Ten Things We Learned from Last Night's Dallas ISD Forum at the Kessler Theater

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Dominic Jackson: DISD product, NYU bound.
In the spirit of last night's D-slash-TED-slash-SMU DISD Education Forum at the Kessler -- which asked each school board candidate one and only one randomly drawn question -- here are some rapid-fire observations from an evening that, while admirably efficient, was over not long after it started.

1. School Board Politics Still Aren't That Sexy
While the Dallas Independent School District and its travails seem to have become trendy among businessmen and mayors and the like, regular folks didn't really turn out for this one. Just about everyone inside the Kessler was a school board trustee, a candidate, a campaign staffer, a campaign supporter or a sleepy journalist. Parents? A few. Students? Pshaw.

2. We've Found Our Budget Hawk, And His Name is Roland Love
The District 1 candidate is a serious man who said the first thing he would do is go hunting for inefficiencies and redundancies in the administrative apparatus to prepare for what he said would he the district's chief problem in the coming years: being broke all the time.

"I think we need to review where we have extra capacity, where we have redundancy, where we have accounting software where we have several programs that could be integrated," he said. "There are a lot of things we can do on a primary basis that would address the shortage of funds, and it is the number one issue that DISD has to face."

3. Jennifer Levy Feels Your Pain, Teachers
The stay-at-home mom takes care of her three kids, but she's found some extra time in her busy schedule to run for the District 1 seat. A teacher got suspended for writing a scalding letter, where he wrote that, basically, teachers get pissed on by the whole world. How would she have handled the letter?

"I think what I would do is I would understand that people tend to act a little out of emotion rather than thinking," Levy answered, before getting to a solution. "We need a strong human resources department."

4. Bernadette Nutall Loves Charter Schools And Doesn't Care Who Knows It
District 9's incumbent got no love after her tearful vote to consolidate 11 under-populated public schools, five of which were in her district. Folks got more upset when they found out that one of the closed schools could be turned into a charter school. It all looks a little strange, the theory goes, since Nutall served on a charter school ad hoc committee. Serendipitously, Rogers asked Nutall: Should DISD compete with or work against this new menace?

"I think we can learn from charter schools," she started. "We have to figure out how to work together. We can't continue to work against each other."

5. Damarcus Offord ... Damarcus ... Damarcus, where are you ...
So Dallas has a quandary: As Rogers put it, 105,000 Hispanic students are enrolled in DISD schools (68 percent all students), and over half of them only speak Spanish at home. So how should DISD educate these kids?

In the lowlight of the night, the 20-year-old District 9 candidate froze, fumbling for words and muttering something about how trustees get information that candidates don't. He then retreated to his seat, declining to answer the question and telling Rogers he'd "get back" to him.

6. Michael Greenberg Is More Dallas Than You
The guy's spent his whole life in Dallas, graduating from Hillcrest High. He loves this place, which counts for something. He also talked about "getting the best teachers in the classroom for our kids," which sounded good, too.

7. District 3's Incumbent, Bruce Parrot, Is Pretty Adorable
Parrott: "My door's always open, my number's on the website, and I'm the only candidate who's got my own phone number on the Dallas ISD website."

Call this guy up, people. He wants to talk.

8. Elizabeth Jones Is Quite Smart
Jones was asked a question about whether or not we should scratch middle school altogether and extend elementary schools to 8th grade. The District 1 candidate lost us there for a second, but only because her big-ass brain got out in front of her mouth.

The bottom line: She was asked a completely random question, yet she'd already read a Harvard study on it and had someone in her camp who'd conducted a study himself, and she talked in detail about all of it, explaining the challenges of DISD's geography and convincing us that middle schools weren't terrible simply because teenagers are the worst people in the world.

9. Daniel Micciche Clearly Hates Sports
Rogers jokingly asked Micciche, "Do you think the Mavericks signing Lamar Odom was a mistake?"

"No, no," Micciche said. "I think he'll bounce back."

Of course, Odom was released from the Mavericks on Monday. So, no, he won't. Micciche was then asked about cutting athletic budgets from schools to save money. He said he wouldn't do it, but no one believed him.

10. Dominic Jackson Is The Man
Jackson, a senior at Skyline High, got a standing ovation at the end when it was announced that he was accepted Tuesday to New York University. What makes Jackson special, sadly, is that he's black, and only three out of 100 black DISD students go on to graduate from four-year colleges, according to some data being perused in the bar before the show. (DISD stats: They go well with beer.)

