At "Open Mike" Session, DISD Superintendent Miles Looks to the Future

Mark Graham
Mike Miles
They weren't mentioned. Not once. No one, not the parents, not the teachers from other schools nor longtime critic and DISD trustee Joyce Foreman, asked DISD Superintendent Mike Miles about the "reptile's nest" of instant messages sent between former members of the district's human resources department at a parental forum held by the district Tuesday night.

Miles, who kept things pretty brief because he said he had to get the airport, took questions from parents who were concerned about unfair application of DISD's truancy policy, about whether early childhood and pre-kindergarten programs might be expanded to seven days. When, more than one person asked, would the district begin to reopen the 11 schools closed since 2012.

More »

Greenhill School Photo Project Combats Subtle Racism, Sexism and Other "Microaggressions"

Courtesy of Ariana Zhang
At an age when most of us were preoccupied with hot-boxing our parents' cars or eating Crayons (you ate crayons in high school too, right?!), the teenagers at Greenhill School in Addison are making us all look like slackers.

"I kind of got into the whole social justice scene during sophomore year," says Ariana Zhang, the Greenhill senior who photographed the "Dear Greenhill" photography project about campus discrimination that's been making waves online.

More »

Prime Prep Closes, Nearly $700,000 in the Red

Thumbnail image for Deion Sanders Drops By.JPG
Deion Sanders at Prime Prep, waving good-bye as things turned out.
Friday was the last day of school at Prime Prep Academy, according to state administrators assigned to pull the plug on the charter school founded by ex-Cowboy Deion Sanders. After two and a half years of legal fights, actual fights and assorted controversy, the Texas Education Agency finally said enough was enough. The school, whose funding came mostly from taxpayers, closed at least $650,000 short in cash need to pay overdue salaries and a number of other debts.

TEA's School Governance Director Ronald Rowell defended his agency's timing. "They've only been open for two and a half years," Rowell said today, and the school had turned in all the right paperwork until this year. "I think we acted fairly quickly," Rowell said.

The TEA appointees made their announcement during a board meeting Friday afternoon at Prime Prep's Fort Worth elementary school campus. Prime Prep operated a school in Dallas that also closed.

More »

Prime Prep's Board Finally Buries the Troubled School, but Skips the Funeral

J.D. Miles
We so often associate Prime Prep Academy with its co-founder Deion Sanders that we often overlook all the little people who helped make the school such a dysfunctional place. If it wasn't for Prime Prep's school board, for instance, Sanders may have remained permanently fired from the school, removing the threat of future employees ever getting choked again.

The school board that helped Sanders get rehired after his firing last fall was lead by T. Christopher Lewis, an Arlington-based attorney who once vouched for Sanders' commitment to kids. "I think he [Sanders] is an asset to the school and I think, if there is a new superintendent, I think the new superintendent should rehire him immediately," Lewis said one year ago. But Lewis and his two fellow board members were nowhere to be seen last night at 6:30 when they were supposed to be holding their final public meeting. On the agenda was the surrender of Prime Prep's charter; the school board was expected to vote to give up on the school, in a meeting open to anyone who wanted to watch the spectacle. But in the end, the school board couldn't even give Prime Prep the dignity of an official goodbye.

More »

You Should Check Out the Mayors' Report Card on Education

Dallas Independent School District
DISD schools: still not great, but not that bad if you look at other really big districts. So says a report issued by the Bush library and Mayor Mike Rawlings that compares achievement and disciplinary stats across the country's biggest urban districts.

The mission of the reports is described as follows:

"Though education data is frequently collected and aggregated at the state level, data is rarely synthesized across cities. This report is unique because this information has been collected and presented for mayors and members of the public in a straightforward, easy-to-use format. It offers data that mayors can use to inform their perspective and work effectively within their cities and with other mayors, sharing best practices and local initiatives."
More »

Highland Park's Book Fight Is About Ideology, Not Sex

From its beginning last fall, the narrative of the Great Highland Park Book Ban -- and I think all spectators can agree that it's been great -- has been about sex. This is understandable. Almost all great book-ban fights are about sex -- about when kids should be exposed to it and by whom and in what form, and whether the objections of a few puritanical moms should be allowed to dictate educational policy for an entire classroom/school district/state. Plus, if there's anything the media enjoys more than controversy, it's controversy about sex.

