Residence Evil: DISD Trustees Can't Decide Which Employees Should Actually Live in Dallas

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Container Store co-founder Garrett Boone and the Star Employee Commission told the Dallas ISD trustees last month that the HR department was ... how did they put it ... well, let's just go with completely, totally and utterly effed. (Look, my kid reads Unfair Park, all right?) And they offered page after page after page of suggestions on how to fix the effing thing. Which got interim superintendent Alan King all hot and bothered. Said he: "[I want to] implement everything I can that doesn't cost anything or require board approval."

One of the commission's recommendations said that only the superintendent of the district should be required to live in the district; everyone else would be free to live wherever they want. The reason: "Residency requirements for top leadership restricts the district from hiring quality candidates," said the commission.

But -- shocking -- the board actually can't agree on who should live where. The proposed policy rewrite involving residency requirements is below, but God knows what it'll look like after the trustees make their myriad amendments to the single sheet of paper. Long story short? This proposal ...
The Superintendent of Schools shall be a bona fide resident of the District, unless otherwise stated in the original contract or subsequent renewal contracts of the Superintendent.
... will now read like this:
The Superintendent of Schools shall be a bona fide resident of the District.
And somewhere in there, it might say that the chiefs who report directly to the super also have to live in the city limits. Then again, maybe it won't. Because as far as some trustees, such as Eric Cowan and Nancy Bingham, are concerned, forcing top-level DISD employees to live within the Dallas city limits could keep some top-notch people outta 3700 Ross.

"We're trying to get top talent," Bingham said. "We often say, 'These have to live here, these don't.' One of the mantras we hear is, 'Who's most important? The teacher and principals.' And there's no requirement for them to live in DISD. ... [So] if it means going 10 minutes outside the city limits and robbing the suburbs, let's steal 'em blind. They've been doing it to us for years. ... I don't care where anybody lives except the trustees, because this is an elected position." To limit where someone lives, she said, means sacrificing a "huge talent pool." And why, she asked, "Because we've always done it this way?"

Cowan put it another way: Far as he's concerned, this is "about attracting the top talent regardless of zip code, regardless of race, regardless of gender." At which point he offered a hypothetical, which is always a fun exercise.

"Let's say we get a HR executive from JCPenny in Plano who wants to come to DISD and help us figure out our HR department. Let's say their spouse live in Richardson and has three kids -- 8, 12 and 16 ...." Anyway. You get the picture.

"Are we really going to say, 'We think you're the best person for the job but we require you and your family to move 30 minutes south?'" Cowan said. He said most folks are either motivated by one of two things: pay or pride. (Or, one would hope, both.) "That's it. If I was a chief looking at a high-paying executive job I would question the district's motivation in hiring me if they required me to live in Dallas."

Carla Ranger, but of course, wants the super to live in Dallas: "The superintendent has to be accessible, has to be visible, and staying in the district gives credibility among parents and stakeholders." Bernadette Nutall would prefer everyone in the district live in Dallas -- even the teachers." Teachers, back in the day, when they lived in the community and worked in the community, you had a sense of community."

But in the end, it was the normally moribund Bruce Parrott was most vocal on the subject.

"I'm vested in Dallas," he said, his voice rising to the level of the living. "All of us are vested.
Anybody who's top staff -- superintendent and anyone underneath him -- I would like them to live in Dallas. They have to have skin in the game when it comes to the issues. Teachers, I don't think so. The story I hear, and I understand, is in some cases they can't afford to live in certain areas of Dallas. So that doesn't bother me. We're just talking about the very top. ... [But] I want to live here. This is my town. This is my school district, and I want to live here for a reason."

Back and forth and back and forth they went, agreeing on everything and nothing. The board will vote on this policy in two weeks. What'll it look like? Who knows.DISD Residency Policy Rewrite

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20 comments
OC Banshee
OC Banshee

I guess Mr. Cowan and Ms.Bingham think no one of any quality live in or would live in Dallas.  I suppose they are including themselves. Perhaps they will join Mr. Blackburn and move. 

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

I firmly believe that anyone getting a paycheck from a governmental entity should have to be under the jurisdiction of that entity. There is too much conflict of interest otherwise.

That said, in order to fight inertia the district should offer tiered compensation levels. Someone who lives in the district will be paid at a higher level than someone who does not. I'm not saying cut anyone's pay. I'm saying offer more pay to people who invest in the district.

Logically, the more teachers and employees who live in the district the larger the tax base will be. It will probably not "pay for itself", but in negotiating "performance pay" could this not be considered? Coercion, not penalties?

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

The superintendent is the primary ambassador of the district.  Regardless of skills, appearances matter.  I want a super whose kids are in the same boat as mine, or if they don't have school-age kids, at least s/he's paying the same taxes as I do.

