Monday, December 22, 2008

Attorney General sets deadline for Dallas ISD Opinion on legality of four-year Trustee terms after December 31, 2007

The office of Attorney General Greg Abbott has set a deadline of January 19, 2009 for receipt of briefs and additional comments from all interested parties regarding the Opinion on the legality of the Dallas ISD decision to change the length of Board member terms after December 31, 2007 and cancel the 2009 Trustee election.

All interested parties should send written submissions as indicated in the letter from the Chair of the Opinion Committee below.




December 17, 2008

Mr. Robert Scott
Commissioner of Education
Texas Education Agency
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701-1494

Re: Authority of the board of trustees of an independent school district to change the length of its members' terms after December 31, 2007 (RQ-0770-GA)

Dear Commissioner Scott:

We have received your request for an attorney general opinion, dated December 3, 2008, and have designated it as Request No. 0770-GA. Please refer to that number in future correspondence with us about this matter. Section 402.042 of the Government Code provides that the Attorney General shall issue an opinion not later than the 180th day after the date that an opinion request is received. TEX. GOV'T CODE ANN. § 402.042(0(2) (Vernon 2005). We received your request on December 8, 2008 setting a due date for your opinion of June 3, 2009. We will respond by that date, or before, if possible.

By copy of this letter we are notifying those listed below of your request and asking them to submit briefs if they care to do so. If you are aware of other interested parties, please let us know as soon as possible. We ask that the briefs be submitted by January 19, 2009 to ensure that the Opinion Committee will have adequate time to review and consider arguments relevant to the request from all interested parties. Written submissions are most useful, as the members of the Opinion Committee are not available to comment on or discuss the merits of legal questions at issue in an opinion request. Parties may request an extension of time to file a brief by calling (512) 463-2110.

Very truly yours,

Nancy S. Fuller
Chair, Opinion Committee

Enclosure: Request No. 0770-GA

Mr. Robert Scott - Page 2

cc: The Honorable Royce West, Chair, Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, Texas
State Senate
Ms. Ann McGeehan, Director of Elections, Office of the Secretary of State
Ms. Joy Baskin, Director of Legal Services, Texas Association of School Boards
Dr.. Wendy Lee Gramm, Chairman of the Board, Texas Public Policy Foundation
Mr. Michael Hinojosa, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools, Dallas Independent School
Mr. Rolando L. Rios, Attorney for Dallas ISD, Rolando L. Rios and Associates
Mr. Tom Smith, Executive Director, Public Citizen-Texas
Mr. Johnny Veselka, Executive Director, Texas Association of School Administrators
Mr. Kyle Ward, Executive Director, Texas PTA
Ms, Suzy Woodford, Executive Director, Common Cause of Texas
Ms. Teresa Spears, Governor's Appointment Director

POST OFFICE Box 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78721-2548 TEL:(512)463-2100 WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US
An Equal Employment Opportunity Employer Printed on Recycled Paper


1701 North Congress Ave. Austin, Texas 78701=1494 512/463-9838

Robert Scott

December 3, 2008

Honorable Gregg Abbot
Attorney General of Texas
Post Office Box 12548
Austin, Texas 78711-2548

Re: Attorney General Opinion Request

Dear General Abbott:

At the request of a Dallas Independent School District ("DISD") trustee, I am seeking your opinion as to the effect of Section 11.065, Texas Education Code on the ability of a board of trustees to change the length of terms for that body.

As you know, most school districts in Texas are subject to Section 11.059, Texas Education Code, which allows the board of trustees of a school district to serve either a three or four year term. That section was amended by the 2007 Texas Legislature to add subsection (e) and thus authorize boards of trustees to change the length of their existing terms:
(e) Not later than December 31, 2007, the board of trustees may adopt a resolution changing. the length of the terms of its trustees. The resolution must provide for a term of either three or four years and specify the manner in which the transition from the length of the former term to the modified term is made. The transition must begin with the first regular election for trustees that occurs after January 1, 2008, and a trustee who serves on that date shall serve the remainder of that term. This subsection expires January 1, 2013.
We have understood Subsection 11.059 (e) to authorize boards of trustees to change the length of their terms only until December 31, 2007'.
Subsection 11.065 (e) at least partially overlaps an authorization pursuant to Acts, 80th Leg., Ch 1010, Section 2 that also created a December 31, 2007 deadline. We also understand that some school districts have been required to change the terms of trustees after the December 31, 2007 deadline in order to comply with the joint election requirements under section 11.0581, Texas Education Code. For example, a school district holding joint elections with a municipality could be forced to change its election to a different date should the municipality change its own election date. 2 Acts, 2003, 78th Leg., Ch. 344. Note this act adopted a Section 11.064 of the Education Code, which was renumbered in 2005 as Section 11.065. 3 Committee Report available at hftp://www.capitol.state.tx.usitIodocs/78R/analysis/doc/SB00688H.doc.

DISD is subject to certain other state statutes that do not apply to all school districts. Specifically, we understand Section 11.065 of the Texas Education Code to apply to DISD:

(a) Sections 11.052(g) and (h) and Sections 11.059(a) and (b) do not apply to the board of trustees of a school district if:
(1) the district's central administrative office is located in a county with a population of more than two million; and
(2) the district's student enrollment is more than Inlya And less than 200,000.
(b) Section 11.053 of this code` and -Section 141.001, Election Code, apply to the board of trustees of a school district described by Subsection (a).
(c) A trustee of a school district described by Subsection (a) may not serve a term that exceeds four years.
(d) Notwithstanding Chapter 171, Acts of the 50th Legislature, Regular Session, 1947 (Article 2783d, Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes), to the extent consistent with this section, the board of trustees of a school district described by Subsection (a) may adopt rules necessary to govern the term, election, and residency requirements of members of the board that may be adopted under general law by any other school district.
Section 11.065 was adopted in 2003 as Senate Bill 6882, preceding the 2007 addition of subsection 11.059 (e). As introduced, Senate Bill 688 did not include the phrase "that may be adopted under general law by any other school district" in Subsection (d). That phrase was added by the House Public Education Committee3 and remained unchanged through final adoption.

The opinion requested is whether DISD may, under the provisions of Section 11.065, Texas Education Code, or any other law, change the term served by a member of the board of trustees after December 31, 2007. The opinion request from the DISD board member represents.that the DISD board has voted to change the length, of its terms from' - three to four years. The trustees' action has been reported to also postpone elections previously scheduled for May, 2009 to November, 2010.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. Should you need any additional information, please feel free to contact me or David Anderson, General Counsel, at (512) 463-9720.


Robert Scott
Commissioner of Education

Friday, December 12, 2008

Trustee Price and Board President sink 'Confidence Vote'

On October 30, 2008, Trustees Ron Price, Lew Blackburn and Carla Ranger submitted a written request to the Board President Jack Lowe to call a "Confidence Vote" Special Board Meeting relating to the performance of the Superintendent.

Twice in the month of November, I brought this issue up to the Board President at Board meetings. Trustee Price said nothing.

The Board President refused to call the 'Special Meeting' as required by Board policy from October 30 to December 11, 2008.

Yesterday, the Dallas Morning News reported:

"Also on Wednesday, Mr. Price dropped a request for the school board to hold a vote of confidence in Dr. Hinojosa." ... Further, Mr. Price said he no longer needs the vote since he has given his opinion."

