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Suggestions for Home Rule Commission: Student Trustees, Board Accountability, and Impeachment

The first three of my posts offering suggestions for consideration by the Home Rule Commission debating whether to rework the DISD charter. Come get a taste:

1. Should we have a student trustee?
2. How can we instill board accountability?
3. Should the board be able to impeach one if its own?

More to come. As always, read with your eyeballs.

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The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: We’ll Take the Hole SHU-bang

I was released back into the relative freedom of the jail unit the other day after spending a month and a half in the hole, or “SHU,” where I had been confined due to an accusation by a wacky guard that I had instigated a “semi-disturbance.” A lengthy investigation by the prison administration having eventually concluded that there was no evidence that I had instigated anything at all and thus ought not to be punished for such an offense, I was finally let out of the, er, punishment cell. But I did participate in the “semi-disturbance” in question, along with some 30 other inmates, and so I was charged with “Engaging in a Group Demonstration,” pleaded guilty, and had my family visits and phone call privileges taken away for three months. It’s probably worth mentioning that the semi-disturbance/group demonstration which it turns out I didn’t instigate was directed toward the same wacky guard mentioned above, whose wackiness we simply wanted to bring to wider attention. I’ll go into all the wacky details at some later date when I’m out of this wacky prison’s wacky clutches, but in the meantime I have another story from the SHU that I will be kind enough to relate to you now.

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Leading Off (8/15/14)

DA’s Office Paid Secret Settlement Following Car Crash. In February 2013, Dallas County district attorney Craig Watkins was driving up the Dallas North Tollway “reading information” on his cell phone when he ran into the back of a truck. Watkins was in a county-owned vehicle at the time but failed to follow the proper reporting procedures. Eventually the DA’s office paid the man that Watkins hit more than $50,000 and had him sign a settlement stating that he would not talk to the press. The settlement money also came from asset forfeiture funds, which seems to be questionable legally, especially since the spending never went before the county commissioners court for approval.

DA’s Office to Investigate Police Shootings. In the wake of the recent string of officer-involved incidents in Dallas, and the events playing out in Ferguson, Mo., this week, Craig Watkins announced his plan to create an investigative unit to look into any shootings involving cops. “I think it would be somewhat irresponsible if we didn’t address the fact that there is a lack of trust with the police,” Watkins said.

Cheating School’s Test Scores Plunge. An investigation last fall determined that students at Dallas ISD’s Umphrey Lee Elementary were being fed exam answers. So what happened after five teachers and an instructional coach were forced out? STAAR passing rates fell significantly during the last school year.

Cowboys Erect Party Tent Outside Stadium. The Corral, which was a feature at Texas Stadium back in the team’s 1990s heyday, is being resurrected starting with this weekend’s preseason game. Because JerryWorld isn’t big enough, I guess.

Corinth Doesn’t Want Beaver Nuggets. A crowd packed the Corinth City Council meeting last night before a hearing on granting incentives to bring a Buc-ee’s truck stop to Interstate 35E. Neighbors were concerned by the amount of traffic it would attract. At about 1 a.m. this morning, the council voted against Buc-ee’s.

Future Serial Killer in Lewisville. Hard not to reach that conclusion after reading this creepy story about 20 rabbits found killed in a “ritualistic” manner in the Castle Hills neighborhood.

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Is DISD About To Raise Our Taxes?

Over on LearningCurve, Eric has a look at some numbers that suggest, as he says, we’re about to have a real grown-up, put-the-kids-to-bed discussion about where we’re headed as a city and if we’re willing to pay for change. While you’re at it, you should read his recap of the most recent home-rule commission meeting. It’s actually pretty entertaining. Not only does he find a way to bring up the movie High Fidelity, but he manages to poke me in the ribs, too.

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Deion’s Prime Prep Scandal To Be Featured on Al Jazeera Tonight

I never watched the Al Gore Network or whatever it was called, so I don’t know what channel Al Jazeera America airs on — or even if Uverse carries it. Also, I don’t know if Uverse is even your carrier. Anyway, let’s not bog down in that. Tonight the show America Tonight will air the broadcast version of this story about Deion Sanders’ Prime Prep. Much of it is a rehashing of material that those of us in Dallas have been following for some time. But the writer did talk to some current and former students and their parents. A sample:

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SAGA Pod: Jim Schutze on JWP, Inland Ports, DISD, and Hippies

A JWP-heavy edition of the SAGA Pod. We talk to Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze about the biggest news story in Dallas in 2014: the indictment of County Commissioner John Wiley Price. Jim, who has covered JWP for three decades, talks about how JWP went from being a “ray of sunshine,” and “a very brave guy” — someone who “taught courage” to southern Dallas  — to a county official under indictment. Jim tells great stories from covering Price in the ’80s (the one about how Price would intentionally sweat on editors at the Dallas Times Herald is gold). He discusses about how the money for votes has always traveled form North to South, and how Price wanted his cut from the minster networks. He tells about the time Price told Jim the reason “Our Man Downtown” always aligned with downtown interests vs. progressive, East Dallas interests. (“Because you’re a bunch of hippies.”)


At one point, you’ll hear me consider talking about how the DMN covered the inland port stuff. Look, I’m just too tired to go back over this. Here’s all you need to know: [...]

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Another Example of Why Bernadette Nutall Is Awful

Over on LearningCurve on Friday, our friend Eric had some things to say about DISD trustee Bernadette Nutall that you might should read. Short version: “[S]he is vindictive, out of control, and does harm to the district. For someone who makes every issue about race, she somehow makes it harder for poor black children to get a good education because of the way she goes about her job as trustee.” I think it would be fair to say that Eric is not a fan.

