DISD's Bernadette Nutall Says "Let's Be Clear" on Home Rule. She Should Go First.

Categories: Schutze

BernadetteNutall.jpg
DISD Trustee Bernadette Nutall

Last week somebody called me and asked me to go back and listen to Krys Boyd's April 29 Think program on KERA radio, in which Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas school trustee Bernadette Nutall debated "home rule," a proposal that could radically change the way we govern Dallas public schools.

I did go back and listen. I'm a print person. Sometimes I can't get it unless I see it in print, so I transcribed portions of the show, of which I'm only going to show you a few snippets. It did help. And hurt.

The main impression I drew from seeing these exchanges on the page was of Nutall. She simply would not or could not respond directly to any of the points Rawlings raised. She clearly doesn't like the home rule idea. That much comes across. But she's all over the map on the fundamental question of board responsibility for academic performance.

Sometimes she sounds as if she doesn't believe the board has any such responsibility -- it's all on the superintendent. But then she sounds as if she thinks the elected board is the only entity that has any true responsibility to students and parents, which I would take as responsibility for academic performance.

At one point, she says, "Let's clarify. There's a difference between governance and administration. Let's be clear about the governance. The board of directors, the trustees, are responsible for hiring and firing the superintendent, the budget, and we are responsible for policy. The administration is responsible for implementation of the plan. I think we have a difference of communication here. We are saying 'the board.' The board only governs the district, but yet there is a superintendent that we hold accountable through all of these things that it takes to educate children."

But later, discussing a home rule proposal that the board be automatically recalled if academic performance falls below the level of other peer districts, she says -- or seems to say -- that an elected board is the only form of governance that can be held accountable for academic performance.

"You hold me accountable," Nutall says, "and when we talk about accountability, you have the option to vote that trustee or elected official in or out. In three years you can replace that person, so it's very important to me to have that voice to vote with voting in or out or the other eight trustees, so I would not support appointing. So who appoints you is who you are committed to. We are committed as elected officials to our parents, our students and the constituents, and so I think the history of single member districts is very important, and I think you still need to remain single member districts for that voice for all areas of Dallas."

There was one point in this maddening sea of non sequitur when I thought Rawlings tried to crack through the fog with a single simple declaration. He said: "Here is one piece of data. Houston ISD has the same poverty level as we have. Twice as many college-ready students. Twice as many. That's just pure unadulterated facts."

Yeah. No kidding. Let's stop behaving as if we are inventing the wheel here. In Houston we have a peer city in the same part of the country with very similar demographics operating under the same state laws, and they produce twice as many college-ready students. I thought was a good brass tacks question, and I really wanted to hear how Nutall would answer.

She didn't. Instead, she rambled off in 12 different directions and never once addressed the Houston question. Finally Krys Boyd, the host of the show, tried to rein it in: "Bernadette," she said, "what is the one thing you would change?"

Nutall said, "Right now what I would change, we have a $1.6 billion budget. So I would look to see how we spend our money. We need to look at the cost per student."

That's the one thing she would change? No, more to the point: was that even an attempt to answer the question just put to her?

It's not just Nutall. An awful lot of the anti-home rule rhetoric is an imprecise evocation of all the bad things that could happen under home rule, or the good things that might not happen, along with invidious suggestions about the real motives of people behind it, all of which winds up creating a kind of dark zone, a rocky fog-girt end of the ocean where mythical beings lurk in hopes of feasting on ship-wrecked sailors.

I'm not for home rule. I'm not against it. I just want to hear the duly elected members of the Dallas Independent School District board of trustees answer that one question about Houston. Really. I'm, curious. It's a good question. One question. Let's hear it.


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74 comments
LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder


I'm curious how many people commenting here have had children in DISD or have attended DISD schools.  Roll call?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

"What kind of voters would approve a new law without
knowing what's in it? I can't imagine." -- Nancy Pelosi, for one.

Metroplexual
Metroplexual

Jim,
I was motivated by your article to hear for myself the
KERA Think program with the mayor and Ms Nutall.

I think neither party presented much of a case but Ms
Nutall was far more informative and substantive than
than Mayor Rawlings.

Basically she was being defensive of the present board
saying that the board is not responsible for academic
performance / administration. That's the responsibility
of DISD Administration.

