VisitDallas

A very good question: why does someone promoting Dallas, receiving almost a $700,000 salary funded by taxpayers to in fact promote Dallas, live and raise his family in Southlake?

Well, Mr. Jones actually does live in Dallas at The House, by Philippe Starck, where he and his wife, Patricia, own a 1,487 square foot condo on the ninth floor.

We should also clarify something else that has been a source of confusion, by the way: Funding for VisitDallas comes from a tax paid by visitors when they stay at Dallas hotels, not taxes from local residents.

Years ago, in 2004, Phillip Jones and his wife, Patricia bought a new house at 930 Deer Hollow Blvd. in Southlake. The house is now valued by the Tarrant County Appraisal District at $652,000. The home, in an area called Southlake Woods, is 3886 square feet on almost .60 of an acre. And this is where they raised their two children, who are now young adults.

About four years ago, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings apparently told Phillip that he really should live in Dallas, not Southlake,. So in 2014, the couple bought a unit on the ninth floor at The House by Philippe Starck. I’m told that Phillip actually rented the condo for seven years, then bought it. (more…)


A special Dallas ISD school board meeting scheduled for Saturday to discuss increasing the property tax rate has been postponed, largely because of exorbitant cost estimates for the date picked for a potential vote.

“In consultation with Board President Dan Micciche, the called board meeting for tomorrow, Saturday, August 5, has been postponed,” the district announced today. “The meeting has been postponed due to the estimated cost for a special election in October.”

(more…)

Nathan adams Elementary is one of three bridge plan schools that got a last minute reprieve today. Seagoville High wasn't so lucky. (Photo courtesy Dallas ISD)

Nathan adams Elementary is one of three bridge plan schools that got a last minute reprieve today. Seagoville High wasn’t so lucky. (Photo courtesy Dallas ISD)

On March 26, 2015, the Dallas Independent School District board of trustees voted 9-0 to approve a bridge plan that would start a first round of renovations for public schools that would culminate in several waves of renovations, provided the district could get a $1.6 billion bond package passed.

That night, trustee Eric Cowan reminded the beneficiaries – Lakewood Elementary and Stonewall Jackson Elementary in particular – that a bond election would be coming because there were many more schools with many, many needs. His vote, he said, would be a leap of faith, an exercise in trust that the supporters of those schools would help get the bond passed.

Fast forward to now and that bond election did indeed pass. But last week, it looked like some of those schools that were prioritized for the bridge plan would have to wait for their renovations. As the news made the rounds, parents began to organize and both District 2 school board candidates sprung into action.

The four schools who faced a longer wait were Lakewood Elementary, Stonewall Jackson Elementary, Nathan Adams Elementary and Seagoville High. 

“I learned last Thursday, May 12th of the recommendation to delay Bridge Plan projects on 4 schools including Lakewood Elementary and Stonewall Jackson,” District 2 candidate Dustin Marshall said on Facebook. “I strongly disagree with this decision made by the administration, and I have been working diligently with several parent leaders to change the outcome of this decision.”

“As someone who spearheaded advocacy in favor of the IBP because of my concern over unsafe and inadequate facilities, I am deeply vested in having the IBP projects move forward in the original timeframe to which the District committed,” Mita Havlick, another candidate, informed her supporters. “No child should have to learn – and no teacher should have to teach – in a classroom that doesn’t meet basic standards for safety and comfort.”

Marshall indicated that he had also been in meetings with current trustees and Dallas ISD administration and had also  “set-up introductory discussions with a third-party construction firm (not involved in the bidding process) to verify that the initial bids are in line with market conditions.”

Havlick’s note indicated that she had been in communication with both chairs of the Lakewood and Stonewall Jackson Site-Based Decision Making committee, as well as “four of the eight current trustees.”

And just this morning, Lakewood Elementary Expansion Foundation supporters were contacting members of the media and sending out bulletins to LEEF members and Lakewood parents to keep them apprised of events as they unfolded.

“Lakewood Elementary’s bids were approximately $3.5M over the allocated $9.47M for construction costs,” LEEF said in a call-to-action distributed this morning. “Note that there were four bidders on the project and therefore we can feel confident that the overages are due to ongoing high construction demand affecting market pricing.”

But almost as quickly as the bulletins were sent out came word that the district had reconsidered its position.

“Although bids for these Bridge projects came in well over budget due to market conditions and other factors, the recommendation is to reject and rebid (the) Seagoville High School addition and go forward with the other elementary school projects, Nathan Adams ES, Lakewood ES, and Stonewall Jackson ES, per the bid evaluations,” Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said in a memo today. The memo also revealed that the Seagoville High School project only received one bid at close to $400 per square foot, which was “significantly higher than current values in the North Texas area.”

Why are the bids coming in so much higher? “The Contractor industry has suggested that the cost overruns are due to an unanticipated large number of attractive projects in the area (a possible bubble of construction activity), a lack of subcontractor labor availability, a lack of material availability (notably concrete), and competition from the private sector that lacks the governmental controls established to protect the District,” Hinojosa wrote in the memo.

