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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.

 

  • theaveragejoe

    Once agian, thank you for reminding us every week that you still hate Foreman and Nutall.

    I see the reasoning of something being pulled out.

    1. The budget amendments include the money that will go to the Home-Rule Commission and I see the reason why. However, they include using our money for cell phones. Why can’t they just use their own cell phones to get in touch with anyone? I understand to pay legal staff and lunch, but cell phones and gas? Really now?

    2. If I read correctly, our taxes might go up. No way I want my taxes going up and for what? So we can still fund more testing, and the Fellows Program that seems that is not working. It’s not like it’s going to books, or supplies that teacher cry out every year. I see that too, and if I was living in Frisco or Mesquite, I wouldn’t mind having taxes go up for buldings and such because I would trust them. Until Miles and I think about 3 Board Members that you like are out, I wouldn’t trust them with my money.

    Of course a real reporter would actually attend a whole meeting and find out what happen, yet agian your a so called “reporter.”

  • Amy Severson

    #11? They’re still giving out credit cards?

  • Retiredteacher

    It appears to this reader that you only support those trustees who support Mike Miles carte blanche. The dissenting trustees serve the purpose of making sure $$$ are spent properly.

    Why on earth would the district need to spend $300,000 on a search firm? DISD is supposed to be such a cutting-edge district that one would think personnel would be clamoring to work in the district.

    Your attacks on Nutall, Foreman, and Jones are wearing thin.

  • David Lee

    While I agree that twenty is far too many items to discuss at the Board Meeting, there are some items that certainly need to be examined more thoroughly before a vote is taken. For example, Items 7. A. 17. and 7. A. 29. are troubling. The administration is proposing to spend up to $6 million a year on office supplies but only up to $5 million a year on classroom supplies. If DISD is really focused on effective instruction and student achievement shouldn’t the majority of supply funding be directed to classrooms?

    I was a classroom teacher in DISD for eleven years. The most I was ever allocated to spend on classroom supplies was $150. That doesn’t go far with over 150 students. I asked some current DISD teachers how much they are currently allocated and the answers were all over the place. Some teachers are allocated $400, some $200, some $100 and some $0 (they are told to ask for supplies as needed). $5 million works out to $471 per teacher. If those funds aren’t going to classrooms, where are they going?

    If you still think that the Trustees shouldn’t bother themselves with these purchases I suggest you ask some classroom teachers about the impact the lack of supplies has on their students. I can tell you from personal experience how frustrating it was to prepare students for AP exams without document readers or paper to print copies of the primary source documents they needed. We owe it to our students and teachers to ensure that they have what they need to be successful.

  • Joe

    Damn near impossible to run any operation without some credit cards. How they are handed out and reviewed is another thing altogether….

  • Wylie H Dallas

    This is insanity.

  • Eric Celeste

    As trustees were told two weeks ago at the board briefing, only two people in the district have credit cards: the CFO and the director of procurement.

  • theaveragejoe

    Yes, there were 20 and I was wondering as well, but of course some had very great discussions and questions that all trustees should do.

    No, not all the items were discussed, just voted on. However I was right about Foreman bring up the Home-Rule Budget that was voted on. I’m okay with paying the staff and the legal people for the commission, but why do we need to pay for Cell and Gas as they can pay out of their own pockets.

    Good questions on Commit as there is a risk that someone can take over so they can cherry-pick data to prove a point, but why should we pay more contractors to search for talent if we can find them in our own backyards.

    Overall, The meeting was under four hours.

  • Eric Celeste

    Your Commit comment is the dumbest comment ever on this blog, and that’s saying something.

  • Eric Celeste

    You know it’s on video, right? My full report will be out on Monday. And I don’t hate them. I just think they’re horrible, destructive trustees.

  • Eric Celeste

    So the district using money from Commit to hiring another data analyst is a bad idea? Because they can “cherry pick data to prove a point”? That’s perhaps the dumbest thing I’ve ever read on this blog.

    The assumption of motivation in your comment shows the level of distrust that make no logical sense. Why would nonprofit Commit spend a great deal of time and money trying to harm children? Are they evil? Why would they donate money to cherry-pick evidence? To what end? And how? There’s no evidence. But it shows that you will concoct a narrative to fit your paranoia.

    No. 2, you clearly don’t understand the law. This contribution is not accompanied by any agreement of performance. Once DISD has the money, it can do anything it wants with the money. It’s the district’s money. It is under no obligation to spend a dollar on hiring someone for more data research. They should, and they probably will. But if it’s a scheme it’s the dumbest damn scheme ever. But you figured it out!

    But let’s step away from Commit. Let’s look at what you’re saying fundamentally. You’re against donated money because you think an organization that donated that money “can cherry pick data to prove a point.” I assume you mean that the district would use that money to hire someone who manipulates data to prove … something. In your mind, that there’s progress being made. So your point is that we should question the intent of a donation based on all possible scenarios (since you have no evidence to suggest they’ve ever manipulated data, only that you think they or someone they approve of could do so). By your logic, a rich person who is an alumn of a DISD school who decides to donate money for a reading program at his school should be looked at with suspicion because somehow, in your Tom Clancy worldview, that person is buying influence?

    Please. That’s not what this is about. You don’t like the donor. Foreman and Nutall don’t like the donor. That’s the point. It’s dumb, it’s destructive, and hurtful to kids.

  • Diane Birdwell

    We know.