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Status-Quo Trustees Look to Disrupt Tomorrow’s Board Meeting Any Way They Can

Preview of tomorrow's board meeting, probably.
Preview of tomorrow’s board meeting, probably.

Yesterday, a person whom I know only through social media recognized me at a restaurant. He told me how much he, as a DISD parent, appreciated Learning Curve. I thanked him. He made a parting joke, something along the lines of, “We’re just glad you have to attend the board meetings and we don’t.”

Looking over the agenda for tomorrow’s board of trustees meeting, and, my goodness, was he spot-on. Because, based on the posted agenda, tomorrow’s meeting will offer two things:

1. A chance to see just how destructive Bernadette Nutall and Joyce Foreman can be.

2. A chance for Elizabeth Jones to prove early in the school year if she is going to amend her meddling ways and be a leader, or continue down the status-quo path.

Here’s why I say those things:

For tomorrow’s meeting, 20 items were pulled off the consent agenda so that trustees could discuss them. The usual number is five to 10, tops. Twenty items — most of them line-item procurements — were available for discussion at the board briefing two weeks ago, or with private conversations between trustees and staff. Why were so many of these items pulled? Let me list them below, then you tell me:

8. ITEMS PULLED FOR A SEPARATE VOTE
A. Items Pulled for a Separate Vote

  1. Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Budget Amendments for August 28, 2014 (Consent Item #1, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  2. Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve Resolution for the Adoption of the 2014 Maintenance and Operations Tax Rate (Consent Item #3, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  3. Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve Resolution for the Adoption of the 2014 Debt Service Tax Rate (Consent Item #4, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  4. Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Procurement Method for Construction Projects Managed by Dallas ISD Construction Services (No Financial Impact) (Consent Item #8, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  5. Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Increase in the Dollar Amount for Unarmed Security Services with Weiser Security Services at Various District Facilities (Not to Exceed an Increase of $500,000 / $1,000,000 Aggregate Annually for Two Years /General Operating / Special Revenue & Bond Funds) (Consent Item #13, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  6. Consider and Take Possible Action to Authorize, Negotiate and Enter into a Term Agreement for the Purchase of Non-Curriculum Classroom Supplies for Districtwide Use (Not to Exceed $10,000,000 Over Two Years with One(1) Year Renewal Option/ General/Special Revenue Funds (Consent Item #14, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  7. Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Purchase of ACT College Entrance Exam from ACT, INC. for College and Career Readiness Department (Not to Exceed $650,000 Over Two Years General/Special Revenue Funds) (Consent Item #19, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  8. Consider and Take Possible Action to Authorize, Negotiate, and Enter into Contracts with Various Vendors for the Purchase of Search Firm Services for Hard to Staff Positions (Not to Exceed $300,000 over Three Years/General Operating Funds) (Consent Item #23, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  9. Consider and Take Possible Action to Ratify and Approve Payment Amount Invoiced for the June 13, 2014 Job Fair (Not to Exceed $15,875.00 Title Part A Funds) (Consent Item #24, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  10. Consider and Take Possible Action to Ratify and Approve the Amount of Bills for May 16 and 17 of 2014 (Amount not to Exceed $8,100.00/General Operating Funds) (Consent Item #25, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  11. Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve Establishing a Relationship with American Express Utilizing E&I Cooperative Services to Procure a Travel Card and an Accounts Payable Card (No Funding Required) (Consent Item #26, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  12. Consider and Take Possible Action to Authorize, Negotiate, and Enter Into Term Agreements for Office Supplies for Districtwide Use (Not to Exceed $6,000,000 Over One Year/General Operating/Grant/Bond/Special Revenue) (Consent Item #29, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  13. Consider and Take Possible Action to Authorize, Negotiate, and Enter into Contracts with Various Vendors for Enterprise Storage for Districtwide Use (Not to Exceed $7,500,000 Over Three Years with Two (2) One (1) Year Renewal Options/General Operating/Bond/Special Revenue Funds (Consent Item #31, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  14. Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve an Increase to the Price Agreement for the Purchase of Software and Courseware for Districtwide Use (Not to Exceed $5,200,000/$12,950,000 Aggregate Through October 2015/General Operating, Bond, Special Revenue Funds) (Consent Item #32, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  15. Consider and Take Possible Action to Authorize Extending the Term of the Previously Approved contracts for Communication Services in Conjunction with the Bond Program (No Additional Funding Required) (Consent Item #36, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  16. Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Recommended Members to Serve on the Dallas ISD School Health Advisory Council (No Financial Impact) (Consent Item #39, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  17. Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Agreement Between the University of Texas at Arlington and Dallas ISD (No Financial Impact)(Consent Item #42, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  18. Consider and Take Possible Action to Approve the Agreement for the Purchase of Attendance Credits for 2014-2015 and Related Documents Due to Dallas’ Chapter 41 – 7 - Status (Consent item #47, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  19. Consider and Take Possible Action to Accept the Donation of Funding from Commit! to Help Dallas Independent School District Increase its Data Analysis Capacity During the 2014-15 School Year (Gifts and Donations/up to $80,000.00) (Consent Item #49, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)
  20. Consider and Take Possible Action to Accept the Partnership of Professional Development Services Through Support from the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (Up to $435,000 Value Over Three Years) (Consent Item #50, Pulled by Trustees Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall)

