Now DISD Investigators Are Calling Out District Employees for "Criticizing" Subordinates

JamesTerry.png
James Terry
Last night, WFAA's Brett Shipp released the latest in what's becoming a series of investigative pieces on the administration of Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles.

"For the third time in less that two months, a DISD internal investigation has uncovered alleged wrongdoing by a top district administrator," the report begins. It goes on to explain that the district's Office of Professional Responsibility, a kind of internal affairs department charged with sniffing out misconduct by district employees and officials, had finished a damning report on chief financial officer James Terry concluding that he'd violated district policy.

It all sounds terribly serious. The revelation that yet another top administrator is in trouble seems to feed into the by now well-established narrative that Miles just doesn't have what it takes to run a large urban school district. But then you take a look at what the report apparently says.

Here's Shipp's synopsis:

James Terry has been with DISD since 2011. Miles appointed him to his cabinet last year. On July 19, internal investigators with the Office of Professional Responsibility, known as OPR, determined that Terry "made remarks that were critical of the competence of the Campus Activity Funds Manager ... in violation of District Policy."

Investigators found that "James Terry used language qualifying as bullying and harassing ... and violated Standards of Conduct." Investigators also determined "Terry continued to use the discriminatory name after being asked not to do so."

Shipp didn't post the report itself, and the district hasn't released it, so we're not sure what "discriminatory name" Terry used. As for the part about Terry making "remarks that were critical of the competence" of an employee, that's sort of what bosses are supposed to do.

At first glance, it looks like Shipp is doing the TV-reporter thing and blowing something small into something big and attention-grabbing. He's doing that, of course, but not egregiously -- nothing on the order of investigative teammate Byron Harris' report that bedbugs are "on the rise in North Texas." An official investigation that sniffs out misdeeds by a top DISD administrator is newsworthy.

The question you're left with is this: Should the OPR really be expending time and resources investigating this crap?

OPR's answer is a definite yes. The other investigations Shipp refers to in his lede -- one on former Chief of Staff Jerome Oberlton, the other on Miles himself -- each found evidence of "bullying." In each case, this conclusion is based almost exclusively on the testimony of the employee being bullied. In each case, that employee is former communications chief Rebecca Robriguez. (See Jim's piece here for a more thorough dismantling of the Miles report.)

Clearly there needs to be some better process for deciding what gets investigated. Same for adjudicating the he-said-she-said cases the OPR is so fond of. That at least seems to be what DISD Board President Eric Cowan is thinking.

"After this main investigation [into allegations that Miles improperly influenced the bidding process] is over with," he told Shipp, "we are going to be looking at policies and procedures and just what the purpose of OPR is and how we conduct investigations on employees, especially when it's one employee against another."

As it stands, the office is causing more trouble than it's rooting out.

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17 comments
lupevargas598
lupevargas598

I heard the complaint was for retaliation. The manager reported Marian Hamlett for calling the internal auditor a tar baby last year.  Marian Hamlett referred to Alan King as daddy and told her staff that she was the princess in charge and daddy would give her anything she wants.  Alan King and Jim Terry are very good friends and room mates. She is same woman that made the Aunt Jemima comment.

cmint
cmint

Give Shipp the benefit of the doubt.  He's earned it. 

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

How many AU campuses, and this is what the Board and Administration are working on? I mean, I hope the well-being of 160,000 kids isn't interfering with your wiener measuring contest.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Sounds like opr is dancing to someone's tune... and shame on Shipp for putti g this out before getting better info. Not up to his usual standards.

James080
James080 topcommenter

This is not about bullying. It's about OPR maneuvering out from under Miles' control and into the Trustee's control. Which means OPR will become a heat seeking missile for Nutall, Ranger and Blackburn to harrass Miles until he gives up, so they can then reinstall their friends in DISD jobs.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

This would be a prime case of stretching the definition of 'bullying' beyond its effective meaning.  A boss questioning the  competence of a subordinate is not bullying, he's doing his job.  He might need to find a more tactful way of expressing his doubts in the subordinate, but he's still just doing his job.  Some underling is trying to ride the social gravy train to a paycheck based on 'bullying', probably while doing some bullying themselves.

yoka
yoka

Terry must have forgotten that the only DISD employees to be criticized and berated are the teachers.

James080
James080 topcommenter

Gosh....I hope no one's feelings were hurt in this incident.

I demand the appointment of a special investigator to get to the bottom of this workplace bullying. Self esteem is at stake for God's sake!


JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Only DISD could get me to be in favor of bullying.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

So Terry calls this person an incompetent idiot, probably for a good reason, and the idiot complains and the guy trying to get shit in order is in trouble?

observist
observist

@RTGolden1  I heard he was also reprimanded for asking employees to do stuff they didn't really feel like doing.

James080
James080 topcommenter

@JimSX  

I'm surprised Brett Shipp would put his name on this puff piece.

Threeboys
Threeboys

@Montemalone 

You could swap Miles for Terry in your comment, leaving in every other word, and that sums up the Miles witch hunt.

titusgroan
titusgroan

@Montemalone It is always appropriate to call out people's mistakes.  It is not appropriate to do it in a humiliating way, like name-calling.  You can't afford to make enemies of your subordinates, because your success hinges on theirs.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@Montemalone Apparently the idiot isn't completely incompetent, the complaint found traction in OPR.  Said idiot is obviously competent at protecting his/her position.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@Montemalone  

Yep, that pretty much sums it up in a nutshell.

Apparently if you get after a subordinate for not doing their job, it is called bullying.  Mr. Terry needs to watch it around the employees that are juiced in.

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