Find a back issue

Incredibly Dumb Claim Made Against DISD Found to Be Incredibly Dumb

I’m irritated and I’m stumped. Irritated because I had a lot of stuff on the ol’ to-do list yesterday, and instead I was pulled into a debate between a bunch of idiots and a very confused Dallas ISD administration and board. Stumped because the allegations that necessitated this debate are so wrong-headed, so silly, so baseless, I am at a loss how to address them. It’s like trying to explain to a sane person why the crazy person claims the moon is made of barbecue spare ribs. I mean, where do you start?

Everywhere, I guess. So here is a scattershot rebuttal of the claims made by [cue the never-ending sigh] Bill Betzen and friends in their complaint about DISD’s supposedly inequitable funding system. […]

Full Story

Meaningful Pre-K Reform is in Trouble, Because Austin Reps Are Lazy

The Dallas Morning News ran a good editorial on Friday showing why we should support meaningful pre-K reform. You should read it now. I’ll wait.

So, your takeaway from that is a) Grand Prairie is doing some good things in its ISD (true, and more widespread than you probably realize); b) full-day Pre-K is necessary in Texas (true); and c) the state is going to at least give districts more money to expand from half-day to full-day pre-K under HB 4, the Gov. Abbott-backed bill currently under consideration.

That last item — c) — is true but largely meaningless. Because HB 4 is a PR event masquerading as a serious education bill, one that could harm pre-K efforts more than it helps. Unfortunately, it looks as though that is the bill that is going to pass. Meanwhile, a far superior pre-K bill, HB 1100, co-authored by Dallas representative Eric Johnson, is going to die because people in Austin are okay with half-assing education for kids in Texas — especially poor kids.

Let me hit several points about this […]

Full Story

A Home Rule Commissioner’s Open Letter to Students Back From Spring Break

Home Rule Commissioner Kevin Malonson has proven himself a smart, independent education advocate and DISD champion. Even when he voted to effectively kill the Home Rule Commission, he made clear that he believed it was still important to reform the district — but thought home rule too flawed a tool to do so. (We disagreed on this and discussed it on a SAGA Pod.) He has graciously agreed to contribute his thoughts to the blog when he has time, and he asked that he first be allowed to address the 160k DISD students. Here is Malonson’s post: […]

Full Story

A Parent’s Letter to Trustees: Please Restore Our Faith

It’s spring break, so I’m going to highlight some other voices this week, and I hope I can convince them to keep contributing to Learning Curve in the future. They offer a boots-on-the-ground perspective from different corners of the city. Each of them are DISD parents or contemplating becoming so. Each is actively involved in his or her school(s). First, I’m going to reprint a letter from Lakewood Elementary parent John Franklin Guild. He sent this letter earlier today to trustees. Spoiler alert: It’s fantastic. I’ve provided a PDF of the Trustee Letter here. Reprint is below. […]

Full Story

Breaking Down How Wrong the DMN Story on Teacher Hiring Really Was

Last Tuesday, I was at the unveiling of new Dallas County community achievement scorecard, which gives a county-wide snapshot of education data for the 2013-2014 school year. It tells us the current makeup of our county’s students, the county’s poverty rate, costs and opportunity costs, asks if funds are being spent equitably, looks at poverty rate, analyzes achievement gaps at 11 spots throughout the pre-K to postsecondary student cycle, and so forth. It’s an important event, one anyone who cares about education in this area attends — in this case, that means Mayor Mike, Paul Quinn president Michael Sorrell, DISD board president Miguel Solis, DISD superintendent Mike Miles, business leaders, education nonprofit leaders, and so on.

Before the event, I talked with several DISD administrators about the efforts of DMN news reporters to re-fire the former head of the HR department. To say they were mocking of it would be a disservice to the word. To mock, there must be some measure of respect. They were dismissive of the story in the way one is dismissive of a drunk uncle you must put up with because he’s family.

“Look, if this city wants to have a real conversation about what it wants out of its school leadership and Superintendent Miles, that’s always fair to ask of us,” one said. “But […]

Full Story

Why DISD’s Plan to Reopen Some Closed Schools is a No-Brainer, and Why Some Trustees Don’t Care

As I’ve mentioned before, Dallas ISD is embarking on a major comprehensive plan (called, conveniently enough, the “Comprehensive Plan”) aimed at radically expanding early childhood services, creating more options for parents via schools of choice, expanding specialized career options, and upgrading some dilapidated facilities. This week, the board briefing agenda includes a major first step on that path. The school board trustees are being asked to approve the “interim bridge plan,” which includes a small amount of all the items above.

