DISD Trustee Bernadette Nutall Tells Jubilee Parkers: "I Wouldn't Want Anybody to Take My Home."

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Bernadette Nutall
As expected at 9 this morning, nearly 20 folks assembled in a briefing room at Dallas Independent School District's Ross Avenue HQ to hear what -- if anything -- District 9 school board trustee Bernadette Nutall would have to say about DISD's plans to exercise eminent domain to acquire property for a new O.M. Roberts Elementary School. Most in attendance were residents, though two long-time employees of Vickery Wholesale Greenhouse were there on behalf of owner Pat Berry, who was in Austin on business.

Nutall was the only trustee who showed up. She was flanked by Arnold Viramontes, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's chief of staff, and Rawly Sanchez, the deputy chief of staff. Naturally, Jack Elrod, DISD's general counsel, was there as well.

Nutall started off by explaining that she was a relatively new trustee and wasn't on the board when the 2008 bond package was approved. Nutall admitted she was trying to "get caught up to speed" on the issue, saying: "I'm trying to figure out what's best for ... DISD and what's best for the residents, and ultimately, for the children."

"Who all wants to stay in their homes?" Nutall asked the residents, inviting them to raise their hands. All the residents in the room held their hands high.

"No matter what price?" Nutall pressed. No. No takers.

Shawn Busari was the first Jubilee Park resident to speak, and she provided a brief recap the history of the neighborhood and of the events that have transpired since the residents first heard that DISD was interested in their properties.

"I need you all to understand and know the human side of this," Busari said.

After a few more residents unloaded their stories on the DISD folks, Nutall interjected.

"I see both sides of it," Nutall said. "I see that the school [was built in] 1909, it's an old school." Nutall said, yes, without a doubt it needs improvements.

"But I also understand that it's easier said than done, that we can go and say, 'I'll give you this for your house, and you'll find another house.' I see. I see. I wouldn't want anybody to take my home, because I wouldn't know where to go, so I understand that, when your home is your home. Whether I like your home or dislike it, that's your home, that's where you've done your birthday parties, your celebrations.

"I hear your concerns -- you don't want to move," she continued.

Then, turning to look at Elrod, she said, "So, you know, we need to maybe stop all negotiations here. They say they don't want to move. Let's, let's leave that alone and then, I, I don't know, it's up to the attorneys." She told Elrod, Sanchez and Viramontes, "I just ask you to really look at it and really figure out what's best."

Then, Nutall and the DISD staffers heard the stories of several Spanish-speaking residents, who'd been given English-only contracts, which some had signed. With Rawly Sanchez serving as translator, they told Nutall they felt as though they'd been pressured into signing the contracts because no way they'd beat the district, simple as that. One said he was told, "You're fighting against the government," They also say they were told they shouldn't waste their time or money hiring attorneys.

To which Nutall responded: "Everybody needs to be treated fair, consistent and legal, we have to be that way. If the people that we're hiring and paying are not doing that, then they don't need to be doing it, because we wouldn't be at this place today, if we'd handled things aboveboard and were fair, legal and consistent with everybody -- regardless of if they speak limited English or if don't have anybody to fight for [them]." (We've left three messages for attorney Florentino Ramirez, the attorney Dallas has hired to handle land acquisition in Jubilee Park).

"I agree," Elrod said.

After the residents spoke, Mark Mathie, the attorney who's representing a handful of the residents pro bono, weighed in. He explained that the residents were being handled in a "piecemeal" fashion.

Mathie pointed to a DISD plaque hung on the wall of the meeting room, and then read it to the DISD folks. "Frankly, your thing here says, 'We believe that our school district must be a model for sound fiscal responsibility and integrity,'" he said -- and, yes, it was a moment of out of a movie. He called the district out for its handling of the Jubilee Park residents, and went on to ask for a "standstill on the condemnations."

Nutall told Mathie and the residents, "I trust Mr. Viramontes and Mr. Elrod that they do what they say and mean what they say and that they're going to follow up and look at all options. Is that what we agree, at the end?"

She was answered by nods of agreement and an "absolutely" or two.

"Look into it," she charged them. "Look into all the stuff that's gone on, to make sure that we are good business people -- that, at DISD, we are handling our business professionally."

"We will look at all the different alternatives," Viramontes said. "My supposition right now is that we have looked at all of the alternatives, but I will verify, and make sure that we go through all of those again."

Then it was time for the DISD folks to start passing out business cards to the residents. The residents and Mathie left saying they appreciated the district lending an ear to their questions and concerns.

"For now, I'll take them at their word," Mathie said.
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10 comments
Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green

District 9 Board Member Bernadette Nuttall has set a poor example as a DISD District 9 representative. Facts show this is the poorest performing district in Standardize testing, and graduation rate. In addition, since the departure of former superintendent Michael Hinojosa the district has not shown any improvements in Standardize testing, and improved graduation rates for Seniors. Nevertheless, Bernadette Nuttall disrupts a Board Meeting and challenges the New superintendent Mike Miles Plan for change. It is clear, a number of teachers in this District are poor performers, it is clear many of the teachers at poor performing schools in District 9 are not challenging students to becoming critical thinkers. Also, its apparent Ms. Nuttall has not placed any focus on holding the parents accountable for working with teachers to ensure assigned work is completed, and turned in, along with implementing programs through volunteers to assist poor performing schools. Nonetheless, Ms. Nuttall has refused to work with Mr. Miles to give his programs a chance to succeed in DISD. Ms.Nuttall appears to have lost her focus on who she is representing, the students and not herself. Mike Miles comes with a proven record, lets give him a chance. And she has children who can't read, or function on an adult level. Ms. Nuttall needs to realize shouting and acting ghetto is out, done, old and merits nothing, we need representation.  

