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Making Dallas Even Better

Ahmed Mohamed’s Family Demands $15M From City of Irving and Irving ISD

The lawyers for the family of former Irving teenager Ahmed Mohamed sent a letter demanding $10 million from the city of Irving and $5 million from the Irving school district for how police and officials handled the clock controversy.

From the letter, via DMN:

He will continue for the rest of his days to experience pain and suffering. A large segment of potential employers will steer clear of Ahmed to avoid controversy, despite his many obvious talents. There is no other way to put it: his reputation in the global community is permanently scarred. One also that Ahmed, quite reasonably, will have a lifelong fear of the law enforcement and educational establishments that have let him down so terribly.

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SAGA Pod: Jim Schutze on DISD, Racial Politics, and Scott Griggs

We go deep on education in this one, as Jim Schutze and I talk about DISD, merit pay for teachers, and how politics and race figured into the bond election. We also discuss the city attorney deciding to leave his job in the wake of the failed attempt to get councilman Scott Griggs indicted. Also, Jim likes the fact a house got destroyed. Never forget he is evil. You can subscribe or download from iTunes here (there’s usually a few hours of delay before it goes up), or listen to the link below. As always, please listen with your ears.

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Leading Off (11/20/15)

End-of-Course Exams Basically Meaningless. The class of 2015 was the first in the state public education system to be required to pass a battery of end-of-course exams in order to receive a high school diploma. However, the state legislature earlier this year provided an out. Students can apply to their districts for a waiver to be allowed to graduate anyway, and a new survey found that among Texas’ 100 largest ISDs, 71 percent of waivers are granted. In four districts in Dallas and Collin counties all applications were successful.

Oilman Gets Life For Killing Girlfriend’s Ex-Husband. Johnny Lloyd Patton Jr., 68, of Fort Worth, was sentenced on Thursday for shooting Richard Slatkin in October 2013. Slatkin was the former spouse of Patton’s live-in girlfriend, who had previously had an affair with — and been impregnated by — Patton’s son while she was married to Slatkin. Patton claimed self-defense in the incident, but the jury evidently didn’t buy his argument.

Denton Recall Petition Fails. Those looking to recall Joey Hawkins from his seat on the city council collected 125 signatures when they needed only 76 to force an election. Trouble is they filed their petition two days too early. The Denton city charter specifies that a council member must be allowed to serve his or her term for six months before such a petition can be submitted.

Freezing Temperatures Coming This Weekend. So says the National Weather Service.

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Lessons From DISD’s Merit Pay: Finding Great Teachers Takes More Than a Calendar

Over the weekend, I had beers with a Dallas ISD middle school teacher. Longtime teacher, moved here from another state just this year. Good guy, smart guy, has a master’s degree, etc. We finally got around to talking about DISD’s merit pay system, which I wrote about a little last week. (And which Jim Schutze wrote about yesterday, covering some of that ground and some of the ground I’m about to cover. You should read it.)

“So, are you a fan of TEI, or do you hate it?”

“Hate it?” he asked.

“You know, hate the evaluations, and all the work that goes into the standardized lesson plans, hate getting evaluated by students – all the complaints I hear in the comment sections.”

He looked at me like I was an idiot. “TEI is why I came here.”

This teacher’s point:

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Dr. Louise Cowan, R.I.P.

The announcement was made today by the Dallas Institute:

To the Dallas Institute family,

With great sadness but with hearts filled with gratitude for the work that she leaves in our charge, we want to inform our Dallas Institute community of the passing of Dr. Louise S. Cowan, at 2:27 a.m., Monday, November 16, 2015, at the age of 98. A renowned teacher of literature and poetry, she was a Founding Fellow of the Dallas Institute.

After a weeks-long struggle with her failing systems, she “died softly” according to her family who surrounded her — son, Dr. Bainard Cowan; his wife Christine; and their eldest daughter, Claire.

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Lessons From DISD’s New Merit Pay System: Bad Teachers Go Bye-Bye

Nearly a month ago, the Dallas ISD board was given a briefing on the impact of the district’s revolutionary Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI), the evaluation and scoring system that determines a teacher’s effectiveness and pay. I didn’t write about the briefing then because I was knee-deep in covering the DISD bond. Now that the bond passed, I want to tell you the important takeaways from the TEI data, because the findings and results are pretty amazing.

That’s not to say that there aren’t ongoing bugs and glitches in the system – important ones that need to be addressed. (I wrote about some concerns last year, and these were largely addressed.) I’ll write about those soon. First I want to talk about the big lessons from the TEI data that should change the way we think about public education and could change the way districts operate.

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Petition Calls For Dean Dorothy Bland’s Removal From UNT

Dorothy Bland is the University of North Texas journalism dean who claimed to have been stopped by Corinth police merely for “walking while black” in her own neighborhood. A dash-cam video of the encounter revealed  that this is not a cut-and-dried case of racist policing.

An online petition to the president of UNT was started last week calling for Bland’s removal from her job “due to her poor display of journalistic abilities and integrity and her severe misrepresentation of the UNT student body by publishing a highly publicized and unwarranted opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News.”

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Slate Tries to Explain the Park Cities

Slate today attempts to explain to a national audience the peculiarities of the Park Cities and the controversy sparked by ugly emails in the campaign against the Highland Park ISD bond package approved by voters yesterday. The messages attempted to stoke fears that Section 8 housing could come to the small pieces of the city of Dallas that sit within HPISD boundaries and that the district therefore would be welcoming less desirable sorts of students into its classrooms.

There’s nothing in the piece that well-informed Dallasites don’t already know, especially considering the writer tapped SMU political science professor Cal “Never Turn Down a Media Request” Jillson for several quotes.