The Dallas Morning News education blog stated:

"Board President Jack Lowe didn't attend the news conference but listened to it in DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander's office. Mr. Lowe said he called Mr. Price after the meeting and confirmed that Mr. Price is no longer asking for the confidence vote."

"Mr. Lowe, a supporter of Dr. Hinojosa's, said he confirmed with Mr. Price that he no longer seeks the confidence vote and said he's happy with his decision."

As one of the three Trustees who signed the request for the "Confidence Vote", I would have appreciated being informed before the public sinking of the boat.

It was on TV. I was never told it was coming.

The truth is, there was more reason than ever for a "Confidence Vote."

But that effort was wasted because the Board President violated Board policy by refusing to call the meeting requested by three Trustees.

Finally, Trustee Price put a hole in the boat and left it sinking in the water.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Texas Education Commissioner Requests Attorney General Opinion on Legality of Dallas ISD Four-Year Trustee Terms

At the request of Trustee Carla Ranger, Texas Education Commissioner, Robert Scott is requesting an opinion from the Texas Attorney General on the legality of the Dallas ISD Board's extending Board terms to four years and canceling the May, 2009 Trustee election.

I made this request in the hope that the action of Dallas ISD in adopting a Resolution and Board Policy on Thursday, November 20, 2008 would be reviewed by state officials and an official decision reached.

That will now be done, and the accountability of the Dallas ISD Trustees for this action will be determined.

The Board of Trustees and the District legal staff refused to obtain state clarification before rushing to take this action in order to prevent the May, 2009 Trustee elections.

The public interest will be served by obtaining state review.

The TEA Attorney General Opinion request states: "We have understood Subsection 11.059 (e) to authorize boards of trustees to change the length of their terms only until December 31, 2007."

This confirms that both the Secretary of State and the Texas Education Agency consider the Dallas ISD action to be a violation of the Texas Education Code.

Our thanks to Commissioner Scott's office for requesting the clarification.

The Question: The opinion requested is whether DISD may, under the provisions of Section 11.065, Texas Education Code, or any other law, change the term served by a member of the board of trustees after December 31, 2007. The opinion request from the DISD board member represents that the DISD board has voted to change the length of its terms from three to four years. The trustees' action has been reported to also postpone elections previously scheduled for May, 2009 to November, 2010?

The November 20, 2008 change of Trustee terms to four years certainly appears to violate the December 31, 2007 deadline of the Texas Education Code - as the legal division of the Secretary of State's Office previously confirmed.

We must now also file official objections with the U.S. Department of Justice
based on the potential violation of the Texas Education Code Section 11.059(e) December 31, 2007 deadline and other related objections to canceling the Scheduled May, 2009 Trustee election.

More - Click Here - Submission of Term Plans to U.S. Department of Justice Per Senate Bill 670

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Confidence Vote Discussion - Board President Again Refuses to Call the 'Special Meeting' Required by Board Policy

November 20, 2008 Board Meeting 5:30 P.M.

A part of the Board discussion is contained below.
President Jack Lowe: We will begin with the Superintendent of Schools Report.

Trustee Carla Ranger: Before you begin the meeting, I have two Points of Order.

As you know, the District operates by policy. ... 3 or 4 weeks ago, three trustees submitted a request to you about a Confidence Vote. We haven't received a response to that.

Lowe: That's not on the agenda, Ms. Ranger.

Ranger: This is a Point of Order. I'm not asking for a discussion.

Lowe: Let me ask the Parliamentarian that we just referred to.

Ranger: This is not for discussion. I am making a Point of Order about a continuing infraction of a rule or a policy. I am asking a question about ...

Lowe: You are out of order.

Ranger: Well, I appeal the ruling of the Chair.

Lowe: OK, who are you going to appeal it to?

Ranger: The full Board.

Lowe: OK. How do you do that, Ms. Parliamentarian?

Ranger: What I'm saying is, We need an answer, Mr. President.

Jack Elrod (General Counsel): I would not suggest voting on this. This is a matter of law.

Lowe: OK.

Lowe (calls for reports): Superintendent's Report.

(Superintendent gives report.)

Ranger: Point of Order, Mr. President. I must make this point -- it has to do with the continued violation of policy.

The point is ... if the president violates policy, disrespects Board members when they ask a question, states that it is not on the Agenda--corroborated by the staff--yet, the president controls the Agenda-- and will not put the item on the Agenda.

How is it that a Trustee representing a district of more than 112,000 people -- how does that Trustee ever have the opportunity to discuss with you, with this Board or for the public or her district, any question?

Trustee Edwin Flores(interrupts to give the Education Report): Thank you, Mr. President.

Ranger: I have the floor, Trustee Flores, and I asked the President a question.

Ranger (to President Lowe): I would hope that as BF Local was written in expectation that the President would follow policy, I would hope that you would at least answer.

Lowe: I will follow policy.

Ranger: Well, the policy is not being followed. BE Local is not being followed ...

BE Local states:
'The president of the board "shall call a special meeting ... at the written request of three board members."
Lowe: I've noted your comments.

Ranger: I don't want you to note them. I want you to answer my question.

Lowe: I'm not going to do it.

Ranger: You are not going to answer the question? You are ignoring a Trustee? We are all equal here.

Lowe: We are not posted to discuss this. I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to violate the Open Meetings Act.

Ranger: You are already violating policy. I asked a question.

I just want you to note, and I want it to be noted in the record that I have asked you a question about BE Local, which you are violating (and) BF Local which you have for the last 3 1/2 weeks.

I would like an answer as a Trustee who followed policy. I made a request. I want an answer for me, for my district and for the people who support Dallas ISD.

Lowe: OK. We have that in the record. Now calls on Trustee Flores for Education report.

Meeting continues.
The same request had been made at the November 6, 2008 Board Briefing two weeks earlier.

No other Trustee spoke during either of the two November Board efforts to obtain a response from the Board President.

The District General Counsel interrupted a Trustee's parliamentary appeal to the full Board stating it was a matter of law.

Robert's Rules of Order clearly allows an appeal from any decision of the President to the full Board. There is no basis for denying the appeal.

So the General Counsel decided it was a matter of law. But there is no law that prevents a parliamentary appeal of a Board President's decision.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Student Leaders Greet Elected Officials

Student leaders from Dallas, Desoto, and Lancaster ISDs, as well as A.W. Brown Charter School were standing tall last night as they received well deserved community recognition.

All were guests at The 13th Annual Elected Officials/Student Advisory Committee Reception, hosted by Senator Royce West, sponsor of the Dr. Emmett J. Conrad Student Advisory Committee.

In addition to a "formal" evening with fun and food, the objective of the reception was specific--it was a time for meeting, mingling and mentoring. Student Government leaders from high school and middle school had opportunities to speak with more than three dozen city, county and state elected officials.

In a brief keynote address, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins encouraged students to stay focused and work to achieve their goals.

Along with their students, parents and school sponsors were all smiles.

We were entertained by several talented groups including: the Booker T. Washington High school Vocal Ensemble and String Orchestra, The Edwards Brothers (Michael andJoshua), the Middle College High School Latin Dancers, A. W. Brown Golden Sigma steppers.