The bridge plan is, IMHO, fantastic. It’s based on years of conversations at the board table with the administration about major facilities needs and strategic initiatives. It is so chockablock with changes (28 DISD schools are affected) that listing all its details would make this post more absurdly long than they usually are. So let’s touch on a few components of the specific benefits to students, then the costs, and finally end with the major issues at play.

Of the 28 schools affected, a few high points: […]

Full Story

SAGA Pod / Learning Curve with City Councilman Philip Kingston

Shy, quiet District 14 Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston stops by world SAGA pod headquarters to discuss his ongoing opposition to the Trinity toll road — including, but not limited to, bashing the mayor and his “dream team” of architects and urban planners. We also discuss the new PAC co-founded by D Magazine Group chairman and D Magazine publisher Wick Allison, and its efforts to back politicians for city council who support restoration of urban neighborhoods by replacing and rerouting I-345 and I-30*. We then touch on what the city could learn from DISD and its comprehensive plan. And, oh yeah — we talk about […]

Full Story

To Suggest the Coggins Report Vindicates Nutall is Absurd

Bernadette Nutall is a master at certain things, one of which is orchestrating media coverage to her liking. She leaks documents, she demands documents that days later are requested by media in freedom of information act requests (in very specific language), and she gets ahead of stories. Really, she should be making Tony Robbins-kinda money leading media-training seminars. She’s brilliant at it.

The latest example was the coverage of the Coggins report that sought to determine if Nutall had violated school board policy in three instances. The reporting on this document has been consistent: Nutall was vindicated. This from today’s story in the Dallas Morning News: […]

Full Story

Quick Hits: Bernadette Nutall’s Weird Definition of Vindication

Couple quick-hit things going into the weekend:

• I’ll have more thoughts next week on yesterday’s board briefing. Among them: A look at why the board can’t wrap its head around a simple, effective financing plan, and how the status-quo crowd doesn’t mind hurting children so long as they damage Mike Miles in the process.

• Hope you saw the report by Steve Pickett at Channel 11 (he’s really good, btw) about how the Miles-Nutall-Dade report is in DISD’s hands, and how Bernadette Nutall says […]

Full Story

The Most Important DISD Story the Morning News Isn’t Covering (This Week)

Last week, Dallas ISD released a draft report to the media and the public the same day it presented said report to a 27-person task force. The district calls it its “Comprehensive Plan.” It is an incredibly important document, one that has been in the works for a long time, one that we foreshadowed on Learning Curve back in August, calling it the “story of the school year.”

You didn’t read about this report in the Dallas Morning News‘s news pages, even though it was released to the paper. (It was mentioned at the end of an editorial, because actually covering big-picture education is left to the paper’s opinion writers, because hell if I know why.) You see, as the paper told the district, “We’re too busy trying to get Mike Miles fired.” (Quote may not be 100 percent accurate.) This is understandable. The paper only has two education editors and four education reporters out of a news staff of more than 300. They have important work to do, like filing open records requests to see any and all communications between myself or Jim Schutze and the district. (Yes, that’s true.)

So, let’s try to catch you up on what is, without question, the most important story going on in DISD right now, one that will affect our poorest kids for decades to come. Because soon we’re going to have a conversation about this effort as a city, as concerned citizens, as parents, as taxpayers. And you need to do this extra reading on your own time, because the DMN is a little too busy polishing its rock of truth to bring you this information. […]

Full Story

SAGA Pod / Learning Curve: Jim Schutze on DISD, DMN, and Mayor Mike’s Money

Jim Schutze stops by the World SAGA Pod Headquarters to discuss all things DISD: the current HR scandal, a huge DISD effort not covered by the local media (warning: I say bad words), and how Mike Miles has survived every attempt to run him out of town. Then we seque to talk about the squishy accounting system used by Mayor Mike Rawlings and endorsed by City Hall: where sitting officeholders […]

Full Story

Why the DISD HR Scandal Should Make You Sad — And Then You Should Forget It

It’s taken me about a week to fully absorb the fall of Carmen Darville, the HR chief from DISD who resigned last week because the Dallas Morning News printed awful instant messages she had written to colleagues. As I do with most matters concerning DISD, I vacillated between outrage and pity, sadness and gallows humor. But I feel like I should weigh in, so here’s my attempt to make sense of the senseless.

• Obviously, Darville had to go. She was […]

Full Story

SAGA Pod for Learning Curve: Home Rule Commissioner Kevin Malonson

Dallas Home Rule Commissioner Kevin Malonson stops by to discuss the pros and cons of Home Rule: Why he voted against writing a charter, why he isn’t against reform, and what critics on both sides of the debate can learn from parents and educators. He also declines my offer to take a swing at me. Malonson is a longtime education advocate who currently works as a DISD vendor with his nonprofit Education is Freedom. I think this conversation will help wrap a bow on the HRC discussion. […]

Full Story