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Leading Off

Leading Off (6/13/18)

| 6 days ago

AT&T/Time Warner Merger Approved. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon signed off on the deal, the value of which is $108.7 billion. The deal is set to be closed by June 20.

Cowboys Cheerleader Alleges Pay Discrimination. Former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Erica Wilkins said in a lawsuit against the team that she was paid less than half of what Rowdy the mascot made and not paid the entirety of what she was owed. Wilkins says other cheerleaders also experienced pay inequality. Her civil suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Plano ISD Makes Changes to Ranking System. The school board voted yesterday to get rid of class rankings starting with eighth graders graduating in 2023. It will still determine students in the top 10 percent of their class, in accordance with state law.

Driver Who Stole Pickup Still at Large. After being led on a chase through North Dallas yesterday, police called off the search. The driver abandoned the truck, jumped over fences, and fled on foot. The man still has not been found.

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Education

Dallas ISD Begins Stripping Confederate Names From Three Schools

| 1 week ago

Stonewall Jackson Elementary School had a new sign installed this morning to reflect its new, Confederate-less name: Mockingbird Elementary. The new name officially goes into effect on July 1, but as you can see by the below tweet, the district went ahead and got the new signage up about a month ahead of time.

The school was one of three that Dallas ISD trustees voted to rename last December. Like Stonewall Jackson, the other two—Robert E. Lee and William L. Cabell—honored Confederate generals.

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Education

New Chancellor Lesa Roe Leads UNT with STEM Efforts and Business Collaborations

| 2 weeks ago

Lesa B. Roe is no stranger to being the first at something. It started when she became a first-generation college student.

It continued through a 33-year career at NASA, where she served as the first woman director of NASA Langley Research Center. Most recently she was the acting deputy administrator for NASA, a role similar to a chief operating officer for the $19.6 billion agency where she oversaw 17,000 employees and 10 field centers.

Roe admits she didn’t think much about the significance of breaking barriers when she was named to the Langley position, as she had become accustomed to thinking of herself as “another member of the team—not the woman on the team.”

But then, the day her appointment was announced, one word brought it all into focus. “The lady who cleaned the building, she comes into my room and gives me a big hug and says, ‘Finally.’”

Years later, it would happen again in Dallas-Fort Worth in October, when Roe was named the first woman to serve as chancellor of the UNT System, succeeding Lee Jackson. “I had women coming up to me and hugging me and saying, ‘We are so thankful that you are here,’” she says. “It matters to people to see somebody break the glass.” Roe says she now sees it as giving people hope for future possibilities.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (5/24/18)

| 4 weeks ago

City Hall Will Pay $15.5 Million to Have School Crossing Guards. Yesterday, the Council approved a $15.5 million contract for three years for All City Management Services Inc., which will run the crossing-guard program.

McKinney Councilman Apologizes for Alleging Racial Profiling. The McKinney City Council voted 6-0 yesterday to approve a resolution that expressed disapproval of how Councilman La’Shadion Shemwell handled a traffic stop earlier this month, when he accused a white police officer of racial profiling for pulling him over for an alleged speeding violation. Shemwell brought forward the motion to censure himself. It doesn’t remove him from office and there is no added punishment.

Frisco Student Faces Felony Charge for Threats. A 14-year-old student was taken into custody after authorities suspected the student made a terroristic threat yesterday against Cobb Middle School. The kid could get two to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Body Found in White Rock Creek Identified. The body found earlier this month was identified as 39-year-old Eric Hall, but the medical examiner’s office hasn’t released an official cause of death. Hall, who went by Nicole, was described as a pioneer in Texas’ black transgender community. A vigil is being planned for Saturday.

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Education

64 Years After Brown v. Board of Education, Are Dallas Schools Any More Integrated?

| 1 month ago

Got to hand it to the Commit Partnership, the local education nonprofit, for having at least the second best podcast in town. The latest episode of the Miseducation of Dallas County, published Thursday on the 64th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that kicked off the desegregation of public schools, is especially strong, and especially timely as the city is trying more often lately to reckon with the ugly and persistent reality of segregation.

