Hinojosa: Reading Between the Lines

I-wnat-to-believe-in-HinojosaA previous post on DISD interim superintendent Michael Hinojosa was followed by over a hundred comments, many making suggestions for ways the district could be improved, at least from a teacher/student standpoint.

Tawnell Hobbs of the Dallas Morning News interviewed Hinojosa and captured his thoughts on his new job with DISD. Reprinted here are the questions and answers , with interpretation following. For the full article, go here.

Q: Would you want the job full-time? You seem pretty excited to be back.

A: I’m pretty excited to be back. It’s very premature at this point. I’m not going to say I wouldn’t be a candidate. Eventually it’s the board’s decision to make. It’s very, very premature. …They all like me right now, but they might not like me in a few months. (laugh) But I’m not going to tell you, “No, I wouldn’t do it.”

Interpretation: Gosh, it’s nice to be back making $25,000 a month, which figures out to be $300,000 a year, in addition to my retirement pay! I could get used to that!

Q: Have you been keeping track of what’s going on in the district since you left?

A: From afar. I watch, I read the reports. …I watched some transformation initiatives, so I’ve been paying attention. But I didn’t know much of the inside scoop. I’m just going on kind of what you guys have been reporting, what I see on the outside, but nothing on the inside. That’s why I’m going to take my time over 10 weeks to find out stuff on the inside that I really wasn’t aware of

Interpretation: Um, I’m not saying nuttin’ that’s going to get me in trouble.

Q: So I guess you haven’t formulated any thoughts?

A: One thing that I already know since I talked to the board the other night, most are very proud of the staff, they’re very proud of some of these reform and transformation initiatives, so I think they like the stuff. …But I’ve only talked to board members (He says he will talk to community members, staff members, cabinet members and unions.) …I’m going talk to all these people. Once I hear from everybody, get all those points of views, I might have a different opinion.

Interpretation: I’ve talked to “some” of the board members and I know on which side my bread is buttered.

Q: When you first came to DISD, you spent the first 100 days talking to people. What’s your plans now?

A: I’m starting with board members, individual community people and then, of course, I’ll talk to cabinet persons, some of the principals. …I’m not the permanent superintendent, but still I need to know this information. So that’s what I’m planning on doing. That’s what I’ve always done in every district. That’s what’s always helped me get started on the right foot.

Interpretation: See above. I’ve talked with some community members and now I definitely know which side my bread is buttered on. I fully expect to get a fair and reasoned evaluation of the district from current staff and principals, because they are scared shitless I will fire them. [ Any individual community people you know of that have been contacted by Dr. Hinojosa? ]

Q: Any programs at the forefront you want to take a deeper look at?

A: It’s too early. They’ve had a lot of things that’s been done. It’s too early to say at this point.

Interpretation: That’s about kids, I’m not here for the kids.

Q: What happens with the three principals who were fired by former Superintendent Mike Miles, although the majority of board members voted to keep them around. Will you look at it?
A: I’m not going to talk about individual personnel matters. (He said he will let the appeals process run its course, which includes rulings from independent hearing examiners.) So something is going to happen there, because the independent hearing examiners’ decision goes back to the board.

Interpretation: That’s not my problem, see below.

Q: What happens with Tonya Sadler Grayson? (She’s the human resources executive who has been embroiled in controversy, including not disclosing her criminal history.)

A: I’m not going to comment on personnel matters.

Interpretation: You’re not going to snooker me into saying anything controversial. Or even take a stand on anything. Except the bond. Always and only the money. That’s why I’m here you know, I need everyone to trust me, so this kind of controversial stuff is off limits.

Q: They’re talking about possibly having a bond election in November. (The last bond election to pay for new schools and improvements was in 2008 under Hinojosa).

A: I’m a big fan of that. I’ll jump out in front of that one right now. I think we need to do it. That’s something that I have a lot of experience in. I’ve done it in every district I’ve been in – in Spring, in Hays, in Cobb, in Dallas. It’s been a long time since ’08. And I think that’s something that we need to jump on right away. I will be talking to the Citizens Council and other people about that, board members. I will put at the forefront of my activities.

Interpretation: Finally you hit on the reason I’m here! Friendly face and all, let’s go out and shag a few balls together, what do you say? Nobody in this town really gives a damn about education, as long as we have some bond money to keep us rolling! Never too premature to talk construction. I’m all over that. Hey, Mr. Citizen’s Council, did you hear what I said? Do I get to keep this job?

Q: There are some people that say morale is low. We’ve heard it from a lot of teachers. How do you plan on dealing with that?

A: That’s a few months away. They’ll be back in August. I haven’t even thought too much about that. I’ve heard that. …You want people to be happy. People that aren’t happy won’t stay around. Now they won’t always get their way, but it’s certainly an issue that we can agree to disagree on. You know, how we make decisions. (He said it’s an issue to take up when the convocation to welcome back teachers gets close, later in the summer). It’s way premature at this point.

Interpretation: Like I said, nobody gives a damn about the teachers and the kids. I’m “all over” the bond, but the kids? Premature to think about them.

And does anybody really believe Hinojosa is here for any other reason?