What makes Jackson more special is that he moved to Oak Cliff from New York when he was eight to live with his father. (His mother was an alcoholic.) He could've been a statistic, probably should've been one, but he made it out OK.

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31 comments
mynameisURL
mynameisURL

Yeah. About the Jackson kid: Still a statistic.

Discountcouponfordumbassofford
Discountcouponfordumbassofford

Damarcus Dumbass Offord, if you can't answer a simple question, why should I trust you to help manage a 1.4 billion business? You have some growing up to do.

Cares About Kids
Cares About Kids

I remain in shock that AFT, the largest teacher union, endorsed Mr. Offord.  He is well intentioned and obviously cares about his community, but he is clearly not ready to play this role.  He has avoided many opportunities to interview with PACs...where he has interviewed, his opponent has been endorsed each and every time, including the NEA teacher affiliate in Dallas.  When asked an obvious question about improving educational outcomes for the largest component (by far) of our student population...Hispanic students....he couldn't answer and said he would have to get back to us.  He is running in District 9 but he represents 1/9th of all votes surrounding and affecting the lives of all of our 160,000 students and $1.5 billion of taxpayer revenue.  He is running on one issue and one issue alone (school closures) which the majority of the school board reluctantly supported because they knew that consolidation was the only remedy for providing more resources to those children due to federal rules.  Ms. Honea, please consider asking your membership to change their mind.  The children of Dallas deserve the best, most knowledgeable trustee each community can find.  You may not agree with all of Ms. Nutall's positions....but at least she has a position and an answer for every question.

bbetzen
bbetzen

I was there too and I'm a DISD teacher retiree. My now adult children all attended DISD, and one son has now been teaching in DISD for 15 years. It was fascinating evening, just too short, as stated.

It was very encouraging that the K-8/Middle school question was asked. The Harvard Study published this summer clearly documents the damage being done with the forced middle school transition during such a delicate time in human development: puberty.   Student performance is generally better in k-8 schools with all things being equal. See http://schoolarchiveproject.bl... for more details and over 20 links to articles, research, and comment. 

This past April the National Middle School Association changed it's name to the Association for Middle Level Education. They saw middle schools being closed in the US, and realized such separate institutions do not exist in the highest achieving school systems in the world, such as Finland.  In such countries the elimination of the middle school transfer trauma appears to help in far exceeding US academic achievement while at the same time investing significantly fewer classroom hours. The name change reflected a more authentic focus on educating students ages 10 to 15. Will Texas public schools see what is happening?

Tim Rogers
Tim Rogers

You're right, Greg. It was too short. We gave each candidate three minutes and figured it would take about a half hour. We figured wrong. The candidates all took about half their allotted time (except for Offord, who took about eight seconds). We easily could have gone another round and asked each candidate two questions. Next time ...

Anyway, thanks for coming out to the gig.

Leslie
Leslie

Great story. Thank you.

Elena Stephens
Elena Stephens

Hey, I was there-and I'm merely a DISD teacher, Oak Cliff resident, and voter(but not in this particular school board election).  Agree with your comments.  Someone sat next to me and asked me "Who are you with?", I asked what that meant, response:  "Reporter? Candidate supporter?"  I answered "Voter and teacher". Conversation over. 

South Dallas Cares
South Dallas Cares

statistic??  What was the purpose of that?  You are a statistic.  Everyone is because everyone can fall into a category.  I see this is a board is full of racist commentors. 

Such a sad state we are in. 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

They are elected to represent the children, parents, and taxpayers in their district.

By ousting Nutall, the voters can remind all trustees whom the trustees serve.

If Offord sells out as well, if Offord fails to represent his district, he will have Nutall's example in front of him:  fail to SERVE and you will be replaced.

DISD is NOT a business.  It is children and parents and taxpayers.  

Nutall has lost trust.  Offord will have the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise.

We cannot keep bad trustees.  If Offord turns out to be bad, vote him out just like Nutall.

trudat
trudat

Damarcus Offord may have to endure senseless insults like this outside of district 9 because he represents an alternative to the marching orders put forth by the Dallas Education Industrial Complex.  But in district 9, he has solid support and respect.  He may be new and inexperienced, but I have never heard anyone say that he has sold out to outside interests.  I expect him to do well if not win this election because the people in that district are intelligent enough to take a chance with this sincere son of South Dallas.

Kingmaker
Kingmaker

May 12 my friend!!! I know y'all are getting the numbers. And it do not look good for nutall.

