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A Slight Kick in the Ass to the Home Rule Commission

 

"Those guys are coming pretty fast!"
“Those guys are coming pretty fast!”

OF COURSE the home rule commission is going to meet on Monday, because I’ll be in San Francisco on vacation. (LC will return the following week, with an update of said meeting.) That said, if the agenda is any indication, I won’t be missing much. Besides some time in executive session, here is what I won’t see live:

• General discussion of future meeting dates, times, and presenters for both commission meetings and public meetings.

• General discussion about Chapter 12 of the Texas Education Code.

• General discussion about the commission’s budget.

Don’t overload yourself, guys! As the random parade float Mongolian warrior notes in Animal House: “Hey, those guys are coming pretty fast!”

Sorry, but the idea that this is REALLY going to take a full year to debate is beyond me. Let me help.

What you guys need to be focusing on is school board governance: How do we set up a system where we get a real board together, one that acts like a board and not a subverting investigative body? (For an example of what I mean, see my talk with outgoing Dallas Housing Authority board prez Terdema Ussery in last month’s D Magazine.) There’s a huge body of research that shows correlations between a sensible board governance structure and superintendent effectiveness/retention as well as student outcomes.

Therefore, you need to start thinking about these three things:

1. How do we reshape board governance so that we get the best possible candidates? Meaning: How do we ensure racial representation that better reflects the district AND entice to run the sort of trustees who want to help set smart reform policies — NOT who want to run the damn district day-to-day. (Hint to commission: Here are some fine suggestions.)

2. How do we put in some measure of accountability for board members? In other words, do we trigger recall elections when certain metrics in their districts are not met? Or in the district as a whole? Do we allow impeachment if a board member breaks the law, or censure if one breaks policy? Lots to consider.

3. How do get more buy-in from Dallas County leadership? I think incorporating the mayor into this equation somehow — today, I’m thinking about one at-large member appointed by the mayor, but again I’m willing to listen to other suggestions — is crucial. County judges could be a part of this process. Another idea floated to me that I’m intrigued by: Having ALL the mayors whose cities have DISD schools in them (it’s something like 16 different cities) participate somehow, perhaps in ratifying or nominating the at-large member.

BTW: Moving all board elections to even-year Novembers is a no-brainer. That should take about 10 seconds of debate. A charter can’t do much to encourage civic involvement, but it can at least do THE ONE OBVIOUS THING IT CAN DO.

There are other things you can worry about later on, like declaring districtwide goals, such as the thought that every child must have access to quality Pre-K. But that’s easy, back-end stuff. The important overarching task is changing DISD’s governance structure while getting more skin in the game throughout North Texas. I’d like to see a draft of this on my desk when I get back from vacay. Don’t make me call your parents.