Leading Off (4/11/14)

WFAA Frames DISD Home-Rule Debate as Race War. Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas ISD trustee Mike Morath are both supporting the effort to create a new charter to change how the school district is governed. They’re white, and they’ve implied that some elements of the school board  are standing in the way of DISD making important changes. Those three board members are African-American, and they accuse home-rule proponents of trying to erode minority representation. Morath fans the flames by saying things like ”this is not to say that race is not a factor … But to say that race is a dominant factor is missing the forest for the trees.”

The Watchers Don’t Like Being Watched. Dallas Police staff are putting out a warning to the city’s cops about a dangerous new threat to their safety: citizens on patrol with video cameras. Concerns were raised recently after a woman affiliated with a group called Cop Rock Cop Block was found to be following and taping an officer. Ron Pinkston, president of the Dallas Police Association says such behavior could be a threat because police “don’t know who it is pulling behind us. We don’t know they’re there to videotape, they might be part of… if that guy has has just done a kidnapping they could be part of the kidnapping. You don’t know.” I also don’t know what he’s talking about, even if, yeah, I’m sure some of the folks recording the cops are just being jerks.

Man Sues Perot Museum After Accident. According to the suit, 74-year-old Myung Oh of Carrollton was leaving the museum in June 2013 when he fell on the steps and was left a quadriplegic.

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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Happy 100th Birthday, Hockaday

All through the 2013-2014 academic year, the Hockaday School in North Dallas has been celebrating its 100th anniversary. The prestigious institution for girls held its first classes on September 25, 1913. Some of the city’s leading citizens had summoned Miss Ela Hockaday to Dallas to establish a college preparatory school for young ladies.

Sixty-five years later, Prudence Mackintosh (who’d earlier taught at Hockaday) wrote about the history of the school, which opened first in a small house on Haskell Avenue, soon moved to a campus on Greenville Avenue at Belmont (then part of the Caruth farm on the outskirts of Dallas), and later to its current home on Welch Road along Forest Lane. Her story is one D Magazine’s 40 greatest ever.

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Why Houston Billionaire John Arnold Is Funding the Dallas ISD Home-Rule Push

Actually, we don’t know for sure why he’s doing it. He’s not talking. Jim Mitchell over at the Morning News asked for an interview about his financial backing for the Support Our Public Schools effort to make Dallas ISD a home-rule district, but he declined.

Arnold probably isn’t eager to be the public face of Support Our Public Schools or to see headlines about how a rich Houstonian is looking to overhaul education in Dallas. (He’s a Hillcrest High School grad, so his interest makes sense from that standpoint.)

But what does Google have to say about him?

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Inside D Magazine’s April 2014 Issue

When Zac Crain set out to profile Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles, the goal was to humanize the man with what could be the hardest job in Dallas. We’d seen his very public flops and read about the troubled district over and over and, yes, over again. But Miles was a bit of a mystery. Who is he? And why is he here while his family is back in Colorado? Oh, and does he have a shot at doing anything productive with DISD? Frankly, a cursory glance of local media, including D Magazine, would have you believe Miles was a lost cause. That disdain, in fact, has already surfaced in the comments of “Who’s Out to Get Mike Miles?

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Leading Off (3/21/14)

Dallas ISD Home-Rule Effort Continues Communication Struggles. Support Our Public Schools hosted three town hall meetings last night to address concerns and to gather petition signatures in support of DISD wresting control of its own affairs from the state. Our own Dan “Killer” Koller was at the Preston Royal library, where state Rep. Jason Villalba and City Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates were among those presenting to an audience “packed in like sardines.” Dan says the event organizers deserve a failing grade for not allowing enough time to take questions or to have a true two-way discussion with those present.

Grand Jury Subpoenas Issued in John Wiley Price Case. A number of associates of the Dallas County commissioner have reportedly been summoned to testify in the FBI’s long-running corruption investigation. It was way back in June 2011 when agents seized $229,000 from Price’s home. This latest news is the first sign of activity in the case since last year.

Kennedale Coach Arrested For Filming Teachers Undressing. Jason Tomlinson allegedly installed a camera under sinks in two faculty bathrooms and captured footage of male and female colleagues using the bathroom, exposing their buttocks and genitals. The camera’s drive contained folders of videos categorized by teachers’ names and with ratings of “fine” or “good.”

Couple Gives Birth to Quintuplets at Baylor. It’s a record delivery for the Dallas hospital — five newborn babies. I already feel sorry for the one boy who’ll have to share his birthday with four sisters.

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Can We Outlaw Adults Sending Sexts to Children?

Recently the case against a 30-year-old teacher in the Everman school district south of Fort Worth for exchanging sexually suggestive texts with a 13-year-old student was dropped by prosecutors. An appeals court in a similar case out of Houston had ruled that the statute with which the man had been charged was unconstitutional. The situation has led to calls from some corners for the legislature to craft a new law that would re-criminalize this behavior.