As for the next tier of top management (executive chiefs or whatever they call it these days), they should be encouraged to move in, but I wouldn't require it.  What I would require is actual knowledge of education and experience running a district.  No more military stunt hires, or CEO's of two-person companies.

WatchingSouth Detroit
WatchingSouth Detroit

They keep talking about "top talent" and "quality candidates".  But from the continuing corruption, mismanagement, inefficiency, political in fighting, plain incompetence, and just lack of simple common sense, where is this "top talent" and "quality"?  It surely doesn't exist in DISD.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

I can see making the Superintendent live in the district (since he represents the district in many ways and is likely either already living in the district or moving from far away), but not the rest. It does limit your pool of candidates when you require the candidate to move. As DISD Teacher pointed out, Hinojosa's house hasn't sold yet. So, if you are currently living outside of the district, and you want one of these top tier jobs, you have to weight the following factors:1. Can you sell your house quickly enough to keep the job?2. Is it worth uprooting your kids and moving them away from their friends? Quite often, by the time you have reached this career level, you have kids in middle and/or high school. Having been through that kind of move in high school, I would not want to do that to my kids.

The question is, does DISD want the best people they can get for the jobs or the best people they can get for the jobs who are willing to move to DISD?

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

We don't care where they live as long as they would quit screwing around with our money, our jobs and our lives.

peanutgalleryallergy
peanutgalleryallergy

They need to sign an oath saying their kids, grandkids, and on and on....will have to attend the worst performing schools in the district.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Make all administative and trustees live in Dallas.  Plain and simple.  Now beat it into the trustee's thick heads who will try to argue thier way out of this.

Montemalone
Montemalone

They should not only live in the district, but their kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, adoptees, whatever should be required to attend classes in the district.That would get results.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Nancy Bingham.  Puh-lease.Funny, Nancy, how we have to have "top talent" (with super-high salaries) everywhere but the classroom.  

Also, living in DISD boundaries is not the best investment.  There is a limit to how many people can afford to buy an expensive home AND pay for private school.  That limits your resale.

I believe Hinojosa's house has still not been sold even though he's moved to Georgia (where they recently slapped him down for trying to bring in TFA without private funding)...sound familiar?

Cobb County wouldn't have it, but DISD trustees just opened our wallets for TFA.

RC
RC

I  guess this explains why there are top level Dallas City Hall employees who live everywhere BUT Dallas.

Ross3700
Ross3700

If it's only the top administrators you are only talking about 4 or 5 folks.  It seems that they can have it both ways.  Require the top few to live in the district and then give a waiver to those that don't.  That's how the TEA handles the schools...sets a rule then waives it...if it ain't broke....

Rhinosaur
Rhinosaur

You only have to look as far as the article below this one to find Exhibit A as to why DISD employees need NOT live in the district.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

I think you need to look up the definitions of "conflict of interest" and "coercion". 

That said, it's an interesting idea, but it couldn't be funded at the level to make it effective.

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

The thing is, the best people aren't in Collin County, they are in Boston or Miami or Seattle. If we want "the best" that requires a nationwide talent search. There is no reason not to require a transplant to settle in the district within, say 10 months.

And for the people moving up from mid-level HR in Richardson to top-level HR in Dallas, those people are already given a year to move into the district. More than enough time to sell a house.

Also, DISD housing stock sells in a shorter "days on market" than just about every suburb outside of LBJ. Hinijosa's house is a one off.

WatchingSouth Detroit
WatchingSouth Detroit

Also make it that the kids have to attend DISD schools - does no good if their kids attend some fancy private schools.

Guest
Guest

 I don't think we should be hiring people who hate children that much.  It might be ok to hire people who hate their own children enough to move into the DISD, but other people's children?  That's just too much.

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

This story is not about City Hall. Did you not even read the headline?

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

You're very right. I have been using "coercion" incorrectly my whole life! I have always meant it to mean what I know find out is "moral suasion": an appeal for altruistic behavior.

I do stand by conflict of interest. A person living in RISD will find a boost in their property value over the 'free market value' as long as adjacent DISD neighborhoods are considered riskier (a perfect example is the 9700 block of Shoreview Rd). If that person is a teacher then they find themselves with competing economic agendas. On the one hand, they want to perform well and earn more money via their paycheck. On the other hand, they want their largest investment, property, to out perform the market.

I acknowledge that this is not a tangible process that suburban resident teachers go through, but it is there nonetheless. I'm not saying any DISD employee is tanking the system for this reason. I am saying that it's a conflict of interest that could be addressed through "moral suasion".

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Tnank you WatchiingSouth Detroit-that too is a great idea!

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