Home Rule Backers Probably Have the 25k Sigs They Need, So What Happens Next?

Last week, people who know people were telling me that Support Our Public Schools, the group trying to gather 25,000 signatures so it can put a home rule measure on the November ballot, have met that goal. Now I’m hearing that number is closer to 30k (which makes sense — always build in a buffer) and that the group could present them at any time. Officially, the group’s PR firm, Allyn Media, says it won’t confirm or deny numbers.

So why hasn’t it presented these signatures and started the home rule-on-the-ballot process? And will they present them soon? And what happens then? All those questions have different answers, but they are linked to another question that is much harder to answer: Will the DISD board implement Home Rule-style changes and make this entire movement moot?

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Toyota Didn’t Want Its Kids in Dallas ISD Schools. So What Do We Do About It?

Mayor Mike Rawlings blamed Dallas ISD for missing out on the car company’s relocation during an interview with KERA yesterday afternoon:

“The big elephant in the room is we don’t get Toyota in Dallas because of the school system,” Rawlings said. “We’ve talked to them and they want to be in Plano. And 7-Eleven left.”

So DISD schools don’t have a great reputation, and they aren’t graduating anywhere near the number of college-ready students that they should be. There have been a lot of big ideas to fix the district tossed about: the home-rule charter proposal, splitting the district up into smaller districts, make every school a charter school, hand out vouchers, or trust “Miracle” Mike Miles to heal what ails us.

In the May issue of D Magazine, Eric Celeste writes about a more-focused, data-driven, Moneyball-style approach spearheaded by the organization known as Commit.

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Changing the DISD Board Briefing Time Makes No Sense

Late last night, the DISD Board voted 7-2 to change the time of its monthly “Board Briefing” (where a lot of the good policy work and discussion gets done) from 4 p.m. back to 11:30 a.m. This concern was not new, as Zac noted a few months ago, but still Nancy Bingham’s motion to change it came out of the blue yesterday (and, presumably, only after she knew she had the votes for it to pass).

You may say, why is that a big deal? Until this past year, the briefings were always at 11:30. And the idea that moving them later would cause them to be shorter than the normal seven-plus hours didn’t work that well, as the later time only shaved an hour or so off the average briefing-meeting time.

Yes, the meetings are still too long, but that’s not the issue here.

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Leading Off (4/23/14)

Preliminary Findings Show a Lack of Oversight Contributed to the West Explosion. Five days after the one-year anniversary of the fertilizer plant explosion, the Chemical Safety Board released the initial findings of its investigation, stressing that the ammonium nitrate wasn’t handled properly and that this was a “preventable accident.” The federal agency has been criticized in the past for moving too slowly, and West Mayor Tommy Muska voiced disappointment in how long it’s taken to get “preliminary” results. The investigation is ongoing.

DISD’s School for the Talented and Gifted Ranked Best in the Country. That’s according to U.S. News and World Report’s latest ranking of the best high schools in the nation. At the Dallas magnet school, students must take 11 AP classes to graduate, and 100 percent of those graduates are ready for college.

Arlington Council: Leave Your Guns at Home (or in the Car). The council approved an ordinance Tuesday that bans weapons and “simulated weapons” in City Hall. Concealed handguns were already prohibited, but the new ordinance extends the ban to the antique black-power pistols, replica pistols, and long-barreled guns that can be openly carried in Texas.

Dallas Charter Review Commission in Favor of Raises for Mayor, Council Members. Eric Celeste recommended an even greater increase in the April issue of D Magazine, but the commission voted on a 20 percent pay hike for the mayor Tuesday night and a 32 percent increase for council members. That would take salaries to $71,864 and $49,530 respectively. A month remains before final recommendations must be submitted.

Plus, Holy Road Rage. Be careful out there.

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Leading Off (4/18/14)

Earthquake Rattles Northwest Dallas. The 2.5 on the Richter scale was centered near Northwest Highway and Interstate 35E. So what is it that the Pappas Bros have done to anger God? Or are the unholy goings-on at Ojos Locos to blame?

Mesh Mask Bandit Gets 20 Years. Former immigration activist Luis de la Garza had asked the judge for a shorter prison sentence, explaining that he’s eager to return to his community activism. “I want to be OK with my country, because this country has given me a lot of opportunities,” he said, wisely not mentioning that among those opportunities was the chance to commit 20 bank robberies.

