Archives for category: Dallas

This is a staggeringly funny ending to Mike Miles’ brief and stormy tour of duty as superintendent of schools in Dallas. Miles, a Broadie, did all the Broadie-type things: firing principals, driving out teachers, installing a rigid test-based evaluation system, setting unrealistic goals, demanding total obedience. Like Michelle Rhee, the word “collaboration” was not part of his vocabulary.

The Dallas Morning News described his tenure as marked by “disruptions, scandals, clashes.” 

Miles lost support — and not just from board members — because of his management style, some district observers say.

“Mike Miles shot himself in the foot so many times, and I believe that’s because he was not a lifelong educator,” said Michael MacNaughton, chairman of a district watchdog group called Dallas Friends of Public Education. “He was a military man who is used to giving orders and having them followed without question.”

As he was delivering his resignation speech, he stopped and said he was going off-topic. Then he proceeded to compare his departure to the conclusion of Camelot. (Will Richard Burton play Mike Miles?)

Here is the report from journalist Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News:

For the next three-and-a-half minutes, he described the final scene in the movie “Camelot.” King Arthur and Lancelot regretfully determine there’s no way to avoid the war triggered by Lancelot’s affair with Arthur’s queen. A boy comes up to Arthur determined to fight. Arthur asks him why and the boy recites the ideals of Camelot. Arthur knights the boy and orders him not to fight, but to run away and retell the story of those ideals to everyone he meets.

“Run, boy!” Arthur yells.

Miles wraps up his anecdote with: “I would say to those who want to continue this vision, who are a little afraid we are not going to get there, to take heart. And to the city I would say ‘Run, boy.’”

Weiss notes that Miles did not say who was Lancelot or Guinevere in his re-run of Camelot.

Weiss added to the hilarity today by posting a reference to another “Camelot,” the one by Monty Python. Read it, it is funnier than the first one. Broadies do inspire thoughts of Monty Python.

Mike Miles, the controversial superintendent of the Dallas public schools, resigned. He was a military man, trained by the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy.

When he arrived in Dallas, he announced ambitious goals, including significant gains in test scores. He fired many principals, closed schools, demoralized teachers (who left in droves), pushed school choice, instituted pay-for-performane, appointed large numbers of young TFA to high-level administrative positions (including the director of human tesources, hired at age 28, fired at age 30 for improprieties), evaluated teachers by test scores: the whole reform play book, but achieved none of his goals. After three years, test scores (the golden ring of reformers) were flat or declining.

Teacher turnover and flight from DISD reached unprecedented numbers. The atmosphere became so toxic that Miles moved his family back to Colorado, presumably for their safety.

One of the lowest points in his three-year tenure was when he directed police officers to remove a school board member from a high school in her district, where she was visiting.

His supporters were disappointed and called it “a sad day.”

An anti-Miles blogger insisted that Miles should stay and live with the chaos and destruction he caused.

Others, no doubt, will be glad to see him go.

Three years ago, the Dallas Independent School District hired Mike Miles as its superintendent. Miles, a military man, had been trained by the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. When he arrived, he set a series of targets that he expected to reach as a result of his  leadership. One was to see a significant increase in test scores in three years. He declared that he would drive change by bold leadership.


The test scores were just released for Dallas. They are flat. Some declined.


Miles has removed many principals; teacher turnover has soared under his leadership.


STAAR test results released Friday by Dallas ISD offer little evidence of systemic progress under the leadership of Superintendent Mike Miles.


Compared with last year, the passing rate dropped for eight of 11 exams in grades three through eight. On three exams, passing rates increased by 1 or 2 percentage points. The results are for tests taken in English.


Similarly, compared with results from 2012 — the school year before Miles arrived — a higher percentage of students failed this year in eight of 11 exams.


Miles and his supporters had promised broad academic gains and said that this year’s results — the third State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exams under his leadership — would prove his reform efforts had taken hold. But if STAAR is a good measure of achievement, those gains haven’t materialized despite numerous changes in the district.


Miles, however, expressed optimism about the latest scores in a written statement Friday.