Rena DeLaRosa
Rena DeLaRosa

Dan Carter....said it all!! DISD...listen up...Abort this mission.. and find another way to spend your Bond monies...the children are at the front.. but please do not put out families and a business that has been in East Dallas for years... O.M.Roberts was my school, as was N.R.Crozier Tech ( rembember that school DISD?? sold a bit of Dallas History for what?)... enough said.. DISD.. this is not good...Just my opinion.. R.DeLaRosa

Pam
Pam

There is something very wrong with the govt that feels that uprooting families and businesses is ok. There is a LOT of land available for a new school. There are more alternatives out there for DISD than there are for the homeowners and a landmark like Vickery Greenhouse. WHAT IS POSSESSING YOU DISD???? Thank you Ms. Nutall.

Dan Carter
Dan Carter

Why are we at this point? 24+ homeowners and an agricultural business which has been in this location since 1952, all teetering on the brink of destruction.

I'm growing weary of hearing some Texans say they can do "whatever" simply "because we can".

Why do we fly the Texas flag at the same height as the U.S. flag? "Because we can!"

Why do we invoke archaic Eminent Domain laws to build new schools in distressed, drug-infested neighborhoods while destroying the ONE business in the area which has stood the test of time and been a model of all that is good about America? "Because we can!"

Why do we, in the same neighborhood, destroy the twilight years of those whom have brought us through war and economic upheaval at great personal expense and suffering over the years? "Because we can!"

Why do we, in the same neighborhood, ignore the FACT that this eminent domain action will cause the loss of thousands of jobs in the Texas agricultural industry, adding to the already overstressed rolls of the unemployed? The soon-to-be unemployed will swell the rolls of those receiving unemployment compensation, costing the state of Texas and the Federal government even MORE in unemployment claims and Federal emergency unemployment payouts. Why? Because we can!

I don't give a hoot that you can, Dallas ISD. What we want to see from you is an outbreak of common sense and an admission that you did NOT do your homework in this case.

I want to see you reconsider now, before more time, effort, and taxpayer's monies are wasted in pursuing this renovation/expansion!

Hopefully, Burnadette Nutall is not merely a sacrificial lamb sent to a community meeting to buy time by the DISD in order to steamroll our citizens and our businesses with false hopes, only to find her junior status carries no clout. Let's see a DISD proclamation by majority supporting the evaluation of alternatives!

Mr. Viramontes and Mr. Elrod... there are indeed alternatives. There are alternative sites and properties. There is the alternative to raze the old school and build a new, multi-story school of adequate capacity on the same site which can meet and exceed the needs of the community, while keeping Vickery Wholesale Greenhouse in business and available to work with the school to provide a unique hands-on partnership of agricultural and business training to the students. Why in the world would you deprive our children of this golden opportunity???

Fix this. Now.

Wade Rowland
Wade Rowland

Thank you to the mayor for forcing DISD to send Ms. Nutall to hear the people of Jubilee Park voice their concerns. Let's hope that her sympathetic response is sincere and that she can truly help an entire neighborhood be victimized by a group of people who are crass and corrupt enough to abuse the power entrusted to them. Thank you, too, Ms. Nutall.

Anonymous
Anonymous

It's great that Ms. Nutall is speaking out, what's sad is that she'll be the only one.

Robbin Voight
Robbin Voight

Wow, finally someone from DISD surfaces to speak on this fiasco. Way to go Ms. Nutall for having the courage and backbone to do so. Knowing you'll catch flak. It's encouraging atleast that the "divide and conquer" (let's add pilage and plunder), mentality at DISD can possibly be tamed, so something productive can start to happen for these homeowners and this long standing business.

This is one of the most disadvantaged areas of the city, attracting a documented high crime rate.If this school is going to be a 22 million "state of the art" facility... it better have a tall fence and razor wire around it. Is the city prepared for the increased police attention it will spend? Not the best environment for an elementary school. There's got to be a better place for these little ones.

Jd
Jd

Disd must find a place for all the non english speaking students to go.

BootHill
BootHill

Ms. Nutall is a true gem. She is sincere and I believe she wants to do the right thing. Now for the "however"...she is only one trustee of nine. Her power to affect change by herself is limited. These meetings with property owners should have been held long ago - perhaps they were? But Viramontes knows that this is a "done deal" and any "review" will be insincere and behind closed doors - the residents will be moved out, like it or not. As a public governmental agency, DISD can use eminent domain to do pretty much whatever they want...as long as a "fair value" is paid for the properties in question. And, DISD has to keep spending that construction bond money, doesn't it?....

Anne
Anne

I was at that meeting. Mrs. Nutall is the first one to speak up and ask DISD to take a good look at what is going on. Thank You Mrs. Nutall, we hope the powers that be do what they say they are going to do. Everyone except the DISD know the taking of the lone businees and homes is wrong.

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