Dallas ISD Board Votes to Fire 2 Principals. At Thursday night’s meeting, district trustees (by a v0te of 7-2) approved the dismissal of the principals of Madison and Roosevelt high schools. District data show that last year only 2 percent of Madison seniors attained “college ready” scores on the ACT, and at Roosevelt no seniors at all did that. Superintendent Mike Miles’ plans to get rid of educators who haven’t met performance standards have been the subject of contentious debate for months. Some feel Miles is taking a bold stand to reform under-performing schools that have been allowed to languish for too long. Others believe he’s pushing too hard, too fast. For better or worse, there’s no doubt that Miles is transforming DISD. In recent weeks, at least nine other district principals have accepted demotions after learning they had been targeted for dismissal. And 730 educators voluntarily left the district between last July (when Miles became superintendent) and February, compared to only 430 during the same time frame the previous year.
Man Killed in Southlake Town Square Was Drug Cartel Lawyer. The murder that shocked this safe, affluent suburban community appears to be related to Mexican drug trafficking. The victim has been identified as Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa, a native of Mexico who was a longtime attorney for the Gulf cartel and its leader, Osiel Cardenas (who’s serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S.).
Boy Scouts of America to Allow Openly Gay Scouts. Sixty-one percent of delegates to the organization’s National Council voted yesterday in Grapevine to permit boys to participate regardless of sexual orientation. The ban on homosexual leaders wasn’t lifted. The Onion reports that at least one gay Texas teenager is thrilled by the new opportunities afforded him by the policy change: “It’s perfect because I’ve been looking for a second thing to get mocked for, and Boy Scouts seems like a great fit. I think it’ll really open me up to a whole new batch of cutting insults.”
Devastating Tornado in Oklahoma: Another horrific tragedy. There are dozens dead, a lot of them children who were taking cover in the hallway of an elementary school. Thousands more are left homeless, their possessions in shambles. And while the death and destruction will eventually be quantified and ranked historically, the grief and suffering is immeasurable. In Dallas, we all know people from that part of Oklahoma, people in that part of Oklahoma. They are strong, proud people. They will rebuild. There will be places for you to volunteer, places to donate money, places to give blood. There will be stories of victims, stories of survivors, and stories of heroes. There will be more terrifying images–and likely some superb journalism. Our thoughts are with the people affected by the destruction. For now, for the rest of us: find a moment to hold someone you love.
Dallas Firefighter Dies in Six-Alarm Blaze: Here are some remarkable photos by Sonya Hebert-Schwartz, from the giant condo fire in northeast Dallas that killed Stanley Wilson, a 28-year fire department veteran, and the large impromptu farewell salute afterward.
DISD Poised for Fast-Track Pilot Program: Yesterday the State Senate approved a bill that would allow some Dallas students to graduate high school in three years (paywall), with the savings earmarked for a pre-kindergarten program. The bill now heads back to the House.
D Magazine Wins Big Industry Award: Last night at the City Regional Magazine Association awards banquet in Atlanta, D Magazine won General Excellence in our circulation category for the second year in a row. Tim and Zac are there, almost certainly celebrating in true gentlemanly fashion, refraining from all forms of debauchery, inebriation, coarse language, and sarcasm. I assume from the lack of national headlines that Tim did not give a speech. (Really though, if I can be earnest for a second: This entire staff is stacked from top to bottom with incredible, smart, talented people who work ridiculously hard every month to put out a magazine that truly serves Dallas and makes the city a better, more interesting place to live.) I expect a detailed recap of their trip soon.
A day after his rant was posted all over the Internet, Jeff Bliss has apparently been bombarded by interview requests. He’s got a compelling story (dropped out after failing ninth grade, went back to school with renewed vigor) and a positive message (teachers should inspire kids), and some interesting looking hair. Also, he seems pretty friendly (except to that teacher, of course). He talked to at least two different local TV stations. He also started a Twitter account and sat down for a 15-minute picnic table talk with an outlet called Say Cheese TV. He says it’s the busiest he’s ever been.
So, what have we learned from these interviews? Here are some bullet points:
Duncanville Teacher Placed on Administrative Leave. Julie Phung, the teacher at whom student Jeff Bliss directed his rant that went viral online, has been temporarily removed from the classroom with pay. Duncanville ISD said this step is standard procedure when there is an investigation of employee misconduct.
Arlington Mayor Criticized For Using Rangers, Cowboys Logos on Campaign Mailer. The city’s logo was also used, which could be a ordinance violation. Mayor Robert Cluck admitted that permission to use the logos hadn’t been obtained by his campaign. “Can’t you Cluckers manage one Cluckin’ mailer?” I really, really want to believe he yelled at his advisers. “How the Cluck did this happen?”
French Government to Honor Richardson Veteran. Jack Bennett, a retired dairy-products sales rep, is 89. He’ll be honored at his home today as a Knight of the French Legion of Honor for his military service during World War II. “It’s about Clucking time,” said Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck.
Zac mentioned the video in Leading Off this morning. WFAA spoke with the student, whose name is Jeff Bliss. He’s 18 years old and only a sophomore at Duncanville High School because he dropped out for a year. It was only then, he told the station, that he learned the value of an education.