“The results indicate progress and stability in most of the exams compared with the previous year. … The modest gains of our STAAR results this year confirm how I have been describing our last three years of work: That our staff has been focused on establishing the foundation on which we can build,” said Miles, who came to DISD in July 2012.


Well, this is a new definition of progress. It is called “progress and stability” and “establishing the foundation.” Of course, there is always next year. Or the one after that one.



As I was writing the post above about the Dallas election, I became so incensed that I sent contributions to the candidates who support public education. A few hours later, I found this email in my inbox:

“Hi Diane,

I will send you a written note as well, but I wanted to reply quickly in response to your donation.

I am humbled and overwhelmed to receive such a kind and generous donation from you. You have no idea how much this has encouraged me in this last week before the election!

Your writings have inspired me in so many ways in our fight to preserve and improve public education in Dallas. I used some of your ideas from Reign of Error in my platform, specifically calling for a rich and balanced curriculum, a decrease in the overtesting of our children, and support and training for our teachers.

Events are at a frightening stage in Dallas, and “reformers” across the country are no doubt following what is happening as a possible model for other cities. There can be no doubt that the end game is to turn the public education system over to charter operators, just as was done in New Orleans. There can be no other explanation for the wanton destruction of our good schools while the struggling schools are ignored and left to flounder. The difference is that in Dallas this is being accomplished through human maneuvering and not through a natural disaster such as provided by Hurricane Katrina.

My campaign is doing all that we can, despite being outspent and lacking any support from the mainstream media. We have lots of support from the grassroots; now it will be a matter of whether people will get out and vote. I will have no regrets when this is over, no matter the outcome. We have fought the good fight and have held nothing back to try to save our public education system. We have used every avenue available to us to try to get the word out. We will continue these efforts all the way through Election Day on Saturday, May 9, and we will pray for God’s intervention for good in our city.

Thank you SO much again- you have given us the shot of encouragement that we need for the final stretch!

All the best,


Kyle Renard, MD for School Board DISD 1
Find Me On Facebook
PO Box 670041
Dallas TX 75367
Pat Cotton, Treasurer

Dallas is holding a crucial election on May 9. There is both a mayoral election and an election that will shape the school board and the fate of public education in the city. Mayor Mike Rawlings has worked closely with the business community to promote charters and privatization. Houston billionaire John Arnold (ex-Enron) created a “reform” organization called “Save Our Public Schools,” whose purpose is to push for a “home rule” district in Dallas that will allow local leaders to turn the Dallas into an all-charter district (in typical reform fashion, the name of the organization is the opposite of its real purpose).

Rawlings’ opponent, Marcos Ronquillo, has been endorsed by labor groups and community organizations. Rawlings has raised over $750,000; Ronquillo has raised $98,000, with pledges of another $78,000.


Dallas public schools have been under siege for the past three years. Its school board is dominated by so-called “reformers” who are not representative of the children in the public schools, nearly 90% of whom are minorities; the board majority admires the top-down, autocratic management style of Superintendent Mike Miles. Miles is a military man who graduated from the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. Since he came to Dallas, the school district has been in turmoil. Many teachers have quit, principals come and go, initiatives come and go, achievement is flat as measured by test scores. There is no sense of stability.


When three members of the board called for a vote on Miles’ continued tenure, they were voted down, 6-3. In addition to Miles’ disruptive strategies, he has harassed school board members who disagree with him. When school board member Bernadette Nutall visited a troubled school in her own district, Miles sent members of the Dallas police force to remove her from the school.


If you want to get a sense of the polarization, demoralization, and anger that Miles’ tactics have produced, watch this YouTube video of the last school board meeting. This is a powerful and informative video. Please watch.


Before the Board meeting to discuss Miles’ future, the Dallas power structure rallied around him and even produced an organization with a report on academic progress in the Dallas schools under Miles. But not even the Dallas Morning News–a strong supporter of “reform” could accept the report’s slanted presentation. Its story pointed out that the number of A-rated schools had increased, as claimed, but the number of F-rated schools had grown even more.


For those who care about preserving the democratic institution of public education in Dallas; for those who want to stop an attempted privatization of the entire district, here are the school board candidates who deserve your support.