Police Name Person of Interest in Deadly Hit-and-Run. Authorities are looking for 24-year-old Dagoberto Castanon in connection with the fatal crash that killed a 13-year-old boy in the M Streets on Tuesday. Castanon reportedly has an extensive criminal history and was even previously deported in October 2012.

UNT Misstated Finances by $23 Million. More money problems for the university, which has hired outside auditors to suss out the full extent of shortfalls that seem to have been hidden by questionable reporting.

Man Thrown From Bridge, Stuck in Mud. Dude gets kicked out of the car by his girlfriend along Interstate 30. A bunch of guys happen by in a van and offer him a lift. Then a little ways down the road, they pull over and throw him off a bridge. He falls the equivalent of two stories, can’t free himself from the mud, and has to call 911 to get him out. Dallas responders bring in the city of Wylie for assistance because Wylie has a hovercraft. Yes, I’ve buried the lede: Wylie has a hovercraft.

It’s Good Friday. One last round of Filet-O-Fish for all you Catholics.

UPDATE: You need to see Wylie’s hovercraft in action. (h/t @_paulknight)

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Leading Off (4/11/14)

WFAA Frames DISD Home-Rule Debate as Race War. Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas ISD trustee Mike Morath are both supporting the effort to create a new charter to change how the school district is governed. They’re white, and they’ve implied that some elements of the school board  are standing in the way of DISD making important changes. Those three board members are African-American, and they accuse home-rule proponents of trying to erode minority representation. Morath fans the flames by saying things like ”this is not to say that race is not a factor … But to say that race is a dominant factor is missing the forest for the trees.”

The Watchers Don’t Like Being Watched. Dallas Police staff are putting out a warning to the city’s cops about a dangerous new threat to their safety: citizens on patrol with video cameras. Concerns were raised recently after a woman affiliated with a group called Cop Rock Cop Block was found to be following and taping an officer. Ron Pinkston, president of the Dallas Police Association says such behavior could be a threat because police “don’t know who it is pulling behind us. We don’t know they’re there to videotape, they might be part of… if that guy has has just done a kidnapping they could be part of the kidnapping. You don’t know.” I also don’t know what he’s talking about, even if, yeah, I’m sure some of the folks recording the cops are just being jerks.

Man Sues Perot Museum After Accident. According to the suit, 74-year-old Myung Oh of Carrollton was leaving the museum in June 2013 when he fell on the steps and was left a quadriplegic.

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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Happy 100th Birthday, Hockaday

All through the 2013-2014 academic year, the Hockaday School in North Dallas has been celebrating its 100th anniversary. The prestigious institution for girls held its first classes on September 25, 1913. Some of the city’s leading citizens had summoned Miss Ela Hockaday to Dallas to establish a college preparatory school for young ladies.

Sixty-five years later, Prudence Mackintosh (who’d earlier taught at Hockaday) wrote about the history of the school, which opened first in a small house on Haskell Avenue, soon moved to a campus on Greenville Avenue at Belmont (then part of the Caruth farm on the outskirts of Dallas), and later to its current home on Welch Road along Forest Lane. Her story is one D Magazine’s 40 greatest ever.

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Why Houston Billionaire John Arnold Is Funding the Dallas ISD Home-Rule Push

Actually, we don’t know for sure why he’s doing it. He’s not talking. Jim Mitchell over at the Morning News asked for an interview about his financial backing for the Support Our Public Schools effort to make Dallas ISD a home-rule district, but he declined.

Arnold probably isn’t eager to be the public face of Support Our Public Schools or to see headlines about how a rich Houstonian is looking to overhaul education in Dallas. (He’s a Hillcrest High School grad, so his interest makes sense from that standpoint.)

But what does Google have to say about him?

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Inside D Magazine’s April 2014 Issue

When Zac Crain set out to profile Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles, the goal was to humanize the man with what could be the hardest job in Dallas. We’d seen his very public flops and read about the troubled district over and over and, yes, over again. But Miles was a bit of a mystery. Who is he? And why is he here while his family is back in Colorado? Oh, and does he have a shot at doing anything productive with DISD? Frankly, a cursory glance of local media, including D Magazine, would have you believe Miles was a lost cause. That disdain, in fact, has already surfaced in the comments of “Who’s Out to Get Mike Miles?