The board holds the DISD Administration accountable
and the voters hold the School Board accountable.

The mayor on the other hand couldn't articulate one
positive reason for a bolt to Home Rule for DISD.
All he could do was point to the poor academic
achievement of DISD students as a whole.

What would a new charter under home rule do?
He said hold the board accountable for ACT etc test
score results and be able to replace them every 2 years.

Whoa that's it? His reasoning and presentation was
not worthy of my time listening and his stature as mayor and
advocate for SOPS. It didn't sound like any improvement
over present accountability chain.

I suggest if SOPS wants to get a new DISD Charter under Home
Rule they have a lot of work to do.

What kind of voters would approve a new law without
knowing what's in it? I can't imagine.

I want to read a list of specific proposals to improve
the education and academic success of all DISD students
but mostly bringing up the underperforming schools.

If they have such good ideas why not share with
present board / administration?

It's not about just money budgeted per student or
program and I don't believe pre K is any way a viable
solution. Teachers and principals must have
students reading and doing basic arithmetic at
end of third or fourth grade.

It sounds to me like the SOPS folks and business
interests want to dilute the board of its minority
voting bloc and that somehow will improve academic
success in DISD. Ha.

The board even though at times dysfunctional and
seemingly incompetent and self interested is not
in charge of teaching, lesson planning, monitoring of
student progress etc..

Ms Nuttall, you were right on in your comments and
questions for the mayor but I'm afraid the mayor and Ms.
Boyd were not able to tune in to your wave length.

If you want Home Rule make a case for it. 

amywallacecowan
amywallacecowan

Per Mike Morath, it's partly because they have more middle class kids. Houston's "Highland Park" is inside HISD, whereas our Park Cities are in their own ISD. 


Trustee Nutall was not on top of her game last week. She came across as having her feelings hurt on the timing of the roll out of home rule rather than making a case against going to a home rule district. 


The case against home rule is easy, and the number one reason why we should oppose it right now is SOPS is leaving about a 9 week window for a commission to meet and craft this very, very important charter-- and that's if they dropped the signatures off today! The city has spent 5 months on a fairly standard, non-controversial charter review, but SOPS and Todd Williams and Mike Morath want DISD's finished in 2 months? That's a recipe for disaster. 


That being said- those who oppose home rule shouldn't always have to be the ones making their case; sometimes we would like to hear a case FOR home rule other than just "DISD sucks." It doesn't suck. My daughter attends DISD, and she's getting a great education. It just doesn't produce uniform results across the board. So let's ask the bigger questions-- Why not? How is home rule going to change that? 


What state laws do you find so cumbersome that you want to exempt the district from them? 


By going to home rule, you're giving a board of trustees MORE power. What safety nets are you leaving in tact for periods when there is a weaker board-- and there will ebbs and flows in leadership of the board, just like there are in all organizations. 

lebowski300
lebowski300

DISD has enough money and thus motivation to be corrupt forever. End of story. Nothing anyone does or thinks or says will have anything more than an absolutely negligible difference.

lebowski300
lebowski300

How dare Jim make Nutall look bad. HOW DARE HE!

sixandahalf
sixandahalf

js; you are clearly (so you say) not for or against "home rule"... you seem kinda lukewarm toward those who are for it (like the mayor), but you sure don't seem to like those who are against "home rule"...and Houston is just a bug floating across the tabletop of this article...hmmmmm

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

I was also disappointed with Nuttall. Her answers were fear driven rants about this unknown group trying to take over. I share her fear. I wish she had been more substantive in her objections.

While we all may rant on the school board for being petty feif managers, I am heartened by their newfound unity. They are being more ope x and supportive of Miles.

jumping ship during this hopeful period for management by Friends of Rawlings is not a smart move.

catmarie47
catmarie47

Any of the proposed changes requested by SOPS supporters for DISD in regards to Home Rule, can be made within the current DISD system.  Home Rule isn't needed.   And, according to seasoned/tenured professional educators, DISD academic numbers were progressively improving until Miles was brought in by tptb. I also think that Madame Trustee Nutall is saying that even though DISD has a 1.6 billion dollar budget, this money isn't being distributed to the students as it should be.   I understood what she said.  Those who didn't understand, apparently weren't listening...

