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Making Dallas Even Better

Leading Off (7/10/15)

Violent Crime Up in Dallas. Through the first half of 2015, the total number of murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, and robberies is up 10 percent. No one has a firm explanation for the spike, but police say they are flooding high-crime zones with more manpower to try to stem the tide.

Bush and Clinton Play Nice. Though former presidents George W. and Bill each have a family member vying to win the White House in 2016, they shared the stage last evening to celebrate the graduation of the first class of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the Bush Presidential Center:

“Last night my granddaughter spoke to me in Mandarin,” Bush said, before the crowd, and Clinton, erupted in laughter.

Sounds like it was an easy room.

Former Morning News Editor Takes UNT Gig. Bob Mong, who retired from our local daily newspaper in May, is apparently already sick of spending more time with his family. He’s been named the lone finalist for the presidency of the Dallas campus of the University of North Texas. The current president, Ronald Brown, is being promoted to run the university system’s health care programs, including the newly announced medical school in Fort Worth. I’ll always remember how Mong took the time to write me a short note of praise for a column I’d written for the group of community news sections I once ran at the DMN. He understood that it means a lot to know the guy in the big office on the other side of the building is actually reading your stuff, especially when it’s not the stuff on the front page. He was extremely kind and supportive of our team’s work — not to mention a surprisingly good softball player. Big congrats to him.

Blind Alligator Removed From the Trinity in Fort Worth. “Nuisance Alligator Hunter” is not a new Animal Planet series. It’s something someone can be licensed to do, someone like Chris Stevens, who was called in to catch a 10-foot-2-inch reptile that showed up in the river near the city’s downtown after heavy rains in June. The animal was safely moved to a nature preserve.

Lake Dallas Mayor Resigns Without Explanation. Tony Marino stepped down as the top elected official in the small Denton County city last night, just a few weeks after the shady shenanigans in which he and the city manager/police chief seemed to have engineered the ouster of a newly elected city council member who’d been critical of them. Marino’s replacement, Mike McCaleb, vowed to bring the “wounded” city back together, descending from the dais to address those in attendance:

McCaleb began to cry. “I’m a big baby, too,” he said. “My sister used to accuse me of having a bladder behind my eyes.”

Many residents laughed at his joke.

Sounds like it was an easy room.

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Leading Off (7/3/15)

Hood County Threatened With Gay-Marriage Lawsuit. Two men in Granbury want to exercise the right to which the Supreme Court last week affirmed they are entitled, but the men so far have been denied. They’ve now moved towards taking legal action against the county government for not issuing them a license. Meanwhile dueling rallies converged upon the courthouse Thursday to express their support for, or opposition to, the county clerk’s refusal to comply with the law.

UNT, TCU to Partner on Medical School. It’d be only the second program in Dallas-Fort Worth to confer M.D. degrees. Though neither university has confirmed the news, sources told the Fort Worth Business Press that the board of trustees for the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth is expected to vote on the plan Monday. UNT already operates the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine there, and the school’s previously announced intention to add a medical school has been opposed in the past by osteopaths. TCU would provide much of the funding that the state has so far declined to contribute to the effort.

Murder Rate Up in June. Dallas saw 20 homicides during the month — the most since August 2013 — and police don’t have a solid explanation for the uptick.

Interim DISD Chief Supports Teacher Evaluation System. Dallas teachers who had hoped the departure of district superintendent Mike Miles would spell the end of a controversial means of determining which classroom educators are getting the job done may be disappointed to hear Miles’ temporary replacement, Michael Hinojosa tell WFAA, “We need to support the teachers but also they need to realize these initiatives are going to move forward.”

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Leading Off (6/23/15)

Mike Miles To Resign Today. You have to get up early to scoop Eric Celeste. He beat Leading Off today with the bad news.

Jordan Spieth Is Golf’s “Golden Child.” Bill Nichols writes that Spieth doesn’t care for the term. But it’s the truth.

Six New Dallas Council Members Sworn in. Adam McGough and Casey Thomas bumped fists to celebrate. Next time, work on your chest bump, boys.

Virgin Hotel Coming to Design District. The 200-room hotel on Hi Line and Turtle Creek will likely open in 2018. Feels like it’s getting very hotel-y in and around downtown Dallas. Here’s hoping we’ll have enough backs for all those beds.

Dwaine Caraway Has Good Timing. Today at a luncheon he will announce that he’s running for John Wiley Price’s seat on the County Commissioners Court. Yesterday he got some more material for his speech. An Austin woman was charged with lying to the FBI about payments in the Price corruption case.

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Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles to Resign

Barring a last-minute change of heart or trustees changing their minds, DISD superintendent Mike Miles plans to resign at a morning press conference, according to multiple sources.

The decision comes after the board refused to consider amending Miles’ contract to protect him from repercussions if he was fired this year — an increasingly likely scenario given some board members’ seething hatred of the man who tried to break up their fiefdoms.

But that is really just the culmination of a long slog Miles has endured as he fought to pass reform initiatives, including a revolutionary teacher and principal evaluation system, school choice, preK expansion, and others.

If you care about kids, especially poor kids, make no mistake: This is a sad day for Dallas.