Kyle Renard, M.D., in district 1, David Lewis in district 3, and Bernadette Nutall in district 9.


To donate to these candidates, go to their websites: Dr. Kyle Renard; David Lewis. I did. I can’t find a “donate” page for Bernadette Nutall, or I would have sent her a contribution too.


If you are a parent or a teacher or a principal in Dallas, if you are a citizen who understands the importance of a free public education system with doors open to all, get out and vote. Early voting has already started. Call your friends and neighbors and urge them to vote. Don’t let the privateers take over the public schools of Dallas.

Mike Miles took charge of the Dallas Independent School District on July 1, 2012. He came from a district with 10,000 students to one with 150,000. His background was in the military, then a stint at the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy, where he learned the importance of top-down reform. He introduced himself to thousands of staff members at a shindig where he danced with a student group, then spoke inspiringly of the “disruptive transformation” that he would lead.

Being a Broadie, he immediately set out his quantified goals:

By 2020, he says, the graduation rate will be up to 90% from the 2010 rate of 75%.
By 2020, SAT scores will jump by 30%, and 60% of students will achieve at least a 21 on the ACT.
80% of students will be workplace ready, as determined by assessments created by the business and nonprofit communities.
He will create a new leadership academy to train principals in one year, based on what sounds like NYC’s unsuccessful one.
Teachers will be observed up to ten times a year, and these observations will factor into a pay-for-performance plan.
All classroom doors must be open all the times. so that teachers may be observed at any time, without warning.
Principals will have one year “to demonstrate that they have the capacity and what it takes to lead change and to improve the quality of instruction.”
Miles did not say how he intends to measure whether principals have this capacity.

By August 2015:
“At least 75 percent of the staff and 70 percent of community members agree or strongly agree with the direction of the district.

At least 80 percent of all classroom teachers and 100 percent of principals are placed on a pay-for-performance evaluation system.At least 60 percent of teachers on the pay-for-performance evaluation system and 75 percent of principals agree that the system is “fair, accurate and rigorous.”

Of disruption there has been an abundance. Of transformation, not so much. In the past (nearly) three years, he has been a polarizing figure, often in hot water with teachers, administrators, parents, and the school board. There has been a significant departure of teachers, unhappy with his “my-way-or-the-highway” style. He placed nearly two dozen young alumni of Teach for America in high-level administrative positions. Before Miles’ arrival, there were 111 administrators paid more than $100,000; the Dallas Morning News discovered that the number of administrators earning that much increased to 175 within two years after Miles took the job. He has fired many principals. He called the police to evict a school board member who was visiting one of the schools in her district. He became so controversial that he moved his family back to Colorado to ensure their safety. From time to time, the school board debates whether to fire him, yet he has thus far survived every attempt to oust him.

The last blowup with the school board occurred in February, when it was revealed that the 30-year-old director of human resources (a TFA alum who had been hired by Miles at age 28 and was earning $190,000) had sent a series of instant messages disparaging her co-workers and making inappropriate comments about their race, religion, and age. Miles fired her and paid her $79,000 in a separation agreement.

Most recently, he selected six schools with low test scores and designated them part of his ACE program (Accelerating Academic Performance). He replaced the principals and many of the teachers, and he pledged that there would be significant academic gains by December. The teachers are eligible to win stipends of up to $12,000 yearly over their salary.

These are the changes Miles is imposing on his six low-performing schools:

Students will receive at least 90 minutes of homework every night. The schools will stay open until 6 p.m. for those who wish to finish their work on campus. Dinner will be provided.
Failing grades will not be accepted. Students will have to redo assignments until they get passing scores. Saturday school will be offered to students who need help.
Parents will be required to sign a “contract” that details those expectations. Parents who object can send their children to another school, and transportation will be provided.
Each teacher must agree to spend an additional three hours a week — before or after school or on Saturday — supporting additional instructional time or monitoring student homework time.

Read the comments following the above article to see the bitter feelings for and against Miles.