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Leading Off (3/21/14)

Dallas ISD Home-Rule Effort Continues Communication Struggles. Support Our Public Schools hosted three town hall meetings last night to address concerns and to gather petition signatures in support of DISD wresting control of its own affairs from the state. Our own Dan “Killer” Koller was at the Preston Royal library, where state Rep. Jason Villalba and City Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates were among those presenting to an audience “packed in like sardines.” Dan says the event organizers deserve a failing grade for not allowing enough time to take questions or to have a true two-way discussion with those present.

Grand Jury Subpoenas Issued in John Wiley Price Case. A number of associates of the Dallas County commissioner have reportedly been summoned to testify in the FBI’s long-running corruption investigation. It was way back in June 2011 when agents seized $229,000 from Price’s home. This latest news is the first sign of activity in the case since last year.

Kennedale Coach Arrested For Filming Teachers Undressing. Jason Tomlinson allegedly installed a camera under sinks in two faculty bathrooms and captured footage of male and female colleagues using the bathroom, exposing their buttocks and genitals. The camera’s drive contained folders of videos categorized by teachers’ names and with ratings of “fine” or “good.”

Couple Gives Birth to Quintuplets at Baylor. It’s a record delivery for the Dallas hospital — five newborn babies. I already feel sorry for the one boy who’ll have to share his birthday with four sisters.

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Can We Outlaw Adults Sending Sexts to Children?

Recently the case against a 30-year-old teacher in the Everman school district south of Fort Worth for exchanging sexually suggestive texts with a 13-year-old student was dropped by prosecutors. An appeals court in a similar case out of Houston had ruled that the statute with which the man had been charged was unconstitutional. The situation has led to calls from some corners for the legislature to craft a new law that would re-criminalize this behavior.

But Grits for Breakfasts writes that it’ll be difficult to do so without subverting that pesky First Amendment:

So if, as all nine members of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed, “everything” covered by the statute in question was “either already prohibited by other statutes … or is constitutionally protected,” I fail to see how the Lege can rewrite the law in a constitutional fashion. As the CCA noted, longstanding US Supreme Court precedents have held that “Sexual expression which is indecent but not obscene is protected by the First Amendment.”

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Rena Honea and Mike Morath Debate Making DISD a Home-Rule District

Today is D Academy’s education day. We’re holed up in a classroom at Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy. Students were telling me how they’re learning Chinese and might go to Japan. I would like to do both of those things, but no such luck. In any event, as part of the day, Eric Celeste was set to moderate a panel with Mike Morath, District 2 Dallas ISD board member; Rena Honea, Alliance AFT president; and Tarick Ward, who is literally a rocket scientist but now works at Commit! I’m sure this panel would have been perfectly interesting if it had occurred a few weeks ago. But holy hell, it got interesting in light of the current home-rule discussion. Video to come, but for now, here are some highlights.

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Leading Off (3/3/14)

Can Dallas ISD Turn Into a Home-Rule District? Technically, yes, because of a 1995 state law. And the group Support Our Public Schools is trying to do it. On Tuesday, petitioners will meet Dallasites at the primary polls, looking to collect nearly 25,000 signatures. With the necessary signatures, the proposal could get on the ballot as early as November. No specific changes are on the table yet beyond the home-rule proposal, which would allow DISD to largely operate separate of state control. It would be the first district in the state to do so.

Part of Sylvan Thirty Burns Down. The West Dallas project was engulfed in flames (video) Saturday afternoon, setting off a two-alarm fire allegedly started by someone welding inside. The two-story building, the remnants of which will now be torn down, was going to house a yoga studio and a restaurant as one part of the $50 million project.

Steve Blow: Stop It. Just Stop It. It looks like he’s talking to us, all of you in the comments section, and certainly Patrick Kennedy. We all need to stop talking about tearing down I-345 because, “It’s never, ever, not-in-a-million-years going to happen.” Okay then.

Today Could Be the Coldest Day of the Season. That’s according to meteorologist Jesse Moore. Schools are closed, there’s a wind chill advisory until 8 a.m., and it’s cold. Very cold. Stay safe out there. More updates here.

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