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

Houston doesn't have Nutall or Rawlings.


Next question.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

Nutall said, "Right now what I would change, we have a $1.6 billion budget. So I would look to see how we spend our money. We need to look at the cost per student."

This sounds like a very smart answer /question. 

And it would be from an audience member at a school town hall meeting. 

But this is a Trustee Who  should be curious enough to have asked the question and  had the answer already.


Another good example of the fact we have people who are very good at getting elected but are clueless when it comes to the Govern part of governing.


mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

The current Board of Trustees at DISD is the best argument for the Home Rule proposal that can be made.

That being said, there is no reason the Home Rule needs to implemented to effect change in the Board.

It just seems to be the easiest way to accomplish the goal.

If the SOPS crowd can get the required number of signatures on the petition to bring Home rule forward, why can't we get these same petition signers to vote in the election of the Trustees?

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

Houston has 50% more college ready seniors, not double (10% vs 15%). However, if Houston had the same demographics as Dallas, they would have a lower college ready rate (10.38% v our 10.5%).


Dallas does a slightly better job with both districts majority ethnic group, hispanics (7.8%  v 7.3%). The main difference is that Houston has more white and asian students (6% in Dallas v 11.6% in Houston).

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

To be clear, nothing about this "Home Rule" is clear, other than some nefarious Koch-brothers type is behind it, and he's in Houston!. Since Dallas has the nation's top-rated school(s), and the mayor is a pizza pro, why waste time on the non-issue?

And, really, shouldn't it be called "Regla Casera"?

DOisDUMDUM
DOisDUMDUM

On Friday DISD was the best thing in the world and everyone should want to move to Dallas to enjoy it's benefits.


On Monday? DISD swallows up a 1.6 billion dollar budget just to end up worse than Houston. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Put the private, charter and home schoolers out of business, but not by decree or legal jujitsu.  Put them out of business due to lack of demand for them.The mere fact they exist is prima facie evidence of the size and scope of the failure to educate in our public school system.

The fate of the City rides on its schools, and the City (and its schools) has been going in the opposite direction.

Over the past census period Houston grew, Dallas did not.  And lousy schools are the reason why.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@amywallacecowan  

I'm not sure the more-middle-class-kids Park-Cities-within-the-district works. We would still have to explain why Houston's white kids, for example, are so much smarter than Dallas's white kids. According to TEA AEIS, 60.2 percent of the white 2011 SAT/ACT takers in Houston were at or above criterion, while only 44.6 percent of our white kids made the grade. If that isn't attributable to instruction and is not a signal that our school board does a lousier job of running a district than their school board, then what other factors might we try as an alternative explanation? Houston has no zoning? It's more humid?  

DOisDUMDUM
DOisDUMDUM

@amywallacecowan  I don't get it. If a school can only teach white kids, are they even teaching? Sounds like little criminal daycare on the white man's dime. 


Your daughter is getting a great education in how to be knocked up or raped. 

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@amywallacecowan

The case against home rule is easy

is it? what can you would be a problem with home rule? from my chair it is difficult to answer until the charter is determined so it can be examined against the current format.

SOPS is leaving about a 9 week window for a commission to meet and craft this very, very important charter

there is nothing I am aware of that sets this timeframe other than a desire to tie it into the November elections. doesn't need to be in November, does it? doesn't need to be "a 9 week window" does it?

What state laws do you find so cumbersome that you want to exempt the district from them?

that is a good question that should be answered.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@sixandahalf  

What do you mean about Houston?

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

@catmarie47 Anybody can point out problems as "Madame Trustee Nutall" proved.  Problem is, she was elected to govern and the question she was asked is what would she DO, not what sweepingly broad problems does she see.  Those who don't understand the difference....

Guesty
Guesty

@oakclifftownie The only suggestion she had was that the Board should look into doing one of the two things everyone agrees is the Board's job already, reviewing the budget.  I suppose that if pressed, her only other suggestion would be for the Board to thoughtfully consider who should be hired as superintendent the next time the issue arises.   

Guesty
Guesty

@mavdog "If the SOPS crowd can get the required number of signatures on the petition to bring Home rule forward, why can't we get these same petition signers to vote in the election of the Trustees?"  