Bliss told News 8 the situation began when he questioned the teacher about why students did not have more time to prepare for the STAAR test. But he said the conversation escalated after the teacher told him to stop complaining. After a brief verbal exchange, Bliss said the teacher told him to leave her class. That’s when a classmate begins recording the video that has gone viral.
In it, Bliss unloads on his instructor’s teaching style — specifically critical of her passing out worksheets rather than creating lively and engaging discussions.
Bliss’ mother is a teacher at another large district in North Texas.
Duncanville ISD has issued this statement about the video:
As a district with a motto of Engaging Hearts and Minds we focus on building positive relationships with students and designing engaging work that is meaningful. We want our students and teachers to be engaged, but the method by which the student expressed his concern could have been handled in a more appropriate way. We are and will continue to be open to listening to students.
I promise I’ll stop talking about The Big Read Dallas soon. I just have one more thing to share. The great folks at TZOM Films gave a lot of their time and talent to shoot this teaser video for us from our Read-In at Klyde Warren Park a couple of Saturdays ago. If you weren’t able to make it, that’s okay. The video above shows you everything: the dramatic readings by actors from Undermain Theatre, a flash mob/dance party put on by dancers from Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts, music by DJ Tyrone Smiley, the mural created by the guys at Sour Grapes, another dance party spurred on by the Mavs ManiACCS, and a rap session by our Librarian of the Year Pam Brown. All these people and all of you who joined in make reading look good. Thanks for a great month.
If you want to learn how you can become one of the people to plan and execute something like The Big Read Dallas, go to the jump and learn about D Academy.
The UK outpost of Wired magazine today cited research by SMU computer science professor Tyler Moore, which found that 45 percent of online exchanges that change hard currency into the online currency Bitcoins end up closing.
More than that, if an exchange somehow gets large enough to justify staying in business, it soon becomes a prime target for cyberattacks.
The study said: “Exchanges handling 275 Bitcoins’ worth of transactions each day have a 20 percent chance of being breached, compared to a 70 percent chance for exchanges processing daily transactions worth 5570 Bitcoins.” Moore and Christin estimate that the median lifespan of any Bitcoin exchange is 381 days, with a 29.9 percent chance that a new exchange will close within a year of opening.
An extra risk for customers is losing their money from exchanges closing. Of the 18 closed exchanges, there was evidence that only six reimbursed their customers. Five did not, while there was not evidence enough to make a judgement regarding the remaining seven.
Anyway, yeah, maybe don’t trade in all your greenbacks for Bitcoins.
There’s a bill, House Bill 5, approved by the Texas House of Representatives and under consideration by the Senate, that would significantly reduce the number of exams a student must pass in order to graduate from a public high school. It would also lessen strict course requirements in English, math, and science that were designed to get students prepared for college enrollment. Instead, they’d have the option of taking more technical or business courses, if that’s where their interests lie.
Last night, Dallas ISD trustees voted, in a 5-4 split, to urge the Texas Legislature to amend the bill to “ensure all students are enrolled by default in rigorous, college-ready graduation pathways.” The board further said it would adopt local policies along these lines if the state does not.
House Bill 5 was sponsored by House Public Education Committee chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, of Killeen. His purpose behind the measure, he told the Texas Tribune last month, was to allow for better preparation for students who plan to go straight into the workforce, rather than into college after graduation:
Debate over the proposal, he said, centered on two questions.
“One, does everyone need to [earn] a four-year degree?” he said. “And two, does every kid need to take algebra II?”
His bill embraced the response of “not everyone, but a lot of them,” he said, adding that he was not convinced that algebra II was as strong predictor of college success as the legislation’s opponents suggested.
The rigidity of the current system forces a “one-size-fits-all” approach that can prevent students from exploring their interests, leaving them less engaged in school, Aycock said. And a lack of options for career training, he said, leaves a gap in the state’s workforce.
It’s that time of year again, when The Washington Post and U.S. News & World Report issue their rankings of the top public high schools in the country. Dallas ISD continues to have magnet schools near the very top of both lists.
The Post is actually calling its rankings “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” and, with their methodology, that does seem a more fitting description than “best.” All they do is take the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced International Certificate of Education exams given at the school each year and divide that by the number of graduating seniors. They don’t care how well the kids do on those tests, even whether they pass at all. These Dallas-area schools finished in the top 100 (their national ranks are noted):
2) Science/Engineering Magnet, Dallas
3) Talented/Gifted Magnet, Dallas
5) Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, Dallas
20) Westlake Academy, Westlake
23) Uplift Education Summit Preparatory, Arlington
24) Uplift Education Peak Preparatory, Dallas
28) Uplift Education Williams Preparatory, Dallas
82) Highland Park, Highland Park ISD
Those three spots high up the list seem like quite an accomplishment for the campuses of charter school operator Uplift Education. (I spoke with the education nonprofit’s CEO, Yasmin Bhatia, last year about their approach.) But those Uplift schools score nowhere near that well on the U.S. News list, which claims to name the “Best High Schools.” Here’s Dallas’ representation, including the absolute best in the country.
