Nancy Bernardino, PrincipalIn the Fall of 2015, four passionate educators gathered to submit a proposal for an innovative school in Dallas ISD.  These educators were responding to Dallas ISD’s call for proposals for the first round of Choice Schools, district schools that focus on a particular model or content area to give scholars the opportunity to attend a best-fit school.

For these educators, this was not only an opportunity to design their dream school but also a way to fill the gaps they observed in public education throughout their 30 years of combined experience.

Nancy Bernardino, Jennifer Turner, and Cynthia Flores were working together at John Quincy Adams Elementary School when they learned about the Choice School opportunity. Immediately the team began putting together a plan for a school that would better serve the needs of girls in Dallas. Ashley Toole, current assistant principal of Spruce High School, joined the team, bringing extensive knowledge of secondary education.

The team researched single-gender education, explored curriculum and instructional models, and ultimately designed a school based on performance-based STEAM education and Social Emotional Learning.

The Choice School selection committee approved the team’s written plan, and Solar Prep advanced to a panel interview. At the interview, the team answered questions from district leaders and offered more in-depth explanations about the exciting new school model. In the Spring of 2015, Solar Preparatory School for Girls was approved by then Superintendent Mike Miles.

As the team began planning discussions with the Office of Transformation and Innovation, it became clear that the open-enrollment campus would be an ideal place to initiate socioeconomic diversity in the district. A weighted lottery was conducted in February of 2016 to ensure a 50/50 balance in economically disadvantaged and non-economically disadvantaged scholars.

Solar Prep is entering its first year with a diverse population of scholars, a full staff of dedicated, experienced educators, and the continued mission of improving education for girls in Dallas.