In the War to Reform Dallas ISD, Tonight's Battle Might Be the Bloodiest Yet

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Today is a key moment in the battle for school reform in Dallas, as a list of school principals to be fired goes before the school board. (Check back tonight for the body count.) The main opposition to the reform effort has come from southern Dallas black leadership allied with the district employees who may be about to lose their jobs.

Last week, the Dallas Citizens Council joined the Dallas Regional Chamber (of commerce) in an open letter to Dallas school board trustees, urging them to stick with the program of school reform designed and executed by school superintendent Mike Miles. So, blah-blah-blah, right? Local business persons want better schools. How is that news? Oh, man, you have to know how crazy this town is before you can even get the answer.

See also:
"Mike Miles versus the World," this week's cover story by Jim Schutze

Over the years, I have said a lot of bad stuff about the Dallas Citizens Council, an elite private organization run semi-secretly from behind the scenes that I always hasten to point out is not directly descended from the old anti-racial-integration white citizens councils of yore but you'd think they might want to change their name.

And for the last several months I have been talking to people in southern Dallas about school reform, both as part of my reporting for the Observer and also on my call-in radio show on KNON, Saturdays at 10 a.m., plug-plug. A common meme -- maybe more than that, a core belief of the culture -- is that rich white business people like those on the Citizens Council want to keep black kids dumb so they can exploit them either as bottom-wage employees or, even worse, as occupants of private for-profit prisons.

Wait. If you are white, rich and howling at this moment, allow me to point something out. If somebody actually believes something that terrible about you, you need to go quiet for a moment and wonder why.

But. It's not true. It's not only not true, it's the opposite of the truth. From big corporations to small companies, business people in Texas are worried about the dwindling supply of workers qualified to do good, well-paid, skilled jobs. That's why they have been staunch supporters of school rigor and school reform throughout the current debate on standardized testing in Texas.

More than that: The fact is that in the last two decades business leadership in Dallas often has been an effective champion of diversity and inclusion in circles of power. Ron Kirk, the city's first black mayor, didn't come from South Dallas. His mayoralty was far more a creation of the Citizens Council and the Regional Chamber.

Back to that crazy paranoid view of white people: What's up with that? Where did that come from? It came straight out of a long, ugly history of plantation-style paternalism in this city, a wound that was not cauterized here as elsewhere in the '60s and early '70s. The view of rich white people as manipulative and evil is rooted in real history.

What the Citizens Council/Chamber letter showed -- and this is the news -- was that the story of business leaders wanting to keep black people down is what we can now call truly ancient history. It's bad. It's painful. But it is not the reality today.

I read their letter as saying this, and I paraphrase: We love and value all of the children in the public schools. We want them to succeed. We want to hire them in good jobs. We want them to help us succeed. We know that we are all aboard the same ship no matter what, and we want our ship to sail right. For that, the schools need to be tough, intense and unrelentingly demanding. Support Mike Miles.

Here's what's wrong with holding on to ancient history and ancient pain. It's too comfortable. It's too easy. It spares one from the sheer rigor of hope, the challenge of competition, the stretch and effort necessary once a person sees he does have a shot. It condemns children to diminished lives and even to death. I don't know if the Citizens Council or the Chamber knew it when they wrote their letter, but it was a direct and very meaningful response to that meme. It said instead, "Trust us."

And there you have it, maybe the very heart of the whole question of school reform. Trust us. That's the tough one, isn't it? Trust us. Tonight when the school board meets, we'll see about that.

In the meantime and before the moment is forgotten, it needs to be said that the Dallas Citizens Council and the Chamber did something right by saying it at all. OK, there. I said it. The next unpleasant sound you will hear will be me washing my mouth out with liberal soap.



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47 comments
BarackObummer
BarackObummer

Yo Rarely iz da queshun asked: what’s iz our chil'ns learning?

ptmoore2012
ptmoore2012

First of all you do not need to have a child in DISD to care about the future of education. Everyone needs to be on board to help. People like JWP and others including the outgoing city manager have already branded Dallas.

Those business leaders they have offended have told their friends and many businesses simply avoid the city and do their deals in the suburbs. Dallas is difficult to deal with so it is much easier to take your investment dollars and put them someplace else. Everything is Dallas is a struggle. The council is dysfunctional and every issue has a racial tinge to it. People who have had to deal with the city generally don't come back a second time. Miles is on the right track. His problem was he alienated the teachers who he needed on his side. His lack of communications skills during a period of change is what got him in trouble and may eventually be his undoing. 


ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

To figure this debate out, just follow the money ...

DISD has a budget in excess of $1 billion ( I think, but whatever it is, it is one big pile of money up for grabs).  Who gets a piece of that pie?  Could it be patronage jobs, local purchasing, contracts?

