Vox Populi Vox Dei

vox-populi-vox-deiAll the commotion in Dallas public education has nothing to do with curriculum or more school days or even firing “bad teachers.” SOPS debates, where they are even allowed to occur, are an extension of 1200 years of discussion over whether vox populi, the voice of the people, is the voice of God or the voice of the rabble.

Dallas ISD trustee Mike Morath made his position clear in an interview with Channel 8 reporter, Brett Ship. States Morath, “If you were crafting the Board of Directors of a $1.6-billion education institution, I’m not sure this is the current group of nine you would put together.”

Corporate education deformers, whether Eli Broad, Reed Hastings who is CEO of Netflix, or SOPS founders and followers, have hunkered down in this thousand year debate on the side of the aristocracy, the monarchy, the imperialist and the royalist—–those who fear and loathe commoners and the threat they bring of anarchy, mediocrity, and loss of control. While commoners may be taxed at whim, schools boards must be appointed to avoid the depravity of the lower classes who would never be invited into the board rooms of the Fortune 500.

Trustee Mike Morath, hanky in hand to protect against the smell and sounds of both African Americans and women, simply must be surrounded at the public school board table with those who look like himself. That is the way the board rooms of technology industries are run—with an absence of Latinos, black males, and women. Morath surely expects the same reality in the elected board room for Dallas schools.

The superintendent training of the Broad Institute has a similar goal: neuter vox populi by neutering publically elected school boards. Superintendent Mike Miles, in league with Mike Morath and the Mayor, have effectively frozen the Dallas school board with a threat of its dismemberment. Miles gets his gold star from Broad while dancing to the racist chant of Morath—a surrealistic moment indeed where Miles, a recipient of the true civil rights movement, willingly sells out voter participation from South Dallas in order to satisfy Morath’s ambition and his own greed.

This new breed of elitists, including Teach for America, don’t think of themselves as moldy monarchs or believers in divine right. Their hubris comes straight from the corporate board room or from their status in other professions that still reek of prestige and money. The sneer of former Dallas ISD trustee Sandy Kress has been pasted with a precise exactitude straight on the face of former trustee Edwin Flores. True believers in the power of data and contemptuous of disagreement, they are twins in believing their natural superiority. Both attempted to use their power on the Dallas school board as a stepping stone to political glory and both stepped on political landmines before reaching the next step. Trustee Miguel Solis has wisely decided to step gingerly back from the abyss where pure arrogance leads to political death.

These new elitists don’t congregate in powdered wigs daintily dipping from lacquered snuff boxes; they hide behind technology and COMMIT! and keep insisting that the whole public school experience for our kids can be reduced to data. They think they own the data, so they believe they own public education.

The only beating these elitists have taken in Texas so far has been delivered by a group of mothers who are firmly convinced of the worth of their children apart from the data they produce. The elites were temporarily routed in Austin to only to reappear in Dallas after being summoned by Mike Morath who is sure of his superiority, cultural and intellectual.

It is with Morath that disgust with vox populi was finally cemented into a Dallas organization, and as an homage to a city divided by race and money, SOPS is the epitome of the worst ugliness of The Accommodation. In this latest chapter, SOPS minority members had to be imported back into a city they refuse to call home in order to have some storefront brown and black participation for SOPS.

SOPS race relations look no more ridiculous than its lack of comfort with women in power. According to Morath, women trustees on the Dallas school board talk too much. Royalists never extended suffrage to the weaker sex and Morath has made it clear that both the fifteenth and nineteenth amendments were big mistakes. Morath even measured the amount of time female trustees talked during board discussions, while Morath in an open forum is swallowing for air because he won’t shut his own mouth. After the first SOPS town hall meeting where citizens were not allowed to ask questions, the vox populi responded with loud boos while recalling other fallen republics that didn’t push back hard enough on returning emperors. The elitists were shocked. Full of lying bullet points, they thought they were bullet proof.

SOPS own Caligula, Mike Morath, has no trouble with character assassination of his fellow board members. An entitled white creature who believes his intellect should give him all nine votes on the board, Morath ironically mislabels his campaign against vox populi a civil rights issue. Caligula Morath and his fellow elites abhor due process in a government agency as bureaucratic nonsense. Neither teachers nor students should be given a public hearing before termination. It’s thumbs up or down in the gladiator ring. Charter schools get their numbers by depriving their students a seat for simply underperforming or refusing to sit up straight with eyes on the teacher. Caligula Morath and Flores are waiting for the gleeful moment that students and teachers in independent school districts can also be used as flotsam and jetsam and thrown overboard at the will of the aristocracy for their sheer delight and amusement. What good are commoners who can’t be tossed around or fed to lions?