The additional funds needed to meet the overages will likely come from remaining 2008 bond funds, Hinojosa proposed. In the meantime, the district will apparently begin working on efforts to market future projects (including the now back-to-the-drawing-board Seagoville High) better by meeting with construction industry organizations and their members.

With the bidding process kicking off for the first tier of schools in the 2015 bond package, this could throw a real monkey wrench in the budgeting process. While nobody at the district has said so, many parents of students in tier 4 and 5 schools, which will not see renovations for quite some time, are worried about whether overages will eat into their respective and worthy projects as well.

More on that later.

Photo courtesy Dallas ISD Foster Elementary School will host a open house for parents and community members interested in Spanish language immersion tonight from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Photo courtesy Dallas ISD
Foster Elementary School will host a open house for parents and community members interested in Spanish language immersion tonight from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

With early voting for Dallas Independent School District’s board of trustees election coming up quickly, be on the lookout for breakdowns of each race and key endorsements in the days leading up to the polls opening. But before then, we thought we would give you a few other dates to place on your calendar, whether you’re a potential Dallas public school parent or a Realtor looking to give your clients great information.

(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…)

Mike Miles resig

As expected, Mike Miles announced he would step down as superintendent of Dallas public schools at Thursday’s school board meeting. Once he tenders his resignation, deputy superintendent Ann Smisko will take the reins as the search for a new superintendent begins.

Miles becomes the fourth superintendent to leave the district in 15 years. Dallas ISD has not had a superintendent see a freshman class graduate in 20 years. Miles was hired in 2012.

With a smile on his face, Miles began the press conference by recalling his hiring, saying when he arrived three years ago, the district was ready for a change. “I was brought with the recognition that we could not do the things we have always done,” he said. “The team and I accepted that challenge, knowing that we would have to think differently and act courageously. We knew we would have to make the tough decisions many were unprepared to make, and that many would oppose.

“Similar to the construction of a new building,” he said, there needed to be a good foundation – good teachers in every classroom, good principals, engaged students and parents.

Miles listed several accomplishments his team made over the past three years: Developing and implementing the most rigorous pay-for-performance system for teachers and principals in the nation; raising expectations with a high-performance culture; raising fund balance from $180 million to $350 million to place the district in its strongest financial situation ever; achieving the largest student achievement growth in any large district in Texas also challenged by poverty, per ERG analysis of success for urban school districts; increasing the graduation rate; establishing a national standard for number of minority students passing advanced placement exams; hiring more teachers; beginning rigorous choice school program; increasing investments in early childhood ed; implementing the ACE program; and creating an online newsroom.

“This team has been able to accomplish quite a bit, and I know no other district who has been able to accomplish that much in the same period of time,” he said.

And because of those achievements, Miles said, “I have decided that now is the time that I can step aside as superintendent,” knowing that the team that has been built can carry on his work.

It was a difficult decision, he said, and not made lightly. Citing his commitment to his family, he said, “It’s time to rejoin them in Colorado.”

(more…)

Photo: Dallas ISD

Photo: Dallas ISD

Multiple news outlets are reporting that Dallas ISD superintendent Mike Miles will resign at a 9:30 a.m. press conference.

Frankly, I don’t blame him. Even more frankly, I’m a little stunned he didn’t flip everyone the double bird months ago, and walk out backwards just to make sure we got the longest view of that double bird on his way out. Mike Miles is a nicer person than me.

Even if you disagreed with the man, this is a bad thing for Dallas public schools. Running an urban school isn’t going to get any easier for the next guy or gal. And who exactly is going to want a job where you only get three years to accomplish the herculean? Let me state this plainly – most likely any success Miles’ predecessor has will be because someone (Miles) set a foundation for success and that person left much of his policy in place. It will have to be that way, because we will not – as voters who hold the school board accountable – allow the next person any more time than we did Miles to accomplish anything in the way of real reform.

Yes, Miles could be stubborn. And he made some critical missteps personnel-wise that made it easier for folks already gunning for him to make a case. But we’ve also been monumentally stupid by believing news organizations who consistently get it wrong.  Let me reiterate, since they continue to get it wrong: The finance chief was highly-sought after and resigned after getting a very good offer from Garland ISD that DISD couldn’t match. We still have more in the reserve fund than the state requires. Student satisfaction (which is to me one of the most important metrics) is high.

So don’t dance about a boogeyman being vanquished. Instead, be very worried about the fact that the next guy will have exactly three years, too, to accomplish the daunting task of steering DISD.

Three years. Hardly seems worth the trip to Dallas to interview.

Stay tuned for coverage of Miles’ press conference at 9:30.

 

FullSizeRender (4)

There’s been much made of late about whether or not Dallas ISD is in the red. I’m not sure why – the budget (if you know how to read a public school district budget) has been discussed in two separate school board meetings – but for whatever reason, some media confuses how school funds are spent, and lumps everything together.

You may have seen the reports – The district is in the red $43 million dollars! The district was short $10 million and has to lay people off! The budget director left because of all that!

Is it true? Well, let’s dive in. (more…)