But Grits for Breakfasts writes that it’ll be difficult to do so without subverting that pesky First Amendment:

So if, as all nine members of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed, “everything” covered by the statute in question was “either already prohibited by other statutes … or is constitutionally protected,” I fail to see how the Lege can rewrite the law in a constitutional fashion. As the CCA noted, longstanding US Supreme Court precedents have held that “Sexual expression which is indecent but not obscene is protected by the First Amendment.”

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Rena Honea and Mike Morath Debate Making DISD a Home-Rule District

Today is D Academy’s education day. We’re holed up in a classroom at Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy. Students were telling me how they’re learning Chinese and might go to Japan. I would like to do both of those things, but no such luck. In any event, as part of the day, Eric Celeste was set to moderate a panel with Mike Morath, District 2 Dallas ISD board member; Rena Honea, Alliance AFT president; and Tarick Ward, who is literally a rocket scientist but now works at Commit! I’m sure this panel would have been perfectly interesting if it had occurred a few weeks ago. But holy hell, it got interesting in light of the current home-rule discussion. Video to come, but for now, here are some highlights.

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Leading Off (3/3/14)

Can Dallas ISD Turn Into a Home-Rule District? Technically, yes, because of a 1995 state law. And the group Support Our Public Schools is trying to do it. On Tuesday, petitioners will meet Dallasites at the primary polls, looking to collect nearly 25,000 signatures. With the necessary signatures, the proposal could get on the ballot as early as November. No specific changes are on the table yet beyond the home-rule proposal, which would allow DISD to largely operate separate of state control. It would be the first district in the state to do so.

Part of Sylvan Thirty Burns Down. The West Dallas project was engulfed in flames (video) Saturday afternoon, setting off a two-alarm fire allegedly started by someone welding inside. The two-story building, the remnants of which will now be torn down, was going to house a yoga studio and a restaurant as one part of the $50 million project.

Steve Blow: Stop It. Just Stop It. It looks like he’s talking to us, all of you in the comments section, and certainly Patrick Kennedy. We all need to stop talking about tearing down I-345 because, “It’s never, ever, not-in-a-million-years going to happen.” Okay then.

Today Could Be the Coldest Day of the Season. That’s according to meteorologist Jesse Moore. Schools are closed, there’s a wind chill advisory until 8 a.m., and it’s cold. Very cold. Stay safe out there. More updates here.

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Leading Off (2/14/14)

DFW Airport Has Refunded More than $648,000 in Parking Charges. The same $56 million system that made entering and exiting a nightmare after it was installed last September has resulted in overcharges to more 4,100 drivers who use toll tags. One guy got a $108 bill for a 10-minute trip to the airport. Another had a bill of $1,096 for an even shorter trip.

Dale Hansen on Ellen Today. Everybody’s favorite blustering old Dallas sportscaster continues to be showered with praise for his “Unplugged” commentary from Monday night’s newscast. On Thursday he was in Los Angeles taping an appearance for Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, which will air at 3 p.m. Friday on NBC 5.

Frisco Principal Resigns After Medicine Goes Missing. David Wehmeyer of Corbell Elementary quit after allegedly stealing drugs from the school nurse’s office.

McKinney Couple Face Tragedy of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s. Usually “early-onset” means someone in his 60s or 50s, but Jason Manthe was diagnosed in his 30s. Now his wife Kam must care for him, as well as their four children. The disease has long been known as “the long goodbye” because it strips away the mind of a loved one and leaves only a shell of that person behind. The Manthes’ situation brings a whole other heartbreaking level of meaning to that phrase:

“If somebody dies in a car accident, they’re no longer there and you mourn their loss,” she said. “But you don’t see them every day. But I wake up next to him every day and have to look at him every day.

“The Jason I fell in love with, and the husband and father we know, is not there.”

It’s Valentine’s Day. And a holiday for D Magazine HQ. Hug somebody you love. Then go see RoboCop.

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Leading Off (2/10/14)

Texas Native Could Become First Openly Gay NFL Player. University of Missouri alum and NFL prospect Michael Sam came out to his teammates in August and graduated in December. Now, in anticipation of May’s NFL draft and as he believed rumors were starting to circulate, he decided to go public. “I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” Sam told The New York Times. “I just want to own my truth.” Commentary quickly ensued.

Bobsledder Gets Trapped in Bathroom, Breaks Through Door. Oh, Sochi. This is entertaining for the picture alone. Johnny Quinn, a U.S. bobsledder and former University of North Texas football captain, got trapped in his hotel bathroom Saturday and was forced to use his “bobsled push training to break out.”

Comings and Goings. UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa will announce this morning that he’s resigning, Fox’s meteorologist Ron Jackson is retiring after 32 years on the job, and Dr. Fred Cerise is set to sign a contract to take on the job of Parkland Memorial Hospital CEO.

Headline: Man in Banana Costume With Rifle Cited by Police. Citizens were concerned.

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Leading Off (1/22/14)

A.C. Gonzalez is Dallas’ Next City Manager. Tuesday’s vote was unanimous, though a couple of days ago it wasn’t, and now he’s ready for his new set of challenges. Congratulations, sir. And good luck.

