A former PR professional turned teacher, Lisa Taylor is determined to raise Quintanilla’s profile

Lisa Taylor is a former public relations professional who became a teacher and is now providing extracurricular activities at Quintanilla Middle School. (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)
Lisa Taylor is a former public relations professional who became a teacher and is now providing extracurricular activities at Quintanilla Middle School. (Photo by Danny Fulgencio)

Middle school marketing machine

It’s easy to live in north Oak Cliff and have no idea that Raul S. Quintanilla Sr. Middle School exists.

Kessler Heights resident Lisa Taylor didn’t, at least not until she became a teacher at the school five years ago.

“I feel like I’m in the Hill Country, right up on a limestone ledge, and we have a little forest right in front of our school — I mean, I never knew it,” Taylor says.

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It may be a secret now, but if Taylor has anything to do with it, it won’t stay that way.

Teaching was a career change for Taylor, who spent decades in journalism and public relations. She built a business marketing arts venues and events. So when she arrived at Quintanilla and found few extracurricular clubs, none of them arts specific, she put her expertise and connections to work.

Now, book club meets on Mondays, poetry and writing meets on Wednesdays, culture and art clubs on Thursdays — and these just scratch the surface. Taylor recruited an instructor and found a storage closet as a place to offer piano lessons. She’s launching a literary journal this year, and she seeks out grants for field trips to broaden her students’ horizons.

“They don’t know that they can go to the Dallas Museum of Art for free,” she says of her students.

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Quintanilla students are fairly typical of Oak Cliff public schools — 95 percent Hispanic, 95 percent poor. Wealthier “Anglo” families, as Taylor calls them, tend to exit to Greiner Middle School (Quintanilla sent 54 transfers to Greiner last year) or opt for private school, she says.

“I chose this culture. I prefer it,” she says. The students and families are “very friendly, very eager to learn, very hard-working, very kind.” Quintanilla’s elective and extracurricular offerings rival any private school, she says.

And, Taylor points out, “It’s free.”

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Hear Lisa Taylor’s pitch about why parents should check out Quintanilla and learn about other neighborhood middle schools in our new podcast, The Uninformed Parent, available at oakcliff.advocatemag.com/podcast.

So far, our series to help Oak Cliff parents take a better and deeper look at their neighborhood schools has profiled Hogg, Rosemont, Botello and Lida Hooe elementary schools. Do you have a story to share? Or a school you want to know more about? If so, reach out to editor Keri Mitchell at 214.292.0487 or kmitchell@advocatemag.com.


Raul S. Quintanilla Sr. Middle School
by the numbers

1,050
Students attend Quintanilla

345
Seats remain open, according to its campus capacity of 1,395

94.5
Percent of students who live in poverty

20+
Free after-school clubs, with snacks and late buses provided for participating students

88.5
Percent of parents who feel good about Quintanilla’s academic direction, school communication and campus environment, according to its Dallas ISD climate survey

Sources: Texas Education Agency 2017 School Profile, Quintanilla Principal Salem Hussain and teacher Lisa Taylor

This school-year-long series attempts to help Oak Cliff parents take a deeper look into their neighborhood schools. Each month, we highlight a Dallas ISD family in Oak Cliff, probing all of the questions, hesitations and soul-searching that revolve around school decisions.

If you’re considering your neighborhood school but have questions and doubts you want to explore, please contact editor Keri Mitchell at 214.292.0487 or kmitchell@advocatemag.com.

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