When the Levees Broke in Dallas ISD

when-the-DISD-Levee-brokeIn a parallel universe down in New Orleans, the transformation myth of the Recovery District, a portfolio district of privatized charters that was forced on the citizens of New Orleans, is being dissembled by Louisiana education bloggers and the publication of a landmark book dissecting the hostile takeover of New Orleans public schools after the Great Flood of 2005.

Dr. Kristen L. Buras, education professor at Georgia State University and native of New Orleans, has completed a ten-year documentary of the veteran African American teacher holocaust that took place as the necessary preface to cleansing New Orleans public schools of their history and their experienced black teachers in order to transform New Orleans schools. Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance probably won’t be on the reading list for Teach for America or the SMU Teaching Trust or Sharon Grigsby, the Dallas Mayor, or the book club for CitySquare. The book is way too graphic and doesn’t fit the current Dallas narrative created by the editorial board at The Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Education PACs that have bought most of the current Dallas ISD Board of Trustees, or the Bush Institute at SMU.

Dallas ISD Levees

The levees in Dallas ISD were breached in October, 2014 with the physical ouster of a democratically elected Trustee from a middle school, Billy Earl Dade, in her school district. The manhandling of Trustee Bernadette Nutall by Dallas ISD’s police, summoned by Superintendent Mike Miles, is the perfect metaphor for the exact ideologies that accompanied the hostile takeover of New Orleans public schools by corporate reformers and federal and state politicians. With the successful removal of an elected Trustee from a public school, the levees in Dallas ISD were finally breached by corporate reformers.

Seven of the nine elected Dallas ISD trustees are currently bought and paid for by millionaires and billionaires. These trustees support the mythologies that African American teachers are not fit to teach African American students, that the biggest cause of the pervasive achievement gap is a black patronage system, that white capitalistic, for-profit business models can cleanse school districts containing a majority of poor kids, that poor black folks are not capable of governing themselves, and that reform of public urban schools can only be carried out by the white, business community.

We know through their silence regarding the treatment of Trustee Nutall that the seven, bought Trustees on the Dallas school board have very limited capacities in terms of reading education research and deriving meaning through the context of campuses. Instead, these trustees need their marching orders from a failed investment banker or the Regional Chamber or phone calls from the moneyed class in Dallas, which for the most part is male and white. Lack of diversity of voice keeps Dallas mired in self-consciousness. No “world class” city in the universe actually looks like reruns of the television show, Dallas. In no “world class” city is the female voice so consistently silenced or mocked.

While the hostile takeover of the public schools by the Mayor, Mike Rawlings, and Trustee Morath has failed due to actual public input, the fact that an elected Trustee would be manhandled by the school police says otherwise. SOPS has won. Morath has won. Barth has won.

Dallas schools are on a trajectory to look exactly like the failed experiment in New Orleans that was also the result of a breech in the levees accompanied by a hostile takeover of a minority school district.

The New Orleans Recovery District (RD) “Miracle”

Just like the Dallas ISD Miracle that is nothing but a mirage of delusions spread by Todd Williams and Trustee Mike Morath, the Recovery District Miracle doesn’t stand close examination. ACT scores for the RD stand at 16.3 with only 80% of students tested and uncounted dropouts disappearing before the testing date and inadvertently increasing test results. Many of the RD charter schools with similar demographics to the highest poverty, African American high schools in Dallas have similar ACT scores even after New Orleans was illegally cleansed of its African American veteran teachers who were fired en masse to make way for charters filled with TFA.

While Louisiana’s pass rates on Advanced Placement tests rank only above those in neighboring Mississippi, the RD pass rates on AP tests are a stellar 4% even after years of black teacher cleansing and the inevitable takeover by mainly white, transient, Teach for America Jim Crow cronies and other alternative certification teachers.

The myth of higher graduation rates in the RD also can’t stand scrutiny. Not only did the Great Flood wipe out much of the record keeping done at the state level on high school students’ exits before graduation, charter schools in Louisiana don’t have the oversight provided by the stringent state public records laws of Texas.  Instead, Louisiana state superintendent John White resists all efforts at transparency in charter finances and student achievement records. RD charter schools quickly adopted the same techniques that Dallas public schools have used to inflate their graduation rates: phony credit recovery through online programs, leaver code misuse that mirrors that of Dallas ISD (fraudulent exits to other states, private schools, and being homeschooled) and high attrition rates before graduation for the all-charter district.

