Five Questions for Mike Miles, DISD Superintendent (and Former Senate) Candidate

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Yesterday, Mike Miles, an Army Ranger turned education reformer, was named the lone finalist for Dallas Independent School District's superintendent job. Today begins 21 days of tire-kicking, a mandatory waiting and vetting period before the district and Miles can officially wed.

Plenty of people will do all that kicking, including us and, I suspect, you. Here are five questions we have right out of the gate; chime in with your own and we'll try to look into those, too.

1. What Are Your Political Aspirations?
As he spoke yesterday, I thought: Dang, this guy's smooth. And now we know: He has practice.

Miles, a Democrat, ran for Colorado's seat in the U.S. Senate in 2004 and apparently shook up the party with a good showing at a convention. (Slogan: "Be the change." Has a ring, doesn't it?) His campaign fizzled, and soon he was applying for superintendent jobs. "I'm not going to run for anything in the near future," Miles told the Denver Post in 2005.

Then came another election season.

In 2008, Ken Salazar bolted the Senate for a Barack Obama cabinet post, and Colorado Governor Bill Ritter needed to appoint a replacement. Miles, just a couple of years into his superintendent job at Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, promptly put his name in the hat again. He even had one major newspaper urging the governor to appoint him, comparing Miles to Obama. Ritter went in a different direction, though, and Miles wound up sticking in education.

"We definitely talked about that," Trustee Mike Morath told me yesterday. "But he's spent 17 years in education." Morath also noted that during the interview process, Miles pledged seven years to the district, regardless of the length of his contract.

2. How Exactly Will Pay-for-Performance Work?
During his press conference, Miles touted his current district's pay-for-performance program, which he called the nation's most innovative. Tying teacher and principal pay to student achievement is a controversial trend that's popular with reformers, and Miles is an unabashed supporter who will surely try to implement such a system full-scale in DISD. He should find support on the board, if not with all the rank-and-file.

"He has teachers who are making $90,000 a year," Morath said, noting that Colorado teachers make less, on average, than Texas teachers do. "We're going to have teachers making six figures in Dallas, which is a remarkable boon to the profession."

3. Will My Kid's School Become a Charter School?
Right there with pay-for-performance among Things Reformers Like are charter schools, publicly funded but (usually) privately operated schools that operate free of many of the restrictions of education law. School districts across the country are experimenting with turning over schools to charter operators like Uplift Education, which just formed a partnership with Dallas City Hall, where Mayor Mike Rawlings has pledged a deeper involvement with DISD, partly through a Dallas Regional Chamber-backed political committee, which is surely fond of charter schools.

You can see where this is going, then -- especially when you consider that in Miles' current district, four of the 25 schools are charter schools.

4. How Will You Balance Teacher Quality with Teacher Morale?
Even without a permanent superintendent, the DISD board has begun weeding out what it believes to be its poorest performing teachers, firing five times as many teachers for performance issues this year than it did last. Miles did the same in his current district, according to the Gazette -- which may explain why, within minutes of him being named DISD's pick, teachers took to the comments to gripe about Miles' reforms.

Back in Colorado Springs, students also claimed his reforms were driving down teacher morale:

5. So ... Um ... How Much Do We Have to Pay You?
If the board puts pen to paper with Miles, whatever salary he earns will be met with some skepticism -- even if it's less than the $328,000 the district's last superintendent, Michael Hinojosa, pulled in. And Miles is already pretty well compensated: He made $194,614 at this time last year, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette -- an amount for which the paper says "board members have taken heat." He also runs a for-profit education consulting company, Focal Point, LLC, on the side.

Also interesting contract-wise will be what, if anything, the board does to structure his compensation to reward longevity. You know, in case the White House needs a new Education Secretary and Miles' itch comes back before those seven years are up.

Follow me and the Dallas Observer on Twitter. If you're a DISD teacher, employee or parent and want to talk about the school district, find me here.


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19 comments
ReformDISD
ReformDISD

Glad to hear he has a "hands-on" approach. However, it depends how this will be translated into an large urban organization. I would like to remind everyone that Michael Hinojosa also said he would visit campuses every week and be hands-on. I heard this over and over at committee meetings. However, after the 2008 Budget Debacle, the visits became less and less of a priority, because reality sunk-in. The Road to Broad!! Mike Miles is Broad Superintendent Institute Graduate from California, so he also want the Broad Prize. Now, he's no Doctor to fix education. It look more like he will be a Draconian Leader, who wants to lead by Fear...Sort of like Bill Rojas, in which case, I was a teacher. It looks like we are 12 years behind again.