Mayor Rawlings, accustomed to counting pizzas sold, has no problem in eliminating the vox populi if it will increase the prestige of the empire, an empire tainted by past racial segregation in housing and an empire that has no housing outside that provided the extremely wealthy or the extremely poor. De facto segregation is not a problem in practice for Rawlings, only in public relations.

Rather than heal the wounds of constant class and race divides, Rawlings has already crowned himself with an imperial wreath signifying his willingness to serve Rome in its declining days. Both Caligula Morath and the Mayor agree the only way to return the city to its former glory is to eliminate any vestiges of the republic. Democracy can only be saved by destroying single member districts according to Caligula Morath. At-large political representation in league with the education PACS will drown out vox populi are the mayor’s contributions.

In the finest doublespeak documented in a SOPS campaign of trickery and lies, reporter, Brett Shipp’s interview caught another statement undermining vox populi. Morath stated, “We need to find the true civic leaders in town that can think about these big issues of how can our democracy most effectively executive (sic) its mission for our kids.” We assume Caligula Morath’s “civic leaders” are a mirror image of himself, boy kings able to think big thoughts but unable to bend to the wishes of the voters.

As SOPS paid representatives troll north and east Dallas to disenfranchise the wishes of the voters in southern Dallas, it’s time for the vox populi to make their presence known. Our republic has survived only by embracing its entire citizenry.

As for the fate of Caligula Morath? We can hear the Greek chorus chanting warnings of Morath’s fate, a sound he does not hear because of his constant yammering.

For the rest of us, we can follow our heritage back to the belief in vox populi vox dei that eventually gave non-elites access to the ballot box, access we are not giving up to the ambitions of a boy who wants to be emperor or a Mayor who already considers himself one.

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Posted in Rotten in Denmark

Are We Missing Something Here?

city-councilThere’s nothing more painful to sit through than a DISD trustee board meeting unless it is a city council meeting. Mike Morath should take notes. He objects so much to hearing DISD trustees talk that he supported a policy to tally the amount of time each trustee spent in front of the microphone.

The Dallas City Council and DISD trustees held a joint pow-wow today at City Hall to discuss education in Dallas and to be briefed on home rule.

Long story short and many sound bites later, it seems that the City Council, while not all on the Home Rule Bandwagon, are nevertheless with Mike Rawlings in “unanimously” backing Mike Miles.

They like his plan, his focus on instruction, and his teacher evaluation plan. Did I use the word teacher? My goodness, that slipped out! In three hours of pontificating, berating, encouraging, glad-handing and admonishing, on an afternoon supposedly devoted to education, I think I heard the word “teacher” less than a dozen times, and most of the time it was followed by evaluation.

They looked around the room and talked about how the best and the brightest were finally gathered together to tackle this problem of Dallas schools. But looking around the room, I saw no teachers. They were all, of course, teaching.

They formed task forces to work on this problem of Dallas schools. But they included no teachers.

They talked about tutors and volunteers, the Park Department staffing summer camps, the YMCA, and the United Way. But no one mentioned teachers.

Councilwoman Gates suggested that any accountability plan for the school board include accountability for the City Council. Mayor Rawlings offered to be held personally responsible for student achievement.

I have to wonder how Mike Miles and the City Council plan to make that achievement happen. I wonder when they will think to include the teachers. Maybe when they open the doors some September and there are none?

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Posted in Chicken on a Soapbox, Teachers Rule

Waiting for My Invitation

I have checked my mailbox, my voice mail, and my spam inbox and still I cannot find my invitation to the Mayor’s Conversation on Public Schools Party. (COPS, not to be confused with SOPS; the mayor wants you to know the two are not related).

When I do find it, will I have to choose between an afternoon discussing public schools with three old geezers chosen for their color rather than their knowledge of educational pedagogy and structure, and an afternoon spent gathering signatures for SOPS in East Dallas?

I did get that invitation.

Jim Schutze at the Observer tells us the brakes are on the home rule initiative and Mayor Rawlings wants us to slow down and talk. The Mayor has even scheduled a briefing for City Council members on home rule, with a slide show that includes both facts and fiction. DISD trustees have been invited to the party, but apparently have not decided whether they want to get involved in a public Chartergate event at this time.

