A Home Rule Commissioner On What I (And Others) Got Wrong

Jeff Veazey on why we are all the enemy of school reform

pogomettheenemy

I’m recording a podcast with Home Rule Commissioner Kevin Malonson tomorrow afternoon, and I’ll have it up Wednesday. I invited commissioner Jeff Veazey to come on as well, but he preferred to type his thoughts. They are below (UPDATE: JEFF ADDED A FEW THINGS):

Upon more reflection, this is my final, maybe, word on Home Rule and THE BIGGER ISSUE.

In response to your posts and all of the comments, the posts at disdblog.com, and elsewhere, I want to try once more to explain a few things about the process from one commissioner’s point of view.

Pete Gent once said Dallas was the most extremist place he had ever been. “I don’t know if it’s the heat or the money…”

This is what I learned while on the Citizen’s Budget Review Commission and on the Home Rule Charter Commission. People care about the school that their kid is in and little else. The voices of SOPS and DISDblog.com are all extreme — albeit well-intended but extreme nevertheless. I don’t know if it’s the heat or the money, but I have yet to see a drop of reason, innovation, creativity, pragmatism, cooperation, or civic goodwill on either side.

Throughout the process, I talked to many people I know who really work in schools, in their kids’ schools, and no one thought a charter was necessary, but they didn’t care about the politics, and they didn’t want to hear from the constantly shrill opposition.

Note to SOPS: Could you have done any more (other than Susan Schuerger) to have lived up to the label of elitist, North Dallas segregationists? Money bought you a bunch of petitions, and then you had no clue about how to have a conversation with the community, a conversation you asked for. You failed exponentially worse than the McGovern Campaign I worked on in 1972.

Note to Opposition: Harryette Earhardt, David L. Lee, Bill Bentzen and a few others are your most credible advocates. I don’t care how long you have been teaching or who you represent, or how much you think you know more about race, education, Dallas’ political history, rage, screaming louder and more pompously will not get people to listen to you. They just run away faster and cover their ears tighter.

I don’t want to listen to either side, very often, anymore. My filter is highly developed, and I will listen to reasoned, non-political, non-agenda-driven ideas to make schools better. I will listen to people who know that schools must change and nothing about education will be the same in 20 years but not listen to people who think privatizing schools is the way. I will not be called status quo, or a sell-out. I will not create monsters out of people who I simply disagree with. I will not acquiesce to people who want to blame teachers or unions or any other bogeyman they create. Trustee Mike Morath may have overstated that people don’t care about education, but they don’t care enough, except about their kids and their schools.

I apologize to anyone who I may have been uncivil toward during this debate. I will be more mindful that not every person I disagree with is a member of some massive conspiracy out to conduct experiments on our children. There are people of good intentions on both sides of this issue.

I don’t know what the legislature will do or what effect our recommendations may have on the District, but I will make those recommendations in good conscience to try to help all DISD kids and especially those who live in areas where the achievement gap is worse.

I know this about the future of education, we will grow out of our comfort zone or be dragged out of our comfort zone.

I look forward to the end of the Commission and will take my passion into a neighborhood school where I will help one kid learn to read better. If the 27,000 or 40,000 (depending on who you believe) signers of petitions and all of the constant carping naysayers of change, the entrenched interests who are so entrenched they don’t realize they all represent the same 150 people, all of those who can’t leave the race politics of 1972 behind and at least deal with race politics as they exist in 2015, the folks who actually care but feel a cold wall between them and their public schools, if all of them would just hush, roll up their sleeves and spend a year tutoring and mentoring a couple of hours a week, and vow to create nothing but positive, constructive, respectful energy, then we would see progress in closing the achievement gap.

But no, we have to do our local school board politics dance, the same thing, year after year, droning on in negativity, needing to be proven right, using rude behavior in public that our parents would have not tolerated. So far, no one has won that dance-off, and our kids are waiting for true leaders who will humble their egos to the task of practical, methodical development of an urban school district that works for every child and parent who really wants it — WHO REALLY WANTS IT. Closing the achievement gap starts at home with a dream.

Home Rule Chairman Bob Weiss and I share a love for the great political comment of the last century and apparently the next. As Pogo put it: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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