DISD Principals: Don’t Touch My Child

After reading and thinking about recent comments on this blog and another, I am increasingly horrified by the revelations that many principals in DISD are jumping on the fad bandwagon and requiring teachers to shake every child’s hand (or even to shake hands with most kids) before the child enters a classroom.

I am not horrified as a teacher; I am horrified as a parent.  I don’t want my child forced to touch any adult.

Think about it this way: when adults who have power over a child reach out to shake a child’s hand, in almost all cases the child will oblige whether they want to or not because they feel they have to be polite and compliant.

Psychologically, that’s bullying and intimidation. An adult in power over children who initiates contact forces children to ignore their natural (healthy) inclination to maintain a zone of personal space. Requiring teachers to initiate handshakes forces children to touch people they may not want to touch. Why is this being allowed?

Handshaking between equals or peers is one thing, but this TFA/charter school/Michelle Rhee (who put duct tape over a child’s mouth) wave of required handshaking is frankly wrong. It’s just as wrong as putting duct tape over a child’s mouth.

It also has a sinister undertone of dominance. Petty tyrants (and just plain sociopaths) use the handshaking ritual to make other people uncomfortable or feel subordinated; the sociopaths do this on purpose by shoving their hands out at people they believe to be beneath them in stature or power. However, an adult at least has the freedom to decline.

Children, though, especially in a school setting, feel powerless to decline. And once we’ve taught them to submit to unwanted touching, they truly have become powerless.

As a parent, I also don’t want my child to have increased exposure to the germs that have gathered on a teacher’s hand. And if every teacher a child sees in a day forces a handshake, that’s exponentially more germs. It’s completely unsanitary.

I’m sure I speak for most parents when I say to DISD administrators, “Don’t make my child touch you.”

I don’t care who you are or what you think you are “teaching” children. Don’t make them touch you.

I feel especially troubled when I think about how students with sensory issues, autism, intellectual disabilities and past experiences with sexual abuse must feel when cornered by a teacher who has themselves been cornered into this by a principal.

NO ONE in DISD administration should be mandating that teachers initiate physical contact with any child. To do so is either ignorant or deviant. To do so exploits children for that administrator’s personal gain.

What’s next? Required hugs or sidelines-inspired slaps on the backside?  I mean, why not?  What’s the difference?

Mike Miles needs to put an end to this weird, possibly deviant, definitely unsanitary fad immediately. No child should have to touch an adult to please an adult. Adults with dominance issues need to work those out somewhere else, but not on my child.

I’m also horrified that a teacher has to be the one to point this out to the DISD superintendent and principals and EDs who didn’t or couldn’t think this through.  Inexcusable.

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Posted in Administrative Policies

The Time Has Come: Miles Must Go

disd-miles-to-go-before-i-sleepThis blog was set up for teachers by teachers, to give you a safe, easily accessed place to give opinion, report facts, and, when needed, vent your frustrations with a local and national system that seems hell bent on making teachers the scapegoat for all of society’s problems. It seems that now parents and students are beginning to feel your frustration and to realize the consequences.

Just this week, in separate events and by a diverse group including parents, students, veteran teachers, community leaders and watch dog activists, the call has been to stop vilifying those professionals who are our children’s most important mentors and advocates and instead support them, value them, and listen to them.

Matthew Haag of the Dallas Morning News reported on a town hall trustee Eric Cowan hosted in which teacher after teacher stood up and said “I’m done.” Fed up with policies that are demeaning, demoralizing, and more importantly, interfere with what they know is good teaching, Dallas ISD has lost thousands of veteran teachers since Superintendent Miles’ arrival in 2012. Over one third of the DISD teaching force has one year or less experience in the district. It is predicted turnover this year will approach 36%.

Parents voiced their frustration with Miles’ policies also, particularly with the testing his teacher evaluation initiative requires. One parent reported that her 6 year old son was told to attend after school tutoring so that he would be prepared to pass his ACP exam in Art. There was a ripple of laughter in the room, but nobody thought it was funny. Measuring young children’s ability to sing, skip, and draw “correctly” is ludicrous and harmful, not funny.