During the program several schools were recognized for outstanding partcipation in a recent Food Drive. Congratulations to all for helping and serving. Great job, Kimball Knights!

Meeting student leaders and honoring schools-- a great way to start the holiday season!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thousands of Language Arts Teachers at 98th NCTE Conference

We had a productive time attending the NCTE convention.

More teachers than beautiful tiny lights along the Riverwalk were turned on recently in historic San Antonio. They gathered for the annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), in association with the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts.

From as far away as Europe and Asia and as close as surrounding Texas towns, participants came to reflect on, discuss, question and create ways to arm students with 21st century literacy skills. NCTE, 50,000 members worldwide, is dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education.

The keynote, focusing on developing the literacy skills of young learners, featured a popular, world-wide authority who stood out. His color had a lot to do with it.

It was Grover the Muppet-- adorable friend of children and (yes, I proudly confess) mothers alike. Grover gave wisdom and tips, spiced with humor and care. There were hundreds of speakers and presenters, generous with professional and instructional insight and materials.

Dr. Jerrie Scott, The University of Memphis, and I were co-presenters and facilitators of the interactive session, Shifting Literacies in the Making of a Tradition: Lessons From 20 Years of African American Read-In Events. There, a diverse group of teachers, along with public school and college administrators, signed up to be part of the 2009 read-in chain and literacy events.

NCTE educators were happy to connect and make new acquaintances, but the absence of laughter and conversations of colleagues no longer with us made us sad. The NCTE "In Memoriam" for members who passed during the last year is copied below.

In Memoriam

Most teachers pass away as they have lived, quietly, but with deep effect upon those to whom they are closest. They are mourned and celebrated by their families and students, privately, often without public announcement of their loss. The profession and the world feel the loss of every individual who has spent so much of a life's energy giving, to students, to the future, whether or not we can list them by name. ... We will miss them.

Mercedes Bonner and Delores Straker, we miss you.

Next year NCTE members and affiliates will meet in Philadelphia.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Child's Prayer for Thanksgiving

Learning to Be Thankful

I have a simple prayer today

That everyone might stop and pray

For those they know and strangers, too

And put themselves in another's shoes.

For this one day, we should realize

We have a great life, in another's eyes.

We have a safe home and a place to sleep

And someone to hold us when we weep.

The Pilgrims barely survived off the land

Until they received help from an Indian band.

They learned to be thankful that they were living

That's the message of Thanksgiving.

Others suffer, far away and near

Let's remember them at this time of year

And not treat Thanksgiving as a chore-

Give everyone something to be thankful for.

-Brittany Bradford

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Democracy is not a consent agenda item

The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion. Molly Ivins

At the Board meeting last Thursday, November 20, 2008, I asked a simple question: Who requested that four year terms be placed on the November Board agenda for action?

There was no answer - nine Trustees but no answer to a simple question.

This Board is a danger to democratic rule.

Last week's 7-2 vote on adopting four year terms was a reflection of the current willingness of the Dallas ISD Board to use ruthless politics to preserve its power.

Voting for four Year Terms - Lowe, Price, Garza, Ellis, Bingham, Flores, and Blackburn.

Voting against four year terms - Medrano and Ranger.

The Dallas ISD needs to be cleaned up and cleaned out, beginning with the Board right on through the Superintendent and his deeply flawed administration that appears to have little respect for truth, teachers or taxpayers.

The Dallas ISD culture is one of arrogance, deceit, cover-up and cronyism. Truth often does not walk the halls of 3700 Ross. But the Raptor machine now protects the entrance from menacing and untidy taxpayers

The vote to change Trustee terms from three to four years was all about preserving a wrongheaded administration and a wrongheaded Board - nothing else.

What else would motivate a Board to violate a state law and refuse to even verify the action with officials of the Secretary of State Elections Division. What was the urgency other than the desire to cancel the May, 2009 Trustee election?

Even if there had been no December 31, 2007 deadline, I would not vote for four year terms.

I do not believe four year terms serve the public interest. There has been too much recent pain in Dallas ISD. I understand very well that it serves the political objectives of the current board.

I fully intend to file objections with the U.S. Department of Justice and have already contacted both the Secretary of State's office and Commisssioner Robert Scott for further clarification of the Texas Education Code Subsection 11.059(e)December 31, 2007 deadline, along with a request for possible assistance in obtaining an Opinion of the Texas Attorney General, if that is necessary. Others will probably do the same.

It is the duty of a Trustee to oppose what might be a violation of a state law contained in the Texas Education Code until the matter is settled.

A wise Frederick Douglas had it right many years ago when he said: "Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and never will."

What this vote reveals are Trustees who seem to have no respect for the public who voted to elect us but also Trustees who are ruthless enough to assault the very foundation of the democratic process itself - the right of the public to vote in fair elections open to all - especially during a time when there is a growing crisis of confidence.

The cancellation of elections scheduled for next May by self-serving Board action alone forever marks this Board as one of the very worst in Dallas history.

I pulled this item late on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 19, 2008 afternoon - not by design - but because it took that long to find another Trustee who would help. I had already made two earlier requests - beginning on Monday - to have this item and others pulled - such as the budget and the consent agenda new Tuesday deadline to pull items for a separate vote.

It was clear that the intention was to prevent any public discussion. Trustees would have no direct accountability for their vote against democracy.

Today just one week later, it would not be possible to pull this item on Wednesday because seven Trustees voted to change the deadline for even two Trustees to pull an agenda item for a separate vote. The vote was 7-1. Voting for the more restrictive Tuesday deadline - Lowe, Ellis, Bingham, Garza, Flores, Blackburn, and Medrano. Ranger voted No. Not Voting - Price who left before the vote.

This had nothing to do with the approval of Board Minutes. Minutes were always approved as a separate item by this Board and many other public Boards - including the Dallas City Council where agenda items are often pulled from the Consent Agenda by individual Council members for a separate vote right at the Council Meeting.

Some people want open government. Dallas ISD wants closed government with committees operating in secret without public accountability.

All of this is about an intolerant agenda that seeks to stack the deck toward majority exclusion of minority political rights. Only certain political majorities can prevail or even have issues considered. Board policy is violated by the President and the Board allows it.

We have seen this before in Dallas ISD history but not as clearly attached to an agenda that threatens democracy itself.

Even two African American and two Hispanic Trustees supported the cancellation of elections next year and were going to do so on the consent agenda with no public discussion. This showed great disrespect for the taxpayers.

I am proud to be on the short end of this 7-2 vote against the public interest.

Thursday, November 20, 2008 was a bad day for democracy -- an historic low at the Dallas ISD horseshoe.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hope Andrade - Texas Secretary of State - Request for Opinion - 11.059(e) Texas Education Code

To: Hon. Hope Andrade - Texas Secretary of State

As the elected Trustee for the District Six area of Dallas ISD, I am writing to request clarification of a possible violation of the Texas Education Code - SubSection 11.059(e) relating to Dallas ISD Trustee elections.

This is to request your assistance in obtaining an official Opinion of your office and/or the Texas Attorney General to determine the application of SubSection 11.059(e) of the Texas Education Code to the adoption of a Resolution and Board policy of Dallas ISD on Thursday, November 20, 2008 relating to the change of Trustee terms from three to four years.

