Fourth grader Levi Espinoza raps as he dances in a suit jacket next to principal Tito Salas.
“Pirates don’t dribble, dribble, they score. We don’t like bronze and silver. We like gold.”
Levi — visibly shy — glances at Salas as he dribbles an imaginary basketball and dances, fancy footwork and all, in the video.
“6 times 2 in the math class, you must pass. But luckily, pirates learn fast.”
On the second day of school at John F. Peeler Elementary in Oak Cliff, Levi came up to his principal in the hallway and told Salas he had something to tell him.
Then he sang those words — Salas’ words.
The second-year Dallas ISD principal went viral this week after releasing a music video to welcome his students and staff back for the new school year.
“I strongly believe that in order to do this job successfully you have to connect with your students, your staff, your community members, your parents and families,” Salas said. “I want to create excitement. I want school to be a place that kids are going to be excited to come, everyday.”
The video — which was produced by another DISD employee, Mauricio Montoya, a public safety officer at James Madison High School — features Salas sometimes dressed like the school’s pirate mascot, hanging out in the principal’s office, riding bikes down hallways and cozying up to a book in the school library.
Salas grew up in the same neighborhood around the campus he now leads and knows it isn’t always “cool” to be good at reading or “savvy in math class.” Still, he wants his students to be encouraged to do well in school.
“It’s about reassuring kids that school is what is going to help give you opportunities. It’s what happened for me,” Salas said.
He wants them to feel safe and happy in class and for parents and families to feel comfortable sending their children to school. Many are worried about security following last May’s deadly school shooting in Uvalde.
“Now after coming from a pandemic and everything that has happened, there is a lot of fear,” he said. “But I really want to change that perspective.”
Montoya is a video director as his side hustle. When Salas came to him with the idea, he was immediately on board.
“The song just makes you feel happy,” he said. “Hopefully other schools and students can see that we are doing this and feel inspired.”
Salas has never created nor starred in a music video before but hopes the video inspires his students to take risks and do big things.
For Levi, he was inspired to memorize the song lyrics and start off the year right. The fourth grader is very much looking forward to another school year, he said.
The DMN Education Lab deepens the coverage and conversation about urgent education issues critical to the future of North Texas.
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