Why DISD’s Imagine 2020 Initiative Failed

I read the article in the DMN about DISD’s failing 2020 schools and I could not believe the Editorial Board had the nerve to ask: “So what went wrong?”

Really? What went wrong? As if each of them did not know.

The only people who get a pass for asking this question are people who either cannot work a computer or read English, because this blog has been telling all of Dallas what’s wrong for years.

“So what went wrong?”

What fundamentally went wrong is that we have elected officials and unelected “educational advisors” who either chose not to read this blog or who read it and dismissed the truths it loudly proclaimed for years because the truth conflicted with their personal, greed-driven agendas.

Responsible public officials and advisors wisely seek input from multiple sources and they especially listen to their critics. Irresponsible public officials and advisors, however, pursue their agendas with the arrogance and tyranny of insane zealots.

What went wrong is that the students in DISD got stuck with the Editorial-Board-approved zealots.

However, on the outside chance that some of them would sincerely like to put the children in DISD ahead of deformer greed for once, I will again spell out specifically what is needed to increase student learning and achievement:

1. The effects of poverty (untreated emotional, behavioral and academic problems, sleep deprivation, uncorrected vision and dental issues, transience and sporadic school attendance) must be addressed.

2. The schools need to be flooded, inundated, saturated with psychologists to address emotional and behavioral issues, tutors to provide academic remediation during the school day, aides to sit with struggling students in math and reading classes, and additional staff members in the clinics to detect and monitor health issues.

3. Teachers must be protected from the principals and bureaucrats who force teachers to waste valuable planning, grading and conferencing time while they sit through 90 minutes of meetings a week, convocations and endless online modules.

4. Use test scores, climate surveys and teacher turnover rates to identify and remove bad principals regardless of who they know.

5. Eliminate TEI and the stranglehold it puts on effective teaching and true learning.

Costs should not be a problem. Simply axe the Fellows program and that will net the district millions to spend on school psychologists and classroom aides. Repurpose Instructional Coaches and Academic Facilitators as tutors. Stop supplanting Regular Education dollars with Supplemental dollars. Stop the wasteful spending on choice schools. Halve the number of non-campus employees in the district; reassign many to serve as classroom aides or clinic helpers even if they don’t have degrees. Punish corruption and waste. Reject, like every other successful district, Broad, TFA and charter profiteers. And scrapping TEI will actually save money.

This isn’t rocket science. Basically, meet individual student needs and maintain working conditions that attract the strongest teachers.

The DMN Editorial Board can read. Each one of them can work a computer. Those of us on the front lines have now told them what needs to be done.

No more excuses, DMN Editorial Board. You know what went wrong and how to fix it. If you choose to ignore the truth again, though, the failure of each individual DISD child will rest on you—each of you—individually. And we won’t forget it.

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

And So It Goes: Goodbye, Jon Dahlander!

Well, we can’t let Dallas ISD spokesperson Jon Dahlander’s resignation from the district go by without comment.

His departure (for the spokesman job in Highland Park ISD) leaves Ann Smisko (she still here?) as the only inner circle member that started with former Superintendent Mike Miles and outlasted him. In terms of district longevity, Dahlander’s 20 year career with the district may win him top honors…for something.

I can imagine interim Superintendent Michael Hinojosa looking down the halls at 3700 Ross for a familiar face from the days when he was superintendent in Dallas. Can anyone name any high level administrators that have been here more than three years? Anyone left from the “old days?”

Dahlander will certainly be missed. Always the gentleman, polite and friendly, he did his job well, and it was a hell of a hard job.

However you want to describe his position-purveyor of spin, shit, or Shinola- he was there day in and day out, dusk to dawn, through the rain and the hail, like a postman.

I like to think of Jon’s job as mail delivery; he don’t know what’s in it, he just brings it to the house.

Um, yea, right.

Maybe there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Maybe not.

Well, anyway, no one can blame you for getting out of Dodge, Jon! Good luck to you!

Posted in Teachers Rule Tagged with:

DISD’s Budget: The Real Fireworks Are About to Begin

With Miles finally gone and the 4th of July holiday over, it’s time for the real fireworks to begin.

There can be no more denial or delay regarding the 2015-2016 budget for Dallas ISD; it’s time to get down to business and tell the public where the money is coming from and where it is going. Informed observers warn that it’s looking like disaster looms.

Michael Hinojosa, the interim superintendent, is no stranger to DISD budget disasters. There was a huge budget explosion on his watch that the public still hasn’t forgotten.