Texas Education Code - SubSection 11.059 (e) establishes a deadline of December 31, 2007 for making such changes in the terms of elected Trustees of Independent school districts. The Act went into effect on April 25, 2007. (Senate Bill 670)

The Question: Does the adoption of a Resolution and Board Policy by the Trustees of Dallas ISD on Thursday, November 20, 2008 that changes Trustee terms from three to four years violate the December 31, 2007 deadline of Subsection 11.059(e) of the Texas Education Code?

I was previously informed by the Legal Office of your Elections Division that the December 31, 2007 deadline must be met by all Texas independent school Districts, including Dallas ISD.

However, in light of the latest action taken by the Dallas ISD Trustees on Thursday, November 20, 2008, I am requesting further clarification by way of an official opinion.

If you are unable to assist, please let me know at your earliest convenience.

Thank you for your consideration.

Carla Ranger

cc: Ann McGeehan - Director of Elections
cc: Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn - Director of Legal
cc: Robert Scott - Texas Commissioner of Education

Sandy Kress - Should No Child Left Behind law be scrapped?

My personal answer is 'Yes', it should be scrapped. But it will not be scrapped entirely - probably just revised. My belief is that it would be good to start over by creating a new "Excellence in Education Act" for K-12 education.

No Child Left Behind is a "test and punish" law based on top down intervention that imposes "privatization sanctions" on local schools. It is based on labeling schools as "failures" as defined by certain educational agendas.

Since leaving Dallas, Sandy Kress has done quite well financially as a lobbyist promoting No Child Left Behind and other such educational initiatives.

Many Years ago I served on a Dallas ISD initiative called the Commission on Educational Excellence (will have to check the name). Sandy Kress was the Committee Chair. The establishment of this initiative was aided by then Trustee, Dr. Yvonne Ewell, who later regretted it. The Commission was the beginning of Sandy Kress' involvement in Dallas ISD that led to his service later as Board President. That period of service as a Dallas ISD Trustee also resulted in his departure from Dallas to Austin and eventually to becoming a part of the national effort to establish the No Child Left Behind law.

The Sandy Kress comment below mentions Dallas ISD.

Sandy Kress Partner Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Posted November 18, 2008, 11:40am

Sandy Kress:

Let me jump in on this issue of which level of government is best to implement accountability. My view is that there is no simple answer. I served as president of the Dallas school board. We rarely felt pressure to raise standards or hold educators accountable to delivering to those standards. On the contrary, the pressure was typically to protect the mediocre. I don't want to pick on Dallas, so I would ask this question: where's the evidence, broadly, in our big districts, of "local control" shutting down bureaucracy, closing achievement gaps, giving parents real and serious choice, and educating to high standards?

Look, I agree parents and teachers are key. A commitment locally to excellence is essential. And the states must make a positive contribution. But, federal law does not materially disrupt that control. States set the standards. States make the tests. States set the performance standards and specific consequences for performance. States and districts determine curricula and personnel policies.

The feds' role is rather limited. They apply pressure to fix schools where subgroups are doing poorly against state standards; they put pressure against sham graduation standards; they put pressure to give parents choices out of poor-performing schools.

Indeed the best complaint against NLCB, even better than its flaws in execution, is that it's weak! It doesn't combat standards that fail to educate students to college/career readiness; it doesn't require rigorous enough assessments and performance standards; it doesn't go far enough in insisting upon teacher effectiveness; and it doesn't enforce well enough parental choice.

My question to those who would scrap NCLB because it gets in the way of the locals is: are you broadly and generally satisfied with the quality of public education in our schools? And, if not, how, other than "voting the bums out" (which doesn't seem to happen), can the forces at play locally be changed to bring about improvement?

More - Click Here

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Commissioner of Education Robert Scott - Request for Attorney General Opinion

To: Hon. Robert Scott - Commissioner of Education

As the elected Trustee for the District Six area of Dallas ISD, I am writing to request clarification of a possible violation of the Texas Education Code - SubSection 11.059(e).

This is to request your assistance in obtaining an Opinion of the Texas Attorney General to determine the application of SubSection 11.059(e) of the Texas Education Code to the adoption of a Resolution and Board policy of Dallas ISD on Thursday, November 20, 2008 relating to the change of Trustee terms from three to four years.

Texas Education Code - SubSection 11.059 (e) establishes a deadline of December 31, 2007 for making such changes in the terms of elected Trustees of Independent school districts. The Act went into effect on April 25, 2007. (Senate Bill 670)

The Question: Does the adoption of a Resolution and Board Policy by the Trustees of Dallas ISD on Thursday, November 20, 2008 that changes Trustee terms from three to four years violate the December 31, 2007 deadline of Subsection 11.059(e) of the Texas Education Code?

I was previously informed by the Legal Office of the Secretary of State Elections Division that the December 31, 2007 deadline must be met by all Texas independent school Districts, including Dallas ISD.

If you are unable to assist, please let me know at your earliest convenience.

Thank you for your consideration.

Carla Ranger

cc: Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn - Director of Legal - Elections Division - Secretary of State

Why rush to violate state law to protect Trustees from 2009 elections?

Today, Dallas ISD Trustees intend to willfully violate the clear restriction placed on extending Trustee terms of office from three to four years by Section 11.059 (e) of the Texas Education Code effective on April 25, 2007.

The Secretary of State's office has confirmed that a very clear time limit was placed on making changes in the terms of school trustees in Texas when the legislature passed an amendment to the Texas Education Code in April, 2007.

It seems to be fairly easy to understand -- this right was given in 2003, but any change in terms had to be completed not later than December 31, 2007 because a new section (e) was added to the Texas Education Code in 2007 (four years after the 2003 law).

Pretty simple - except when there is a not-so-secret agenda to be accomplished here.

Even a state law doesn't matter if it gets in the way.

What is the rush? Why not get this matter resolved before rushing to do the wrong thing?

The real agenda is political control of the District.

The Board majority will guarantee that certain Trustees don't have to face re-election in May, 2009. Let me be clear -- even if my re-election was in May, 2009, I would still vote against this.

What is the purpose of canceling Trustee elections next year?

The purpose appears to be to: preserve the power of the current majority to control the district; maintain the current agenda to destroy public education for a prize that means nothing and; maintain control in the hands of secret committees operating behind closed doors with the highest paid Superintendent in Texas.

Everything is a secret. There is little openness, and information is withheld from Board members and the public.

On Monday, the meeting notice for today's meeting was changed by the Board President to read: "Auditorium or Board Briefing Room." This means the Board President and others are thinking that the meeting today might be moved to the small Board room so the public can be excluded.

I don't recall such a notice before.

The district has being undermined on this watch because of all the repeated efforts to block Board responsibility to oversee the district. All we have are excuses, expensive investigations and cover-ups of wrongdoing and refusals to act in the interest of taxpayers who elected us.

The school district is not a personal fiefdom to be operated as a secret operation of cronies benefiting financially from the district.

This must end if Dallas ISD is to reflect the right of all stakeholders to fully participate and be respected.

The private agenda of the Board majority will be maintained at all costs because this is about politics - not education.

We should be voting to expand community trust and confidence. We should not be voting to expand Trustee terms and years.