Texas High School Juniors Failing Tests, Nearly 25 percent Might Not Graduate. Fifteen tests used to be required, but that number was dropped to just five this year. Still, some 338,000 students could potentially not graduate in 2015 because they aren’t passing the tests. These figures come amid complaints that funding issues remain throughout the state and that wealthier districts receive more money than their less-fortunate counterparts.

200 Laptops Missing from Prime Prep Academy. Last week, a mother claimed that the school wouldn’t allow her to withdraw her student. This week, Prime Prep, which once purported being on the cutting edge of technology, is missing 200 of its laptops. According to a News 8 report, a contractor hired by the school may have been instructed to sell them. And they were purchased with taxpayer dollars. So there’s that.

Zebra Mussels Continue to Invade Texas Lakes. Well crud. The invasive little buggers have made their way into Lavon Lake. But scientists aren’t panicking or particularly surprised. They think the mussels may have hitched a ride on a boat. However they came, they shouldn’t pose an immediate threat to the North Texas Municipal Water District, but water intake pipes could be affected down the line.

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The Massive Tire Fire at Prime Prep Academy Continues

The latest:

The mother of a student at Prime Prep Academy in Dallas claims the school won’t allow her to withdraw her child from classes.

Keshia Singleton says there are no teachers in most of her son’s 10th grade classes, and that most days, her son just signs in and waits for the bell.

Ten educators were fired and two resigned earlier in the year at the charter school.

We are now at the point where news like this doesn’t even make me raise an eyebrow. I don’t think anything would. “Reports say a sentient crocodile has been hired to teach chemistry.” Shrug. “A concerned parent says the school’s music class exclusively centers on Deion Sanders’ 1994 rap album, Prime Time.” OK, sure. “History books have been replaced by Sanders’ Power, Money & Sex, TEA source claims.” What are you, a Geico commercial? SURPRISE ME, SON. “Investigation results released: Prime Prep Academy discovered to be telepathic figment of our collective imagination, brought into existence by billionaire philanthropist Adrian Veidt, also known as the former superhero Ozymandias.” Yaaaaawn.

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Leading Off (1/10/14)

Dallas ISD Tops TEA’s Worst Schools List. On Thursday, the Texas Education Agency released its annual list of low-performing public schools, and DISD had the most below-standard campuses of any district in the state. That’s 57 Dallas schools from which students now have the right to transfer, of 892 statewide. By comparison, Houston (the state’s largest district) had 53 on the list. Because of the switch to a new testing system the last two years, schools didn’t make the grade if their passing rates were less than 50% in any two of the previous three years, or if they were rated academically unacceptable on the old TAKS tests in 2011. Superintendent Mike Miles points out that 12 of the 57 subpar DISD schools, including Woodrow Wilson High School, actually met state passing standards in 2013.

Flu Deaths Spur Rush on Vaccinations. Hard to blame folks for being anxious to get their flu shots after many news reports of 19 deaths from the virus, plus a newly reported case in Wise County in which a man died from the H1N1 strain. The family of 41-year-old Christopher Waskom says he didn’t even known that he had the flu when he passed away on New Year’s Eve. Everybody be careful out there.

Avoid Interstate 30 Across Lake Ray Hubbard. That’s generally good advice during any normal rush hour, but this morning especially. A multi-vehicle wreck before dawn has resulted in the highway being shut down in both directions around Dalrock Road for hours, possibly until midday.

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Leading Off (1/6/14)

It’s Cold. Very cold. Despite that, Plano parents lined up Sunday night to request school transfers. Stay safe out there.

FBI Still Investigating Dallas County DA Craig Watkins. Yes, this is still going on. To recap: Al Hill III, H.L. Hunt’s great-grandson, was charged with mortgage fraud after he acquired a $500,000 loan using a home he claimed to own as collateral. In truth, he only owned 20 percent of the home. That charge was eventually dismissed, but in the process, Hill alleged that Watkins indicted him as a favor to Lisa Blue, a Watkins benefactor. Watkins was held in contempt of court. Blue was investigated by the FBI and cleared. But the Watkins inquiries continue.

Pregnant Woman Being Kept on Life Support Despite Family’s Requests. On November 26, Marlise Machado Muñoz, 33, collapsed on her kitchen floor. Today, she is in a vegetative state, and despite her previously documented wishes and the wishes of her family, she’s on life support because of the 1999 Texas Advance Directives Act, which requires a brain-dead pregnant woman be kept alive until the baby can be delivered. Muñoz was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed. Her husband, Erick Muñoz, is claiming her doctors didn’t even know about the law. They’re saying there’s nothing they can do. And as expected, it’s turned into a nationwide debate.

Fort Worth Tattoo Artist Tattoos Man For 36 Hours, Misses the World Record. That record is 50 hours, 10 minutes, and Robert “Tat2 Bobby” Doran had planned to beat it with a 55-hour session. He stopped at hour 36 because the client, Darren Curry, fell asleep. Talk about pain tolerance.

Senator Ted Cruz Promises to Renounce Canadian Citizenship. Apparently, it’s a process.

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