I think he really needs to come-up with Entry-Plan first and focus on the broken central office that currently exists. He might want to listen to teacher groups, parent groups and create a climate of trust before he embarks in a "let me get you" attitude and brings in his army.

Leading by fear has no room in a large urban system like DISD. Sustainability, Ethical Leadership and TRUST are key....Now, does he have any of these qualities? Haven't hear the TRUST part yet.

The current climate is devastating. Adding, more fuel to the fire, will only lower morale and will lead to lower student achievement because of the future revolving door of principals and teachers.I hope he is not a Bill Rojas, thinking he can shuffle and fire all principals and bring in his Broad TOADS

MMilesFan
MMilesFan

Mike Miles is a fabulous superintendent. For those who could not bear knowing that it was their responsibility to educate children...Obviously, they are no longer with the HSD2. I believe in what the district is doing and in the direction that Mr. Miles took the district. I do not live in the district's boundaries, and I put my child in this innovative district. I expect my child to get anything and everything that he may need for him to become the best and most educated student possible. Are the district's policies tough on teachers and students...YES!! SHOULD WE EXPECT ANY LESS??? Will the transition be difficult for DISD..Yes, but I believe that he wants the best Teachers for our Children...Our Future!! I hope that HSD2 will find such a devoted and motivated superintendent. The next superintendent has some pretty big shoes to fill!!

justtrying2learn
justtrying2learn

as a disd student myself i really feel bad and a bit sorry for my fellow students, we dont deserve all of this...........

FormerHarrisonTeacher
FormerHarrisonTeacher

People of Dallas, you are doing yourself, the students, and the teachers a great injustice.  DO NOT hire this man!  No one in Harrison makes 90K, no school in that district "turned around", there are hardly any teachers with more than 3 years of experience left in that district.  The first thing this guy did was get rid of veteran and union teachers.  Then he filled in those positions with Teach for America kids - who also left quickly.  Administrators, teachers were fired like there was a revolving door.  Want to get yourself fired or forced to resign?  That's what I did, when I transferred there from out of state I noticed that all the special education and ED kids I had....and I mean ALL of them were in the same classroom - not mainstreamed, which is ILLEGAL.  I asked an innocent question and after that, my evaluations were all negative.  I asked my Assistant Principals why - and they said if they didn't, they were threatened with termination.  Anyone I talked to at school would also get negative evals - after they had been receiving EXCELLENT ratings before I came. I left after that year to work at a prestigious school outside that district and currently am working and happy and have received nothing but glowing recommendations for principals and parents.

Want more info?  Read the information on this site: http://www.hsd2watchdog.org/in...

Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

These comments are so typical when  new authority comes on board. Let's see what he will do. Don't expect miracle because DISD is complex and full of bullshit. He's a leader in his on right, not a magician. He can't blink and make the problem go away. First of all, he didn't vote for the folks on the board. I highly doubt he will put up with all the bickering and yelling from citizens at board meeting. AND He cannot force parent to be involve with their children education. DISD need to get out of the business of babysitting kids. Miles need to put pressure where the problem begin (at home). Teachers spend at least 15 min. per class on bad ass disruptive kids.

Also, there is nothing wrong with having ambition like Crackerdaddy posted. Having ambition should be considered a good example for students...to aim high and keep moving upwards.  I wish he would have come here a year or two early to run for the commissioner court. Dallas need a fresh face, new leadership, etc, etc, etc.

By reading these comments, I want to say, he should pass this toxic local political system.  You can't please everyone, good leaders don't try to.

Remember, Hinojosa created a bad administrative system on Ross and in the schools. There are still a lot of people in place that do not suppose to be there or underqualified.He's going to catch hell from specific groups when he start changing policies.  Just watch.

ruben
ruben

Dallas teachers,First of all, get ready to teach with your classroom doors open, so Miles can walk in anytime he wants to tell you what you're doing wrong. Don't ever sit down, don't ever show videos longer than 1 minute, don't ever question any of his policies and don't you dare giving your kids a crossword puzzle. Ever! Also, never ever question any of his policies. If you do, his security staff will escort you out of the building like a criminal. But even if you never do any of this, don't expect any love from Mike. You'll never hear any positive comments from the man.As far as making 90k a year, good luck with that! You better know everything about the latest brain research in education, you better be prepared to dish out every Kegan strategy you know when he walks in your room, and you better be teaching like a robot. If you want to earn your 90k, you better forget you have a family life. If you want your 90k, you better live on the school premises and spend every waking hour lesson planning. Good luck!