I will vote, No.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Texas State Teachers Association General Counsel confirms December 31, 2007 deadline for changing to four year terms

In a November 18, 2008 memorandum to Dale Kaiser, President, NEA-Dallas, the General Counsel of the Texas State Teachers Association has confirmed that the Dallas ISD may not extend its trustees' terms from three to four years after December 31, 2007.

The TSTA General Counsel's memo states:
"The Deadline for the Dallas I.S.D. to extend its trustee's terms from three to four years was December 31, 2007. Any attempt to do so now would be in violation of the Texas Education Code."
The memo points out that the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's office was consulted:
"Further, TSTA has conferred with the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's office. The Elections Division has confirmed that the deadline to adopt a resolution to change the length of trustees' terms, for any school district, was December 31, 2007."
Finally, the TSTA General Counsel recommends:
"TSTA urges the Dallas I.S.D., or any individual trustee with concerns about this issue, to contact the office of the Secretary of State to seek clarification regarding limitations of changing the length of trustees' terms. Ultimately, adopting a resolution to change the length of trustees' terms will likely be found to be invalid, and may result in complaints to the Attorney General of Texas, Texas Secretary of State, and United States Department of Justice."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas host advocacy for education forum

What is the difference in lifetime earnings of a student who drops out of high school and one who gets a college degree? $1,000,000 - one million dollars

This is just one reason the Hispanic Chamber and the United Way invited guests to discuss "college readiness" at the Beckley Saner Recreation Center this evening.

I was pleased to participate.

Entitled "Moving Students Forward in Education," the panel included state and city perspectives presented by Representative Barbara Mallory-Caraway and Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway. I was invited to be the Dallas ISD panelist. Cliff Miller moderated.

The audience, rich with questions and comments, included Dallas County Community College Chancellor Wright Lassiter and several Mountain View College staff.

Comments from DISD, community college and university graduates gave testimony to the need for community focus on education.

This was an evening of sharing resources and support -- a good example of the community's "moving forward for education" and helping to develop more more one million dollar plus student earners.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dallas ISD General Counsel OKs adoption of four year Trustee terms

The General Counsel of Dallas ISD has now given the okay to what appears to be a violation of the Texas Education Code - Section 11.059(e) deadline of December 31, 2007 for changing the terms of Trustees from three to four years.

Last week Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn -- the Director of Legal - Secretary of State Elections Division in Austin -- confirmed that the December 31, 2007 deadline of the Texas Education Code does apply to all Texas Independent School Districts, with no exception for Dallas.

All items for the Thursday, November 20, 2008 Board meeting are currently listed on the Consent Agenda. When the Agenda was posted, no items had been pulled for a separate vote.

I have asked for this item to be pulled for a separate vote, as it has obvious merit and high public interest.

Trustees previously voted 8-1 to establish a policy requiring two Trustees to pull an item. This policy was initiated recently by Trustees Ron Price and Leigh Ann Ellis and rushed through at a special called meeting.

This might make it necessary for me to vote against the Consent Agenda on Thursday.

A copy of the email confirmation from the Secretary of State Legal Section is posted below.

Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn - Director of Legal
- Elections Division Secretary of State
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: Email Confirmation - Senate Bill 670 - December 31, 2007 Deadline-Ranger (EHW)
Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2008 15:50:56 -0600
From: Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn
To: Carla Ranger
References: <>

Yes, the below information confirms the content of our telephone conversation.

From: Carla Ranger
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 2:55 PM
To: Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn
Subject: Email Confirmation - Senate Bill 670 - December 31, 2007 Deadline

To: Elizabeth Hanshaw Winn Elections Division - Texas Secretary of State

Subject: Texas Education Code 11.059(e).- Senate Bill 670

Thanks very much for the information provided this morning.

As indicated, my question relates to the application of Senate Bill 670
to the Dallas ISD.

Would appreciate email confirmation that the December 31, 2007
deadline for independent school districts to make changes
from three year to four year terms does apply to Dallas ISD
and there is no special exemption for Dallas or any other Texas ISD.

Dallas ISD is currently attempting to adopt a change of Trustee terms
from three to four years on Thursday, November 20, 2008.

I am attempting to confirm that the deadline for such a change of Trustee terms
of office has already passed for Dallas ISD on December 31, 2007.

Would appreciate your email confirmation of our telephone conversation.

Thank you for your assistance.

Carla Ranger

Thursday, November 13, 2008

5th Grade Student Dalton Sherman on Oprah Monday

Congratulations to 5th grade student Dalton Sherman and his family.

"The Dallas ISD's Dalton Sherman, the fifth-grade student from Charles Rice Learning Center who delivered the keynote address at the 2008 Back-to-School Kickoff, will appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show, 4 p.m., Monday, Nov. 17, on WFAA, Channel 8.

Dalton's popularity has soared since delivering his motivational speech to Dallas ISD teachers and staff at the American Airlines Center in August. Since that time, he has appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and become an Internet sensation.

Dalton's mother, Donna Sherman, a 19-year veteran of the district, is a fifth-grade teacher at J.P. Starks Elementary School.

Be sure to catch him on the Oprah show on Monday!"

Dallas ISD E-News
Nov. 12, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Secretary of State Election Division confirms Texas Education Code deadline for 4 year terms has passed

Today, the Election Division of the Texas Secretary of State confirmed by telephone and then by email that the deadline for making changes in Trustee terms was established in Senate Bill 670 which amended the Texas Education Code to add Section 11.059(e).

Section 11.059(e) required that any changes in Trustee terms from three to four years must be completed by December 31, 2007.

Some have suggested that Dallas ISD has some special status that allowed it to escape this December 31, 2007 deadline.

The Elections Division today confirmed that there is no exemption from the December 31, 2007 deadline. All Texas Independent School District's were required to meet the same deadline.

This means that the proposal to be adopted by Dallas ISD Trustees on Thursday, November 20, 2008, changing Trustee terms from three to four years violates the Texas Education Code.

On Monday, November 10, 2008, I requested clarification of the December 31, 2007 deadline from the Dallas ISD General Counsel. I was informed that a response would be received in the Board update this Friday.

Regardless of the outcome, the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) must approve any plan to change Trustee terms as part of the required Voting Rights Act - Section 5 review.

If the current plan is approved, objections should be filed with the U. S. Department of Justice based on the violation of the Texas Education Code Section 11.059(e) December 31, 2007 deadline and other matters.

More - Click Here

And Here

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Four year trustee terms might violate Texas Education Code deadline

The rush to change Dallas ISD Trustee terms to four years at the Board meeting this month -Thursday, November 20, 2008 - appears to violate the Texas Education Code which requires such changes to be made by December 31, 2007.

This was intended for school districts with certain election problems. It was not intended to be used solely for the personal political motivations of elected Trustees to lengthen their terms.

No opportunity has been provided for specific public input - such as a public hearing on such an important change in the election of Trustees.

Section 11.059 (e) - Senate Bill 670 - authorized a school district Board of Trustees to adopt a resolution changing the length of terms of its Trustees not later than December 31, 2007:





Sec. 11.059. TERMS.

(a) A trustee of an independent school district serves a term of three or four years.

(b) Elections for trustees with three-year terms shall be held annually. The terms of one-third of the trustees, or as near to one-third as possible, expire each year.

