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Leading Off (2/27/15)

Winter Is (Still) Coming. The forecast calls for snow this morning, freezing rain tomorrow.

Trustees Interrogate Dallas ISD Staff on Hiring. For more than three hours the board put questions to administrators over whether they told the truth about the purpose of $6.4 million approved in October for the hiring of teachers. Some believed the superintendent’s explanation, some did not.

And the Hits Keep Coming For DISD. The Morning News reports that Texas Education Agency investigators found 60 district employees had not been fingerprinted and that an additional 120 had been fingerprinted but not in the correct way. Proper fingerprinting is necessary to conduct criminal background checks. Furthermore, according to the TEA report, Superintendent Mike Miles submitted a statement saying that DISD was in compliance with fingerprinting requirements even though an internal district audit had indicated otherwise.

Lancaster Police Release Report on Dez Bryant Incident. Rumors of an incriminating video featuring the Dallas Cowboys receiver led to media requests for information about what happened in that Walmart parking lot in 2011. According to the cops, there was no offense committed, and they have no video of what occurred. Could there be any less news in this news?

Mockingbird Pedestrian Bridge May Finally Get Built. The project, providing a path for pedestrians and cyclists over the six-lane street, is a key link in the plan to extend the Katy Trail. City officials have said construction should begin this fall.

Congressman Pushes For Chris Kyle to Get Medal of Honor. Republican Roger Williams of Cleburne introduced a bill Thursday proposing the late American Sniper receive the prestigious award for his Iraq War exploits. He’s probably got a better shot at this than he did the Best Picture Oscar, anyway.

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Poll: Are Schools Too Quick to Call a Snow Day?

When I was a kid, I don’t think school ever got called off a day in advance due to the weather. We always had to wake up as early as usual to find out if we were among the lucky districts to get time off.

Maybe I’m misremembering, but it seems to be a phenomenon of the past several years to have shutdowns declared before a storm has even arrived. I’m probably misremembering. But what do you think?

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The Most Clear and Present Danger to DISD: Bernadette Nutall

If you read the Morning News, you might think that former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins investigated DISD trustee Bernadette Nutall and determined that she did nothing wrong. Really, you should read that story. Because then you’ll be able to appreciate a post that Eric just put up on LearningCurve that lays out what has actually happened here. Eric’s post is not short. Gird your loins before you click. But it’s worth the effort. After reading it, I can’t help but wonder if Nutall is the single biggest problem at the district. She is simply amazing.

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SAGA Pod: Jim Schutze on DISD, DMN, and Mayor Mike’s Money

Jim Schutze stops by the World SAGA Pod Headquarters to discuss all things DISD: the current HR scandal, a huge DISD effort not covered by the local media (warning: I say bad words), and how Mike Miles has survived every attempt to run him out of town. Then we segue to talk about the squishy accounting system used by Mayor Mike Rawlings and endorsed by City Hall: where sitting officeholders can take as much money as they want from rich people, but the folks running against him are limited on how much they can take. Nice gig if you can get it!

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Helping the City Council Understand What DISD Really Needs From a City Partnership

James Ragland wrote a column the other day that said (as summarized by his headline writer) that he was against DISD drama but for game-changing ideas in education. And I thought, me too! (Semi-related, things I’m also for: game-changing ideas in politics, religion, space traveling, weight losing, ninja training, tile laying, #longforming, Tim irritating, and gaming.) Ragland then pointed out some game-changing ideas that are to be discussed today in the game-changingest venue one can imagine: a joint DISD-City Council task force meeting.

Now, I’m all for making the city more accountable in fixing DISD’s problems. (Thus, the 10k-plus words I spilled over on Learning Curve in making suggestions to the Home Rule Commission, some of which dealt directly with ways to make Dallas and the other 15 cities that DISD touches have more skin in the game. But that ship has sailed.) But I also want to make sure the city is focusing on helping in ways that make sense. So I just wanted to provide a little context for today’s meeting. […]

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Leading Off (1/23/15)

High-Speed Rail Line Likened to Berlin Wall. Judging by the responses we’ve seen in the comments of previous articles about the possibility, Dallas residents seem generally excited about the prospect of a high-speed rail line being built that will mean Houston is just 90 minutes away by train. But WFAA spoke with several Ellis County landowners who are none too excited about their property being divided by the project.

