The SAGA Pod, Learning Curve-style — DISD, Home Rule, TEI, DHA, SEX, Etc.

By popular some a tiny bit of demand, the SAGA Pod is back! With all new equipment! If this doesn’t address most of Tim’s issues with sound, then I’ll just give up again. But I think we’ve got it figured out. Also, no intro, no outro, no frills. That’s fun the first half-dozen times, but it means every pod takes two hours just to edit. Now, we record, upload, and move on so we I can blog about DISD and Jim can go back to hating Tim. This week it’s all DISD: We talk about: [...]

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FW’s Superintendent Resigns — Why This Means We Should Extend Miles’ Contract

If you haven’t seen this short video from Monday’s FWISD board meeting, do yourself a favor and watch. You might want to start screaming “NO!” as soon as it starts, just to get into the correct frame of mind. After that, head over to Learning Curve to read why I think Walter Dansby’s resignation as FWISD superintendent should signal to the DISD school board that it’s time to give Mike Miles a new contract.

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Poll: Will Merit Pay For Teachers Transform Dallas Schools?

Yesterday on Learning Curve (our new education blog, if you haven’t already heard), Eric wrote about how it’s not the possibility of becoming a home-rule district that is the most significant reform effort under way in Dallas ISD. It’s instead a measure that the school board approved last week: merit pay for teachers.

I’m sure you could guess the basics even before reading the details: The best teachers will be paid significantly more, and the evaluation system will identify the worst teachers:

The program will be watched by educators around the country because it’s designed very differently from similar (often failed) merit-pay plans across the country. (For details on this TEI plan, go here, but bottom line is that a teacher’s performance grade is based 50 percent on classroom performance, 35 percent on student achievement/tests, and 15 percent on student surveys.) Bottom line: this is incredibly important change in the way the district compensates teachers

Do you agree with Eric that this change will lead to positive transformation for DISD?

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D Magazine Debuts Learning Curve, a Blog Dedicated to Education in Dallas

There’s a new blog in the D media empire, and it’s run by little ol’ me. It’s called Learning Curve, and it will be devoted to education in Dallas (Dallas County, actually). I’ll still write for FrontBurner (more often, probably) and write my column for the magazine, but I’ll spend most of mhy time with Learning Curve. I’m very excited not only to have a forum to discuss education topics with you, but also to have a special place where my fans can gather to discuss what a sell-out/tool-of-the-man I am.

Fair warning: although I encourage gratuitous shots at me and/or Tim Rogers (just because), I will be policing the comments to make sure you folks stay on point. Have you seen the comment section of the other eduction blogs in town? It’s like a climate-denier’s convention, only liberal. I’m like you guys, educating myself on these issues as I go along, so I welcome help from folks showing me where I’m off-base. Which we all realize will be often, because I’m not that smart. I grew up in Oklahoma, after all.

With that out of the way, what are you waiting for? Come by, read my first post, bookmark the page, and let’s chat. Maybe we can all learns us a little sumthin.

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Leading Off (5/30/14)

Disaster Averted in Athens. A fire burned down a building that stores ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the same substance that resulted in the deadly explosion last year in West. The place is a block from the town square. Maybe that’s not an advisable location?

Euless Boy Wins National Spelling Bee. Technically 13-year-old Ansun Sujoe is co-champion, having battled another teenager from New York state to a draw. It’s the first time in 52 years that the event concluded with joint title holders. The judges had simply run out of difficult words with which to continue the contest. Sujoe’s final word was “feuilleton,” which is a part of a European newspaper or magazine that caters to popular taste and aims to entertain general readers.

UNT Owes Texas $83.5 million. Apparently the university drew state funds it wasn’t entitled to over the course of a 10-year period to pay benefits and salaries. It’s unknown yet how much of that the school will have repay.

Water Company Padlocks Fire Hydrants. The Lavon Special Utility District took that step, it says, because of water theft. But the city’s police chief isn’t aware of any thefts, and the mayor and fire chief are concerned about public safety in the event of a fire. Firefighters are now carrying bolt cutters.

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Leading Off (5/20/14)

Dallas ISD Trustees Aren’t Happy About Home Rule. Eight of the nine school board members oppose the proposal to transform DISD into a home-rule district, but they are compelled by law to form a committee to draft a home-rule charter for voters to consider. That’s because more than 48,000 signatures were gathered by proponents of home rule. At Monday’s meeting the board outlined its plan for the process of appointing members to the committee, which they have 30 days to create.

Couple Accuses Mailman of Killing Their Dog. Allegedly the postal carrier hit their pet with a rock, shattering its skull and severely injuring its spine. The dog had to be euthanized. The post office is investigating the incident, but stated that in this instance the mailman was defending himself from a dog attack.

Naked Man Jumps Through Sunroof, Attacks Woman. Near the intersection of Zang Boulevard and Oakenwald Street in Oak Cliff, the nude guy dove through the opening on top of a car and started choking the driver and pulling at her hair. This was after he’d already attacked a woman jogging with her baby. Police responded quickly and arrested 23-year-old Nicholas Dyll.

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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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