I’m out of town but will have much more to say about this later in the week.

UPDATE (7:49) Miles confirms via text that he will resign.

Was Dallas ISD Better Off When Hinojosa Was Superintendent?

Over on Learning Curve, Eric bristles at the suggestion made by Morning News editorial writers that because Dallas ISD was making gains in its TAKS standardized test results under previous superintendent Michael Hinojosa, current superintendent Mike Miles should be faulted for not continuing the trend in the recently released STAAR scores.

The problem is that what occurred under Hinojosa was something of a mirage:

Because TAKS, the state realized, was measuring not what kids knew nor whether they could think, but how well they had been trained to take the TAKS test. In edu speak, TAKS wasn’t “rigorous.” That’s why the state switched to STAAR, a more-rigorous test in many ways. (Too rigorous, many critics contend.)

The funny thing is, the state got exactly what it wanted – a tougher test that would better give educators a sense of where kids really stood in relation to the rest of the nation and the world. But that has caused everybody to freak out. Because it turns out that our state isn’t making any noticeable educational progress. It hasn’t for years (see the NAEP or SAT data, which goes back far longer than TAKS). But our state has, up until about three years ago with the advent of STAAR, hidden that fact with easy tests that have shown consistent gains (statewide, and in DISD). This is partly because of the Faustian bargain everyone made with TAKS (and its predecessors): educators, media, parents, all the stakeholders in the game said, “Look, we really just want to report year-over-year improvement; it makes everyone feel better.” In fact, a TEA official was complaining just last week about this, wondering just WHY these damn STAAR test results are flat.

Fearon to Business Community: Early Childhood Education Will Impact Labor Force

Educator and philanthropist Regen Horchow Fearon had a warning for the Dallas business community Tuesday: If children aren’t nourished and stimulated during the first five years of their lives—when 90 percent of human brain growth occurs—there could be dire consequences for business and society down the road.

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Poll: Is It Too Easy to Graduate High School in Texas?

Yesterday Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a measure that reduces the burden on Texas public high school students to pass exams before graduating. Instead of having to pass five end-of-course exams from the ninth grade on, they only have to pass three of the five. (They’ll still have to obtain a special waiver to do so.)

What do you think of this change?

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Leading Off (5/1/15)

Mike Miles’ Job on the Line. Under a judge’s orders, the Dallas ISD board will convene at 4 at district headquarters to discuss the superintendent’s job performance. Most of the City Council has expressed their support for Miles even as trustees Bernadette Nutall, Elizabeth Jones and Joyce Foreman seem determined to push for his ouster. While Miles appeared on Fox 4 and CBS 11 newscasts on Thursday to say he’s remaining focused on what’s best for the children, Brett Shipp at WFAA couldn’t get more than a written statement from Miles for his latest report about possible interference by the super and trustee Mike Morath into a district HR investigation. Friday’s meeting is a closed session, so you may not want to bother getting the popcorn ready.

Rival Protests Today Downtown. A rally and march, organized by Mothers Against Police Brutality, is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Frank Crowley Courts Building to show support for the ongoing protests in response to the death of Freddie Gray in the Maryland city. Meanwhile a second demonstration called “Backing the Blue” has been announced ostensibly to “say ‘thank you'” to the Dallas Police Department, but really just seems designed to troll the other group’s event. And, according to Breitbart, a counter-protest by an open-carry group called Texans Against Gun Grabbers, is also happening at the same time and place. The TAGG organizer issued a statement about the event, with scary overtones: “My whole point is that this event has the potential to be extremely volatile very quickly. For your safety I would stay out of Dallas tomorrow night.”

Dallas Cowboys Pick Byron Jones in NFL Draft. With their first-round pick last night, the team selected a cornerback from Connecticut. Why do I find it funny to think of people playing football in Connecticut?

Leading Off-ish (4/23/15): The Zac-is-on-Vacation Edition

Dallas-Fort Worth Earthquake Risk Has Tripled.  That’s just since 2008, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Granted, the risk is still pretty low, and we have yet to experience any catastrophic seismic activity. Yes, the energy production business — pumping chemicals and wastewater into the faults — is to blame.

Central Expressway in McKinney Temporarily Closed Due to Flooding. St. Delkus promised us a deluge, but thing were pretty light around my place in Oak Lawn. Meanwhile, the Collin County suburbs are being punished by our creator for their insolence?

Dallas Cop Fired For Sex With Teen, Prostitutes. Jorge Guzman had an inappropriate relationship with a teenager in the Dallas Police Explorer Program.

Plano ISD Will Stop Locking Unruly Children Away. Sounds like a sensible policy change.

We Should All Just Go Work For Southwest Airlines. The carrier has posted a record $453-million first-quarter profit.

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Grapevine High Students Apologize For Racist Rap

It’s a pretty awful string a words out of the mouth of a dumb Grapevine High School student, recorded two years ago, as the Daily Kos reports:

Two white female students at Grapevine High School in Grapevine, Texas recorded and released a song with dangerous and offensive lyrics about black, Latino, and Asian-American students. As the anger boils out of control in the school, the staff was forced to send the email below to parents.

Here’s the NSFW audio:

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