Students present expressed their concerns, saying they see and feel the stress their teachers are under. Teachers have less time for them and are less available. They are disappointed the inspiring veteran teachers they looked forward to having are gone.

Speakers at Thursday’s board meeting emphasized again the value the community places on our teachers. Bill Betzen asked why teacher retention was not a component of the plans for the 43 Improvement Required campuses. Dr. Kyle Renard urged trustees to put teachers in charge of campus turnarounds using an innovative teacher-run school model that was presented to the board in March, and ignored. David Lee urged that teachers be treated with respect and as a start, have local leave days be restored to the previous number of 5.

Irma Rangel junior Lara Andree summed up the sentiments of parents and community with her speech to the board. Saying current policies initiated by Superintendent Miles have “taken away my mentors” and created classrooms which are “no longer creative and mentally stimulating, but anxiety ridden,” she urged trustees to join with her and the almost 1,700 people who have signed her petition and insist on an end to current practices instituted by Miles and instead move towards a district culture which acknowledges and rewards its teachers not for their adherence to rules, but for the skills and insights they have as dedicated professionals.

We are hearing from teachers, students, and parents at Rosemont Elementary, Greiner Middle School, Booker T. Washington, Irma Rangel, Samuell High School, Stonewall Jackson Elementary, Dealey Montessori, and others across the district.

People are beginning to realize that nothing Mike Miles has brought to this district is worth what he is taking away from it: experienced, energetic, encouraged teachers whose sole focus is doing what is best for the children they are entrusted with every day.

And they are beginning to see the only solution to the crisis: Miles must go.

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Posted in Teachers Rule

Size Does Matter in Dallas ISD

e-rate-mistakes-at-DISD“We cannot continue to give away our responsibilities as a board.”

That was trustee Joyce Foreman’s remark at the November board briefing discussion on the acceptance of gifts to the district.

Current policy CDC Local requires that all gifts over $25,000 be brought before the board for approval.

The revised policy presented at the briefing specified a $150,000 threshold per donation and specifically noted this is not “per donor.”

It is no secret this policy change was prompted by recent objections to an $80,000 donation by Commit! to fund a data analysis position in the district’s Evaluation and Assessment Department.

Dr. Mike Dryden, retired from the E&A department, presented to the board his thoughts on this gift, concluding with this statement: “Do not accept this grant if it means unfettered access to student data for the purpose of making charts with a political agenda or naively aligning resources based on unsophisticated analyses resulting in wasted resources.”

I think Dr. Dryden was over polite in pointing out the dangers inherent in accepting “gifts” from donors who have obvious agendas.

Unbelievably, It seems the board may not only raise the approval limit on donations, they may cede their authority altogether!

The policy which will be presented for a vote at the next Board meeting gives ALL authority for accepting gifts, of ANY size, to the Superintendent! The board would receive a monthly notice of gifts, but their only authority would be to ratify the donations quarterly, after the fact, with no power to discuss and deny donations which may have questionable purposes.

Certainly the district should gladly accept donations which directly benefit students. Books and equipment are welcome if appropriate. Equipment which requires vendor supplied training or component replacement however, should be scrutinized. Any program or material which carries an agenda or viewpoint should also be looked at closely. The idea of accepting donations to fund positions within the district is particularly alarming.

Trustee Elizabeth Jones remarked during the briefing discussion on donation limits that “size does matter.”

How did we move away from a discussion on size to a complete abdication of the trustees’ duty to monitor the actions of the Superintendent and administration and their power to halt actions that may threaten the integrity of the district?

This is not about getting donations into the classroom quickly, as some staffers suggested. Most delays are caused by administration; either lack of attention, bickering over vendors, specifications, or some other bookkeeping issue. Many donations, in fact many contracts, are fully implemented or in place well before the item appears before the board for approval. Cell phone installations appear on campuses months before they are approved. Playground equipment is installed and flowers are planted.

Carla Ranger, during her tenure as trustee, repeatedly admonished administration for putting the cart before the horse. However, timing is not the problem here.

The problem here is a blatant attempt to circumvent board authority. It will be shameful, and telling, if the board accepts this policy change. Taxpayers deserve, and expect, better.