As it turns out, though, the Highland Park fight isn't just about sex. It's about using sex as a pretext for purging the high school curriculum of works that would be ideologically objectionable to a devotee of Ayn Rand. Case in point: the ongoing challenge to David K. Shipler's The Working Poor: Invisible in America, one of the seven books whose brief suspension from the Highland Park High School curriculum last fall ignited the current fight.

More »

Prime Prep Recruit from Atlanta Returns Home as School Enters its Death Throes

Tara Stroud, left, felt comfortable putting her son Netori Johnson in the care of his coaches, but recently brought him back home.
Monday's news that Prime Prep Superintendent Ron Price is resigning at the end of January marked the beginning of the end (for real this time, we think) of Deion Sanders' troubled charter school. His resignation was followed with an announcement from state officials that the Texas Education Agency is appointing its people to oversee Prime Prep.

And now one of the parents who had enthusiastically sent her son from out-of-state to play football for Prime Prep has given up on the school, too. Netori Johnson, the Prime Prep football standout who was recruited from Atlanta to live in an apartment with other students and coaches, has moved back home, his mother said when reached on the phone yesterday.

More »

Another Superintendent Resigns from Prime Prep, Just Before It (Probably) Gets Shut Down

Deion Sanders Drops By.JPG
Anna Merlan.
There was a time, late last year, when someone actually tried to fire Deion Sanders from Prime Prep Academy, the charter school he co-founded. That brave someone was the school's then-superintendent, an educator unrelated to Prime Time named Rachel King Sanders. At a school unofficially run by some of Deion Sanders' associates, where Sanders was the very reason many parents sent their kids there, her decision to fire him was not a popular one.

So last year, the school board got rid of that superintendent and replaced her with former DISD trustee Ron Price.

More »

Deion Sanders' School Is Getting "Enhanced Non-Lethal" Handguns. What Could Go Wrong?

Amy Silverstein
In July, all of the TRUTH-haters in the media reported that Deion Sanders' disaster of charter school was being "shut down." But we were wrong. Prime Prep is still open and participating in sports. Not only that, Prime Prep has proudly become the only school in the country to equip some of its staff with the Pro V2, a fancy pepper-spray handgun that includes a digital video camera that records when it's being used.

Which, one suspects, future plaintiff attorneys might find handy.

The Pro V2's maker, Guardian 8, calls the weapon an "enhanced non-lethal" handgun, and says Prime Prep is the first guinea pig bringing this "enhanced non-lethal" technology to a school campus, according to a news release that the school and gun-maker sent out Friday night.

More »

Texas A&M May Name Its Academic Building After Stalwart Student Rick Perry

Stu Seeger
Coming soon to Yale: The George W. Bush honors dorm.
Update: December 18, 3:28 p.m.: Governor Perry has announced that he will decline having the building named after him.

"Upon deep reflection, I have informed the Board of Regents of my decision to politely decline this great honor. I do so because certain places on this campus, like our most sacred traditions, transcend any one individual," Perry said in remarks obtained by The Texas Tribune.

In what would be a fitting end to Governor Rick Perry's reign, his alma mater, Texas A&M University, will consider renaming its iconic Academic Building the "Rick Perry '72" building during its board of regents meeting Thursday.

Perry attended the school from 1968 until 1972, making exactly two A's against nine D's and one F during his four-year tenure. He was more successful outside of the classroom, where he was a member of A&M's corps and a yell leader.

When Perry's transcripts were first made public in 2011, a college classmate told the Huffington Post that Perry wasn't the most studious guy on campus.

More »