principal and an assistant superintendent, among other roles. Along with Dallas ISD and Austin ISD, she has also worked in Southwest ISD and San Antonio ISD.
On Wednesday evening, Elizalde told WFAA she has informed individual members of the Austin ISD Board of Trustees of her plans to take the Dallas ISD job -- but has not yet addressed it with the board as a governing body. She said she hopes to start her new role with DISD in July, but said her transition will have to be coordinated with Austin ISD, whom she also helps to assist during its own transition as it searches for her replacement.
Outgoing DISD superintendent Hinojosa has already said he is willing to stay in his role through the end of 2022 in order to help with his successor's transition.
Elizalde said her brief time in Austin -- she served just a year and a half in her role as superintendent there -- helped prepare her for the top job at DISD.
"I don't think I would have been ready for the Dallas ISD superintendency without having had the opportunities that this board of trustees and this community and this staff in Austin ISD provided me," Elizalde said. "I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world because it is part of the reason and it is now who Stephanie Elizalde is."
During her time in Austin, Elizalde was tasked -- as superintendents across the world were -- with leading an education system through a litany of difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that experience will undoubtedly shape her upcoming tenue at DISD.
"Normal has a totally different meaning than it did prior to the pandemic," Elizalde told WFAA. "I don’t think I'll ever use that word again in the same way."
Still, Elizalde said her top priority will be supporting DISD's staff.
"We know that we, first, truly have to understand where we are with our teachers and our staff -- even before we begin to serve our students," she said. "It's going to be vital that we give our teachers and our staff and our leaders the support that they need so they can serve our students in the most effective manner possible. We also know that we have a lot of catching up to do, and we're going to have to think collectively on building on the successes that Dallas already has had. Remember: Dallas is one of the fastest-improving school districts in the country."
Elizalde said she hopes to continue the successes Dallas ISD experienced under Hinojosa.
"As long as we continue to put students in the center of our decision-making, we’re going to continue to do great things," she said. "We all know we’re going to struggle with staffing. Teaching has always been a challenging job, and now it’s going to be more challenging than ever. One of the beauties of Dallas ISD is the commitment of staff to always putting students at the center of decisions."
Elizalde was named one of four Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Hispanics in Education in 2014. The Dallas Morning News also named her a "Point Person" for her work in the community in 2016.
Elizalde has been awarded the UT-Austin Dr. Nolan Estes Leadership Ascension Award four times, most recently in 2017.
Elizalde is a third-generation public school educator, following in her grandmother’s and father’s footsteps.