Added to blatant fraud in student transfers and leaver codes are the KIPP favorites of high student attrition, especially in black male students, and high rates of suspension. While charters might report a 90% graduation rate, they are only counting the percentage of the senior class that graduated, not the original freshman cohort which may have been downsized by 50% before their senior year.

Louisiana state superintendent John White went a step further to build the fantasy of the RD miracle: he simply lowered cut rates on state tests in order to pump up student pass rates. Only when Advanced Placement and ACT scores were finally published by campus could researchers determine the RD miracle was a sham academically. The graduation fraud accomplished by disappearing students and phony credit recovery were also accepted until education bloggers exposed the methods used to bolster rates.

The Recovery District of New Orleans is rated by the state of Louisiana at the very bottom of Louisiana school districts, three or four spaces from the very bottom after turning the entire district into charter schools.

We in Dallas are left with only one question: why the rush to take Dallas public schools down the same path?

Short of $100 million dollars in federal, state, and philanthropic dollars chased the vision of white capitalism cleansing New Orleans public schools of their black teachers and history, both betrayed and portrayed as the source of low achievement along with a publicly elected school board. Today the Recovery District portfolio of charter schools can’t withstand close scrutiny of student achievement results or graduation rates while citizens of New Orleans have no citizenship rights in their own public schools .

So why the mad rush by Dallas Trustee Mike Morath, the Dallas Mayor, Todd Williams, the Teaching Trust at SMU, Mark Melton, and others to force a hostile takeover of Dallas schools based on the belief that poor folks cannot assume the responsibilities of democracy, that African Americans in South Dallas can only be saved by removing their citizenship rights through ethnic cleansing of their veteran teachers and elected school board members?

The cleansing of New Orleans, both by water and privatizing and chartering the entire school district, has already proven no less corrupt and no more effective than what existed before the Great Flood, but as we witnessed this month at Billy Earl Dade Middle School in South Dallas, SOPS, Todd Williams, the Teaching Trust, the Dallas Morning News editorial board, and the remainder of the corporate reformers are intent on breaking the levees here in Dallas through the actions of a rogue superintendent.

Democracy in South Dallas will be broken, one way or the other. Schools in South Dallas will be taken, one way or the other, even if the only way to make them completely fail is through Dallas Superintendent Miles’ Broad-inspired initiatives and critical masses of TFA and inexperienced teachers.

The levees will be broken. Democracy will be broken, with the same assumptions, the same players, and the same money that took New Orleans after the Flood.

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Posted in Rotten in Denmark

Waiting for 21,908 Men in Dallas to Speak Out

dmaaPeople often ask why women stay in abusive relationships. They note the heavy makeup covering the bruises and shake their heads. “Just walk out, woman.”

And then there’s the advice, often from other women, to try harder. “Honey, everybody’s got to give a little. Try a little harder to get along.”

Another pervasive opinion is that somehow the woman “deserved” what she got, that somehow her behavior justified the violence against her.

For years women, and to be fair, sometimes men, have struggled with finding fault and forgiveness when they find themselves in a relationship that is clearly abusive.

After all, we are told, it is clearly God’s will that we forgive.

That is the situation we find Dallas dealing with today. Should we forgive Mike Miles for abusing his position of power when he had trustee Bernadette Nutall picked up and manhandled out of Billy E. Dade Middle School last week?

The Dallas Morning News staff, including Jim Mitchell and James Ragland ,thinks so. Gerald Britt of CitySquare, a social justice organization supported by Dallas city leaders, thinks so. They think Ms. Nutall should try a little harder to get along.

And yet, we have just been bombarded with a campaign, led by Mayor Rawlings, called “Dallas Men Against Abuse.” It says that 21,908 men have taken this pledge:

• A man never hits a woman.
• A man speaks out against domestic abuse.
• A man teaches his daughter how men should treat her and that she should never allow herself to be abused. Not once.
• A man teaches his sons to respect women.

Where are these 21,908 men now?

Every city leader, businessperson, faith leader, and DISD trustee who does not speak out in support of Ms. Nutall is, by their silence, acknowledging their tacit agreement with the right of the powerful to exercise their will in any way they damn well please.

I’ll bet none of these folks have ever cowered in a corner, while they were yelled at and threatened, perhaps even physically abused, knowing they had no option except to submit. It’s a feeling you can only know by living it.