EastDallasMom
EastDallasMom

I have nothing against the Dallas Citizens Council, if they are working toward the common good of all people because, yes, we need better schools to bring more business to Dallas and yes, we need it now!

However, in order for that to happen, there has to be transparency from our business leaders, non-profit civic organizations, like the Chamber, school board leaders and our superintendent. So far, the only thing I see is a heavy hand, that rocks the cradle, that has been endorsed by business leaders, who have not been historically sensitive to the district or the many needs of its students.

If your spouse has a history of cheating on you, how do you trust them overnight or ever? I mean really, the Chamber just hired D Magazine to help them rebrand Dallas. LOL. Seriously? Like we don't have a plethora of agencies, more qualified than a magazine that has contributed to the cultural divide of this city?

The Mayor and the Chamber are endorsing a group called Kids First. Who are they? No where on their web site does it say who the board of directors are or if they have experience as parents, former students, volunteers or property owners in DISD. The web site intimates, they will take on serious control over our schools and school board leaders, but it doesn't say who they are. What makes them qualified? And more importantly, where do they live?

Dallas parents and business leaders, need to drive the train for what is best for our district and this city, because the way we've been doing business, from all sides, is stale and no longer working.

Having said that, I am curious to know why these same civic leaders, who created this new board, did not trust and tap long time parents of all colors, who have been successful in raising children in our best and worst schools in DISD through college, to find out how they did it. What did they do right or wrong, that made the difference in their Childs' school success. I would like to know what they think about what needs changing in DISD. It could not have all been good or easy. They would have a better idea, than anyone, including teachers, principals, the do nothing School Board, or a new board made up of young people who have never stepped foot in the DISD trenches, about what we need, today! 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Back to that crazy paranoid view of white people: what's up with that? Where did that come from? It came straight out of a long, ugly history of plantation-style paternalism in this city, a wound that was not cauterized here as elsewhere in the '60s and early '70s. The view of rich white people as manipulative and evil is rooted in real history.

It's also rooted in the subculture of politicians and preachers who have learned that if they convince their "constituents" that there is this evil white Other out there that they have to be protected from, the race pimps can continue to line their own pockets by selling (out) the very people they claim to protect.

The plantation is gone.  It's a ranch now, and the livestock are the black people who's votes are harvested, and occasionally they get slaughtered in the crossfire.

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

Why is it always about what black people think? The majority of DISD students are Hispanic. Your KNON listeners are all in southern sector suburbs.

jhoffman2760
jhoffman2760

I'd be curious to know if ANY of the "Dallas Citizens Council and the Chamber" have OR had children in DISD...it's often easy to support a cause/person, if you don't have any direct ties!

EastDallasDad
EastDallasDad

Even people with the Citizen's Council and Regional Chamber realize Miles was a terrible choice but they have too much invested in him and fear that if he falls, the entire reform movement falls. They won't admit this publicly but some of them will in private. 

DISD needs to change and everyone realizes that. The real question is whether Miles' reforms will prove effective. I strongly suspect they won't. (They haven't anywhere else.) The racial concerns distract from the real issues. 

EricCeleste
EricCeleste

Jim, without question it's the right thing to say. Without question, they were all WAY too late in saying it.

These folks were told early on that they needed to make a more public, social-media friendly show of support in backing Miles. By waiting until JWP had framed the debate, instead of standing alongside Miles from the beginning (in very public ways), such efforts amount to little. 

There are some very well-meaning folks here who have no idea how to conduct modern messaging campaigns (unlike, say, JWP). They think they have time to ponder and ponder and ponder and then make official pronouncements. They think news cycles still exist. They think that a letter to the editor after the fact still means something.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Yeah, but if the kids in the southern sector get an education and learn to think for themselves, then the current entrenched politicos and other assorted hangers on will be booted out.

Why do you think they're opposed to reform?

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

Don't be so quick to reach for the Ivory Soap bar yet, Jim. We are still in the middle of the 'fog of war' with The Dallas Citizens Council and everything that they touch in and around Dallas. The way I see it, it's not too different from heaping accolades on Mary Suhm in the public domain and then soon after, both she and her winged monkey/city attorney Tom Perkins suddenly resign effective within the the same time period. Reason? Oh, it's just time to move on. Yeah, right. Jusayin....

EastDallasMom
EastDallasMom

@ptmoore2012

 "Miles is on the right track. His problem was he alienated the teachers who he needed on his side. His lack of communications skills during a period of change is what got him in trouble and may eventually be his undoing."

Yes, everyone needs to care about DISD.  Absolutely! However, in order not to make the same mistakes that Mike Miles did regarding lack of communication and alienation, wouldn't it be better for the Business and Civic leaders to make sure the people who are leading these new boards, speaking on behalf of, for the betterment of DISD, are the actual volunteer leaders with experience? Why choose a group of people, who have not proven themselves as leaders in public education. This group needs to be in learning mode, for Dallas' future, by volunteering and assisting IN DISD, rather than attempting to lead, proven leaders.