Meanwhile SOPS plants likable neighbors at your local library who sit in the shade and offer up a non-threatening public face to the effort, even while an army of indifferent uninformed Craigslist shills solicit signatures in North and East Dallas. Do not be misled by the aforementioned invitation, as most of these people are not volunteers. It would not surprise me if the instructions to the hired help included the advice to label themselves as such.

Reports from the neighborhoods are that prospective signers are told the new/old board will be appointed/elected/jailed/set adrift in a leaky boat on White Rock Lake, the teachers are horrible, and our schools are being closed by the feds/taken over by the state/on national TV for least number of graduates attending Harvard.

Some of which is true.

But do not be fooled. SOPS has not hit the brakes. Morath and his SOPS funders don’t give up easily. These are people whose arrogance and disdain for public discourse and democracy are matched only by their apparent disregard for your children.

SOPS financial backer John Arnold said in a DMN interview “It’s very difficult to pass effective reforms with elected school boards.”

Well, yes, it is difficult to get your way unless you have total control. I can think of several famous dictators who felt the same way.

So we will watch the Mayor’s newest dog and pony shows and look for legitimate discussion on the real issues in our public schools and real measures to address them. The discussion needs to include effective universal early childhood education, retention and development of quality teachers without a contrived evaluation index to measure them, reduction in class sizes in critical years, scrutiny of a failing English acquisition program, an emphasis on early reading skills, and open discussion on the options for choice that campuses have now, without the disruption and loss of representation that home rule would bring.

Excuse me for now, as I have to go check my mailbox. I’ll let you know when I get my invitation.

Posted in Teachers Rule

I Took a Day Off from Teaching….

Editor’s note:   This guest essay was sent in to the blog by Diane Birdwell, a veteran high school teacher in DISD.

I took a day off from teaching, my first “personal” day in 11 years.  I had appointments which would not wait until June.  So, as I left one, I headed over to the Lakewood branch of the US Postal Service.  I was in a good mood, getting things done, wondering how it was going in my classes without me… and then, it all changed.

SOPS was there, by the door, to get petition signatures. Really? At 2:00 pm, during the week? Who is their target audience?  Retirees, for that was just about all that was there.  How do you tell grandma that a man who is talking about “supporting our public schools” is not telling her accurate information?

So, I watch, and I take photos.  And then, I drove away, angry, thinking, “Really? While we are all at school and cannot give a counter to their “story?”

So, I drove back, and I went up to the paid worker for SOPS.  I asked him what this was all about, and his FIRST main thing was, “We need to get rid of “bad” teachers.”  I told him that we already have a system in place for that. I also asked him, in a loud voice, so everyone could hear how they use misinformation, if they talk about how making teachers at-will employees could hurt kids when teachers up and leave halfway through the year?

I also ask him if he tells them that if they sign the petition, they are REQUIRING the DISD taxpayers to foot a bill of at least $500,000?  He seemed to be taken aback on that and asked ME about it.  I educated him…. as a teacher should. I told him, he needs to tell them that if this goes forward, the DISD will have to form a commission and create a charter— which he knew.  BUT, they have to hold meetings, provide information, keep documentation… and that all costs TAX MONEY.  But THAT never gets mentioned.

So, I go inside.  I asked to see the station manager, and asked why they have not stopped them, since they are on FEDERAL property?  The clerk said, in effect, “Oh, I thought they already told them to go. I will tell her to go talk to them.”

So, I get my stamps and go out there.  As I leave, I hear the lady tell him they cannot collect signatures there, and he tells her, as he pulls out a piece of paper, something about the “Secretary of the State of Texas” said they could…. Really? (*Sigh*)

Time to educate SOPS again.  I yelled out to him, “Hey, we are on FEDERAL property!  Texas has no say in it!”

I look for his partner with the SOPS t-shirt on, and he has scurried to the sidewalk along Swiss Avenue.  This guy, no way.  He won’t budge.  I leave and later on, I meet with the US Postal Police.  They said I am right.  You can hand out flyers, but the collection of signatures on FEDERAL property is NOT allowed.

These guys have been on library property, DISD land and now, this.  A group which is secretly funded by really rich guys, with lawyers helping out, you would think they could do a better job.  But that is the point.  They don’t want a better school system.  They just want to “fire the bad teachers.”  It came straight from their mouths.

