If Mayor Mike Comes Knockin' On Your Door Tomorrow, He Just Wants You Back in School

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Got a robocall from the Dallas Independent School District last night asking me to help round up any truants I might know of. Sorry, wish I could help. Turns out, it was just a precursor to tomorrow's kick-off of Operation Graduation, which is now in its fourth year and involves city and district officials spending a Saturday morning knocking on doors of identified "potential dropouts" and asking them to come back to class. (Though, as I seem to recall, last year it was called Operation Comeback.)

Tomorrow morning at 8:30., Mayor Mike Rawlings, DISD Interim Superintendent Alan King, DISD board president Lew Blackburn and other higher-ups will meet and greet the media at H. Grady Spruce High School before fanning out to begin their knock-knocks. Says the district's release, Rawlings, Blackburn and King get Pleasant Grove. City Hall says Dwaine Caraway and wife Barbara, Pauline Medrano, Tennell Atkins, Monica Alonzo and trustee Nancy Bingham will take everywhere else. What -- the other trustees and council members too busy?

A note from the mayor's office says this started in Houston in '04 and spread out statewide, and since then "close to 10,000 students have returned to school thanks to this collaborative effort between school districts and local elected officials." I asked DISD spokesman and noted pianist Jon Dahlander if he had specific numbers for DISD. He went to find them and came back with this:

In '08, according to Dahlander, the district got 84 kids back to school during the month-long initiative. Eight-two returned in '09, and another 85 went back to class last year.

"What you have to remember is the event on Saturday is a three-hour event," he tells Unfair Park. "And it's helpful to raise awareness, obviously, but the initiative continues through the month of September, and getting one student back is great. Getting 15 is great. To get 80, that's even better. It's a lot of work to go through this, especially this year, as we have a new mayor and interim superintendent, and there was some discussion of should we even do it. But after careful consideration and knowing its impact, then the decision was made: Yes, let's go for it. So they'll be up there tomorrow, kicking it off, but it'll continue through Friday, September 30."

I asked: How does the initiative work following Saturday's round-up? Dahlander explains: "Calls will be made to the homes where students are listed as being enrolled but have not shown up."

Then there's the obvious question: Why not do this year-round?

"Then you'd create an office that does nothing but that," he says. "At some point you have to get them in school and start the learning process, and if they're not coming back by September 30, chances are they aren't coming up. But that's why we have some of the reconnection centers. And they can always come back. But as at some point it becomes difficult, because many have moved on to different places."

Alas, Dahlander says the district doesn't have hard stats on whether or not those kids brought back during Operation Graduation actually stay in school.
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11 comments
Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

We wait until September because on more little dirty secret in DISD is they have to wait until irresponsible parents get off their butts or back into town to get their kids into class. I had THREE show up in the THIRD week of school. Where were they? Uhhhh, not in school, is all they would say.

If your kid is enrolled, truancy should start on DAY ONE. And with all respect to Dahlender, maybe that is ONE OFFICE that should be created, given we have SO MANY dropouts. We volunteer, gladly, to round 'em up. But how can you look an 18 yr old in the eye and convince him to come back to school--with only freshmen credits---when he is already working to support his TWO children by his also dropout girlfriend?

See, that is the part of this equation missing when teachers, or even the DISD gets the blame. Sorry, nobody MADE him get his girl pregnant a second time before her 18th birthday. Nobody MADE him dropout, when both are still living at home.

Choices THEY make affect MY job. MY campus, OUR district.

Tom S
Tom S

The efforts of the district/school administrators to get the students into the class rooms is for several reasons....  1. It's there job!  2. If the students aren't in class, their grades are poor!  3.Teacher and administrators performance are based on grades!  3. Required test scores, that reflect on teachers and administrators, will be poor!  4. Financial reimbursements to the schools are based on daily attendance ($31.50/day?)In other words, if the kids don't do well, it reflects on the school, the teachers and the administrators!  Their raises, in most areas, are based on performance.  In other words, everybody looses!

Bart
Bart

Well Mayor Mike needs to start with the thugs at Tigermart whose parents voted for him....so yeah, I forgot they don't vote-- Kathy Nealey votes for them for $275,000. 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

How many of the kids who returned in any given year finished the year?How many of the kids who returned in any given year graduated?

As your last sentence makes clear, that info isn't given out.

Photo ops and propaganda (look at all we're doing to help these kids!) belongs to an earlier era.  Citizens today are savvy enough to go to blogs, etc to get the truth behind the facade.

If Rawlings and trustees want to donate this many hours to DISD, they could be using the time to address more important issues.

Maybe you could ask them if any of them plan to meet with teachers some Saturday morning in a forum where teachers can ask questions and make suggestions.  

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Why don't you go to the next board meeting, having signed up earlier, and SPEAK about this to them? Or, sign up to speak beofre the City Council, or write them a letter?

You often bring up good ideas in your comments.... come out in the open and be one of the brave. Loo, after 13 years, I am still around the DISD. If you teach well, and I bet you do, they cannot touch you. They want us to think they can, but they cannot. As long as what we say is constructive, ifnormative or challenging, go for it!!

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

It is not me I am concerned about.It is the retaliation my spouse and children could suffer--especially my spouse.They would go after his business.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Again, its all about those federal tax dollars the district will lose if they dont keep the kids in school. Instead of wasting a saturday and these kids time, why not try some innovative ideas to keep those at risk in school, like allowing these young folks the ability to study on-line in their own time thoughout the week or teaching them an actual skill/trade via work-study programs or internships that provide them a path to a HS Diploma and a Cert they can use after the graduate.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

Not just that...we lose $31.50 per kid per day (reimbursement rate) who are not in class. DISD has an average attendance of 92% at best.  This year they are still 2,000 kids short of projected attendance.  8% of 157,000 is 12,560 kiddos.... times $31.50 is $395,640 per DAY.  At the start of the year the numbers are less than the 8%. Most districts around us have higher average attendance rates 96%-98%

AintNoSunshine
AintNoSunshine

RW -

Where has Schutze been this week? Did you lock him up in the basement again???

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

He's been 'round. Just not yesterday or today. And today is Hot Fudge Friday.

http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...

Don't know about next week. He's working on a cover story. And he can't squeeze in blog items whilst doing so. Not good at multitasking.

AintNoSunshine
AintNoSunshine

Gotcha! Thanks. We need our fix every week, ya know! 

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