Abused women always try to hide their bruises from the neighbors. James Ragland bemoans the fact that “sadly, the DISD’s image is taking another hit.”

More make-up on that black eye, maybe?

Men and women of character don’t hide their dirty laundry, they air it out and clean it. And if it won’t come clean, they toss it out.

Bernadette Nutall had no options that day. She was a petite woman, with no protection, in a dark wet parking lot, and three men had just thrown her out of a building she, as an elected trustee, had every right to be in. What threat did Trustee Nutall pose to Superintendent Miles? She was not armed, she was not threatening anyone, she was not breaking or throwing things. How can these 21,908 men stand by and justify the violent action taken against her? Would a man, as described in the pledge, have done that?

This situation that Dallas finds itself in is no one’s fault but Superintendent Mike Miles’. Attributing any blame to Bernadette Nutall is a shameful acknowledgement to the culture that faults women raped while wearing low cut blouses.

Dallas Men Against Abuse asks: “And what happened to a man’s personal accountability for his behavior?” Join us as we expose the problem and search for answers.”

Amnesty International states that “Perpetrators of violence against women are rarely held accountable for their acts. Violence against women is so deeply embedded in society that it often fails to garner public censure and outrage.”

Indeed, where is the outrage, Dallas?

In the light of day and with the support of those who feel they were thrown out of that building along with her, we hope Ms. Nutall sees that she does have options to fight back.

Mike Miles, on the other hand, needs to own his behavior that day. He needs to own it and he needs to apologize. And then he needs to leave.

Miles’ departure will by no means heal this city. There’s plenty more folks that need to step up and apologize too.

Bullies only exist where they are tolerated.

Dallas, we’re waiting.

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Posted in Chicken on a Soapbox, Teachers Rule

Dallas ISD Administration Quiz

Sometimes reality is enough to make you cry, or at least long for some comic relief. In that spirit, here is the disdblog.com version of an ACP.  Pay attention and do your best, as your teacher’s pay scale depends on the accuracy of your answers!

ACP Test

Fall 2014

Course:  Dallas ISD Leadership

 

1. Who believes in a seven year plan ending in 2020 that supports the party at the expense of the people?

leadership-1

 

2. Who stands by her man to defend people who are not truthful on application forms?

leadership-2
 
3. Who heads the police state in Dallas ISD?

leadership-3
 
4. Who wrote the book on the parapsychology of rats for his doctoral thesis?

leadership-4

Hint: Terry, J.C., Levy, J., & Davis, J., “Two Possible Sources of ESP Information in the Rodent Precognition Work.” Journal of Parapsychology, Durham, N.C.; 1973.

 

5. Who is more likely to NOT follow e-rate procedures in technology bids?

leadership-5
 
6. Who is making sure Dallas ISD is staying the course? Any direction is the right direction!

leadership-6
 
7. Who is leading transformation in Dallas ISD?

leadership-7
 
8. Who makes sure Mike Miles always has it right?

leadership-8
 
9. Who is the top dog’s go-to guy?

leadership-9
 
10.  Who speaks haltingly and bullies docile creatures?

leadership-10
 
Bonus Point:  Who believes his subordinates are clueless and respond to intimidation?

leadership-11

How To Score:

Give yourself 5 points for every correct answer. Subtract 1 point for any incorrect answer. Give yourself 10 points for every omitted answer.

Scale:

0-50        Congratulations, your knowledge of Dallas ISD administration is spot-on!

50-100    Yeah, we couldn’t stop laughing long enough to answer, either.

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Posted in Friday Free For All, Giving Grades

Class Size Waiver Redux and the Dallas ISD

SardinesThe statistics in Dallas ISD are all too familiar by now:

  • Almost 160,000 students, mostly minority (70% Hispanic, 24% African American, 5% White, 1% Asian), with 89% of families earning less than 130% of the federal government’s defined poverty level ($30,600/year for a family of 4).
  • The number of schools in DISD designated by the state of Texas as “IR,” or Improvement Required, grew this year from 34 to 43. Almost one out of every 5 DISD schools is an IR school, or 19% of the 224 schools in the district.
  • Initial state testing results for 2013-2014 did not show any significant improvement, and in fact, revealed decreases in 18 out of 22 comparisons for AA students and 14 out of 22 comparisons for Hispanic and Economically Disadvantaged students.
  • This year, 42.1% of district high school students are in the position of having failed one or more of the tests required to graduate.

