Mike Miles, In First Official Day As DISD Superintendent, Likes Graduation-Rate Trend, Was a Little Embarrassed By Those Billboards
Given his high profile over the past few months and some much-publicized decisions, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Mike Miles has actually been DISD's superintendent. Which he has, of course, but not officially and not full-time until Monday, when he took the reins in earnest.
It was a busy day, he said, filled with meetings with his cabinet, school leadership team, and community groups, an interview for one of the nine unfilled top administrative positions, and, to cap it off, a 4 p.m. press conference.
"The good thing about flying back and forth -- other than flying back and forth -- is that I've been able to hit the ground running," Miles said of juggling his final months as head of Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs and his growing responsibilities in Dallas.
Miles' first day was accompanied by a burst of good news for the DISD: The Texas Education Agency released figures showing the district's four-year graduation rate ticked up 3 percent last year to 77.3 percent, the fourth increase in as many years, while its dropout rate declined to 11.8 percent, less than half what it was five years ago.
Those numbers indicate significant progress, Miles said, but it does not obviate the need for continued reform. It will still require some fundamental changes in the way things are done to reach a 90 percent graduation rate, and meet the other goals Miles outlined in his "Destination 2020" plan.
Otherwise, there wasn't much that Miles said at his first-day press conference that he hasn't said before. He deflected a question about public reaction to his cabinet-level salaries by saying, basically, that people will accept it when they see the results. He reiterated his commitment to getting a good teacher in front of every student by streamlining and restructuring the district's leadership and establishing a performance-pay system for teachers. And, he defended the expenditure of more than $5 million on a school leadership academy to train future principals as an investment in student achievement. ("I think any organization should pay for what it values," referring to student achievement, though there may be other interpretations).
One reporter asked about those billboards, sponsored by the Dallas Regional Chamber, that welcomed Miles to town. The displays were donated and cost the district nothing, but is it appropriate to call so much attention to the superintendent given the oft-stated focus on student achievement?
"I'm a little embarrassed by having a billboard with my name on it," Miles said, a bit sheepishly. But, really, the signs are emblematic of how much the community supports DISD. Milies has encountered a "great show of support for the district from all corners," he said.
Communications chief Jennifer Sprague, standing along the wall behind the wall of TV cameras, nodded along approvingly.