Because we live in a time of lazy entitlement (this is true for large percentages of both the rich and the poor and everything in between).  People think that because they were born into a great and prosperous nation they don't have any obligation to do anything to keep it that way.  

Will people sign a petition from someone standing in their door who is promising that the simple act of writing your name will make things better? Sure.  Hell, we had to get off the couch to see who rang the bell anyhow, so might as well get something for the effort (even if that something is the false sense of having "done something" about the problem).  

But actually paying attention to candidates, understanding what is wrong and what is right about our public schools and how best to improve a situation that no one has ever actually solved, agreeing to pay enough in taxes to make a difference, and then going to a polling location to vote in an election on some random work day when there isn't anyone on the ballot spending millions on TV commercials to "inform" them about the candidates?  All when at the end of the day the board is going to be dominated by the other crappy trustees?  Shit man, that sounds a lot like work.  We've got better things to do.  Wait, gotta go because someone's at the door.  Better check it, might be my pizza...   

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@mavdog Or put another way, if this is what we elect now while there is some state oversight, what makes you think we will elect anyone different under home rule and will the lack of oversight really make things better?

lebowski300
lebowski300

@Los_Politico  Making up facts is awesome. What nails home their awesomeness is a lack of supporting references. Kudos!

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Los_Politico  

Not sure how you are measuring Houston/Dallas college-ready. The mayor got his numbers from Commit! Those numbers were explained to me as taken directly from the TEA  AEIS reports. Multiply % above criterion (sat/act) by % who take the test. For Dallas, that's around 8%, for Houston closer to 15%.

James080
James080

@TheRuddSki  

No kidding. If we fix DISD, where do we look for fodder to keep the jails and prisons full? It's a pipe line deal, pal.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@DOisDUMDUM  

Who, pray tell, told you DISD was the best thing in the world?

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx

Private schools existed before there was a public school in America. They do not exist  because of public schools. There will always be demand from some families for private schooling.

Houston grew in population because Houston grew geographically. To link a population growth in Houston to schools, and a comparable lack pf population growth in Dallas because of its schools, is using a result with different causes. it's comparing apples and oranges.

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

@JimSX @amywallacecowan  A huge chunk of DISD whites are in Seagoville and extremely poor. I don't know about Houston, but I don't think the "down river" kids are in their district.


Seagoville whites have by far the lowest SAT average in the region. If we exclude Seagoville from DISD the average white SAT score goes up from 1606 to 1625 (that's significant, FYI).

DOisDUMDUM
DOisDUMDUM

@JimSX @amywallacecowan  Fewer Obama voters percentage wise. 

amywallacecowan
amywallacecowan

Not white kids- kids who come from homes where parents are engaged in the process. 1/2 the college readiness scores come from magnet schools. Kids in magnet schools have parents who bothered to apply to get them into magnet schools. Why can't the successes of those kids be replicated? How is going to home rule going to get them educated?

Oh, and you're a jerk. Rape isn't a joke.

amywallacecowan
amywallacecowan

You're right- the law actually says the commission can take 1 year. However if they took a year, it would end up on the May 2015 ballot-- coincidentally the same ballot that the mayor's race will be on. That race probably won't meet the 25% turnout threshold required for the passage of a home rule district. It's November or bust for SOPS.

sixandahalf
sixandahalf

@JimSX     Houston is a minor/meaningless part of the point you're trying to make.  What you really mean is damn those who are for "home rule" and double or triple damn those (especially Nutall) who are against it...right?...or maybe I got it all wrong and you just wanta make love with Houston...???...

catmarie47
catmarie47

@PlanoDave The "Anybody can point out problems" statement shows your arrogance in the situation. She said she would look to see how we spend our money. "WE need to look at the cost per student."  Why is her answer so hard for you to understand???  The problems in DISD go far beyond what she can personally do with the exception of terminating Miles.  And even then, that must be done collectively.  So, there was no way for her to answer the question without undermining Miles (who is falling short in the performance of his duties as Super).  I'm sure her "governing" powers will be utilized at the time of Miles' evaluation process.

Guesty
Guesty

@becoolerifyoudid @mavdogMoving elections to national November election days might help.  At least then board members would need more votes than their immediate family members to get elected.  Other than that, I'm not sure what can be done.   