Do you see a pattern? Each item was pulled by trustees Foreman and Nutall. (It takes two trustees to pull an item from the consent agenda, which in theory keeps one meddling, destructive trustee from hijacking a meeting, grandstanding, taking up staff’s time to come sit through an eight-hour meeting just to be browbeaten in the name of said grandstanding, and so forth. Now that Foreman and Nutall have proven themselves the Batman and Robin of destructiveness, perhaps the board should consider changing that to three trustees. But I digress.) Most are district purchases that are the very sort that trustees should not concern themselves with. Others are clearly issues that touch favored-nation personnel protected by Nutall (who runs her district like a ward heeler) or favored-nation companies (Foreman’s specialty; remember, she has done business with the district as a vendor). Oh, and there’ve pulled out a line item where the board is supposed to accept DONATED MONEY from the group Commit for further data gathering (which allows for the district to have a deeper analytics when it comes time to decide how money should be spent, on what program, and where). I can’t wait to see what made-up reason the dynamic duo have for calling out Commit.

I make light of this, but it gets to the core reason I’m so insistent that we need substantial governance change at the board level. These people don’t care about kids. These people care about placating a blind, rabid minority of special interests intent on undercutting Mike Miles’ reform efforts. The best way to do that, in their opinion, is to simply gum the works by every means necessary. Miles is hiring good people? Drag them before the board every chance you get, belittle them, antagonize them, run them off. Other board members try to stop you? Play the race card. Say you’re doing this because you care about poor black kids, even though you’re supporting a status quo-approach to a system that has traditionally failed poor black kids, sending most of the boys within that system to jail, in fact.

Does the board have any recourse against its self-destructive members, the ones who don’t mind burning the bridge behind them so long as they spectacle is loud and bright? In fact, they have two: They can, during the debate on each line item, call at any time for a vote to end the discussion. They can also vote to limit the total time allowed for each item’s discussion.

The rub? Such votes take a super-majority to pass. They need six votes.

That brings us to Elizabeth Jones.

Here’s what I suspect will happen tomorrow. At some point, early in the mind-numbing process of listening to Nutall and Foreman drone on about how we need to help the children alternating with belittling of staff, a trustee will move that they end discussion of that topic. (Which is completely understandable. Again, most of these items were available for discussion during the board briefing. Any legitimate follow-up questions could have been asked of staff by email, phone, or even in person during the past two weeks. This is simply a political move.) A vote will be taken. Five board members will vote to end discussion: Eric Cowan, Miguel Solis, Dan Micchiche, Nancy Bingham, and Mike Morath. Lew Blackburn will not, because as much as I like Blackburn, he picks his battles, and I suspect this is not one he would be willing to fight against the other black board members.

That leaves Jones. I’ve been very critical of her for the same reasons I’ve been critical of Foreman and Nutall: They want Miles gone just because they do. They look for any opportunity to undermine the very district they’re supposed to be leading if it helps make Miles or his people look bad. I think that’s cowardly.

To my mind, here’s a chance to see if I’ve read her wrong. I haven’t seen that she’s willing to cross the other status-quo trustees, because she’s needed them for her anti-Miles campaign behind the scenes. At least, that’s been my theory. Here’s hoping that tomorrow I’m proven wrong. Not because I’m terrified of another eight- to 10-hour meeting — of course I am — but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the move of a leader.