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Posted in Teachers Rule

The Odd Couple Saves DISD

In a modern version of The Odd Couple, ex-trustees Jack Lowe and Edwin Flores collaborated on an opinion piece which gives their version of what will save DISD.

Balance the school year: Move the start of school from its current date of the last Monday in August.

They don’t explain how this benefits kids; I guess it is supposed to be understood. I don’t disagree, however. There were no districts that lobbied for the late August start. The late start was a concession to the tourism industry, and if we all agree it’s a bad idea, let’s have SOPS supporter Jason Villalba introduce and push through legislation next year that gives back to districts the leeway to name their own start dates.

Increase voter participation: move elections to November.

A good start here would be a law limiting or even eliminating political contributions in non-partisan elections. The political action committees that have funded the campaigns of 8 of our 9 sitting trustees effectively discouraged the participation of candidates that were not their handpicked favorites. Mike Morath has found that private discussion with potential opponents has a similar chilling effect. The end result is that trustee races seem to be in the bag before the race is even started. And now these guys are complaining there is voter apathy?

There have been plenty of opportunities in the past, while the current trustees were in office, to use the law provided to change election dates to November, and a prod to our legislators can change the law again. It has happened before. Why would anyone care? Maybe the mayor, who would be left all alone on the May ballot? Again, Jason, are you taking notes?

All this discussion ignores the fact that bubbling in a random candidate on a November ballot may or may not indicate a thoughtful decision, but it is certainly participation!

Strengthen board accountability and public awareness.

This sounds good if you are new to the game. Jack and Ed want the district to publish an annual report to taxpayers on student achievement and by golly fire them sumbitches if the scores don’t go up! Excuse me, but the TEA already publishes those reports every year and isn’t student achievement the superintendent’s job?

If we think we have a contentious board now, wait until their job evaluation is based on last year’s scores. So much for stability and long term planning.

Then there’s a weak statement about term limits and recall. I agree, we’ve had enough of Nancy Bingham. Whatever it takes, I’m in.

Increased board diversity and skill sets.

At least Jack and Ed didn’t repeat Jason Villalba’s idea that trustees should have a college degree, but they certainly hint that they think the current trustees are a few bricks shy of a load. They use the words “critical skills”. Again, don’t we hire CFO’s and lawyers to do the critical thinking? A board with 6 stupid elected trustees and 3 smart appointed ones would have some interesting dynamics, don’t you think? Should we just tell the 6 stupid ones to stay home and call in their votes?

All in all, I give Jack and Ed a C for effort and a D- for content. Will they manage to convince some voters we need home rule? Maybe. Have they come up with a plan that will make a difference for our kids in DISD? I don’t think so.

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Posted in Chicken on a Soapbox, Giving Grades, Teachers Rule

(1) DISD Fall 2013 Climate Survey (223 page, 4.5 Mb PDF)

(2) Public Education Grant (PEG) List of 57 Failing DISD Schools

(3) View school master schedules. Fall 2013. Sort by teacher, class, grade, etc.

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Foundation for Empowerment (FCE) released 3 papers:

1. Disruptive Change: Mike Miles and the Crisis In Dallas ISD, which has been prepared with consultation by education academics, extensive research, review of data and education literature, and meetings and interviews with people of Dallas holding varying and sometimes conflicting points of view;

2. Digging Into Data and Evidence: Mike Miles, Dallas ISD, and Trickle-Down Education Report, by Dr. Julian Vasquez Helig, Lindsay Redd, M.A. and Dr. Ruth Vail; and

3. The Challenge of Disruptive Leadership in Dallas ISD, by Decoteau J. Irby, Ph.D. and Matthew Birkhold, M.A.

"You will see from these papers that, after much research and discussion, we believe the current Superintendent lacks the pedagogical, leadership and integrity qualities necessary to lead Dallas ISD and recommend the Board terminate his contract."

Citizens wanting to speak at regular board meetings and briefings must sign up by calling Board Services at (972) 925-3720 no later than 5 p.m. on the day before the meeting.

Contact the Superintendent and Trustees:
3700 Ross Avenue, Box 1
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Superintendent Mike Miles

Lew Blackburn, 1st Vice President
District 5
Term Expires 2016
(972) 925-3718
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Miguel Solis
District 8
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"Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit and intelligence of the citizens. They fall when the wise are banished from the public councils because they dare to be honest and the profligate are rewarded because they flatter the people in order to betray them." --Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

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