East Dallas Dad
East Dallas Dad

Offord could have bullshitted us like most politicians (and many currently on the board do) but he gave an honest answer. He needed more information before providing an answer to the most difficult question asked of any candidate. Bilingual education is a polarizing issue and he is right to want to gather information before making a decision.

How many District 9 and District 3 voters were there anyway? I got the impression almost everyone there was from District 1 except for a few of us.

South Dallas Cares
South Dallas Cares

Ms. Nutall's opinon and her obvious support of Charter schools is against everything DISD. The best interest of DISD is not to close 5 schools and bus kids to other schools. I thought it was interesting to find out that she sits on the Charter Ad Hoc committee. I am also curious as to how you know how he interviewed with. How are you privy to such confidential information that only the candidates would know unless you are a direct supporter for Ms. Nutall. Her supporters would have us look the other way while she votes to close schools in the poor neighborhoods. The parents and the students in this community are directly affected. 

Next Please
Next Please

And how much damage can Offord do to education while sitting in the office? You wanna take that chance? The man is clueless. 20 year olds change decisions like they change status in Facebook depending on their mood. People will only use him as a pawn to advance their agenda.

Sure waste of Vote
Sure waste of Vote

Sincerity does not equate competence. Anybody can be sincere. Your dog is the most sincere friend you can have but not qualified to run for office. Offord's sincerity is not enough to sell his candidacy. The man is a nincompoop, can't say a complete sentence, can't comprehend a question, can't answer a question, and does not have any clue at all on serious issues in education, and you want him to represent you? Gesshh, how low can you district 9 go with your candidate? 

Cares About Kids
Cares About Kids

You need to earn the right to help oversee 20,000 employees and a $1.5 billion budget.  You shouldn't get the right to do so by running a negative campaign, refusing interviews, and when you finally show up and are asked a question, you punt.   If they took the phrase "Nutall voted to close schools" out of his vocabulary, he'd have literally nothing to say.  His unfamiliarity with the issues is astounding....but that's what his backers want....a puppet that will vote their way.  If you squint real hard, you can see the strings.

We are playing with the lives of 160,000 children people.

Freddy
Freddy

So why are so many people leaving South Dallas?  The schools are emptying out.   Obviously Madison is the next school which must be closed or have its district enlarged. What are your thoughts?

David
David

District 1, I'm sorry you don't have a better candidate than Nutall. But I was there last night, you REALLY shouldn't vote for Offord. It would be disastrous.

trudat
trudat

...basic insults...all I can see are infantile insults... time to end this exchange...

What nerve
What nerve

Offord is clueless. I don't want to be represented by somebody who still sucks thumb and pee in bed. The boy still lives with his parents. Are you crazy voting somebody who can't even do his laundry? 

trudat
trudat

Hitler was intelligent.  He was also a mesmerizing speaker who had all the answers (at first) when the people wanted to hear them.  Therefore; so much for "intelligent" politicians who can (and will) tell you what you want to hear when you want to hear it...  And so much for voters who refuse to consider new candidates even when old ones disrespect their duties for what looks like thirty pieces of silver...

What nerve
What nerve

I consider intelligence as first criteria to hold office. If you can't think right, you can't decide right. Offord does not have the right qualifications, or shall we say, the right intelligence to represent me and my people especially the issue on bilingual education. If you can't understand the basic needs of my children, and that is quality instruction, then you can't have my vote. 

trudat
trudat

Now see; once again we see the senseless insults directed at Mr. Offord.  The people of district 9 ultimately hold all the cards in this case and they will not be pursuaded by name calling from folks that want to continue with business as usual.  This is a new phase.  This is a time for new perspectives untainted by the marching orders of the established regime. Mr. Offord can do as well or better than the incumbent and I predict he will be given a chance to show what he's made of.  

ShuttheEffing
ShuttheEffing

Sure you can choose to vote for your dog but you have to walk your dog to the precinct to register as a candidate. Silly as it is, but if you vote for somebody who can't do the job because of lack of intellect, you might as well do their job. And that's exactly what Offord's endorsers are doing. They want their Dog Offord to win so that they can wag his tail. That wasn't hard to comprehend. 

trudat
trudat

It's one thing to be represented by somone who sincerely may do the wrong thing due to an honest shortcoming like a lack of experience, etc.  It's another thing altogether to be represented by someone who has questionable motives.  A number of people in district 9 just do not trust Nuthall.  She has been accused of being an outright "sellout".  She has openly shown her disdain for the words of the people she is supposed to represent - by her attempt to silence their input in the Board meetings.  I think I might be better off choosing my dog to represent me than choosing Ms. Nuthall - most dogs are at least loyal.  I would rather be let down by somone who honestly tried to defend my interest (with poor skills) than let down by someone who had clearly betrayed me before like Ms. Nuthall has done with the electorate of district 9.