(c) Elections for trustees with four-year terms shall be held biennially. The terms of one-half of the trustees, or as near to one-half as possible, expire every two years.

(d) A board policy must state the schedule on which specific terms expire.

(e) Not later than December 31, 2007, the board of trustees may adopt a resolution changing the length of the terms of its trustees. The resolution must provide for a term of either three or four years and specify the manner in which the transition from the length of the former term to the modified term is made. The transition must begin with the first regular election for trustees that occurs after January 1, 2008, and a trustee who serves on that date shall serve the remainder of that term. This subsection expires January 1, 2013.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 260, Sec. 1, eff. May 30, 1995.
Amended by: Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 17, Sec. 1, eff. April 25, 2007.

More - Click Here

The Texas Secretary of State has an explanation of the process for obtaining Justice Department pre-clearance approval of a school district plan to change the term of office - Senate Bill 670
Click Here

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Four year terms - Wrong time to do the wrong thing

I will vote, 'No.'

It is the wrong time to do the wrong thing.

On Thursday, November 20, 2008, four year terms will be adopted by the Board in order to help protect the self-interest of Trustees at the expense of the public interest.

This is about Board politics. It is not about the public interest.

There are times and circumstances that might justify making the changes.

However, the recent disclosure of devasting financial mismanagement of the District largely eroded what little remained of public trust in the Board and the Superintendent/administration.

The public does not trust the Board to do the right thing for the right reason.

I share this belief based on my own experience as a Trustee.

Just in the last few weeks, the Dallas ISD Board has refused to end unethical contracting between the District and 'business entities' of Trustees. Such a Board does not deserve four year terms.

There should be no extension of Trustee Terms.

This is the wrong time to do the wrong thing.

It is likely my vote will be the only 'No' (8-1), but I believe it is the right thing to do.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Post Superintendent's Contract On Internet

Open Government Reform
(Note: What has been posted online is a Financial Report the District is required to prepare. (See Dallas ISD Blog). A copy of the Contract is included in the Financial report. The district does not have an established policy or procedure for direct publishing of the Superintendent's contract information on the internet. That is what is needed, not a document buried in a totally unrelated financial report. What is needed is to make the information fully known and easily found in a section set aside for that specific public purpose - including all such contract information going back to the year 2000. There is no expense to do so. To see the contract - Click Here)

The public has every right to know all details of the contract provisions of their public school Superintendent.

The Texas Public Information Act makes this information readily available to all citizens who make an official public information request and pay the required fee.

However, this is the day of the internet. There is no reason to keep this information from public online display when it can be easily accessible from any computer.

Dallas ISD is a public institution, and this information should be made immediately available to all citizens without cost or restriction.

Board policy should be revised to require all future Superintendent's contracts and all past contracts since the year 2000 to be placed on the District web site.
Proposed Open Government Reform
The original and all Amendments of the Superintendent's employment contract shall be placed online at the District Internet web site beginning with the year 2000. The original contract and all Amendments of all future Superintendent's shall be added no later than two weeks after being approved.
The taxpayers and stakeholders are owed this courtesy, and Dallas ISD should always strongly support open and transparent government.

Here are the thoughts of a few Dallas area citizens on the importance of open records:
More - Click Here

And here are a few examples of Texas Superintendent's contracts:

Mineral Wells ISD - Click Here
Elysian Fields ISD - Click Here
Lexington ISD - Click Here
Denver City ISD - Click Here
Cross Roads ISD - Click Here
BrookSmith ISD - Click Here
Anton ISD - Click Here
Jarrell ISD - Click Here
Austin ISD - Click Here
Round Rock ISD - Click Here

A Superintendent's contract is public information.
Texas Administrative Code - "The school district may publish the superintendent's employment contract on the school district's Internet site in lieu of publication in the annual financial management report" Click Here

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Elect Obama - A New Vision of Education

"America is a place where all things are possible.'"

Yesterday was a day of history.

Today is a good day to hope that President Elect Barack Obama will bring a new vision of educational excellence for our public schools.

The newly elected 44th President's educational platform promised to take a fresh look at the current 'test and punish' philosophy of K-12 public education. The platform states:
  • Barack Obama will Reform No Child Left Behind:

    Obama and Biden believe teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests and he will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college.

Obama and Biden will also improve NCLB's accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.
That will be a good beginning - to support schools, rather than punish them and to give more freedom to teachers to teach.

Students and teachers of America will be better for it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Board President Blocks Trustee Confidence Meeting

Even when you do it right, the Board President will still do it wrong even if it means violating Board policy.

The Board President has blocked the request of three Trustees to call a special meeting to consider a confidence vote on the Superintendent's performance.

Of course, the Board President had no problem rushing to call a special Board meeting just a few weeks ago (Thursday, September 11, 2008 - 11:45 A.M.) to immediately take away the right of an individual Trustee to pull an item from the Board Agenda. This was leading to the vote on the revised Ethics policy. That vote was 8-1 to take away the important democratic right of each Trustee to request individual votes on Agenda items. My vote was the only opposing vote.

There is no right to reject or delay the request to suit the Board President's agenda.

Board policy BE (Local) clearly states:
Special Or Emergency Meetings
The President of the Board shall call a special meeting at the President's discretion or at the written request of three Board members,
The Board President reported to the news media that he would not call the meeting as originally requested, but it might be held whenever he decides within the next 60 days.

It is not the Board President's decision to make. It is the decision of any three Trustees.

Otherwise, the policy is meaningless if it can simply be taken away by the unfair action of the Board President.

This is the first time I have signed a request for a special meeting since being elected to the Board. It is a policy that is very seldom used but it is there.

There is nothing in the section of the policy on Special Meetings that gives the Board President the right to block or put off calling the requested meeting.

This is an abuse of the Board President's authority - not public service. The District is not the private business of the Board President.

The Board President's violation of the rights of other elected Trustees helps to further undermine public trust and respect.

The Board needs a President who will follow Board policy and respect the rights of all Trustees.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Change In Education - The Next President

Vote Tuesday, November 4, for the President of your choice.

I voted on the first day of Early Voting at the downtown Dallas County Records Building.

Whoever wins, there will be a change in national educational policy - maybe good, maybe not so good.

My hope is that the 'test,test,test' philosophy of the No Child Left Behind Act will be left behind.

I do not believe this 'test and punish' Act is in the best interest of our children.

No Child Left Behind unnecessarily labels students and schools as 'failures' and orders very destructive remedies - including the forced takeover of public schools.

It would be better to start over with something better that upholds a much more positive approach to needed change in education.

Defining schools and teachers as 'failures' based on the testing industry is not the answer.

We need a different more progressive policy that will support excellence in education and recognize that the Classroom Teacher is the Master of ' Teaching and Learning', not the testing business, Legislators, Superintendents, or Trustees.

More - Click Here

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ethics Reform To End Trustee Contracts Undermined By 5-4 Vote of Board Majority

The good ol' boy system for Trustees is still safe at Dallas ISD.

Last night, the Board voted 5-4 to keep it in place for all time - until an ethical Board is elected that will do the right thing and stop it.

The Superintendent cannot have contracts with Dallas ISD.

Employees cannot have contracts with Dallas ISD.

