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So, you probably feel like you should be keeping an eye on the school board meetings. But those meetings, you hear, can be marathon sessions of wrangling and hyperbole and you have a four-year-old to put to bed. You have sleeping to do. You have a life to live.

This is probably why I got so excited this weekend when I met with Melissa Higginbotham of Dallas Kids First, and she showed me the group’s latest endeavor – a school board vote tracker. The last school board meeting is already up and ready to go, complete with how your trustee voted on each item on the agenda, which items got moved from the consent agenda for more discussion, and whether the item passed. They’ve also taken the time to note certain measures they feel are important – usually ones that impact students and teachers.

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DISD Admin Building 3700 Ross AveA lot of numbers, a lot of jargon, and a lot of arguing about data occurred last night as Dallas ISD trustees discussed Superintendent Mike Miles’ future with Dallas public schools. And a lot of people argue passionately on both sides of the issue about which data points we should listen to.

It’s a lot as a parent to wrap your head around. Who is right? How do I put into context what they are saying? Is it really that bad, or really that good?  Even after a lengthy career that included covering education for several different papers and several differently-sized school districts, meetings like last night can make my head spin.

Dr. Mike Moses

Dr. Mike Moses

So when that happens, I look for an expert. And this time, I was lucky enough to get a great one – a former DISD superintendent, state education commissioner and current visiting professor at UNT – Mike Moses.

“The superintendent’s positions – especially superintendent positions at an urban district – are very explosive jobs,” Moses said. “They are fraught with all kinds of challenges, and in addition to the education aspect, you have a lot of politics – labor politics, business politics, actual politics and even media politics – to deal with. And all of that is pretty combustible.

“And then to add to that you have nine different people with nine different districts to answer to – you’re juggling a lot of balls. But the people that apply for and want these superintendent positions, they know that going in,” he added. “And when you go in, you hope to be able to manage all of it successfully.”

And Dallas ISD is not alone in its struggles to balance the needs of all the students in its district. “Governments of urban districts have been the subject of a lot of discussion over the last 10 years,” Moses said. (more…)

Photo: Dallas ISD

Photo: Dallas ISD

I’ll have more later after I’ve had time to go through my notes, but brief rundown of tonight’s called meeting of the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees, with the lone item on the agenda being a discussion of superintendent Mike Miles’ employment status was contentious, and that may even be an understatement.

The meeting lasted for more than five hours, and much of that was in executive session. It was clear as the board came back into open session that the three board members who demanded – and went to court – for the meeting to take place were not happy with the outcome. After two rounds of expressing displeasure and a statement from Mike Miles (again, more after I’m able to review notes), the board voted – 2-7 in favor of issuing a letter of concern to Mike Miles. A letter of concern, for the record, has less weight than a letter of reprimand, so needless to say it was several steps below what many feared or hoped would happen tonight. The two no votes were from Joyce Foreman and Elizabeth Jones.

But in a surprise move, Foreman then made a motion that was apparently not discussed in the executive session – a motion to require Miles resign in December. Jones amended it to ask for an independent review of the state of the district. There was much back and forth, but the swing votes – Eric Cowan and Dan Micciche – both said they wanted a responsible succession plan, and this was not it. Ultimately, the measure failed, 3-6, with Foreman, Bernadette Nutall and Jones voting for it.

 

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. (more…)