Hosted by Josh Kumler, of Bar Politics fame, the podcast explores how Brown v. Board of Education played out in Dallas, and leads us into the present day, closing with an interview with Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. Its premise, that federally mandated desegregation has failed to create integrated schools, holds up, and it’s worth exploring why.

The podcast features clips from a 1961 “pseudo-documentary” produced by the Dallas Citizens Council and aired the night before desegregated classes began, ostensibly to help what was once the most racist city in America integrate peacefully. But, as Kumler puts it,

…peaceful integration was never really the intention of this massive public relations campaign.  It was, instead, the perception of peaceful integration, conveyed through carefully monitored newspaper editorials, overwhelming police presence, and, of course, a movie, meant to reassure an anxious city that:

“The changing face of Dallas will remain unscarred.”

All this, because the next morning, white elementary students at eight select schools would be joined by eighteen African Americans, all of whom were six years old.

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Education

Pleasant Grove DISD School Bests Highland Park in Math Test

| 1 month ago

Our own Eric Celeste has written about the Mike Miles-initiated ACE program in DISD, for “Accelerated Campus Excellence.” Here’s how it works (from 2016):

[T]he program [is] designed to provide a more equitable distribution of teachers. Two years ago, Dallas and Houston ISDs each had 43 failing schools, accounting for about 30,000 students in each district. Today, Houston has 40 schools with about 32,000 students still found by the state to be failing. Dallas, largely because of ACE, has reduced its number to 22 schools, with about 16,000 students. In those failing schools, third through eighth-grade students improved by double-digit percentages in 13 of 14 state measures in just one year (e.g., 35 percent in fifth-grade math and 33 percent in eighth-grade science).

How did DISD produce these astonishing gains in some of its most impoverished schools? By getting the best teachers in front of those kids. Which means it had to do two things: fund the ACE program (teachers were given $8,000 to $10,000 bonuses to move schools) and identify the best teachers. The Teacher Excellence Initiative in fact showed that, before ACE, students at magnet schools—the best students—were 3.5 times more likely to have a distinguished teacher than kids who needed them most, the students at failing schools.

Mike Miles, you’ll recall, was pretty much run out of town.

So how are things looking today? Let’s take just one example, Blanton Elementary in Pleasant Grove.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (5/10/18)

| 1 month ago

Dallas ISD STAAR Test Scores Improve. Both reading and math scores went up a higher percentage than the state’s growth. DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said as long as the state’s criteria stays the same, he foresees fewer than five schools getting a failing mark from the state later this year.

Irving Elementary Teacher Accused of “Unwanted” Contact with Students. The teacher at Lee Britain Elementary School has been removed from the school while the allegations are being investigated.

FBI Raids Dallas Healthcare Company. Yesterday, FBI agents raided Medoc Health Services in Northwest Dallas and filled a van with materials. The reason for the raid is unclear, but Medoc said they are cooperating with the investigation.

Cedar Hill Student Shoves Teacher, Curses at Him. A cellphone video captured the student losing his temper after his physics teacher, Bobby Soehnge, took away the kid’s phone during class. He knocked papers off Soehnge’s desk and shoved his face with his hand. Cedar Hill ISD is “following district policy on disciplinary action.”

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Media

Effort To Keep SMU’s Student Paper Independent Fails

| 2 months ago

Despite a last-ditch effort by alumni to preserve the SMU student newspaper’s independence, The Daily Campus will end its print edition and become a part of the university’s journalism department. Friends of Student Media, the alumni group that had raised concerns about the potential for university censorship, was able to raise about $40,000 in a week to try and keep the independent Student Media Company in business.

In a letter sent to SMU President Gerald Turner and journalism faculty at the school, the group says that it was told by members of the company’s board that it was “too late.” The money, and any future donations, will instead “be used to fund annual scholarships for Dallas-area students who plan to study journalism at colleges and universities with independent student presses,” according to the letter.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (4/19/18)

| 2 months ago

City Council Urges Atmos to Hurry Up. At yesterday’s briefing, City Council members told Atmos that their plan of replacing all cast-iron pipes in the city by 2023 isn’t fast enough. Atmos didn’t exactly say they would complete the fixes sooner, but said they’re looking at how to accelerate the process.