But Trustees still can.

More - Click Here

The Board majority says it is still okay for elected Trustees to have contracts with the same district they were elected to serve.

Five Trustees voted to put the private gain of Trustees ahead of their responsibility to protect the public interest and uphold public trust.

Another clear example of how a wrongheaded board operates.

The President of the Board previously said he would stay out of it. Instead, he voted. He voted for a revised policy that will keep the checks going to his company.

The Board President acted unethically in voting for a policy that allows his personal arrangement to continue. He should have abstained.

Five Trustees cannot bring themselves to end unethical profiting of Trustees at the public horseshoe because their political agenda is more important than true ethics reform.

... Another very clear indication that the wrong people are in charge.

Voting to Keep Trustee Contracts
Jack Lowe
Edwin Flores
Nancy Bingham
Jerome Garza
Leigh Ann Ellis

Voting Against Trustee Contracts
Adam Medrano
Lew Blackburn
Ron Price
Carla Ranger

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dancing Around Ethics Reform

There will probably be a lot of 'dancing around' ethics reform today.

The proposed Dallas ISD Ethics policy revision- BBFA (Local) - Conflicts of Interest- is the product of a uniquely wrongheaded arrogance.

It does not do the right thing.

It attempts to take what was intended as effective ethics reform and turns it into a politically motivated defense of 'the existing arrangement.'

Our own Board Member ethics policy - BBF (Local) states:

"I will make no personal promise or take private action that may compromise my performance or my responsibilities."

Profiting from private business and financial contracts while in office is clearly "taking private action that may compromise my performance or my responsibilities."

Shall every Trustee create a private business interest in private contracts with the District we serve and make a mockery of our service?

If anything, the ethical standard on contracts should be even higher for Trustees than either the Superintendent or employees - but certainly not lower.

Trustees are elected to serve the public interest, not to profit at the public horseshoe.

There are no indispensable Trustees and there is no indispensable Superintendent. Whether by personal decision or election, we will all be routinely replaced when we leave this Board and this School District.

In allowing elected Trustees to continue profiting from contracts with the School District we were elected to serve, the Board appears to be supporting a very different standard of conduct for Trustees - the 'good ol' boy' standard.

While Trustees can easily rubber stamp this matter, great damage will be done to the public perception of the Board's lack of serious commitment to fully protecting the public interest, not the private interest of Trustees.

If the Trustees simply do the political thing - instead of the right thing - the result will be further reduction in public confidence, support, and trust.

The online public survey clearly showed the public supports ending contracts with Trustees - even though the Committee Chair - Trustee Flores - conveniently left off any direct question about the most important issue of all - whether to ban all Trustee contracts with the District. Then the Committee simply disregarded the survey results.

The ad hoc committee ethics consultant, Dr. Constantine Konstans, also clearly stated his opinion that there should be no contracts with Trustees.

As Dr. Konstans put it, "If it is good for the goose, it is good for the gander."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

2008 Dallas ISD Mock Presidential Convention

Yesterday -- Tuesday, October 28 was a great day for memories.

After greeting and talking with Barack Obama and John McCain, I shook hands with President Bush, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Michelle Obama, Cindy McCain, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.

These face-to-face encounters took place only after our crowd got past the Secret Service, candidate handlers, TV cameras, photographers and one war protester.

And there they were .... Standing before a cheering crowd of 400 red and blue shirted delegates all the way from Alaska to Florida.

We were attending the 2008 Dallas ISD Mock Presidential Convention. Held at Madison High School in Sunny South Dallas -- this was another example of exemplary teaching and learning in Dallas ISD. For planning and execution, it rivaled the other two conventions any exciting school day.

Thanks to the Gifted and Talented for a Better America teachers, along with the Dallas ISD Social Studies Department for their collaboration and commitment. G/T teachers, your dedication, extra hours and creativity paid off for student delegates (youth and adult).

Special Guest - Dallas District Attorney - Craig Watkins

Student Participants

Master of Ceremony - Leslie Young - Nancy Mosley Elementary
I Am An Original - Dalton Sherman - Charles Rice Learning Center
Mayor Rudy Giuliani - Taurean Babcock - Daniel Webster Elementary
Hillary Clinton - Madison Shubert - Nancy Mosley Elementary
President George Bush - Joseph C. Del Bosque - Henry B. Gonzalez Elementary
Michelle Obama - Patricia Osorio - Richard Lagow Elementary
Cindy McCain - Giavanna Ramos-Woten - Rufus C. Burleson Elementary
Senator Joe Biden - Jesnick Garcia - B.H. Macon Elementary
Governor Sarah Palin - Maria Martinez - Henry B. Gonzalez Elementary
Senator Barack Obama - Eric Carter - Daniel Webster Elementary
Senator John McCain - Ezekiel Montemayor - Richard Lagow Elementary
Be A Success - Alan Del Rio - Henry B. Gonzalez Elementary

The student Mock Presidential Election will be held on Thursday.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TEA Commissioner Robert Scott Visits Dallas ISD

It is hard to do the right thing when the wrong people are in charge.

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott met with Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and others last Friday, October 24, 2008 at 3:00 P.M. It was an important update discussion.

I heard a lot more 'straight talk' from some of the legislators present - the kind that is seldom heard at the Dallas ISD Board Horseshoe.

An important comment by Commissioner Scott was reported in the next morning news:

"Mr. Scott said after the meeting in response to reporter's questions that it's up to the Dallas School Board to determine whom to hold responsible for the financial crisis."
"I'm the leader of an agency; the buck stops with me," he said, as he stood at a podium with a couple of state legislators. "If my agency makes a mistake, these members of the Legislature and many others will hold me accountable for it."
"State Rep. Tony Goolsby of Dallas emerged from the meeting saying he still has concerns, and added that administrators "danced around a lot."

More - Click Here

And Video Here

Yes, Dallas ISD 'dances around a lot' while the district is damaged one mistake at a time.

The latest news is that teachers are being hired again - just days after many good teachers were dismissed. We have seen children crying for teachers who now live with uncertain futures.

We have a very serious mis-management problem.

Still, the Dallas ISD Trustees hold no one accountable. The buck doesn't stop - it dances.

That happens when the wrong people are in charge and personal agendas are more important than public trust.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ethics Reform Hijacked By Board Politics

In 2004, Houston ISD adopted a simple one page ethics reform that prohibits most contracts with Trustees.

The Houston ethics policy reform was adopted because the husband of the Board President was receiving substantial contracts with the school district while his wife served as a Trustee.

In February 2008 - four years after Houston ISD addressed a very similar problem - I proposed a simple one sentence Ethics Reform policy primarily because of the proposed 2008 bond election. The idea was simply to stop 'business entities' with financial ties to Trustees and members of their family from receiving Dallas ISD contracts.

The Ethics Reform policy has now been hijacked by the political agenda of the Board majority. The Board President appointed his political allies to a committee of three. You might say the outcome was never in doubt.

As of next Thursday, October 30, 2008 - eight months later - it is likely Dallas ISD Trustees will adopt a revised Ethics Policy (BBFA Local) that has been intentionally distorted to still allow the very obvious unethical Board arrangement to continue.

