Photo illustration NPR See this? This is what we should be talking about, but we arent.

Photo illustration NPR
See this? This is what we should be talking about, but we aren’t.

I will be honest – I’ve been dreading this snapshot for the District 7 election. It’s the final one, and every day that has passed has only made me more nauseous when I look at how nasty the Dallas Independent School District’s District 7 race has gotten. It’s gotten bad enough that I’m actually going to move the “my two cents about District 7” feature of these snapshots that usually goes at the end up here, up top.

It’s that bad. And if I sound cranky, it’s because I don’t like having to devote a perfectly good story on what I’m about to devote a perfectly good story on. Very little grinds my gears, but this is one of those things. (more…)

Voters across the Dallas area will go to the polls on May 7 to elect trustees for districts 2, 4, 5, and 7. (Photo by iStock)

Voters across the Dallas area will go to the polls on May 7 to elect trustees for districts 2, 4, 5, and 7. (Photo by iStock)

Now that the date to file to run for a trustee seat in Dallas Independent Schools Board of Trustees has passed, I thought we could talk a bit about who is running, and how and when endorsements will begin to shake out.

First, the candidates. Districts 4, 5, and 7 are part of the general election. District 2 is a special election to fill the seat vacated by Mike Morath, who has been appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to helm the Texas Education Commission.  Election day for the school board will be May 7, with early voting from April 25 to May 3.

In District 2, Suzanne Smith, Mita Havlick and Dustin Marshall will vie for the vacant seat. In District 3, where current trustee Nancy Bingham announced she would not be running again, three people have filed to run – Omar Jimenez, Jaime Resendez and Camile White. Marquis Hawkins and Linda Wilkerson-Wynn will join incumbent Lew Blackburn in running for the District 5 seat, while Audrey Pinkerton and Isaac Faz are running for the District 7 seat currently held by board president Eric Cowan, who announced he would not seek another term. (more…)

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Michael Hinojosa, courtesy Dallas ISD

To nobody’s surprise, the Dallas school board voted 6-1 to approve the hiring of former Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa to his old post permanently. He had been serving as interim superintendent of Dallas public schools since June.

The lone dissenting vote was Joyce Foreman.

Hinojosa will be paid $350,000 a year, and will still collect his $200,000 per year pension. He did choose to eschew some perks, such as cell phone allowance, health insurance and car allowance, board president Eric Cowan told the Dallas Morning News Monday, prior to tonight’s called meeting.

 

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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 courtesy DISD

Photo courtesy DISD

Last night, the Dallas ISD board of trustees voted 9-0 to approve an amended bridge plan that will pump much-needed funds into improving some long-neglected schools, as well as set up more Pre-K classrooms.

But it is a drop in the bucket, which explains the long night and the wrangling that went in to coming up with a compromise. It’s saying something that of the schools that need improvements, the 20 schools that were picked included one that could’ve killed students and teachers with carbon monoxide fumes. If impending death is the benchmark for needing improvement, you can start to grasp at why some trustees needed assurances that their schools – that aren’t on the list – would indeed see improvement, too.

Trustee Eric Cowan passionately asked the large crowd who came last night to remember his vote when it came time to pass a new bond. And we should. We should remember it as a leap of faith that if we start improvements now, we will remember the schools not on this list, where children are also attending in portable buildings, in schools that need improvements. We should remember that if every single potential qualifying student signed up for Pre-K, we would not currently have the room to teach them all. I’ll have more on this next month, but early education is imperative.  It is absolutely vital to stopping the cycle of the school to prison pipeline.

So we need to remember these things in two or three years, when it comes time to vote on a bond package. If you’re a parent whose child will now go to a school that will be improved thanks to the bridge fund, it will be time to pay it forward.

Why? Because we’re in this together. I like to think of Dallas public schools as a body. We can get so caught up in the health of our one part that belongs to us, that we forget – decay and delayed improvement (both in a physical sense and educational sense) in one part can affect the health of the whole. So the health of Dunbar Elementary, for instance, goes, so goes the rest of the entire feeder pattern. So goes the health of that feeder pattern, so goes the health of the district.  And to take the point further, so goes the health of the district, so goes the health of the city, including the desire to move in to Dallas and send our children to our neighborhood schools.

The bridge plan is just that – a bridge, a step in the right direction of addressing neglect and overcrowding brought about through a variety of historical issues. This shouldn’t – and can’t – be a bridge to nowhere.