It is no wonder that many citizens of Dallas feel an urgency to do something to turn things around quickly. Unfortunately, history has proven that there is no magic bullet in education- no single program or reform will cause student achievement to skyrocket.

However, there is one time-tested and proven strategy which can and should be employed by Dallas ISD to benefit the youngest learners: smaller class sizes with experienced teachers. A definitive review article was published by the National Education Policy Center in February 2014 by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach of Northwestern University titled “Does Class Size Matter?” which reviewed all of the research to date on class size and made the following policy recommendations:

1) Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes, and one that can be directly determined by policy. All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes.

2) The evidence suggests that increasing class size will harm not only children’s test scores in the short run, but also their long-run human capital formation. Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs in the future.

3) The payoff from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children, while any increases in class size will likely be most harmful to these populations.

4) Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall.

It is crucial that Dallas ISD does everything in its power to provide the best education for its students so that each student can achieve their potential in life. A reasonable start, backed by excellent research, is the simple step of ensuring that every Kindergarten through 4th grade class in DISD adheres to the state law of 22 students or less per class (not an average of 22).

A short history of the use of class size waiver requests in Dallas ISD is in order.

In 2009, Dr. Hinojosa “lost” $64 million in the budget. This resulted in a reduction in force (RIF) along with the need to request 38 class size waivers.

In 2011, the Texas state legislature cut public school funding by $5.4 billion, which resulted in a DISD budget cut of $76.9 million and a staff reduction of 1,442 employees. Many districts, including DISD, were forced at that time to request record numbers of Class Size Waivers from the Texas Education Agency (TEA). In 2011, DISD requested 45 Class Size Waivers.

Enter the era of Superintendent Mike Miles. Miles was given carte blanche by the Board of Trustees to hire his chosen administrators with no restrictions on salaries. He expanded the number of administrative positions and increased salaries. The reserve fund grew due to a savings of $20 million through budgeted teacher vacancies.

Miles requested a record number of 435 Class Size Waivers in 2012. The TEA eventually granted 212 waivers for DISD that year. In 2013, Miles requested 130 Class Size Waivers, despite the fact that the district received $50 million more from the state. In the 2013-2014 school year, Miles overspent the transportation budget by at least $10 million due to increasing the number of bus routes for his Imagine 2020 plan by allowing the schools to vary their start and dismissal times. This did not prove to increase student achievement in the I-2020 schools despite the large investment.

Many school districts have recovered significantly this year. DISD boasts a reserve fund of at least $300 million. It would seem that the need for Class Size Waiver Requests should be much lower as a result. Indeed, this is the case across North Texas: According to a recent article in the Dallas Morning News, the Plano, Allen, and McKinney ISDs are not requesting ANY Class Size Waivers this year, and Richardson ISD, despite explosive growth, has reduced its class size waiver requests from 22 last year to only one this school year.

Unfortunately, Dallas ISD is the glaring exception: Miles has requested 156 Class Size Waivers this year, as compared to 130 last year.

As stated earlier, “All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes.”

Why is the district doing something which is known to harm students, when it is no longer necessary due to financial constraints? This year, the district lists “lack of qualified teachers, especially bilingual” as their justification for requesting 156 waivers. Surely, not all 156 are bilingual teachers. The district had been warned multiple times in the past NOT to decrease the bilingual stipend for fear of losing these teachers to surrounding districts. The district decreased the bilingual stipend in 2011-2012 from $4000/ yr to $1500/yr. It remained at that low level until the 2013-2014 school year, when it was increased to $2000-3000/year, where it remains today. In contrast, athletic coaches and assistant coaches receive a stipend of $4000-6000/year. Surrounding districts offer the same or more stipend, but with a higher base salary rate. Where are our priorities?

Eleven of the “met standards” schools which had class size waivers in the 2012-2013 are now listed as “Improvement Required” schools. Five schools were already “IR” in 2012-2013 and had Class Size Waivers, and remained “IR” for 2013-2014. Twenty-eight percent of the requests this year are for class sizes of 25 or greater and 15% will have class sizes over 26 per class. This is a far cry from other ISD’s, which will hire extra teachers rather than put more than 2 extra children per classroom.