Unlike the Houston Board which acted with integrity, the Dallas ISD revised ethics policy has been manipulated for one primary purpose - to protect Board President Jack Lowe from a choice he has already made.

The Choice ...

Trustee Lowe has previously clearly stated:
"... he would not have run for office if TD Industries could not continue to do business with the district."
"When I was thinking about running for the school board in 2002, one of the things I checked out before I did it was, was that going to exclude TD Industries from doing business with the district?" Mr. Lowe said. "Because the district is a pretty big customer for things we sell."
"To ask the company to support me while I'm doing this rather time-consuming volunteer job [at DISD], and also to walk away from a significant chunk of business, was not something I was willing to do," Mr. Lowe said.
More Click Here
Dallas ISD hands millions in contracts to top leaders' firms

What could be more clear? A Trustee of the District has stated in no uncertain terms that contracts for his company come before public service as a Trustee. He will only serve if he can also keep his business contracts.

The Dallas ISD Board is headed by an officer who will not serve without holding on to a "significant chunk of change" for his company - TD Industries.

What do you call this? It is certainly not ethical conduct. What is it? The good ol' boy system? Just politics as usual?

No elected Trustee who takes seriously the responsibility to protect the public interest - not the personal interest of Trustees - should support this arrangement.

Since my election in 2006, I recall that it is primarily Trustee Lowe who has pushed to increase the Superintendent's salary. It is primarily Trustee Lowe who has pushed to extend the Superintendent's contract and even stated he would extend it beyond the maximum five years if it were possible. It is also primarily Trustee Lowe who has refused to hold the Superintendent accountable for anything.

The basic plan has been to subordinate the Board to the Superintendent - just rubber stamp everything with no effective Board oversight or accountability.

The result has been a potential $148 million dollar financial nightmare - $64 million deficit in 2007-2008 plus a projected $84 million deficit in 2008-2009. No one really knows even with the large reduction in force (RIF).

Who does this truly serve to have a Superintendent personally beholden to the Chairman of TD Industries - a company that has received millions in past contracts and will seek millions in contracts in the future? The taxpayers and stakeholders of Dallas ISD or TD Industries?

Such are the ways of corrupting a public institution.

This is not in the public interest.

Trustees who vote to support such a policy created to hijack the major ethics reform issue facing the Board will do so primarily to enable the Board President to continue violating the public trust.

This unethical arrangement clearly contributed to the lack of accountability that has now resulted in permanent financial damage to Dallas ISD.
"Lowe was stunned. Also, "very embarassed," he tells Unfair Park."
"The money is gone and there's nothing we can do about it," he says.
"Because if anyone should have smoked this out, it should have been me ... I should have seen this coming and I didn't do it. Shame on me."
More - Click Here

Yes, I agree and all Trustees have the same responsibility.

Shame on the Board
for supporting unethical contracting with the 'business entities' of elected Trustees and members of their family.

My vote will be NO.
"It strikes me as a conflict of interest," said Joel White, a Houston lawyer who is immediate past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. "You can't represent your own personal business and the public at the same time."
Click Here

"I think it would be horrendous to make an issue out of that," said trustee Jerome Garza.
Click Here

Carole Keeton Strayton - Board members get no pay, but does that give board members the right to profit from the districts they serve? I say no. Former Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Click Here

ED 13 - Prohibit School Board Members From Doing Business Directly Or Indirectly With Their Districts - January 2003 - Susan Combs - Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Click Here

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Teachers Pay The Price

Today hundreds of teachers will be released.

Will this be done with dignity?

There is a crisis of public confidence.

Something is very wrongheaded at Dallas ISD.

This will not be corrected by releasing hundreds of teachers to relieve the latest financial chaos.

The problem will not be corrected by covering up the very serious financial mismanagement.

It cannot be undone by deception or solved by CEOs.

Dallas ISD has a spreading disease that has infected the institution with wrongheadedness.

It will not soon go away.

Someday, some way the Dallas Public School System must be reclaimed as an institution of integrity.

It will start with a Superintendent of Public Education who would like to be a servant leader of a public institution.

It will end with a Board truly committed to public service - not wrongheaded private agendas and unethical service.

Until then we say goodbye to the good teachers and staff who now pay the price.

May your lives be blessed in spite of the unjust price you now pay for the mistakes of others.

Thank you for your service.

We hope your loss will not be in vain.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Teacher's Life

What is the daily life of a teacher?

I remember my days as a first year college teacher. While a bit different from K-12, there is a core of experience that is probably common to teachers at all levels.

Each student is unique and they come in all levels of motivation and ability. A teacher's role is not so much to define young people with labels but to share their full measure of support with all students.

A Dallas area teacher describes this in Newsweek - October 20, 2008:
"As a teacher, I face many stereotypes about my job. But I wouldn't trade my career for any other."

We are a profession of lifelong learners ...

Teaching isn't simply perching at a lecturn and pontificating
to hungry minds; it's being an educator, a mentor, a nurse, a
social worker, a friend, a diplomat and an expert on the curriculum.
In short, we are professionals."
More - Click Here

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Superintendent's Performance Review Ad Hoc Committee Meeting

This reminded me of an effort I made almost two months ago to address the issue of the Superintendent's yearly performance evaluations. The email below was sent to Board President Jack Lowe on August 21, 2008, along with a copy to all Trustees and the Superintendent.

I requested a meeting between the Superintendent and all Trustees.

The request was ignored and never answered.

More Click Here

And Here

The Agenda - Superintendent's Performance Review Ad Hoc Committee Meeting - Thursday, October 16, 2008 - 5:00 P.M.

I will also point out that the scheduling of the meeting this week was handled in a way that might have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act. Board decisions to schedule such a performance review must be made in public. This decision was made in private.

Committees are usually structured to control the result.


From: Carla Ranger
To: Jack Lowe
Date: Thursday, August 21, 2008
Subject: Mid Year Review of Superintendent Michael Hinojosa by the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees conducted on August 15

The information received concerns me greatly. I do not agree with the Mid-Year Review.

The review does not include the full range of opinion of all Board members.

This continues the practice of autocratic Board governance which appears to be designed to achieve a particular result you desire as Board President by excluding others from full participation who have a different viewpoint.

The final draft of the Mid-Year Review was to be provided to all Trustees before any discussion with the Superintendent.

The document you have now given to the Superintendent implies unanimous agreement with the comments you drafted. There is not unanimous agreement with this Review document.

All Trustees did not see this final document before it was discussed in your private meeting with the Superintendent. This is clearly disrespectful of the right of all Trustees to also fully participate in such an important discussion with the Superintendent.

I request a meeting between the Superintendent and all Trustees that provides the opportunity for every Trustee to deliver their own concerns directly to the Superintendent.

All Trustees should be present for every discussion with the Superintendent that relates to a Mid-Year or any Review or Annual Evaluation - unless they decide not to do so.

Trustees should also meet at the beginning of the new school year to discuss the format to be used for the 2008 Annual Evaluation to occur later this year in order to have a greatly improved and comprehensive 2008 evaluation process that is not rushed and correctly reflects the opinions and concerns of all elected Trustees.

I would also like a discussion of the Board President's authority and what I believe to be an abuse of the position and the manner in which all Trustees are not kept fully informed by the President and other such matters.

I have previously requested this discussion.


This Is A Public Document