It's these kind of tactics, that effects continued frustration, anger, resentment, that is eventually reduced to heated unnecessary racial debates. My question is, why do these Business and Civic leaders continue to listen to the same old political consultants and their same old advice?

In regards to branding, it is our media, with their snarky commentary, exclusion of International Dallas, who are just as plain Jane American as everyone else, and exclusion of real Dallas, and racist undertones, in their stories and ads, that creates the public perception about Dallas. With so many talented small independent agencies in Dallas, shame on the Chamber for even going there. 

RJDallas
RJDallas

EastDallasMom is right. I'm a product and volunteer of some of our successful schools. Nobody ever asks us what we would do.

I know a few parents and alums are involved in Educate Dallas but I don't know about the other organizations mentioned.

As far as the racial issues, I don't think they are as bad as they were even a decade ago. I'm talking about those who are in the schools now - not adults with agendas. My biggest frustration through the years is seeing minority kids not taking advantage of all the opportunities that are offered at my alma mater. The white parents and alums I know have concentrated on trying to change that for many years. We have made some progress, but not enough.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

@EastDallasMomIf you look hard enough you will most likely find a link between The Dallas Citizens Council and Kids First. It may not be obvious at first, but if City Hall endorses it, then there's your first burden of proof. The civic leaders of which you mention will never operate Dallas from the ground up approach by involving the common folk. Everything starts at the top and that would be at 901 Main St # 6212  Dallas, TX 75202.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@everlastingphelps Jim is the best gardener that root will ever have.  Without the looming spectre of white racism, and only white racism, since Jim doesn't admit to any other type, he would become irrelevant.  The roots of white racism are where almost every one of his stories grows from.

Where did that come from? Jim asks innocently, while shuffling everything he's ever written into a dusty desk drawer.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@everlastingphelps 

Thank you for sharing your view of black people as livestock. It says it all.

James080
James080

@Los_Politico  

Black politician in Dallas are much better organized and frankly over-represented on the city council and DISD board. I don't know that the Hispanic community has a "political organization" as strong and influential as black church pastors in Dallas County seem to be.  

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@EastDallasDad 

Sorry, East. It's you and JWP, sittin' in a  tree. Lots of luck on divorcing your position from the job-squatters. 

NOWiGETit
NOWiGETit

@EricCeleste I may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but I feel like there's very little anyone can do to frame the debate with people who listen to JWP.


Ever.

 You could have the best social media friendly show of support and if you're trying to win over people who even glance sideways at JWP, well then, it's hopeless.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@EricCeleste 

Yeah. If the worst happens for the commissioner, and maybe it will not, but if he should wind up in stir, maybe he can work from there as a communications consultant to the Citizens Council, depending on whether he can get out of his contract with the Perots.. 

ptmoore2012
ptmoore2012

@EastDallasMom While everyone needs to have a voice DISD is so large and complex it needs professional leaders who are experts in education. The mistake the business community keeps making is they look for a high profile leader who will dramatically change the schools overnight. What DISD needs is a low profile plodder who will bring the organization together and make the changes necessary to improve performance. The most successful school leaders in this community work quietly and effectively. DISD keeps looking for Superman or Superwoman and gets taken for a ride each time. 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@JimSX @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  

Jim, I am referring to the repeated reports of fiscal mismanagement at DISD.  Do you remember the P-card imbroglio, among others?

My point is, to what extent do these principals have fiscal control and to whom do they answer?

I know someone who was an outside auditor of DISD at one time.  It was not uncommon to open desk drawers and find piles of currency wrappers.

EastDallasMom
EastDallasMom

@InvolvedCitizen LOL.  These are not the board members. Those are their friends  they've enlisted to speak for their organization. Go back and look at it. It says "Why people are joining DallasKidsFirst:" And then it quotes these people. It does not say they are the board members, at all. It's this kind of disingenuous stuff citizens are tired of.

gregmarcydagama
gregmarcydagama

@RTGolden1 @everlastingphelps You surely have heard of slavery; Jim Crow; lynchings; Poll taxes; Selma; MLK; voter suppression; prisons for profit? And until some social debts are paid white racism's effect will stew like a pus wound. Say, Sergio Garcia offers Tiger, 'fried chicken'! There is still massive racism. Deal with it. Now, does it cut every which way? You betcha! JWP. Jennifer Lopez hawking 'Latino Phone Centers', etc. etc. But, dat don't make white racism any less of an historical, ongoing fact. ;) 

PrestonHoller
PrestonHoller

Jim, don't blame everlastingphelps.  It's the Democrats who see African-Americans as sheep who will vote Democratic regardless of the stupid policies enacted by the Democrats that overwhelming work against African-Americans's best interest.  Now they are trying to do the same with Hispanics and the immigration 'reform' you wrote about yesterday.

animas
animas

Jim this is one of your best articles  ever but your "holier-than-thou-ometer" needs to be recalibrated.  Phelps wasn't saying that HE regarded certain voting blocks derisively,rather that there is a tendency by those they trust to  manipulate their emotions for gain.  I think that is a fair observation.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@JimSX @everlastingphelps The view of the race pimps.