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Posted in Administrative Policies

Jeronimo and Louisa are Loopers

disd-loopersThey looked like normals. They spoke like normals. But did anyone check the Dallas ISD parking lot Monday night for strange glowing orbs sprouting antenna? Because obviously Jeronimo Valdez and Louisa Meyer are LOOPERS! Time travelers amongst us!

Jeronimo Valdez, Louisa Meyer, and Stephen Jones, together with Wilton Hollins and Gary Griffith are the public faces of Support Our Public Schools, the organization seeking to reorganize Dallas ISD as a charter school district under a little known and never before used provision of a 20 year old law.

The Dallas Home Rule Commission invited SOPS to present Monday night. The commission has held nine meetings within the community and has devoted several board sessions to gathering input on the charter proposal.

Jeronimo Valdez was SOPS’ spokesman Monday night and surprised commissioners by handing them a 23 page home rule charter. All that was missing from this early holiday gift was the curly red bow.

Copies of this pre-written charter were not available at press time, so all we know about the charter SOPS wrote for the commissioners are the highlights presented.

Which is where we find the time travelers.

While SOPS has backed away from their original call for an appointed board, whether as a reaction to public outcry or in acknowledgement of the fact such a change is illegal, the SOPS charter calls for November elections for trustees.

Can Dallas, home rule or not, change trustee elections to November? Only if they are Loopers!

A quick copy and paste exercise utilizing Texas Election Code gives us this:

Sec. 41.0052. CHANGING GENERAL ELECTION DATE. (a) The governing body of a political subdivision, other than a county, that holds its general election for officers on a date other than the November uniform election date may, not later than December 31, 2012, change the date on which it holds its general election for officers to the November uniform election date.

So, unless Jeronimo and Louisa have a Looper style time machine big enough for all of us, November elections are not possible under current law. School districts, home rule or not, are subject to Election Code.

The rest of the charter appeared to be the same old assortment of recommendations SOPS has presented before; some (recall, trustee eligibility) with dubious legal standing; some (STAAR retesting and buying calculators) nitpicking; and some of dubious merit (school start dates and seat time requirements).

Some are puzzling and contradictory. There are measures that make it more difficult to remove the superintendent, including contract and qualification exceptions and a super majority vote needed to terminate, (because, as Louisa Meyer stated, superintendent turnover is bad); yet, on the other hand, the charter specifies that trustees should be recalled in a special election if performance metrics aren’t met.

Unfortunately, the charter apparently bans trustees from any involvement in campus business, giving them as their only option to increasing achievement -you guessed it- firing the superintendent!

The home rule commissioners had some pointed questions for Valdez, prompting him to emphasize that, despite the details presented in the 23 page document, the charter is a framework “you all can change … as you see fit.” Some of the answers Valdez gave prompted Meyer to leave her seat in the audience and join Valdez at the horseshoe because, apparently, Momma knows best.

In the end, the charter was a tired reiteration of adult issues with little promise of reinventing or reinvigorating the community and classroom culture which holds the key to student achievement.

Maybe SOPS should take another spin in their time machine, in the hope their next landing spot finds them far far away.

We can only hope.

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Posted in Baloney Meter, SOPS

Are Low-Performing DISD Principals Evaluating Teachers?

DISD-teacherl-evaluatorsIn November, the district held a celebration honoring Exemplary principals.
There were, like, 5. Or maybe 6.

This means that the vast majority of teachers are being Spot Ob’d and TEI’d by principals who, according to Mike Miles’ approved scale, are not the Best of the Best.

This also means that many teachers are being put on Growth Plans by principals who do not even score 88 points out of 100 on their own evaluations. (Or 80 or 85 or whatever is the Exemplary rating du jour, as that number is apparently a moving target.)

This means that most teachers are seeing their opportunity for pay raises blocked by principals who are, at best, not even B+ employees.

They’re not good enough to be called Exemplary, but they are good enough to determine the fates of the poor teachers assigned to endure them. Riiiight.

Personally, if I am a teacher who is denied a pay raise because my apparently sub-par principal or AP gave me a bad evaluation, I see a lawsuit against the district in my future. And I’m fairly certain I’d win.