RTGolden
RTGolden

Lots of complaints about this guy here.  I don't know much about him.  What I can see is the board hired him, the people elected the board.  Pretty much the same board that brought in Hinojosa, i think, maybe a couple of seats changed.  

Walk to mirror, look at self, smack self in head.  Write indelible message on mirror:  VOTE FOR DIFFERENT BOARD MEMBERS NEXT TIME.

WatchingSouth Detroit
WatchingSouth Detroit

Another question would be: 1) How is he going to fix DISD headquaters and administration?  The crooks who steal taxpayer money (see credit card and IT scandals- most of the culprits are still in DISD and many have been promoted since), waste taxpayer money through stupidity and incompetence (see recent Red Tails movie extravaganza), and many who draw salary but do little to help anyone - fishing buddies, cousins, or in-laws of other high level DISD execs.

WatchingSouth Detroit
WatchingSouth Detroit

If he made $194k at his last job, if the trustees offer him more than $250, almost 30% increase, then they should be run out of town.  No need to pay him what they paid the last piece of crap that used DISD and ran out of town. 

mynameisURL
mynameisURL

Hoooo boy.

Well, the whole "We gotta' run schools like a business" contingent ought to just looooove this guy. This will be a whole 'nother level of madness when Sgt. Miles lays down the law, by God!

If you thought a business-model was good for students and teachers, just wait till you see the new and improved militarized admin.

Those poor kids.

CrackerDaddy
CrackerDaddy

I'm not going all agaga over this guy because he was an army ranger.  I am getting a very bad feeling about this guy.  Plus, don't think this guys ambition for bigger and better things for himself has subsided.  He's going to come in slashing/burning and kicking ass/taking names.  In the end, I don't think he will actually improve education in DISD that much.....despite what the massaged numbers will say.  He will continue burnishing his reputation as a no-nonsense, tough-minded reformer......while waiting for the next opportunity to run for office or get tapped by the O-man's administration.  Watch out teachers.....you are the ones who are going to be the cannon fodder for this guy's ambition.  IJS

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

"He also runs a for-profit education consulting company, Focal Point, LLC, on the side."

That doesn't sit well with me. Rojas anyone?

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

"He has teachers who are making $90,000 a year," Morath said, noting that Colorado teachers make less, on average, than Texas teachers do. "We're going to have teachers making six figures in Dallas, which is a remarkable boon to the profession."

I don't get Morath. Does he think this system prints money? In order to increase the pay of some teachers, others must lose substantial sums.

While Miles states that all teachers should move toward proficiency, his initial run of his data showed 35% were ineffective based on test data, so he changed the cut rates, kind of like Scott will do with STAAR exams. The majority of teachers can't move to the top because it would bankrupt the district, something he found as teacher salaries increased in Colorado.

I kept running across ridiculous churn figures in Colorado. This salary system is the reason. The report (below) states that they went to this system in 2010-2011 school year, and now in 2012, not even 2 years in to the plan, Miles is bailing.

 http://edexcellencemedia.net/O...

FormerHarrisonTeacher
FormerHarrisonTeacher

Let me get this straight.  Mike Miles wouldn't even put HIS OWN children in HSD2, but you put yours in?  I'd laugh, but I feel to sad for you.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

If he doesn't clean house at 3700 first, nothing else will matter.  

3700 is where all the problems are.

Additionally, if he brings in a bunch of overpaid, out-of-town Broad buddies, any "improvements" will be fake and temporary.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

It definitely bothers teachers.

Teachers were raising the alarm about Hinojosa long before all of the spending and waste and scandals were made public.

The for-profit ed company he runs is a red flag to many teachers.  Since they were right about Hinojosa, they are probably worth paying attention to this time.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Our company fell into the warm embrace of MATRIX and number churning .

We had folks who hit 100% numbers every month . Hoorays and BBQ lunches for them Set up as the GO TO EXAMPLE  for the rest of US we began to research how this miracle use of employee's time assets and equipment came to be.The Same Matrix and numbers churning gave 100% and high fives all around, BITCH slapped them !And proved what those of us who struggled to reach 78 % on the chart already knew There weren't enough hours in the work day Mechanics haven't mastered time travel .And it is impossible to do certain things with out the consumables it takes to do it .While not on the chart  they do show up in other parts of the billing budget If I know what numbers are required I can give you the results you need . You just don't want to know how "WE" got there.All I need is a #2 pencil.And a little leeway .

unicornsandfrillytutus
unicornsandfrillytutus

If we started paying attention to teachers how would cronyism, back alley deal$, and such be able to flourish? Come on, now. Don't be so selfish.

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