As to the allegation that I'm racist because I don't like seeing black people taken advantage of for financial gain, fuck you.

EastDallasDad
EastDallasDad

@JimSX @EastDallasDad I don't know what else to tell you other than that I have consistently said that JWP and others that make this about race distract from the most important issues. Do you really think Miles' reforms are the only way to turn around DISD? What evidence do you have to support that position? Are we just throwing reforms at the wall to see what sticks?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @JimSX 

You make an excellent and very important point, then. I think the same is true of City Hall.  Hire one honest recent MBA, send him to either place with a good laptop and a copy of Quick Books and tell him to count the money.  Put out the word that anybody who fails to provide full access to the guy with the laptop will be fired. Within six months we'd probably save the better part of a billion bucks. 

EastDallasMom
EastDallasMom

I really do applaud any group, if they want to roll up their sleeves and do their time in the schools, as volunteers, to meet all of our challenges. If they've never done that, have they earned the right to say, who is qualified and who isn't, in regards to DISD leadership? Have they earned the right to be paraded in front of corporations, to speak on our behalf?  Should our City endorse a junior group, with no experience, over other experienced groups?

Is this D Magazines idea of branding Dallas education? Hello Dallas, the 80's, are calling. 

International businesses really want an educated ethnic, multi-lingual work force among their ranks. Unfortunately, that's not what this type of branding says you get in Dallas. 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@gregmarcydagama @RTGolden1 @everlastingphelps Not sure what you're responding to here.  I'm not denying the historical fact of, and present effects of, white racism in the US.  Jim mentioned the roots, and queried where the 'paranoid notion of crazy white people...' comes from. As long as Jim and his cohorts keep watering the root of racism with their writing, it will continue to grow.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@gregmarcydagama I don't think that the Dixiecrats fled anywhere.  Hell, the Democrats had a KKK chapter leader (Byrd) as their president pro tem in the Senate until 2010, and he was their Majority Leader during the 80s. (He fillibustered the civil rights act, too.)  He didn't flee anywhere.  He practically RAN the Democrat Party.

gregmarcydagama
gregmarcydagama

@everlastingphelps @RTGolden1 Phelps, I meant to only respond to RTGolden; sorry for leaving your name in there; not sure why or how this stuff always works. In any case, you are a very educated man, and to point out that it was what you call 'Democrats', as you know, the philosophy/ideology of these two groups have diametrically transposed over the past century culminating with the white flight of the Dixiecrats into the arms of first Wallace, then Nixon via Roger Ailes; then Senor Reagan in his Mississippi presidential bid announcement.

Still, in either case, there is little denying, irrespective of party or ideology, 
since 1608 the untold millions of people murdered, enslaved, and/or racially and culturally discriminated against here in North America have been almost exclusively ordered by the hand and law of the white man. That is an incontrovertible fact, even if its results are open for wide interpretation. Now, do you and me personally bear any responsibility or guilt for that of the past? I do not believe so; yet, I do believe we as a nation, all of us, owe to those victimized to redress the wrongs of our common ancestors. ~ / ~ OM

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

@everlastingphelps @CogitoErgoSum @PrestonHoller Don't pull that BS. Lincoln Republicans were radical social reformers, ideologically much more akin to progressive liberals. Also, the Southern Democrats that fought to preserve segregation quickly migrated to the Republican Party. Sell that revisionism elsewhere, please.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@CogitoErgoSum @PrestonHoller Why would they go above and beyond to improve the lot of a group that is going to not only vote against them anyway but in fact call them unconcionable insults at the same time?

The funny thing is that Republicans have still improved the lot of black people in America more than Democrats, first with the civil war, then with the civil rights movement against the Dixiecrats, and then again with the rising tide lifting all boats.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

@PrestonHoller Right, because the Republicans have done so much better for minorities. Puh-lease, joker.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@animas 

Oh. Sorry, Phelps. Un-fuck you.

EastDallasDad
EastDallasDad

@James080 @EastDallasDad @JimSX That's a straw man. Lazy and incompetent employees need to go but combining accountability with micro-management is idiotic. Why are the best schools in the country being treated the same as some of the worst? 

James080
James080

@EastDallasDad @JimSX  

The status quo you seem to embrace results in 2% of graduating qualified for college.

It's time that DISD stopped being managed as a JOBS PROGRAM, and instead managed as an educational institution.

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