Now Miles is engaged in some more disruption, since as we all know, disruption is a constant in the world of reform these days. A popular principal of a successful elementary school has been informed that she will be removed from her post at the end of the school year.

Rosemont Elementary School is considered a neighborhood gem in North Oak Cliff, boasting everything a Dallas ISD campus aspires to have: strong academics, passionate students and devoted parents. Those parents credit Anna Brining, Rosemont’s principal of 15 years, for that success.

But now they fear the school is in jeopardy. They learned Wednesday that Brining was told that her contract will not be renewed after this school year. And they believe it’s in retaliation for their activism.

Parents have been outspoken about their opposition to the overemphasis on testing, and they confronted Superintendent Miles with their concerns at open meetings. Afterwards, the principals got more visits from central administrators and was written up for minor infractions.

Just this past February, three of the school board trustees–after the scandal in the human resources department– wanted to discuss Miles’ future with the district. But they are a minority of the nine-member board. The Dallas Morning News reviewed the academic record of the district in the past three years and found no significant gains or losses. Disruption, yes. Transformation, no.

Corporate reformers don’t like democracy. They don’t like elected school boards. They like mayoral control, state takeovers, all-charter districts, emergency managers. Anything but democracy.

In Dallas, the corporate reformers had the idea that the way to by-pass democracy was to utilize an obscure state law that would turn the district into a “home rule” district. Billionaire John Arnold helped to fund a group called “Save Our Public Schools,” which collected signatures for a referendum to create a home rule district. No one knows how it would have worked, but its backers were hoping it would turn Dallas into an all-charter district like Néw Orleans.

Despite the money and activity, the proposal simply died. With Dan Patrick, a voucher advocate as Lt. Governor, it is likely to come back again.

“Last night in Dallas, the commission that could have completely redesigned the city’s school system—handed control to the mayor, done away with elected trustees or rewritten teacher contracts—voted instead to call off its school reform experiment entirely.

“It’s a quiet end to a dramatic reform drive that began almost a year ago, when a group called Support Our Public Schools announced its plans to make the state’s second-largest school system into its first “home-rule charter” district.”

Investigative journalist George Joseph called this reform the “Big Dallas Plunder.” he says the business community wanted to open the charter floodgates. All those poor kids with low test scores, they thought, need charters, not small classes.

A coalition of pastors in Dallas has issued a stirring call for public support of public schools.

This comes at a time when billionaire John Arnold has been organizing a campaign to turn Dallas into an all-charter district.

Leading pastors in Dallas–George Mason and Frederick Haynes, joined with four others–wrote an opinion piece, in which they said that public support for public schools is vital and that “choice” is illusory. .

They write:

Eighty-four percent of children in this country attend public schools. Slightly more than 60 percent (over 3 million of our 5 million Texas public school students) are identified as poor. These children in our public education system are our neighbors, and we are called to love them by providing a vibrant and thriving school system. That’s why Dallas-area pastors are calling on elected officials and leaders in the business, faith, parent, labor and neighborhood communities to support the public schools of greater Dallas…..

By investing in public education, we invest in the future of 5 million Texas schoolchildren. This basic investment is the key to a child’s future economic mobility, the financial stability of Texas families and the state’s long-term economic prosperity. Dallas residents know the direct correlation between education achievement and economic viability.

We must prioritize the adequate funding of our institutions of public education for the benefit of all Texans. The past two sessions of the Legislature have seen contentious fights over public education policy. Because public education is such a sound investment in our children’s future, one wonders: What’s the dispute?

There are two competing visions for public education: one weakens the public portion, and one strengthens it. On one side, there is a drive to defund public education, de-professionalize teaching, misuse test scores to declare schools as failing, and institute paths to privatize schools in the name of school reform. These privatization schemes take the form of private school vouchers, for-profit virtual schools, and corporate chain charter schools that do not serve all students equally.

The other vision, a vision which we embrace, is to provide adequate funding for all schools, raise the bar with higher standards and more respect for the teaching profession, focus on a rich instructional program instead of a narrow overemphasis on testing, and engage community partners in support for neighborhood schools and the children and families they serve.

