Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dallas ISD Making Progress - Finally?

The Dallas Independent School District has hired a new Superintendent, Mike Miles.  He comes to the district from Colorado Springs.  His first actions coming into the district have already got people howling in outrage - which is a good thing ...

The Dallas ISD has been a lousy school district for many years.  It is a money pit, with hundreds of millions of dollars being funneled into it with poor results.  Much of the infrastructure is old and failing.  Quality of the education given to the students is sub-standard, and getting worse.

The district is heavily minority, as is the city of Dallas proper.  A large percentage of the school population is made up of illegal aliens, many of who can't speak English. 

The last Superintendent was pretty much a place holder.  He was a minority.  He did a decent job of dealing with some tough budget cuts, but did so by making the smallest number of changes to the district that he could get away with.  There was no fundamental change, no reform undertaken under his rule, nothing done to address the future - just enough to get by.

The Superintendent before him was also minority, and was run out of town after it came to light she was stealing from the district, using district accounts to buy furniture for her house.

I am not blaming their failures on them being minorities.  I am saying that the District's priority in seeking a Superintendent seems to put the largest weight on the color of the candidate's skin, in order to please the parents in the District.  Mr. Miles is a minority.

Unlike his predecessors, however, Mr. Miles seems to be coming in like a lion of reform.  His first edict - 68 current employees, the majority of which are senior executive administrators, will have to re-apply for their positions.  The new structure only has 36 positions.  11 positions currently classified as open will be eliminated.  This means that 79 high level positions are going to be consolidated into 36 - that's cutting out a whole lot of FAT!  If DISD's administration is that overloaded with positions, it explains why the district continues to have millions of dollars of shortfalls each year.

I don't know what these positions make, but being executive level, I will venture a guess an average of $100K each.  Eliminating 33 of them would save about $3,300,000 a year!

The outrage is already happening, and this policy was just announced.  Teachers and principals and union representatives have been calling local radio shows and news outlets - anyone who will lend them an ear, to protest the unfairness of this.  They are all afraid that once the top level review is done, it will move down towards the principals, and then to the teachers themselves.  They are universally opposed to submitting themselves for a performance review.  I actually heard someone claiming to be a current teacher on a local radio program protest that he had been in the district for 12 years, and that he should be guaranteed a position because of that - not because of how well he does his job.

All we hear from Education, all across the nation, is that there is not enough money.  That is out and out BULLSHIT.  We are spending more moeny on Education now than any other time in our history.  More money per student is being sucked out of the taxpayers than ever before.  The problem isn't how much money is being spent, it is how it is being spent and wasted.  The fat in the Education system, especially in administration and support, is horrendous.  We don't hear about it, and we don't see any effort to change it, because those who would be caught by reform are members of unions or other voting blocks that Democrats depend on.

Mr. Miles' approach is refreshing.  I hope he is successful, and I hope he is able to weather the storm of controversy he will endure over trhe coming months.  Will he actually reform the district, or will he fall into the same good old teacher club that has sucked in those who came before him?  The kids deserve the former.

Update, June 6 - The Dallas Morning News today, front page, reports that Miles is paying his top level team a very large amount of money.  His Chief of Staff will make 225K.  His Chief of Ops will make 220K.  His Chief of Talent will make 182K (what the hell is a Chief of Talent?).  His Chief of Communications will make 185K.  This in addition to the 300K+ Miles is making himself.  That's about a million and a half dollars a year for 5 people.

This has sparked outrage in Dallas.  The current Chief of Police expressed dismay when he found out that all five of these people make more money than he does.  The biggest outrage seems to center on Jennifer Sprague, the new Chief of Communications.  This position is basically the DISD's PR person. 

Also buried in the story was this little gem - 38 positiions in the DISD make over $180,000 per year!

I am sure the front line teacher who makes about $40K, pays for kids' supplies out of their own pocket, and has to look over their shoulder constantly wondering if they are going to be laid off due to budget cuts, appreciates the sacrifices made by these administrators.

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