Photo by Bethany Erickson

Photo: Bethany Erickson

“I get 15 minutes of recess, now I want 100 minutes,” an adorable student told Dallas Independent Schools trustees last night as several of her peers also stood up to talk about how recess would help their school day.

Dallas ISD Trustee Dan Micciche took up the cause last month, and while students didn’t get 100 minutes last night, trustees did vote (7 for, 1 abstaining) to require 20 minutes of recess for the rest of this year, and 30 minutes beginning in the next school year.  (more…)

Any adult of a certain age (cough) can tell you about recess at school. I remember having three recesses – two quick 15 minute excursions outside in the morning and afternoon, and about 30 minutes or so at lunch.

Occasionally you’d get in trouble and have to sit on a square – but you were still outside. At the time, it seemed obvious that sending kids outside for breaks helped them learn. There was no science needed to discuss it – it was just universally accepted that recess was important.

But then, something happened. I’m not sure when (although some attribute it to increased high-stakes testing), but when I asked kids about recess recently, I got a lot of blank looks. When I first started asking about it, I thought maybe they used a different word now – after all, we don’t call pipe cleaners pipe cleaners anymore, and sitting Indian style has become “criss cross applesauce” or something. I’m elderly, so maybe there’s another name for recess, right? Maybe they call it “outdoor learning,” or “physical matriculation” or “a hard reset” or some other newfangled phrase that means “send the kids outside and let them have a learning break.” (more…)

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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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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…)