But I figured I’d mention its linking to our sister newspaper, Park Cities People:

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Reason No. 3 to Vote for the DISD bond: Because Hope is a Good Thing

Last night, I was checking my Twitter before going to bed, and I noticed I’d been mentioned in a Tweet by a status quo type. This person suggested I was wrong to be for the bond because [insert made-up complaint about DISD here].

Normally, late at night, when I get on the social media, I like to engage trolls with annoying behavior. (Ask anyone who knows me: I may be the most stubborn person alive, especially if my goal is to infuriate you.) But when I read this, I was just sad, so I didn’t respond.

This person – no need to name her; doesn’t matter – has been complaining about DISD for more than a quarter century. She files open records request that amount to nothing, she calls journalists with elaborate theories of evildoing by DISD officials, teachers, or trustees. She spends much of her time railing against any effort at district improvement because she feels like someone, somewhere, is running a scam against the citizens of Dallas, and only she will be there to protect us. So she rants and raves against everyone who dares disagree with her because they can’t see the conspiracy that she sees.

This makes me sad because I know people like this in my own family.

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The League of Women Voters of Dallas Is Officially a Joke

Have a peek at who the League of Women Voters of Dallas — ostensibly, a nonprofit that educates voters — has made its director of education issues.

I would write HAHAHAHAHA for about 10 lines if it weren’t so serious. I mean, Bill Freaking Betzen, the chief online troll and puppet for every status quo clown in the city. A person who wants DISD to go back to the days when we had feeder patterns where 1 percent of young black men graduated college ready. They may as well have made #TalkDISD the League’s official hashtag. No wonder the League’s “fact sheet” was so riddled with obvious errors, red herrings, and lies. C’mon, League. Pull yourself together. You used to be a respectable organization. Do you want to be more irrelevant to the next generation?

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Reason No. 2 to Vote for the DISD Bond: It’s Fiscally Sound

This is going to be about half as long as it was going to be (lucky you), because Sharon Grigsby at the DMN covered a lot of the things I was going to say in this post. You should read her reasons to vote yes on the bond.

But I do want to quickly give you a takeaway about how the bond makes fiscal sense.

I’ve heard some legitimate concerns from conscientious voters about the bond. (Vote tomorrow, people.) The concern is usually expressed something like this: “Eric, I pay a lot of taxes to DISD, and I don’t even send my kids there. They haven’t proven they know what to do with the money they have. Why should I give them more?”

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Turn and Talks Podcast: Why a Former DISD Teacher Voted For the Bond

Correction: a commenter pointed out that John Hill left DISD last semester. She’s right! I thought he was still a teacher when I recorded the podcast. His co-writer on the blog is still a DISD teacher. Carry on.

Former DISD teacher John Hill co-runs a great education blog called Turn and Talks. Yesterday he taped his Dallas Education Podcast with me at the Meddlesome Moth, a podcast in which we discussed all things DISD bond. (You need to vote tomorrow. Make plans now.) I think the most interesting part of the discussion is when Hill says critics of my education writing say I focus too much on numbers and not enough on the history of racial inequity in DISD. If you’re still on the fence about whether to vote for the bond, I hope this helps.

You can find the podcast here for direct listen. As well, there are links for iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud on his site. As always, please listen with your ears.

P.s., I mention the anti-reform groups and their standard “Trojan horse” argument. Background on this can be found in this post from this past December.

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Reason No. 1 to Vote For the DISD Bond: It Helps Kids

Today is the last day to early vote, so I’m going to give you the best reason to vote for the $1.6 billion DISD bond, in hopes it will inspire you to get off your butt and go vote. The reason: It helps kids all over the city. That may seem obvious, but I think it’s important to remember.

The bond is good for kids for several reasons:

First, this bond is equitable, in that it helps schools all over the district. Take a look at the full Google Maps list pictured above to see the distribution.

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Leading Off (10/30/15)

Belo Foundation Pledges $30M For Parks. The money is intended to fund 17 acres of new green space across four sites downtown that have been designated as high priorities by the city’s parks master plan. You can tell this is a HUGE deal because the Morning News broke out its long-form template to tell the story. Among the plans is the expansion of the existing Carpenter Plaza, on the east side of downtown between Live Oak Street and Pacific Avenue along Interstate 345, by removing several streets to “serve as a link between downtown and Deep Ellum, with recreational activities under the highway overpass.” Uh-oh. Did someone say “overpass”?

Deadly Shootout Temporarily Shuts Down I-635 in Mesquite. Police killed a suspect who opened fire on them after a chase and standoff that began shortly before midnight this morning. That northbound segment of the highway, near Town East Mall, reopened just after 6:30 a.m. this morning.

Police Investigating Oak Cliff Murder. Robert Shumway hasn’t been seen since April. Someone forged his signature on a document authorizing the sale of his house in June. Last month the new homeowner found human remains in the backyard.

Boy Accused of Plotting School Shooting. The 12-year-old was taken into custody at his charter school, Trinity Basin Prep, after allegedly asking for a friend’s help and showing him a diagram of his planned attack.

SMU President Denounces Racially Insensitive Party. The “Ice Age” event, thrown by two fraternities, was advertised on social media as the “most savage banger in SMU history” and urged attendees to wear “bling, throwback jerseys, and tall tees.” SMU’s Gerald Turner issued a statement on Thursday saying the school’s “students should know better than to engage in such irresponsible and insensitive conduct.” The party has been canceled.

It’s Gonna Rain a Bunch More. Friday and Saturday are expected to dump another couple inches of precipitation on North Texas, and El Niño is to blame. More importantly, it appears that the Morning News has outsourced its weather coverage today to the Star-Telegram. What happened? Is Wilonsky OK?

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