And now, it appears that he’s about to preside over another one. Is the looming stain on the tatters of his reputation (I doubt Hinojosa realizes how unfavorably most of Dallas still views him) worth $25K a month? Because, even though he didn’t cause this budget disaster, he’s likely to be blamed if he doesn’t take action to avert it.

The problem is this: It’s been alleged that there was a supplanting scheme going on, where students at comprehensive schools were shorted regular education dollars and the special monies intended to provide them with extra services were instead used to pay for a very, very bare-bones education. The regular education dollars the students should have gotten were allegedly given to students at magnets, as well as to Miles’ pet projects. As a result, a group of parents and taxpayers filed a Title VI complaint against the district in April.

Since Miles has high-tailed it out of town, taking his Texas driver’s license with him, Hinojosa faces 2 choices: continue the apparent supplanting (to the delight of the “reformers”) and risk his own problems with the Feds or stop the supplanting and watch the magnets and choice schools scam, along with a dozen other Team Miles’ initiatives, wither and die on the vine.

Remember that at least one choice school is paying a principal and an assistant principal high salaries (where were those jobs posted?) to run a school for only 100-150 students at a cost of $20,000 per student. Mr. Interim Superintendent, how much is being spent per student at your alma mater? Were you treated so inequitably when you were in high school? Or were you given a fair piece of the pie? Don’t today’s students at Sunset deserve the same funding as the students at the IDEA school?

On top of the supplanting issues, there’s also the question of teacher pay. Most teachers are under the impression that ALL teachers are getting a 4% across-the-board raise. The truth, however, is not so clear-cut.

Before he resigned, Miles presented to the board a need for $20 million to cover teacher pay raises.
Based on last year’s figures, around 1300 newbies will be employed this year with an increased price tag of $51,000 each (an increase of $4K per teacher) to bring them up from an area-low starting salary of $47,000. In other words, upping the pay of teachers with NO experience will take $5 million of the $20 million.

(By the way, the Title VI complaint also pointed out that part of the issue of teacher recruitment for the District was below-market compensation for starting teachers and gross overpayment of central administrators.)

But wait! Don’t forget about the experienced teachers who are making less than $51K! They, too, will be bumped up (guess they didn’t need all of those TEI-driven Spot Obs, after all) so the actual cost to bring them, as well as the newbies, up to competitive standards will be about $10 million of the $20 million.

That leaves $10 million for the remaining 60% of teachers to divide.

So no, all DISD teachers are NOT getting a 4% raise. Many, many veteran teachers making over or even slightly over $51K will receive nothing, despite their experience, their credentials, their scores, their Spot Obs averages and their compliance with the endless meetings and mandates.

How will all of this affect the compensation for teachers new to the district with 15 or more years of experience? Do they now take a pay cut they are unaware of? Or is the goal to deprive low-income students of any teachers with experience?

The vague, undetermined salaries at this time of the year will drive up the numbers of teacher vacancies, which will in turn drive up the need for more and more waivers. All of this will result in more overcrowded classes filled with low-income students who desperately need more individual attention (except at the IDEA school, of course, where $20,000 per student is being spent).

The cherry on top? Everyone not subjected to the TEI nonsense will be getting a 3% raise. Will Tonya Sadler Grayson get this 3% raise?

Actually, the comparison to fireworks may not be quite accurate, since fireworks explode. It would be more accurate to state that DISD is headed for another budget implosion, with Hinojosa at the helm again.

July 10th is coming up, teachers. Do you REALLY know what your salary is for next year? And if you don’t, how can you commit to another year in this district?

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

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: , , , ,

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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 [Mike Miles] 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

Interim Superintendent Mike Hinojosa
Email coming soon

Lew Blackburn, 2nd Vice President
District 5
Term Expires May 2016
lblackburn@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3718
Oak Lawn, West Dallas, Wilmer, Hutchins and portions of East Oak Cliff

Miguel Solis, 1st Vice President
District 8
Term Expires 2017
miguelsolis@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3721
Love Field, Northwest Dallas, and Central Dallas

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

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

Edwin Flores
District 1
Term Expires 2018
edwinflores@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3722
Northwest Dallas, including North Dallas, Addison, parts of Carrollton and Farmers Branch

Mike Morath
District 2
Term Expires 2017
mmorath@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3721
North and Near East Dallas

Dan Micciche
District 3
Term Expires 2018
danmicciche@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3722
Northeast Dallas

Joyce Foreman
District 6
Term Expires 2017
joyceforeman@dallasisd.org
(972) 925-3722
Southwest Dallas

Bernadette Nutall
District 9
Term Expires 2018
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