Those advocating privatization have attacked the public school system and falsely labeled neighborhood schools failures. This arbitrary judgment has been exposed as a cynical strategy to divert public education money for private purposes, and has brought advocates like us to the fight against privatization and in support of initiatives that tell the true story about the value of our public schools.

The “choice” that corporate chain charters and private schools claim to offer parents and students is illusory. It is really these private operators who exercise their own freedom to choose which students they will recruit and retain and which students they will exclude or filter out. And the latter group will disproportionately include Hispanics, African-Americans, English language learners, students with disabilities and students who are at risk because of disciplinary or academic difficulties. These children are our neighbors, too.

We join with Dallas community leaders and parents who understand that we must keep our attention upon the real and pressing — and constitutionally mandated — need for full funding for public education. Dabbling in political diversions that are peripheral to the adequate education of all the children of Texas is dangerous and foolhardy. This is not the time to divert funding away from our neighborhood schools, which provide a place of refuge and support for all Texas children, no matter their background, situation or educational need. More important, it is the loving thing to do.

George Mason is senior pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church. Reach him at Frederick Haynes is senior pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church. Reach him through the church at friendship

OPEN LETTER: Other signers
Joe Clifford, senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Dallas
Bryan Carter, senior pastor, Concord Baptist Church, Dallas
Joel Sanchez, preaching minister, Skillman Church of Christ, Dallas
Andy Stoker, senior minister, First United Methodist Church

Wow! Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles called the police to remove a school Board member from a school in her district.

Bernadette Nutall was escorted out of a middle school by three police officers. I guess Mike Miles forgot that he works for the board.

“Nutall said she showed up at the South Dallas school around 6:30 a.m. for an emergency staff meeting after Miles replaced the campus’ leadership team and 10 teachers on Friday. Nutall said that when Miles entered the building, he told her she couldn’t be at the school or at the staff meeting and asked her to leave.

“Nutall said she refused and left Miles to talk to staff, greet them and meet with teachers other floors of the campus. When she returned to the main entrance and asked Miles about his changes at Dade, he had three officers remove Nutall from school, she said.

“I have never ever experienced anything like this in my life. I cannot believe he did it,” Nutall said Monday. “I felt like how teachers and principals feel when Miles walks into a building.”

“She added: “This is a clear example of the consistent bullying tactics that we continue to hear about Miles exhibiting to staff. I have experienced it firsthand myself the abusive behavior of power…..”

Miles visited Dade last week and ordered massive changes at the academically low-performing campus. The principal is gone, as are two assistant principals. Ten teachers have been replaced with instructional coaches from other DISD campuses.

Nutall said the main reason for her visit Monday was to encourage staff. “It is a crisis there,” she said….

“Nutall said teachers are scared, worried about their jobs and concerned about how the sudden staffing changes will affect children. Nutall said she was escorted out of the building right after she questioned Miles and deputy superintendent Ann Smisko on the changes at Dade.

“Dade, which is rated “improvement required” by the state, has had four principals in 18 months. Miles hired Alecia Cobb to run Dade last year. He removed her during the summer and replaced her with Michael Jones, an assistant principal at Skyline High School. And on Friday, Miles brought in Hogg Elementary School principal Margarita Garcia…..”

In an in-depth article that appears in the journal “In These Times,” journalist George Joseph describes a campaign by business leaders to take advantage of an obscure provision in state law and use it to turn Dallas into a “home rule” district. This would be a prelude to turning Dallas into an all-charter district.

The business community already controls the school board. The campaign for “home rule” has the support of mostly unnamed funders, except for billionaire John Arnold, who lives in Houston, not Dallas. Arnold has causes about which he is passionate: public sector pensions (he is against them), charter schools (he is for them) and Teach for America (Joseph says he has given TFA more than $20 million). Arnold supports the leading advocacy group for “home rule,” which is ironically called SOPS–Support Our Public Schools.

Why the heavy-duty campaign for charter schools in Dallas? Joseph speculates that at bottom the campaign is about gentrification and real estate. The home-rule plan is not supported by Dallas’s black and Hispanic population. In a recent school board race, an opponent of home rule won overwhelmingly.


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