While Miles Cleans House at DISD, Will Old-Guard Warriors Try to Burn It Down?

Categories: Schutze

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Wow. I wonder how many other ancient mariners of the Dallas public school situation put down their daily newspapers this morning, nodded as I did, and thought to themselves, "So they're messing with Ison-Newsome."

That's serious. It could mean somebody's smart. Or stupid. I'm leaning toward somebody's smart. I'm leaning even harder toward it ain't me.

Shirley Ison-Newsome is the most powerful public school official in Dallas whom nobody knows. She has been right beneath the surface but right at the top for at least 16 years, since a battle over the Townview Magnet School campus -- subject in 1996 of one of Laura Miller's best Dallas Observer stories.

Currently the "interim schools chief," whatever in the hell that means, Ison-Newsome is one of an entire cadre of top school administrators ordered to reapply for their jobs under an edict just issued by our incoming superintendent of schools, Mike Miles.

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Shirley Ison-Newsome.
I like Ison-Newsome. She's smart as hell. She comes from back in the day. She's like me. She doesn't suffer from all this post-modern niceness that seems to have infected people under the age of 40. I don't know where that stuff comes from. Must be chemical. I blame it on the food industry.

Not everybody likes her. A friend of mine who worked for her called her, "Surely-I'm-A-Nuisance." She's like anybody who has managed to survive and thrive this long in the public school system -- very well wired to the political grid outside the system. In '96 and since, she has been known outside the school system as a close ally -- both supporter and client -- of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

There was a day when that connection alone was political Kevlar. Mess with her, and Shirley Ison-Newsome, the erudite and thoughtful educator, stepped into a phone booth and emerged in her Surely-I'm-A-Nuisance costume. People did not mess.

Now somebody is. Big time.

Things have changed. Price, back in the paper today as the embattled target of an FBI probe, can barely take care of himself, let alone his political clients. In this school board race just ended, the old southern Dallas African-American stir-it-up, mess-it-up leadership -- the ones I always liked -- lost their asses, at least in the race that put Bernadette Nuttall back on the board of trustees.

If I back off far enough, set my jaw just the right way and squint at this school district, I can see it tied down like Gulliver by an entire historical cast of Lilliputians, and ... man! ... I'm looking at that picture and I think I may even see myself in there.

The battles of the past were terribly important. They had to be fought, and they were fought, often well. But now we have to ask: How much time is spent by any of those old soldiers on any side of it thinking about what the school district actually does for children? We're all still on the river bank glaring at each other with our hands on our daggers while the kids get swept down the river toward a Niagara of failure.

This move to mess with people at Ison-Newsome's level would be stupid if it were naive, if the people behind it didn't understand the political wiring. But I have been interviewing people for a feature story on the schools, and those interviews lead me to believe that the folks pushing for this stuff are not naive and certainly not stupid.

I think they know exactly what they're doing. They're going to try to cut the old wires. Of course, that just means new wires. Life is wired, after all.

But what's my idea? Leave it the way it is? Hey, if I really believed that was a good plan, I'd have to look in the mirror and say, "Jim, surely you're a nuisance, too."

And by the way, don't count Ison-Newsome out because she may have to change her spots. Like I say, she's smart as hell, and she has devoted her life to educating kids from the tough side of the street. That's a skill set you can't buy at Walmart.

I'm just saying this is all really interesting. What was that sound? We freeze in our tracks. No! Does Gulliver stir?

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23 comments
joshua
joshua

time for a serious "rewiring of DISD power stucture."

this article needs an update in light of SHIRLEY's vasilating "resignation or retiring or firing" status.

 

John Wiley is too busy with the feds, and Shirley needs to get out of the way of the progress train.

Ahoy
Ahoy

If you would be ever so kind as to provide an update, Mr. Schutze, This reader would be most appreciative.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

If we're going to get rid of the garbage, we need to toss all of it out. Dallas politics has been sullied for too long w/ angry racial politics. If we're going to grow up and act like other cities, we need to hit these things head-on.

the derelict
the derelict

another example of how the urban school district has become the place of refuge for otherwise unemployable, power hungry minorities.  clean house, miles.