DISD could apply the same solution as other surrounding districts do for classrooms which currently are slated to have 25 or more students. This would require 17 more teachers at approximately $53,000 per year (a high estimate, but some of these would be bilingual teachers), at a price tag of about $900,000. Adding a class would allow smaller class sizes of 18-21 students in each case. Where could they find the money? Well, DISD just paid about $760,000 to a vendor with whom they did not have a contract. They also had to pay back E-Rate funds of $423,000 because they had not followed the correct protocol. If they could straighten out their financial ship, they would save millions. They could re-work the transportation plans for the Imagine-2020 schools in order to use some of the $10 million for additional teachers to reduce the need for Class Size Waivers. This money would get more bang for the buck than spending it to alter the bus schedules to change school start/dismissal times by 15 minutes.

It is time for the trustees to require the superintendent to keep our K- 4 classrooms at or below the state maximum of 22 students. This is not only the law in Texas: it reflects best practices according to good research.

The trustees should direct the superintendent to hire additional teachers as suggested and deny approval of these waivers. If we want to truly be a data-driven district, then we need follow the recommendations from years of data collection which show that class size DOES matter. Dallas ISD needs to not only say that they have a commitment to educational excellence, they need to prove it through their actions to provide the best possible learning environment for all students.

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Posted in Teachers Rule

A Better Dallas ISD: Two Ideas We Can Use Today

Several years ago there was an outcry when a popular hiking trail in California was found to have been, apparently, torn up by mountain bikers. The public outcry over the damage done was quickly taken up by the local Sierra Club and used in their campaign to exclude bikes from area trails, reserving them solely for hikers and horses.

And then it was discovered the rogue bikers were in fact Sierra Club members, deliberately damaging trails to fan the flames of public outrage that ultimately closed the trails to bikes.

Could it be that the Dallas Morning News’ Rudolph Bush is the victim of a Sierra Club –like ambush? Or is he, like several other local white media types, so convinced he understands black Dallas that he accepts trash like the “flyer” he reprinted as the voice of the people?

Bush claims to know exactly “why” trustee Nutall came to Dade Middle School campus on Monday, (“to insert herself into its management”), even though there is no mention of an interview and this statement contradicts Nutall’s explanation of her presence on the campus of the school which just last week had its management and 10 teachers removed by superintendent Miles in an unprecedented house-cleaning. He readily assumes trustee Nutall is protesting the removal of a black principal with no justification for the claim other than his own racist bias. Why is that, I wonder? Convenient for his agenda?

It is almost laughable that he portrays Miles as the knight on a white horse, riding into Dade as its savior, when the sad state of affairs at Dade is completely Miles’ doing. It is his hand-picked administration, including 4 principals since Miles arrived in 2012, that is having the problems with discipline and control.

It is Miles’ doing that Dade has a teacher turnover rate which has resulted in more than 50% of Dade’s teachers having a year or less experience in Dallas ISD. Dade has had one of the district’s highest percentages of TFA trained teachers, ill- equipped to deal with kids in an urban setting, also Miles’ doing.

Bush writes:

“Hopefully, thanks to the changes Miles is bringing about, the writer will get the chance to learn what too many students at Dade are being denied thanks to an atmosphere lacking in discipline and seriousness.”

Does Bush know the reason kids are running wild at Dade, and at Marsh, and at many other DISD schools? Could it be because of policies Miles has imposed on the schools? Teachers and staff are hamstrung in their attempts at discipline. Word is that in-school suspension programs are staffed, but teachers are reluctant to refer students. They are told referrals will count against their evaluation.

Could it be that 12 and 13 year old students are fed up with overly structured and scripted classroom management policies that treat them like cogs in a wheel, not individuals? Could it be that being greeted at the door with a sign that says “You shall not” encourages these kids to do just that?

Bush claims to know it all; the reasons why and the answers to all questions. Like most of those who write about Dallas schools instead of teaching in them, he knows what’s best for “those” kids and their parents. He even knows how to correct their grammar.

“We have to demand the best for our students. We especially have to demand it in areas of poverty. The racism that defined our society for generations is too serious to be treated so cavalierly as this.”

I say, “Amen.” We do have to demand the best for our students. We do have to lift ourselves above the racism that threatens our city. I have two suggestions.

Mean spirited, inflammatory opinion pieces like this one by Rudolph Bush and others like it need to be put in the trash where they belong.

And Mike Miles needs to be fired. Today.

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Posted in Rotten in Denmark, Teachers Rule
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NOTES
We know words are powerful and ideas even more so. Profanity isn't really necessary for emphasis or a substitute for passion here. Thank you.

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