Staff and Parents at Garland School Didn’t Know about Shooting Threat for a Week. A former Garland Classical Academy student had posted a video on April 10 on social media saying he was going to shoot up the school. He was arrested that night, but the school’s director didn’t tell teachers, parents, or students about the threat until six days later. Teachers and parents say they should have been notified immediately and are angry over how the threat was handled.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Destroying Assault Weapons. The company is no longer selling assault rifles at its 35 Field & Stream locations, one of which is near Dallas, in Prosper. It’s also destroying and recycling the rifles instead of returning them to the manufacturer to get its money back.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (4/4/18)

| 3 months ago

Community Protests Dallas Father’s Deportation. Mario Amaya is trying to fight his deportation to El Salvador and says if he’s deported, he fears for his life because he refused to join gangs there. The group Faith in Texas protested outside the ICE office yesterday to keep Amaya here. His reps at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services said they hope his deportation, scheduled for today, will be stopped and that he will be granted asylum.

Sinclair Could Own Dallas Station. Sinclair Broadcast Group is in the process of purchasing the company that owns the news station KDAF-TV on Channel 33 in Dallas. If you haven’t watched the Deadspin edit of local anchors around the country reciting the exact same anti-fake news spiel, which Sinclair mandated, you should.

DeSoto ISD Superintendent Resigns. David Harris had been on leave for more than a month but has now resigned. Trustees had hired an attorney to investigate concerns about his performance.

Hit-and-Run Driver Fled with Victim on Her Hood. Police are searching for a driver who, after a crash in southern Dallas, hit the other driver who’d gotten out of her car to exchange information and drove for a mile with the victim on the hood of the car.

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Education

Help Save One of Dallas’ Best and Most Worthy Music Education Programs

| 3 months ago

La Rondalla is an incredible after school music program located in Oak Cliff. Its founder, Dennis Gonzalez, runs it with his two sons, Stefan and Aaron (who also make up the trio Yells at Eels), as well as instructors who include guitarist Kenny Withrow, of New Bohemians fame, as well as a number of other notable local musicians. The program, which has been in operation since 2010, offers neighborhood kids an opportunity to learn how to play the instrument of their choice from some incredibly accomplished musicians. And here’s the kicker: it’s all free. Students sign up, show up, are given instruments, and they learn.

La Rondalla is an incredible community resource. We all know the important role musical education plays in the development of young people, and we know the challenge of funding arts programming in schools these days. La Rondalla is an innovative way of filling the gap and giving kids who might not otherwise be able to afford musical training a chance to learn.

Unfortunately, La Rondalla has fallen on some tough times. The Dallas Observer has more info, but here’s the gist: the program has had to temporarily shut its doors in order to raise money to keep the program going. Here’s how you can help: the Gonzalez’s will be hosting a few benefit concerts over the next month, and they are accepting donation direct via PayPal. Here are the details: 

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Housing

The Single Biggest Problem in Dallas

| 3 months ago

Mike Koprowski had just begun a new job when he realized how broken Dallas is. It was 2014, and Koprowski, who had just turned 30, was a Harvard-educated whiz kid hired by Dallas ISD to run its new Office of Transformation and Innovation. The district’s veteran spokesman at the time, Jon Dahlander, asked Koprowski to come to his office. He’d seen district politics chew up smart, young, ambitious people, and he wanted to explain the lay of the land.

“What’s that?” Koprowski asked him.

“A map of the district,” Dahlander said.

“No, that. That hole in the middle.”

That hole, of course, was the Park Cities.

“I was stunned,” Koprowski says now. “I said, ‘So, it’s a separate school system, in the middle of this other school system?’ It was unreal to me. People in Dallas are just used to this now. But to an outsider, I just saw this map and realized the unbelievable segregation that exists within the system.”

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