Election Day 101: Six Vie for Three Seats on Dallas ISD Board of Trustees

Photo by Bethany Erickson

Photo by Bethany Erickson

Did you know it costs somewhere in the neighborhood of one million dollars – $1 million of our tax dollars – for Dallas ISD’s portion of a May election? And did you know next to nobody votes in May elections?

Because it’s true.

That being said, it is ridiculously easy to vote (provided you have a photo ID and are actually a registered voter). Early voting begins April 27 and goes until May 5 and you can vote anywhere in the city during that time. For real. Anywhere. You can vote on your way to work, during your lunch hour, on your way to the gym, between clients. Or you can wait and vote on Election Day – May 9, at your specific polling place. You and well, four of your neighbors because again, nobody votes in the $1 million dollar school board election that happens in May.

Again, $1 million dollars. One. Million. Dollars.

Feel you don’t know enough about the candidates and issues to vote? Well, that’s why we are here. Beginning today, the Candy’s Dirt crew will begin breaking down the election for you (because in addition to DISD elections, there are also mayoral and city council elections happening), and pointing you to concise places to go to get more information about individual candidates.

But today we start with the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees races. Three districts – 1, 3, and 9 – are up, with incumbents Bernadette Nutall and Dan Micciche facing challengers, and Edwin Flores and Kyle Renard facing off for the seat from which Elizabeth Jones is retiring.

So first let me explain my methodology for coming up with this scoring system. Experience, I think, should be given some weight. So it is assigned a number value of one. Endorsements should matter too, so those are also given a value of 1. While it may not seem fair that incumbents have a head start, as you will see when I break down each district, if an incumbent is facing a favored challenger it doesn’t make a huge difference.

I considered six sets of endorsements in this system, largely because the organizations providing them have a regular history of endorsing candidates. Those endorsements are: The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Kids First, Educate Dallas, the NEA, Alliance AFT, and The Real Estate Council PAC.

District 1
District 1 encompasses parts of Northwest and North Dallas, Addison, and parts of Carrollton and Farmers Branch.

Photo courtesy Chalker Flores

Photo courtesy Chalker Flores

Edwin Flores
Previous Experience on Board/Incumbent: +1
Endorsements:

Total Score: 5/7
Dr. Edwin Flores, a patent attorney and medical doctor, was a trustee for seven years (2005-2012) before opting not to run to help his daughter prepare for college. While on the board, he worked on several reform measures, and was an early proponent of performance-based teacher evaluations. He was more recently on the Home Rule Commission, and also sits on the boards of local KIPP charter schools and Teach for America. His children have attended/are attending DeGoyler Elementary, Dealey Montessori, Marsh Middle School and Booker T. Washington. The exchange students his family hosts have or are attending W. T. White. He is fluent in Spanish, and is known for his ability to reach consensus.

 

Photo courtesy Dallas County Schools

Photo courtesy Dallas County Schools

Kyle Renard
Previous Experience on DISD Board/Incumbent: No
Endorsements:

  • NEA: +1
  • Alliance AFT: +1

Total Score: 2/7
Dr. Kyle Renard is a pediatrician. She is currently serving a six-year term on the board of the Dallas County Schools board of trustees. She has served as the PTSA president for Townview TAG magnet school, and is involved in the Friends of Dallas Public Education. She has gone on record as being anti-Teach for America, telling the Dallas Morning News that it contributed to high teacher turnover. She also is opposed to charter schools. It is unclear which Dallas public schools besides Townview and Spence Academy her children have attended, but it seems that the bulk of her experience in the district is in the magnet programs.

My Two Cents on District 1: The current DISD administration and board seems to lean more heavily on a direction that involves more accountability for principals and teachers, more personalized learning experiences and school choice. Interviews seem to indicate that Renard is extremely wary of these innovations. Flores seems to be more willing to entertain these or even embrace these ideas, and has gone on the record as saying that the district needs stability and time to really let reform take root.

District 3
District 3 is in northeast Dallas.

 

Photo courtesy Dallas ISD

Photo courtesy Dallas ISD

Dan Micciche (i)
Previous Experience on Board/Incumbent: +1
Endorsements:

Total Score: 7/7
Across the board, Dan Micciche wins high praise for his consensus-building and knowledge of the needs of his district. During fractious board meetings, he manages to stick up for his district and see the bigger picture involving the health of the entire school district. During the bridge fund debate, his passionate plea to add Casa View Elementary to the list of schools to receive immediate improvements was an example of this. Notably, he is the only candidate to receive the endorsement of all six entities used for this analysis.

David Lewis
Previous Experience on Board/Incumbent: No
Endorsements: None
Total Score: 0/7
Nobody questions the fact that David Lewis is an involved parent at George Truett Elementary. But across the board, his experience and readiness to lead at this point has been questioned. The Dallas Morning News was unimpressed with his earnest but non-specific answers to its candidate questionnaire, and Dallas Kids First also questioned his lack of understanding involving the workings of DISD, and his inability to articulate real goals for DISD.

