Sheffie Kadane Speaks His Mind on DISD Home Rule. It Doesn't Take Long.

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A lot of words were spoken at today's joint meeting of the Dallas City Council and Dallas ISD board of trustees. Most were on point, for or against the call to draft a home-rule charter. Some were illuminating. Almost all were delivered with passion. It was, all in all, a remarkable (for City Hall) display of intelligent, engaged adults wrestling with a serious public policy matter.

Then there was Councilman Sheffie Kadane.

"This charter district -- would there be DISD schools in the district?" Kadane asked when his turn to speak arrived.

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Dallas ISD Home-Rule Debate Has Been Great for Mike Miles

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Mark Graham
Mike Miles
You know the debate over public schools in Dallas has gone squirrely when retired teacher and education activist advocate Bill Betzen stands before the City Council and offers implicit approval of Mike Miles' tenure as DISD superintendent.

Betzen, speaking in advance of a council discussion on the home-rule proposal for DISD, stopped well short of endorsing Miles, but he argued that the district is moving in the right direction -- graduation rates have risen for five consecutive years now -- and can continue to do so without fundamentally changing the district's structure.

The man who followed Betzen at the microphone, an East Dallas resident named David Lee, agreed.

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Dozens of DISD's Bilingual Teachers Are Facing Deportation, and the System Won't Budge

Dallas County District Attorney's Office
DA Craig Watkins is not facing deportation, but he is in a classroom much like DISD's H1-B holders teach in.
Garland ISD's foreign teachers aren't in danger of being sent back to their native countries because the human resources director might have been taking all-expense paid trips to the Philippines, or pocketing fees he wasn't supposed to be charging in the first place, or illegally funneling business to his step-kids, although all those things did happen. They're in danger of being sent back because their H1-B visas are set to expire and the U.S. Department of Labor keeps denying their appeals for permanent residency.

This isn't just a Garland issue. It's an issue for every school district that recruits bilingual teachers from abroad. Like Dallas ISD.

DISD employs several hundred teachers on H1-B visas. The district can't promise the teachers it recruits that they'll be allowed to stay in the U.S. beyond six years -- the H1-B is a nonimmigrant visa -- but it can help them apply for permanent residency.

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Lawrence B. Jones, Star of the Obamacare Sting, Tries Gonzo Tactics in Garland ISD Board Race

Dylan Hollingsworth
Lawrence Billy Jones III
Garland ISD trustee Scott Luna typically has a clear path to victory. Three times he's been up for election, three times his name has been the only one on the ballot.

Not this time. He has a challenger, 21-year-old Lawrence Billy Jones III, and now Luna's become embroiled in a minor scandal.

The scandal, as reported by The Dallas Morning News, is this: On February 28, the deadline for filing to run in the May school board election, Luna put in a call to associate Garland ISD Superintendent Gary Reeves (on leave over the district's H1-B visa scandal), who Jones counts as an advisor.

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Texas Might Finally Approve a Mexican-American Studies Course Today

Mexican-American activist Dolores Huerta, who was struck from Texas' social studies curriculum five years ago.
High school students in Texas can take, and get credit toward, electives like floral arrangement, team sport officiating, and turf-grass management. But not for Mexican-American studies, something activists, education groups, and several dozen state lawmakers are pushing to change.

They came out in force for Tuesday's State Board of Education meeting in Austin, urging board members to make the course a state-approved elective for high school students. Districts can currently offer such classes by developing and getting approval for their own "innovative course," but the process can be arduous; state approval would provide a standardized curriculum and textbook, making things much easier.

Their argument seems pretty reasonable. In a state where more than half of public school students are Hispanic, the vast majority of them of Mexican descent, and with Mexican-American leaders having been expunged from the social studies curriculum, it's only fair to give students a chance to learn about their heritage, which also happens to be intertwined with Texas history.

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Garland ISD's Former HR Director Exploited H1-B Visa Program for Cash, Trips to Philippines, Investigators Say

Attorneys outline their investigation into Garland ISD's H1-B visa program.
Until now, there have been only vague hints of improprieties in Garland ISD's H1-B visa program. There was an investigation serious enough to call in the feds, possibly involving foreign teachers paying fees they shouldn't have had to pay, and a bunch of teachers' visas were set to expire.

Today, Garland ISD cleared the air with a press conference detailing the findings of an outside investigation into the program. To quickly summarize: It's all the HR guy's fault.

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SMU Students Aren't Quite Ready For Increased LGBT Representation

Daniel Lobo
Two years ago, SMU finally climbed off the Princeton Review's list of the country's most "LGBT-unfriendly" schools. The news was welcomed by administrators, who have worked hard to shed the university's homophobic image, but it hardly meant that The Hilltop had suddenly become a bastion of progressive inclusiveness.

Case in point: The student body on Thursday voted down a measure that would have added a permanent LGBT seat to the student senate, much like the seats already set aside for African American, Asian and transfer students.

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Dallas County Schools Unveils the "School Bus of the Future," Complete with "Pedophile Finder"

Dallas County Schools
Dallas County Schools -- the local school district with no schools or students but lots and lots of school buses -- sent word last Friday that it was preparing to unveil the "School Bus of the Future," and that this futuristic vehicle will "will revolutionize school bus transit and exponentially increase the safe passage of students to and from school." We were intrigued.

My money personally was on some sort of armored personnel carrier, which the Department of Defense is handing out like peppermints. Web editor Gavin Cleaver, a deeply cynical British man, speculated that it's "probably just some unemployed guy in a battered old Ford Galaxy," which would be more in keeping with tradition.

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Plano ISD's Security Director Gambled Away $2.5 Million of the School District's Money

Kris Gentz, via Facebook
Meet Kris Gentz, 59-year-old Princeton resident, 14-year veteran of Plano ISD, and, according to the feds, a compulsive gambler and prolific thief.

Federal prosecutors, along with the FBI and Plano police, announced this morning that Gentz has pleaded guilty to embezzling some $2.5 million from the district, most of which he frittered away at casinos.

According to the Plano Star Courier's Bill Conrad, the scheme was rather simple: Gentz created two fake companies and got them approved as Plano ISD vendors. Those companies would regularly submit fake invoices that would be paid by the district. That money would then go in the pocket of Gentz and two accomplices, neither of whom worked for the district.

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Uplift Education Sat on Teacher-Rape Allegations for More Than a Year, Family Claims

Donald Carter Jr.
A Dallas family says Uplift Education kept a known sexual predator on staff as a teacher for more than a year after learning he raped their teenage daughter.

The rape, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the parents and alleged victim (all identified by pseudonyms), happened on the night of Uplift Hampton Prep's homecoming game in November 2011.

Carter, who is currently charged with sexual assault, had been involved in "other deviant and felonious sexual relationships with other students at Hampton Prep" when he set his sights on the girl. He began a "careful and methodical process of grooming," giving her an inordinate amount of attention in school and calling her and texting her frequently, often after hours, putting increasing pressure on her to have sex.

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