As the Dallas Home Rule Charter Commission prepares to meet for the first time, and begins what may be months of work writing a home rule charter that will transform Dallas ISD into a charter school district, it may be a good time to look back on a previous news article to see where we stand now relative to what we knew then.
It is widely agreed that Mike Morath and Mayor Mike Rawlings worked behind the scenes for months (weeks? days?) before the Support Our Public Schools rollout in March 2014 to garner support from the community, well at least the business and politico community. Nobody asked this chicken, but they never do.
Last March, the Dallas Morning News’ Matthew Haag got some deep throat information from three unidentified sources concerning the efforts behind the home rule rollout. It is worth rereading the entire article, but here are some excerpts:
“The three people, who agreed to speak to The Dallas Morning News on the condition of anonymity, said that in recent conversations, Morath and Rawlings mentioned replacing the district’s publicly elected board with appointed members.
“It is orchestrated. I hate to see stuff that’s not grass roots being portrayed as it is,” said a former city official whom the mayor recruited unsuccessfully to endorse the effort. “They should be straightforward that they are coming after the trustees.”
But the former city official said the mayor’s spokesman, Sam Merten, called several weeks ago and spoke bluntly about the effort.
“He said that the mayor would run DISD or oversee it. You wouldn’t have trustees. If you did, they wouldn’t be making decisions,” the former official said.”
Sam Merten told Haag he didn’t recall telling anyone the mayor would run the schools and only mentioned it as a possibility.
Further in the article, in a discussion of the process needed to write a charter, including appointment of the members by DISD trustees, Haag writes:
Because district trustees would appoint the commissioners, the process suggests that outside forces couldn’t control the outcome. However, according to the former city official, Merten said the group’s backers had recruited people to be on the commission and believed a majority of DISD trustees would vote them in.
“He said he would propose a slate of people for the charter that they knew would put in place the charter they would want. They would have enough votes on the DISD board to get that passed,” the person said. “You’d have the folks in place already who are committed no matter the public outpouring or opposition.”
Merten also denied saying that and made this statement:
“That’s completely inaccurate. There has not been one conversation about who would serve on this potential commission,” he said.
SOPS backed off the mayoral control proposal pretty quickly, as apparently the specter of Mayor Mike running the schools scared off as many folks as it attracted. But more importantly, any governance change might involve litigation and the Department of Justice and lots of men in suits, thus slowing the process down such that the charter would miss placement on the November ballot, a goal SOPS seems determined to achieve.
What about the statement that the group had recruited commission members and had the trustees who were willing to vote them in?
Obviously there are a few plants in the group, certainly Mike Morath’s appointee Edwin Flores. And yes, this is the “we pay for 8 hours we are getting 8 hours” ex-trustee whose idea of wielding the power of his elected position means forwarding to DISD administration emails from teachers who happen to disagree with him.
But I wouldn’t expect Morath to appoint someone who disagreed with the mission.
Who knows about the rest of them? Most of them have had personal acquaintance with their appointees, some more personal than others, but I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Just curious.
At least one or two appointees seem to be the real thing, but maybe I’m naïve.
The teachers were appointed by a District Advisory Committee that has been ruled illegally constituted, and were part of a larger body that, in retrospect, actually appears to have been formed for the express purpose of signing off on the Teacher Excellence Initiative.
A District Advisory Committee that includes Stand for Children’s Stacey Hodge, Teaching Trust’s Ellen Wood, and Ken Barth’s right hand woman Melissa Higginbotham was obviously formed with some intent in mind, so one would also expect a sprinkling of Stand for Children’s Texas Educator Network members to be included. Isaac Freeman is at least one that appears to be involved in the organization that is referred to in some circles as Stand On Children. He has also testified in Austin as a Teaching Trust Ed-Policy Fellow in support of performance based teacher evaluations.
To be clear, and nothing’s been clear so far with home rule, the aforementioned members did not participate in commission member selection, with the exception of Isaac Freeman.
The makeup of the DAC, coupled with the fact the DAC selected two of their own members as commission members, plants a seed of doubt in my mind as to the true nature of the teacher appointees. Ron Oliver, both a DAC member and a teacher appointee, testified at the AFT vs DISD hearing that the second round of the selection process included a question asking applicants their views on home rule. That makes me wonder even more. What was the answer this group was looking for?
At their first meeting, the commission, as one of their first agenda items, will vote yea or nay to adopt a resolution that includes the following statement:
WHEREAS, the Commission has the sole discretion and authority to determine that no Home-Rule School District Charter need be adopted.
Maybe this is the vote that will tell us where the commission members stand. Are they principled individuals who will ignore efforts to influence them with threats, cajoling or lobbying and instead find a way to give Dallas students, parents, and taxpayers the local control and input SOPS has promised them but has yet to deliver?
Will they hold public meetings and ask for teacher and student input? Will they understand and take seriously their duty to the students and taxpayers?
Or will they do as they are told?
Or go along to get along, which is just as bad.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.