My Two Cents on District 3: I’m all for young enthusiasm, but to run for a large metro school board seat, a candidate needs more than just a desire to serve. A lack of knowledge of the needs and shortcomings of Dallas public schools does not serve potential constituents, and is also a worrisome harbinger – if a candidate hasn’t done his homework before filing that paperwork to run, how do we know he will do it before attending a school board meeting and voting?

District 9
District 9 includes parts of South Dallas and downtown, Uptown, Pleasant Grove, Deep Ellum, and parts of East Dallas, including the areas that report to Mata Elementary.

Photo courtesy Dallas ISD

Photo courtesy Dallas ISD

Bernadette Nutall (i)
Previous Experience on Board/Incumbent: +1
Endorsements:

Total Score: 4/7
“This newspaper believes Miles is generally on the right reform track. Nutall would be more effective in holding him accountable if she were less combative and more self-aware,” the Dallas Morning News said when it endorsed Nutall. Nutall did not win a lot of props with her insistence at drawing out the bridge fund debate, seemingly bent on hanging up the vote before finally voting in favor of the amended plan. It will be interesting to see how this race turns out, especially since part of her district is nestled against others whose parents carefully watched the goings on during that debate. However, this is her second challenge by Offord, and it is not known if the voters in District 9 will desire new blood. Typically, low turnout favors incumbents – and a May election is a recipe for low turnout.

 

Photo courtesy Damarcus Offord for School Board

Photo courtesy Damarcus Offord for School Board

Damarcus Offord
Previous Board Experience/Incumbent: No
Endorsements:

 

Total Score: 3/7
He’s young, but Damarcus Offord has presented a clear vision for what he wants to accomplish that indicates maybe he has been listening to his potential constituents – expanding Pre-K, increasing bilingual teachers and working to fix the discipline gap. He has received endorsements from both the key grassroots public education groups, but judging from the Dallas Kid’s First scorecard seemed to indicate, his actual governance inexperience seems to be holding them back from a more enthusiastic endorsement. The Dallas Morning News gave its endorsement to his opponent, saying he was just “unprepared.” He is a product of DISD, having attended Dunbar Elementary, Anderson Middle School and Lincoln High School.

My Two Cents on District 9: After a few months of conversations with various folks (teachers, administrators, fellow reporters, parents and concerned citizens), pretty much everyone seems to agree that Bernadette Nutall is an effective champion for her district, and is willing to engage with constituents and others. But there is always a but, and that but is generally expressed as regret that Nutall can’t seem to avoid being combative, and seems unwilling to give Superintendent Mike Miles what I like to call “accountable latitude” – the ability to make decisions for the district, be held accountable for them, but without the constant threat of firing. If Nutall can find it in her heart to agree that the district needs stability, not a revolving door at the superintendent’s chair, she may find there is a way to meld her desire to hold Miles accountable and the public’s desire to see more teamwork and less fractiousness at school board meetings.

4 Comment

  • Have you asked why MetroTex Association of Realtors did not make Dallas ISD candidate endorsements this round? I believe you agree, realtors should be well informed on our schools and many aren’t. So I was personally disappointed that the association chose to sit this one out.

  • mm

    Louisa, that’s why we are here. And on mobile. 40% of clients now look for homes on their mobile phones, so just take CandysDirt with you when you vote! Of course Realtors should be informed, you guys are the on-the- street reporters for clients. We aim to keep you in the know!

    • Full disclosure, I strongly support Edwin Flores.

      I’m glad this website is devoting more discussion focused on our schools including making candidate endorsements. I remain disappointed that MetroTex having made endorsements in the past chose not to this time. But I don’t know your business and haven’t shopped for a home in almost 30 years. Perhaps you’re suggesting their organization is losing relevance.

      • mm

        Just a point of clarification: This is more of a digest of several key endorsements, and not a Candy’s Dirt endorsement.
        That being said, I have reached out to MetroTex and have not heard back yet. I did go about five Google pages deep to look for 2015 endorsements from them, and did tool around their website, and came up empty.
        I don’t think anyone is saying they’re irrelevant, but that perhaps a comprehensive product (like the one we tried to offer here) is a good snapshot of a candidate, and could be considered superior solely based on the mathematical approach – add up the endorsements, discuss what they said, and let the reader poke around a little further if he or she wishes (via the hyperlinks provided) or be satisfied with the rundown we provided alone to make his or her decisions at the polling booth.
        We had a discussion before we embarked on this that while I would be offering my analysis of the endorsements, we wouldn’t be actually endorsing any candidate.
        I hope MetroTex gets back in the game with the next election – I’d love to be able to add another data point to my analysis.