Posted in Baloney Meter Tagged with:

Hinojosa’s Chance to Get it Right

himojosa-1Few people are ever offered a do-over. Michael Hinojosa, however, was just granted one. Let’s hope he uses it to rectify his past mistakes and truly serve the children and, by extension, the citizens of this city.

Hinojosa knows Dallas, and he knows DISD. That’s whom he needs to serve this go-round. Not TFA, not Broad, not charters, not vendors, not political factions.

Hinojosa can finally serve just the children in DISD because he is now at the end of his career instead of the beginning. He’s raised 2 sets of children. He’s got the big house in the leafy, pleasant neighborhood. He’s a grandfather, for goodness sake.

While he was superintendent the first time, Hinojosa made several bad choices. On his watch, we suffered through a $65 million budget disaster, a searing RIF that destabilized the schools, a terrible bilingual mandate for elementary children, a P-card debacle, a suspicious college placement program that his own child(ren) used and too many crony hires to count.

In other words, his tenure was no Camelot. No hardworking taxpayer or parent liked the wild spending or the incompetent crony hires.

Now, though, he has the freedom to do the right things for the students. But what are those “right” things?

First, he must get Miles’ boot off the necks of teachers and campus staff so they can serve the kids instead of serving some bureaucrat with an iPad from 3700.

Next, he should disappear the ED layer (or at least strip them of power); the Instructional Coaches layer should likewise go away and not another person from the Fellows program should be placed as an AP or a principal.

(The Instructional Coaches, so that they don’t lose their jobs, can become small-group reading and math tutors on every campus if there aren’t enough teaching positions open in August. Ditto for Fellows and EDs).

Hinojosa, please hear this: We need as many adults as possible on a campus to be working face-to-face with students to help kids master reading and math at grade level. Only 2 or 3 certified adults on a campus should be exempt from tutoring students.

As for principals, they should continue Spot Obs to check for LOs, classroom management, reasonable teaching quality and proof that students are mastering content in each teacher’s classroom. DOLs and MRS need to be dropped as requirements.

Finally, Hinojosa should completely overhaul the back-to-school “staff development” schedule for teachers to provide teachers with considerable, unstructured time to work in their rooms and prepare lessons. He should mandate that principals cannot interrupt teachers with meetings for more than 2 hours on any day.

If possible, he should also have the TEI and Principal Evaluation looked over by disinterested attorneys to make sure they are, in fact, legal. Along those lines, maybe it’s time someone checked for and required certifications and experience in Early Childhood, the expensive (and crony-filled) Schools of Choice office and the Office of Transformation. Let’s get a real HR person in to run things while we’re at it.

And wouldn’t it be great if Hinojosa could meet with the faculties at the 5 schools where the climate surveys are the lowest in elementary, middle and high school?

A wonderful opportunity for a respected, admired legacy awaits Michael Hinojosa. We are watching and waiting for him to seize it. 160,000 children who are someone else’s beloved grandchildren are counting on him, too.

Posted in Teachers Rule Tagged with: , , , ,

For the Kids in DISD: Financial Transparency, Neighborhood Schools and Principal Accountability NOW

From the moment Miles forced teachers to give up prep time to attend his literal song-and-dance convocation, I (and about 9,000 other teachers) knew we were in trouble. We were right.

Taking teacher prep time was a very, very bad sign.

DISD is a school district that serves children, not a business that serves adult “reformers.” We need servant-leaders, not limelight-loving hucksters. But we got a limelight-loving huckster and disaster ensued.

It’s time to get things right in Dallas. It’s time for Todd Williams and Ken Barth to do the right thing for 150,000 children, as well as all of the millions of other residents. It’s time for a Greater Good mentality; Williams and Barth need to promote this mindset.

To benefit all children and all taxpayers, DISD needs to commit to 3 things: financial transparency, neighborhood schools and principal accountability. What honest, moral person could object to having these priorities?

First off, all DISD financial transactions need to be posted, spread-sheeted, checkbook-balanced, handed out at the State Fair, plastered on billboards—whatever it takes to keep daylight shining on how the money taxpayers contribute to educate the children of this city is spent. Every last dime should be accounted for and the results should be given to a Citizens’ Budget Review Committee to present at town halls independently of trustees and the superintendent.

If we can turn off the money spigot, most of the corrupt roaches (many of them white, well educated men and women) will go away.

A concurrent focus needs to be the nurturing of neighborhood schools. Children and families need a sense of community. Communities need a common denominator to rally around. Sports fans need friendly rivalries. Neighborhood schools in Dallas, like in Highland Park and Lake Highlands and Southlake, would meet these needs.

Our current magnets (which do not include the excessively expensive IDEA (personalized learning) high school) should still exist and serve their students, but comprehensive schools need the same level of funding and freedom. What we don’t need are more budget-busting, community-robbing “schools of choice.” That paradigm has not succeeded anywhere.

To immediately nurture neighborhood schools, each comprehensive school should be flooded with school psychologists, one-on-one interventionists and community outreach coordinators to stop the majority of discipline problems and disruptive behaviors at their root. For too long, comprehensives have been allowed to be cesspools of dysfunction in order to force families to move their children to charters (so that charter operators can profit).