I think it’s also interesting to see which principals weren’t at the Exemplary Principal celebration. Many of the Not-Inviteds were graduates of Miles’ own Fellows Failure Academy. What does that say about the quality of the Fellows Academy? $5 million for his big idea and how many Exemplary principals? For $5 mill, I’d expect at least 25 stand-outs.

And—thanks to a commenter for the reminder–was the TCMMSPA (TC Marsh Middle School Preparatory Academy) principal among The Exemplary? Didn’t this principal come to Dallas with Miles to work in some capacity in the Fellows Academy before becoming a principal?

I certainly hope that anyone who is paid to be part of or graduates from a $5 million principal-training academy (there’s that “fancy” term, again—which always reminds me of the grandiosely-named Dallas Can Academy, home of the kids who were banned from a Popeye’s) are themselves able to score at least 95 points out of 100 when placed in a school (especially an Academy).

What about the principal at the school where the teachers are required to shake hands with every single student who comes into their room? Surely, even in the age of Ebola, such a demanding principal must themselves meet the highest standards of their own job.

Additionally, I expect that the principal who demands that teachers write LOs, DOLs, an agenda, MRS and “Essential Questions” on their white boards every day is an Exemplary Principal, because otherwise it would be hypocritical to demand so much of others if you’re not even able to score a B+ yourself.

It simply makes no sense that Miles approved the principal evaluation plan and yet is allowing less-than-Exemplary principals (based on his own standards) to affect the careers and reputations of teachers in the district.

And what of the students led by these principals?

What professional development are the not-Exemplary principals receiving to ensure that students aren’t falling behind on those campuses? If a principal can’t rack up 88 points, they need to be at professional development weekly, complete with chart paper, gallery walks, Core Belief exercises and exit tickets. (But their PD can’t happen during school hours—it must start after school and last at least an hour, just like it does for teachers).

Finally, I guarantee you that if I were chosen to evaluate Miles, he would argue that I am not qualified to evaluate him, just as he supposedly told an Irma Rangel student that she couldn’t understand the complexities of some of his policies. I also guarantee you that Miles would argue that none of the Below 88 principals are qualified to evaluate him.

And yet he says they can evaluate us? I don’t think so.

DISD teachers who are given low scores or non-renewals by principals or APs who are not Exemplary need to fight back. Principals who are not rated Exemplary need mandatory, immediate professional development.

As for the 5 or 6 Exemplary principals, please don’t wear the custom-fitted blazers the district blew money on to school. Poor kids need copy paper so they can practice math facts without having to first copy the problems off of a screen. Low-income DISD kids don’t need to be buying cheesy blazers for principals.

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Posted in Baloney Meter, Teachers Rule
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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
Dallas, TX 75204

Superintendent Mike Miles
milesfm@dallasisd.org

Lew Blackburn, 1st Vice President
District 5
Term Expires 2016
lblackburn@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3718
Oak Lawn, West Dallas, Wilmer, Hutchins and portions of East Oak Cliff

Miguel Solis, Board President
District 8
Term Expires 2014
miguelsolis@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3721
Love Field, Northwest Dallas, and Central Dallas

Eric Cowan
District 7
Term Expires 2016
ecowan@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3721
North Central Oak Cliff and parts of West Dallas

Nancy Bingham
District 4
Term Expires 2016
nbingham@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3722
Southeast Dallas, Seagoville, Balch Springs

Elizabeth Jones, 2nd Vice President
District 1
Term Expires 2015
elizabethjones@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3722
Northwest Dallas, including North Dallas, Addison, parts of Carrollton and Farmers Branch

Mike Morath
District 2
Term Expires 2014
mmorath@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3721
North and Near East Dallas

Dan Micciche, Board Secretary
District 3
Term Expires 2015
danmicciche@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3722
Northeast Dallas

Joyce Foreman
District 6
Term Expires 2017
email coming
(972) 925-3722
Southwest Dallas

Bernadette Nutall
District 9
Term Expires 2015
benutall@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3721
South Dallas and parts of Downtown Dallas, Pleasant Grove, Deep Ellum, Uptown, and East Dallas

"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