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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Morning News Stories on DISD’s Overpaid Real Estate Broker Were Top-Notch

I give Dallas’ Only Daily a lot of grief in this space for its education coverage, so I think in the spirit of fair play I should single it out for praise: This week’s stories (first on here, second here) on the goofy real estate deals — wherein a real estate broker was paid an exorbitantly high commission of 9 percent — were great watchdog-y stuff.

The lead from the follow-up story neatly sums up what was at issue here:

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Some Dallas ISD Trustees Want Briefings To Start Earlier, Take Less Time

The briefings used to start at 11:30 a.m. They took, on average, 7 hours. Lately, they’ve started at 4 p.m. — a switch made to better accommodate the trustees’ work days and to encourage more public participation — and have taken around six hours.

But Lew Blackburn and Bernadette Nutall want to go back to the earlier start time. It’s a long day for DISD staff who get there at 8 a.m., and also they are tired of finishing up at 10 p.m.

Board President Eric Cowan wants to stick with the later time, and also believes they can wrap up the whole thing in three to four hours, as other districts do.

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The SAGA Pod 4.1: Jim Schutze on DISD, and ‘NY pinhead’ Mark Lamster on tearing out a downtown highway

This week, the SAGA Pod gets some new artwork (although when iTunes will switch it, who knows?), a new microphone (which I’m still getting used to; you can tell when I look away to check the Internet while talking), and the same ol’ stammering host you know and love. First, Jim Schutze talks about his […]

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Did Don Williams Hire Lisa Blue to Represent a DISD Board Candidate? UNSURE.

So the District 8 DISD school board race (the vote is tomorrow) is between a pro-Miles candidate, Miguel Solis, and an anti-Miles candidate, Kristi Lara. This is important because there are currently four anti-Miles votes on what will be a nine-person board. (If you think that school board member Elizabeth Jones is pro-Miles just because […]

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Dallas ISD District 8 Candidate Kristi Lara Accused of Campaign Violation

With just over a week to go before the DISD board special election, the campaign between Miguel Solis and Kristi Lara is heating up. Last week, Lara challenged the residency of Solis. (Clearly bulsh, but a solid campaign tactic.) Then, late Friday evening, John Loza, the campaign treasurer for Solis, filed a complaint with the […]

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Leading Off (10/25/13)

School Board Strips Super of Investigation Oversight. As they’d proposed previously, Dallas ISD trustees on Thursday took the Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates fraud or wrongdoing in the district, out from under the control of superintendent Mike Miles. OPR will merge with the district’s other investigative unit, the Office of Internal Audit, and report directly […]

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Leading Off (10/11/13)

Dallas ISD Board May Strip Powers From Mike Miles. On Thursday, trustees discussed the prospect of moving the district’s investigative unit under their control rather than the superintendent’s and creating a policy that requires top administrators to cooperate with investigations. The recent report on Miles’ conduct by Paul Coggins  found that he hadn’t violated district policy […]

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