No neighborhood school should have instructional coaches or an ED skulking around until all comprehensive schools have multiple adults (in addition to teachers) who spend 90% of their time face-to-face with either children or parents to get the schools back on track.

Finally, principals must be expected to act as servant-leaders instead of top-down tyrants. We must end the reign of untouchable principals with dismal test scores, terrible climate survey results and double-digit teacher turnover who remain only in place because of who they know.

As a commenter on DMN said, all principals should have 5 years of classroom experience and a minimum of 3 years of AP experience. Their job should depend on their ability to help teachers help students, while treating all children and adults with respect and dignity. Paper-and-pencil evaluations of every principal should be conducted each semester. All principals should be required to have a locked box where parents, faculty and staff can deliver anonymous feedback and the contents should be read weekly by the principal and a committee of teachers and at least one parent.

Personally, I also believe every DISD administrator, from principals on up, should be required to live within DISD boundaries. Everyone in charge should make the success of the city of Dallas a priority and they can’t do that from the suburbs. Enough with kow-towing to attract supposed “top talent.” If they can’t commit, they must ex-it.

With financial transparency, a commitment to building communities by building neighborhood schools and strict principal accountability, DISD children will benefit. With those stated priorities, NO superintendent will be able to ever again waylay the academic gains of students.

For once, let’s mean it when we say For the Kids.

Posted in Teachers Rule Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Miles to resign at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 23

king-authur-milesBreaking News, 9:00 a.m.

Miles to resign at 9:30 a.m.

…and two days before the budget is sent to the trustees for approval to send to the State?

UPDATE 9:40 a.m.

Miles lists achievements:

1. Pay for Performance for Teachers
2. Pay for Performance for Principals
3. Ended Patronage
4. Fund Balance at $350M
5. Largest student acheivement growth in Texas according to ERG
6. Graduation rate increase
7. More AP exams passed
8. Low teacher vacancies at the start of school
9. Public School Choice
10. Early Childhood Programs
11. ACE schools to distribute teachers to needy campuses
12. On-line newsroom called The Hub

Miles says he will stay through the board meeting Thursday, June 25, and will turn the district over to Ann Smisko as acting Superintendent at that meeting.

Update 9:45 a.m.

Quotes Camelot: “Run Boy”


Posted in Teachers Rule

Tonya Sadler Grayson: So Special in DISD

I think I know what tunes Tonya Sadler Grayson plays through her headphones on her way to work at the converted grocery store that is Dallas ISD’s personnel department.

Mavado’s “I’m So Special.”

How else can we explain why she is still employed by Superintendent Mike Miles after an investigative report revealed a laundry list of failings? Grayson obviously believes she is untouchable; when asked about the investigation’s findings, her reply to the Dallas Morning News was “Of course none of that could be true, I’m still at work.”

Why is Tonya so special?

There’s a long line of ex-DISD folks who can tell you about being canned by Miles for wearing the wrong shoes, looking up instead of down or failing to properly salute the commander. Every scandal in DISD is generally followed by a public hanging of sorts, and another employee finds themselves joining their fellow disgraced brethren under the increasingly crowded bus.

The human resources scandal revealed earlier this year, a collection of nasty demeaning messages circulated amongst HCM (Human Capital Management) employees, resulted in the forced resignation of two employees, mostly because public outrage demanded it. Ongoing at that time and central to the chain of cover-ups slowly revealed over the next few months was the investigation into HCM executive director Tonya Sadler Grayson’s activities. That investigation had already led to the dismissal of Jeremy Liebbe, an investigator with DISD who first discovered Tonya’s previous criminal background. Internal Auditor Don Smith followed soon after. Several other employees somehow lost their jobs in HCM in the following months, longtime employees dismissed for failure to perform, even though apparently they had their chairs and pencils taken away first and were assigned to closets with no electrical connections.

So what makes Tonya so special?

When Carmen Darville was forced out after her part in the IM scandal was revealed Tonya was named interim director, a move that raised some eyebrows and again the question:

Why is she so special?

Karry Chapman was eventually hired as head of HCM, and was generally seen as an experienced replacement that would bring integrity and professionalism to a department utterly lacking in both.

Apparently everyone that had high hopes for Ms. Chapman will be disappointed. Ms. Chapman has now, inexplicably, come forward with questions about the investigative report and now wants to investigate the investigators. . DISD chief internal auditor Mike Singleton defended his department’s report on Sadler-Grayson in an email to trustees, reminding us again of the power struggle in DISD, and who is winning.

Even so, Ms. Chapman has positioned herself precariously close to the undercarriage of the bus in order to save Tonya.

Why is Tonya so special?

There is nothing in Grayson’s past professional experience or current DISD performance that would indicate she is indispensable or even desirable. The recent investigative report reveals her to be a liar and a bully, “deceptive and dishonest.”

Most employers would not have found her qualified for the job she holds now, and certainly would have walked her out the door after such a scathing report documenting her questionable behavior.

So why is Tonya so special?

Posted in Rotten in Denmark Tagged with: ,

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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."

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