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Leading Off (7/25/14)

34th Person in Dallas County Exonerated by DNA Evidence. Michael Phillips served 12 years in prison for raping a 16-year-old girl in 1990. He didn’t do it. Good thing his wasn’t a death penalty case.

American Airlines Posts Record Profits. $864 million in the second quarter. Eight months ago the carrier was in bankruptcy. What a country!

Park Cities to Get AT&T Ultra-High-Speed Internet First.  The company hasn’t specified which Dallas-area neighborhoods will be able to get broadband speeds of up to 1 gigabyte per second by the end of the summer. But they did say the initial launch would come in areas already served by AT&T U-verse, starting with parts of Highland Park and University Park and soon after that areas of Dallas,  Allen, Fairview, Irving, and McKinney. One gig per second allows you to download an HD movie in just 36 seconds. What a country!

Amon Carter Museum Pays $1M For Painting. It’s a picture of peaches and grapes. What a country!

Collin County Commissioner Warns of “Illegal Immigrant Tsunami.” He makes it sound as deadly as a sharknado. Mark Reid introduced a resolution to the commissioners’ court’s upcoming agenda that would discourage the federal government from using Collin County to house any of the migrant children who have spurred the recent crisis on the border. Reid is concerned about the spread of “various communicable diseases” from the kids, despite having no evidence to support his claims. What a country!

DISD HR Executive Makes $140K a Year. This story is actually about how a Dallas ISD investigator who was put on leave last week (without being told why) was investigating his boss for having lied on her district job application. But I got hung up on how much that boss gets paid. What a country!  (Kids, don’t go into journalism.)

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Wallace Hall Won’t Back Down in the Fight Over UT

With UT president William Powers announcing yesterday that he will step down in 2015, the folks at Texas Monthly have put up a story about the deal early. Skip Hollandsworth wrote the story for the August issue, which won’t be available till July 24. It focuses on Powers’ biggest enemy, UT regent Wallace Hall, who has been fighting to expose shenanigans at the university. You should read the whole thing. But one section in particular caught my eye. Hall, of course, lives in Dallas, just four doors down from Dan Branch. The two were once friends, but this mess has driven them apart. Even though they used to play roller hockey together, they no longer even speak. I know someone who was familiar with the play of that particular roller hockey team. Here’s how that person described it:

Hall and Branch both played defense. Same line. Same gritted teeth. The league did not allow checking, which abbreviated Hall and Branch’s time in the penalty box. Hall did the better job staying put. Branch followed the puck like a 6-year-old. Invariably, he ended up at the other end of the rink, trying to stuff a rebound into the net. “Branch,” we’d yell, “get your ass back down there.”

If you think that my having that description in any way suggests that we were ever entertaining writing a super-awesome profile of Hall in the context of this fight — then you’re deeply mistaken. Horribly, painfully, hopelessly mistaken. Good job on the story, Skip. Big jerk.

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Poll: Is Mike Miles Underpaid?

Over on Learning Curve, Eric Celeste yesterday ran through some of the numbers relevant to a discussion about whether Mike Miles, superintendent of Dallas ISD, is being paid what he’s worth for the job he’s required to do.

Miles makes $306,000 a year. Eric, after comparing that base salary to other Texas school superintendents and to CEOs of similarly sized companies and nonprofits, reaches the conclusion that it’s perfectly reasonable for Miles to be seeking more money.

What do you think?

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The Dallas Miracle: How Data Show Mike Miles Deserves a New Contract

Over on Learning Curve, I tell you about how the most rigorous ISD analysts in the state say DISD made astounding gains in 2013. Which, when we consider that Mike Miles wants a contract extension, leads us to the classic line from Rounders, issued by Teddy KGB:

“Pay him. Pay that man his money.”

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SAGA Pod: Jim Schutze on DISD Board Cock Fights and Car Wash Drug Lords

How’s THAT for a headline? SEO, baby.

It also has the advantage of being true. It’s another edition of the SAGA Pod, Learning-Curve-syle (ish!). Jim Schutze from the Dallas Observer is back, ready to talk DISD board and car washes. For the first half half of the show, we discuss the naming of the 15-member home rule commission, analyzing just how long it will take for Shirley Ison-Newsome to make the teachers on the commission rethink their life choices. We talk about the donkey punch Bernadette Nutall delivered to the rest of the board, and how she may still be standing behind the DISD horseshoe with two middle fingers in the air. Then we talk about Jim’s car wash — not Jim Schutze’s car wash, btw — and why the city and the Dallas Morning News have decided that this place needs to be shut down. Jim says it’s a legitimate business, unfairly targeted, and that the city is ignoring real drug houses nearby because they don’t understand the cultural importance of car washes in poor black communities. We do all this while drinking beer. Well, I do, anyway. (Which may explain the gratuitous swearing.)

If you need background on the DISD board stuff, see my post from Friday, as well as the comments, where Lew Blackburn Jr. and I have a little back-and-forth going on.

As always, please listen with your ears.

The iTunes link is here.

The webpage is here.

The rss feed is here.

Or you can listen here:


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Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs, a Gay Couple, Can’t Be the Fathers of Their Own Children

There’s a story making the rounds about a Dallas couple, Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs. Adorable couple. Let me see if I can explain what’s giving them trouble. Hanna and Riggs got hitched in D.C., where gay marriages are legal. They came back to Dallas. They wanted kids. Why they would want to screw up their lives by 1) getting married and 2) having kids is a discussion for another post. I’m going to focus on the logistics. They find an egg donor. They find a surrogate mother, who in April bears them twins, Lucas and Ethan. And — this is the wild part — each of the men is a biological father to one of the babies, meaning, I gather, that two embryos were implanted. It makes my head spin.

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