In February, we reported on the Communities Foundation of Texas’ 60th anniversary and on the first of a three-part, commemorative series of “Cause-Minded Conversations” about Dallas-area public education. Yesterday, the folks at CFT assembled again for the second of the series’ conversations—this time engaging the topic of “disruptive innovations” in K-12 public education.
Moderated by KERA’s Krys Boyd, the discussion was informative; at times, entertaining; and—thanks to 17-year-old panelist Jonathan Gonzalez—even inspiring. Gonzalez is an Oak Cliff native and junior at Dallas ISD’s Trini Garza Early College High School. Its graduates receive not just their high school diplomas, but also up to two years’ worth of college credit, or an associate’s degree. It’s just the sort of unconventional program on which the conversation was focused.
In addition to Boyd and Gonzalez, sitting on the panel were Yasmin Bhatia, CEO of charter school operator Uplift Education; Mike McFarland, superintendent of Lancaster ISD; and Rosemary Perlmeter, co-founder and CEO of Teaching Trust, an education advocacy organization.
Here are the 5 most important/intriguing/inspiring ideas from the evening:
In the past few weeks, I have been to more DISD schools than I have in my five years in Dallas. To distribute books for The Big Read Dallas, I’ve gone from Booker T. to Secondary DAEP (which, I honestly had never heard of before); from Thomas Jefferson to Spruce (though it’s a drive, the school has some of the best staff around); and from Irma Rangel to Townview (this school has one of the best views of downtown Dallas that I’ve ever seen). It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to interact with not only principals, teachers, and librarians, but also the students at these schools. As one co-worker asked me today, “Can we give away books to kids once a week every week?”
If you haven’t been to any of these schools or interacted with their students, now is your chance. DISD is giving tours of various feeder programs. Go here to see the dates/times/schools of the tours and to sign up. The people who are heading up this program have helped us a great deal with The Big Read. They’re passionate about the district and making it better for its students. You’ll have a good time.
Up To 50 Principals Will Be Replaced Next Year at Dallas ISD: New superintendent Mike Miles is planning a leadership overhaul. Many principals have retired or resigned. Trustees will now get a list of an additional 10 to 15 that are being forced out. But Miles has taken some heat from parents who have “ambushed” school administrators at meetings demanding to know why their principals are being let go.
Gov. Perry Preaches From Pulpit at First Baptist: The Texas Governor used the opportunity provided by the church’s dedication of its new buildings to tell the congregation they can’t “condemn certain lifestyles.” The comments raised some eyebrows considering they came from a politician who has been outspoken about issues like supporting a constitution amendment to oppose gay marriage.
Josh Hamilton’s Family Gets Extra Security for Final Game in Angels-Rangers Series: After the boos and the taunting Josh Hamilton took at the ballpark this weekend, the player’s wife requested extra security at the stadium and watched the final game of the series from a luxury box.
By all accounts, the Texas House last night approved a state budget relatively easily, on a vote of 135 to 12. The $193.8 billion measure now goes to a conference committee to fix the differences between it and the Senate’s version.
Highlights of the bill, according to the Texas Tribune account:
San Antonio Tries to Steal Dallas Teachers. Dozens of Dallas-area educators showed up for a recruiting fair hosted by the city of San Antonio at Dallas Public Library. SA is looking to hire for a new pre-kindergarten program. Considering Dallas ISD went through layoffs just last year, the appeal of a place investing more money in classroom instruction is understandable. (DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander tells KERA the administration is planning a 3 percent raise for teachers.)
Minister Calls For Boycott of Arlington. Rev. Kyev Tatum, president of the Texas Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is angry at school district leaders in Arlington for not taking swift action to fire a teacher he considers to be a racist. The teacher, who is white, has admitted that she poured pencil shavings into the mouth of a sleeping black student. (This makes her a jerk, sure, but a racist?) Tatum called for “all citizens of good conscience to not spend money in Arlington.” Considering the next item in this post, his boycott seems unlikely to get off to a strong start.
Opening Day at the Ballpark. The Texas Rangers dominated their last two games against the hapless Houston Astros, so they begin their home schedule today at 1 p.m. with a 2-1 record. There are many story-lines for the year’s first day of baseball in Arlington. Josh Hamilton is returning with the opposing Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Will Rangers fans boo him? (Yes. I mean, they did when he was struggling for the Rangers last fall, so why not now?) Also, the father of one of the Sandy Hook, Conn., shooting victims will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. (Robbie Parker told the Morning News it’ll be a thrill to be on a mound in front of a sellout crowd. ““But to know why [I’m] here … has been kind of tough.”) However, the question that’s perhaps on all minds is this: Will anyone dare tackle a solo attempt of the Beltre Buster?
Mavs’ Playoff Hopes Fading, So Mark Cuban Ups His Game. The Dallas Mavericks let a game against the Denver Nuggets slip away last night, and their record now stands at 36-39, dropping them further behind in the playoff race. So Cubes, as he did earlier this week, seized the opportunity to make a public statement that could distract attention away from the tough Mavs’ loss. This time he announced that he would be “honored” to have the NBA’s first openly gay player on his team.