trudat
trudat

If closing the schools is such a fantastic idea with no other available alternatives, it should have been possible to sell the idea to the entire school board - not to mention the huge crowds in the community who objected to it.  And if it wasn't possible to convince the people of that district to completely accept the idea then Nuthalls' role as the representative of that district should have been to represent the wishes of the voters and vote against the "closings".  But instead, she went along with the program - which is (no doubt) just what the Dallas Education Industrial Complex wanted her to do.  On another occasion, she came out in support of measures which would have  cavalierly limited the free speech of people who addressed the Board.  These mistakes could be attributed to her lack of experience or whatever, but I don't think Mr. Offord will make mistakes like she did.  As far as his lack of experience in balancing budgets is concerned; he can learn that just like any new candidate can learn the new skills that are required for service in public office.

South Dallas Cares
South Dallas Cares

Where did I say that Mr. Offord would bring the schools back?  What are you talking about?  Why are you making up statements in order to back your argument?  Calling me Delusional because I don't support Ms. Nutall won't win her any more votes.  If those schools were so under represented, why is one of the schools being considered to re-open as a charter school? 

And now you are calling the community ignorant and full of hate?  WOW..  Okay so this is not a battle with you (maybe it is), rather the decisions Ms. Nutall has been making:   

Closing 6 schools in her district which were all good performing schools, voting for 45 minutes extra for teachers, supporting a policy to keep the public from speaking at board meeting, appointing Todd Williams of Uplift Charter to DISD Budget committee, and other bad decisions are all reasons that the public has lost faith in her as a board member. 

And of the 5 other Trustees who voted with Nutall, Nutall has the privilege of being the ONLY trustee with 5 schools (would have been 6 if not for redistricting) that closed in her ONE district.  The people of the South Dallas community that you infer are ignorant and hateful are NOT AS IGNORANT as you would like to believe.  We can see through the BS and see that Nutall's one main purpose is to support the Charter schools.  Heck, that statement is WRITTEN in the article.  We can all see Nutall is for Charter schools.  She is NOT for Dallas ISD or public schools.

Cares About Kids
Cares About Kids

You are delusional if you think Mr. Offord will bring back those schools.  Those schools were closed because of black flight and the elimination of roof tops in the surrounding neighborhood.  They were closed because the consolidated schools could offer more educational resources than they could as two separate, low enrollment schools.  Schools are comprised of people and resources.   Buildings are places to meet.  As a parent I will always choose a school with more resources for my children than one that is close by but unable to offer everything my child needs and deserves.  Trustee Nutall and the other five trustees who voted to close schools saw that.  No one wanted to close those schools.   But when faced with the tough choice of school closures or a better school with more resources for our children, they made the right choice.  And now opportunists seize upon the fact that few understand that decision and choose a scapegoat instead of focusing on the real culprits....those that caused black flight to begin with.  And the opportunists are now willing to put up a well meaning but unqualified 20 year old man who has likely never had to balance a check book much less help balance a $1.5 billion budget?  Unbelievable what a community will bring upon itself due to sheer ignorance and petty hatred.  And AFT, who repeatedly claim that they are for the kids?  Shame on you.   They simply want someone who will vote their way on issues that benefit them and them alone.  Hypocrisy is ugly regardless of the cloak it wears.

South Dallas Cares
South Dallas Cares

Maybe you would be more understanding if your kids were the ones affected by the school closures.  Since it doesn't affect you or Ms. Nutall's kids, then I suppose it's okay to downplay the fact that the schools will be closed and they were well performing schools. 

If we are talking about puppets, then Ms. Nutall is the prime example of being led by the puppet master.  Her endorsements are from the PACs that are advocating for charter schools.  I am extremely pleased with the fact that Mr. Offord's main platform is saving our schools and that his main concern is the Dallas Public School District.  Ms. Nutall should work for the Charter schools and leave DISD alone because she is caring of the district's kids or the teachers.  The  only people she answers to are EducateDallas, Dallas Regional Chamber.  She is a wolf is sheeps clothing and she is robbing the poor to give to the rich. She is out of touch with us in the community.  She only pretends to care when it's the right environment.

David
David

Oh yeah, I meant district 9.

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