OakCliffAdvocate
OakCliffAdvocate

Never fear...Trustees Blackburn and Nuttall will keep SIN from sinking.

Its So Sad
Its So Sad

SIN will probably sue for wrongful termination (again). Win the lawsuit (again). Collect a big settlement (again). Maybe this time she will then take her money and retire! BEWARE ALL YE THAT ARE RELATED TO S.I.N! ONCE SHE IS GONE, YOU HAVE NO PROTECTOR!

And Shutze, if Ison-Newsome is REALLY so smart, dedicated, etc., then WHY is the African-American graduation rate in the Dallas ISD SO DISMAL?!!

Every current & former teacher I have talked to, and every story I've ever read, points to a politcally connected, shrewd, power-hungry woman who appoints her relatives, sorority sisters, and church members to nice jobs in the district despite having few if any qualifications. Kamalia Cotton is a recent example. How many schools has she been asked to leave?

I wonder how many of her 'friends' have been hired over the years... At what cost to our childrens' education?!!!

RTGolden
RTGolden

I would think, if she has been entrenched "just below the surface" of the leadership for all these years at DISD, she's not only complicit in the gross mismanagement, crony hires, and overall crappy leadership, but she probably had a hand in guiding it herself.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Like I say, she's smart as hell, and she has devoted her life to educating kids from the tough side of the street.

Has she been successful, JS?  Smart?  OK.  Devoted?  OK.  Does her leadership work?

I'm not suggesting an answer, either.  I'm just not sure what you're saying about her competence.  Maybe you're not opining.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

If Shirley chooses to retire and not reapply, she will leave with a generous pension based on her high salary over the last several years.

Her recent decisions have not earned her the respect of parents, teachers, or taxpayers, so it seems that now would be a good time to bow out.

All DISD employees need to be held accountable; a new day needs to dawn where no one gets a free pass based on their age, their race, who they know, or to whom they are related. 

Decisions without consequence--the prevailing theme of DISD over the past several decades--corrupt the individual's soul and harm the community.   We need to close the book on those days.

Paul
Paul

" In '96 and since, she has been known outside the school system as a close ally -- both supporter and client -- of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price."

That pretty much says it all in my opinion.

Shawn
Shawn

Good riddance to her and all of her ilk.

pbluett
pbluett

Confusing..Is Mr. Schutze admitting admiration for crooks and corrupt politicians who  are "close allies"?

billmarvel
billmarvel

I remember that Laura Miller piece as the first time any writer in Dallas actually made sense of what was going on in DISD and at the TAG magnet in particular. My own paper had danced around it for months, terrified of getting its hands all dirtied in racial politics -- and perhaps dreading another visit by JWP and his picketers. The result was widespread mystification.

 

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

When the crew of your boat is oblivious that it's barely still floating, listing, and drifting in circles, you probably need a new crew that gives a shit about making it to port instead of hording all the gold for themselves.

Rob Lew
Rob Lew

 ARE WE GOING TO ACT LIKE DETROIT OR LA?

Rw1963
Rw1963

SImilar to the City of Dallas computer department fiasco where the head hired his church buddies and relatives, DISD and DART run the same way. Unfortunately the end result is that teachers have to put up with crap from both their students AND their supervisors. 

The quickest way to turn around a school district is to eliminate 70% of administration and do a housecleaning of principals. Once that is done, it will become quickly apparent which teachers need to go because there won't be anyone there to protect the bad ones. Trust me, the good teachers and principals know exactly who the bad teachers/principals/administrators are.

I just feel sorry for teachers who have to fight a battle each and every day just to do their job. Every single person who whines about how teachers have it easy need to spend just one day living their lives. You might think your job is rough, but it's nothing like being a school teacher.

Rob Lew
Rob Lew

 MAYBE THEY BOTH ARE GOING TO GET POLITICALLY ZIMMERMANNED.

Rob Lew
Rob Lew

 FUNNY...HOMELESS FOLKS ARE STILL PANHANDLING THE STREET CORNERS...LAURA, WE HARDLY KNEW YE....

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

You raise an interesting point.

Heywood u Bizzoff
Heywood u Bizzoff

 Did the liberal_white_guilt_article_generator.exe crash while making up Jim's column this morning??

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