Trying to clear out the backlog from a couple of weeks off. I’ll make this as short and sweet as I am capable of making something, which means only like half a million words.
• The “bridge plan” passed (two weeks ago!): Lakewood parents filled the room for the Dallas ISD trustee meeting in which the bridge plan was passed by unanimous vote. The unanimous vote was pretty much decided before the meeting began – despite what it looks like, most of the comprises and negotiations had already been agreed to, such as finding extra money for Casa View and moving up the opening of Harlee. That brought in Dan Micchece and Lew Blackburn. Bernadette Nutall had heard big rumblings in her district that a vote against this plan would pretty much be the last straw for her moderate supporters, so she was going to vote to approve no matter what (and pretend like she was doing so only after holding Miles accountable … whatever). And Joyce Foreman is too smart to AGAIN be a dissenting vote on an objectively necessary expenditure. Not when she knows the media are actually paying attention. (Most weeks, she’s on safe ground.)
That said, a few notes from said meeting about the performance of the trustees.
— Eric Cowan came across as a true statesman. He got almost nothing out of the proceedings for his district, yet he supported it because he thought it was good for kids in DISD. That is the definition of leadership. Of course, he already got a massive expansion at Greiner the last time the board advocated internal funds for construction purposes, so it’s not as though his district has been ignored. But he could have played the ward-heeler card with this, and he didn’t. In fact, he did the opposite: appealing to the better angels of the parents at Lakewood and Stonewall and elsewhere, making sure they know that the district had many needs and that the support of those parents would be crucial in the coming campaign to fund the district’s needs more comprehensively — which will require more taxes. Well done.
— Dan Micciche was a strong advocate for his district, making sure that the board amended the bridge plan to include Casa View. It didn’t seem as though there was a lot of pubic pressure for him to do so, not in the way there was public pressure from Lakewood parents. Poor parents don’t have time for that, and Casa View is 93 percent free-and-reduced lunch qualifiers. (A proxy for “poor.”) He did it because he knew they didn’t have a voice, and they needed an advocate. Now, had he sunk the deal on this stand, I would have sang a different tune. But he found a way to fund helping this school without scuttling the deal, and that’s just good representation. Micciche has done this before. He did it for Truett, for example (96 percent F/R). The last time the district funded construction with internal funds (the same time Griener got expansion funds), he got funding for a massive expansion for Truett to help those families, who also don’t have a voice. Being an advocate for needy parents is also a crucial part of trustee leadership.
— Joyce Foreman echoed the message Micciche made during the board meeting. She said she was the voice of the voiceless in her district, where there are certainly facilities in dire need. But rather than offering an amendment to help her schools, she offered an amendment to hurt schools elsewhere in the district by stripping funds from a large number of projects in the bridge plan. Her amendment was defeated. The difference between her advocacy (I don’t want YOU to get anything I don’t get) and Micciche’s advocacy (I want to help kids in my part of town) couldn’t be more clear. Of course, Foreman made the argument about doing this because there wasn’t enough cash on hand. I already pointed out the flaw in that argument.
But you can also see it destroyed here by Mike Morath. The video discussion is boring, as they go over unassigned versus assigned fund balances, blah blah blah. It’s also the important work of elected officials.
• In the meantime, more B.S. from B.S. at Channel 8. Schutze does a great job breaking down the latest non-scandal in the continuing Scandalgate series of nonstories broken by people who really wouldn’t know an education story if jumped up and bit ’em.
• Steve Pickett, on the other hand, is a really good local education reporter who has been tough on Miles on occasion but who also, you know, also reports on interesting education stories. (Bill Zeeble from KERA is great, too, but you’d expect that.) Like this one about how teachers and the district are trying to turn around Dunbar Elementary School.
• At the board briefing this past week, there was a lot of interesting talk about district performance and school reform efforts. Not that you’d know that, because no one reported on it (except for discussion of the ACE program, which LC readers were aware of months ago, although it hadn’t been named yet.) Since we’re nearly 1K words into this post, the next two posts on LC will discuss specific parts of that meeting: First, the ERG report on the district’s overall effectiveness when outcomes are normalized for poverty (spoiler alert: impressive); then a school choice discussion.
• After the board briefing, btw, a few trustees attended what was billed as an Oak Cliff town hall meeting about DISD issues. The three trustees whose districts touch Oak Cliff – Joyce Foreman, Eric Cowan, and Lew Blackburn – attended. I did not go, but – shock! – those parents who did go reported that what broke out was what we in the biz technically refer to as “a shitshow.” A so-described show in which no substance was discussed but many pre-determined status quo die-hards got up and asked in various ways, “Why won’t you fire Mike Miles?” On Facebook, Cowan’s wife expressed her frustration with the way the evening went down, saying it was “not only not productive but embarrassing.”
As you can see from my comments later in the post, I’m trying to offer another venue where a worthwhile discussion can take place for Oak Cliff parents. I should have an update by mid-week.