DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas Independent School District set out to put its best foot forward Tuesday in hopes of winning millions of dollars. The DISD is a finalist in the “Race to the Top” completion.

Today the U.S. Secretary of Education was in North Texas to take a closer look at the district and the community campaign to support schools. That ‘evaluation’ began a top city leader.

The nation’s appointed leader of public education, Arne Duncan joined Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and Dallas Schools Superintendent Mike Miles for a tour of Pinkston High School in west Dallas.

The visit spotlighted two agendas: the mayor’s repeat declaration of support for the DISD, and the system’s new leader. Superintendent Miles touting his effort to improve student achievement, by demanding more from teachers in the classroom.

Secretary Duncan acknowledged that the district’s plan for education reform must have buy-in community wide. “You can’t have a world-class city if you don’t have a great school system,” Duncan said. “And to have the mayor’s time and energy and political capital behind that goal, gives me great hope to reach that ambitious goal.”

The Race to the Top grant has school district’s going head-to-head for a portion of some $400 million in grants. The DISD is one of 61 finalists.

Getting the money is only part of the objective; Duncan wants city residents to also be involved. “If you are a citizen and listening today, and you’re not demanding the best public school this city can offer, we need you on the team demanding it.”

Now, targeting specific schools and neighborhoods is part of the plan to improve the Dallas school district.

Two other area districts, Uplift Education and Harmony Public Schools, are also finalists in the competition.

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