DOisDUMDUM
DOisDUMDUM

@JimSX  I guess it's been a while since you've taken a college course. 


Being proclaimed "college ready" by a school district looking to fluff it's numbers in order to maintain federal tax funding does not actually mean any of those little criminals is ready for college. 


Maybe you could hire an intern for two from DCCCD and test it out. They can't be worse than Nicholson, right? (They are). And it would help the DO's abhorrent diversity record!

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Houston:  99.8% x 14.8% = 14.8%

Dallas: 77.0% x 10.5% = 8.1%

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@James080

Well, there's always immigration amnesty.

DOisDUMDUM
DOisDUMDUM

@JimSX  Some senile cracker that had probably been getting drunk at the yacht club. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog @holmantx  

Obfuscating and avoiding the point to look good again, I see.

the NEA/TEA and the political machines they feed across this nation are openly hostile to charter schools and home-schooling.

Why?

because they are effective and thus present a danger to the bureaucracy.  In fact, just invoke the term "charter school" to kill Home Rule.  Just like the R word.

So stick that high-minded private school finger wag historical demonstration of "Look AT Me" where it can do some good.

then scratch. 

DOisDUMDUM
DOisDUMDUM

@amywallacecowan  "Not white kids- kids who come from homes where parents are engaged in the process"


So that pretty much knocks out the whole black population then. The race pimping leftists like Jim have ensured the destruction of black families by raking anyone who dares suggest that fathers are important over the coals. 

wcvemail
wcvemail

@catmarie47 @PlanoDave  
She did not answer the question. She was asked what she would change, but looking at cost per student is part of her regular, unchanging job. What is that question so hard for you to understand???

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@DOisDUMDUM

It is evident from your posts that you never sat to take the SAT or the ACT, very high probability that you didn't make it far enough thru school to have taken the TAKS exit-level test either, so you are unaware that it's not possible to "teach to the test" for these exams.

you can prepare, and take courses to improve your scores, but "teach to the test" for exit-level, SAT or ACT? that's funny.

DOisDUMDUM
DOisDUMDUM

@mavdog @JimSX  So you support teaching to the test? Cool. 


Go take a course at DCCCD and report back to us.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@DOisDUMDUM @JimSX

"Being proclaimed "college ready" by a school district looking to fluff it's numbers in order to maintain federal tax funding does not actually mean any of those little criminals is [sic] ready for college"

you are wrong.

To be considered college-ready as defined by this indicator, a graduate must have met or exceeded the college-ready criteria on the TAKS exit-level test, or the SAT test, or the ACT test.

http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/account/2014/20131205mtg/postsecondary.pdf

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

@JimSX  Ok that makes some sense, but the demographics of the districts still distort the difference between the two. The Houston senior class of 2012 was 14% white/asian the Dallas class was 7.7%. That is essentially the whole difference. Houston graduates 7.2% of it's hispanics as college ready using your metric. Dallas 5.6%. But that is because Houston makes everyone take the SAT and Dallas doesn't. In 2011 when Houston didn't make everyone take the SAT 6.3% of their hispanics were college ready. That's a 1/8th difference-  not double.


In those same TEA docs there is a metric called the Texas Success Initiative, which also claims to measure college readiness, and Dallas beats Houston in hispanic, black, economically disadvantaged, and english language learner scores.


So count me as unconvinced that Houston is better than Dallas. I'm really unconvinced that Dallas does any worse with poor, minority, or immigrant kids than anyone else does. We just have such a concentration of those groups that we look bad compared to districts with more affluence.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@DOisDUMDUM @JimSX  

Where can I meet him? Sounds like my kind of guy.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx

gee whiz, such hostility from you when you are shown to be so small in thought.

if you can't take the heat.....stop providing the firewood.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@mavdog  

just take a mulligan and SFU.

jeez you can be a tedious little bean.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@holmantx

Obfuscating and avoiding the point to look good again, I see

oh, then your point wasn't "Put [private education] out of business due to lack of demand for them.The mere fact they exist is prima facie evidence of the size and scope of the failure to educate in our public school system."?

yes, I thought it was. and yes, private schools existed before there ever was a public school, and yes, there will always be "demand for them [private schools]". just like there will always be demand for public education.

did you have another "point"?

nah, didn't think you did.

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