Prime Prep to Merge With Another School. The struggling charter academy, co-founded by former NFL star Deion Sanders, will reportedly hook up with another Oak Cliff campus, Triple A Academy. It’s not clear whether Triple A’s recent 117-10 basketball win had anything to do with the decision.

Cowboys Fan Sues NFL For $88 Billion. Terry Hendrix is upset about the officials’ reversal of Dez Bryant’s catch during this year’s playoff game against the Green Bay Packers, claiming damages for the league’s “negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and also reckless disregard.” The hand-written lawsuit was filed on Wednesday. Also of note, Hendrix is incarcerated in a Colorado correctional institution.

Dogs Mysteriously Disappearing in Wise County. And there’s “not one shred of physical evidence that proves the dogs were taken.” Has the pet rapture begun?

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D Magazine Contest Winner Memorializes Young Wylie Soccer Player

Throughout 2014, D Magazine held a series of giveaways for some pretty great prizes. In December the contest was centered around the “Season of Giving.” The winner would get to choose a charity to which a $2,000 donation would be made via the Communities Foundation of Texas.

The folks at CFT — who work with the people raising money for many worthy causes — were so moved by the story of the winner of our contest that they suggested we tell you a little bit more about her and her family. So that’s what I’m going to do.

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One HPISD Parent Is Still Trying To Ban The Working Poor

Last fall, Highland Park ISD superintendent Dawson Orr suspended seven books following parent complaints. Amazingly, he did this during Banned Books Week. That decision, and its timing, probably would have gotten national attention on its own, but Orr made it even easier by making David K. Shipler’s The Working Poor: Invisible in America one of the books. An incredibly rich school district effectively banning a book about poverty in America — throw in some B-roll footage, leave some space for a little Jon Stewart riffing, and The Daily Show segment is almost locked. Orr subsequently reinstated the books, and the district’s policy on how it selects books and how it handles challenges to those selections is being reviewed. (Thanks to the Morning News‘ Melissa Repko for covering this story so well.)

It seemed like the incident was coming to a mostly positive conclusion. But now it comes out that one parent is still unhappy that Shipler’s The Working Poor is being taught to juniors in Advanced Placement English III.

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DMN Reveals Its Bias About DISD

Let’s say you just received the results of a survey. For the sake of argument, let’s say the survey asked whether people agree with, disagree with, or are neutral toward the statement “Overall, pornography is headed in the right direction.” Let’s say 48 percent of respondents agreed, 26 percent disagreed, and 26 percent were neutral.

Now let’s say you wanted to report those results on your website. How would you write that headline? Would you write, “A majority of respondents are neutral or disagree that porn is headed in the right direction”? Or would you write, “A majority of respondents are neutral or agree that porn is headed in the wrong direction”?

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Dallas ISD Climate Survey Mostly Good News for District

The fall 2014 DISD “campus climate” survey was just released, and as you can see from the chart above (click to embiggen), the top-line numbers reveal mostly good news for the district. A whopping 85 percent of teachers filled it out. I know this isn’t what you’d expect if you subscribe to the local media narrative, but it doesn’t surprise me that much. A friend was talking to two DISD assistant principals yesterday, and both said that Miles had been much better this year about communicating with and listening to campus leadership. But, you know, you can choose to ignore this and wallow in the status-quo muck if you so desire. Free country. Here are the full results, btw.

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SMU in Violation of Title IX

The U.S. Department of Education has determined that SMU has violated the federal law prohibiting gender-based discrimination. The Morning News reports:

Investigators determined that SMU violated Title IX “by failing to promptly and equitably respond to student complaints of gender-based harassment and sexual violence, including sexual assault, and to reports of retaliatory harassment,” according to a Thursday news release.

In one case, investigators found that SMU did not respond “promptly and equitably” to a complaint of a sexual assault of a male student by another male student. The student withdrew from SMU after other students harassed and retaliated against him.

They also found SMU’s sexual harassment and sexual violence policies and nondiscrimination notice didn’t comply with Title IX requirements, according to the news release.

SMU has already reached an agreement on steps it can take to comply with the law, including revision of its grievance procedures, and the university’s official response to the Morning News tried to spin the news as a positive (which is what PR departments are supposed to do.)

“We appreciate OCR’s recognition of the new policies and procedures SMU has implemented prior to and during its investigation, as well as recognition of the work of the President’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct. Although we take issue with some of OCR’s conclusions and generalizations, we look forward to taking additional actions as outlined. The well-being of our students is our highest priority.”

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