On DISD Teacher Morale

As Zac mentioned in Leading Off, there’s a story (paywall) in the paper today about low morale among teachers in DISD. What I didn’t see in the paper was any mention of this Matthew Haag blog post from yesterday. Principals were recently told to find teachers who would write something nice about the changes being made by Superintendent Mike Miles. Those responses were compiled in a 51-page document titled “From Teachers to Teachers.” You know how you can tell when you’re in trouble? When you have to force people to say something nice about your leadership. Or, in this case, force people to find someone else to say something nice about your leadership.

Pretty much everyone who has ever reported on the district is hearing from disgruntled teachers. Read this post by Jim Schutze, if you haven’t already. He makes the observation that when he and DMN editorial writer Tod Robberson are hearing the same complaints from teachers, that’s a bad sign.

Here’s the biggest danger with this rising tide of disgruntlement: from what I can tell, Mike Miles is hard-wired for a narrow interpretation of negative feedback. In an email I got through an open-records request for this story, Miles wrote the following to Jennifer Sprague, his embattled communications chief: “Ten years from now, when I’m gone from the district … they will say, ‘I can’t believe there was a time when DISD didn’t have a cabinet-level communications person’ [meaning Sprague]. The innovators and change agents always get beat up because most people can’t imagine a different way until they are shown.”

You see, Mike Miles is a change agent who is a decade ahead of his time. Change is difficult. Change is painful. So when people complain, when it becomes obvious that they are in pain, Miles’ wiring system tells him, “Aha! This change is working. Press on!”

That is certainly one interpretation.