Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Early College High School - Commitment to College Ceremony Today

Press On!
As crisis looms, students offer hope - James Ragland

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dallas Independent School District’s new Early College High School with Cedar Valley College, located in the Nolan Estes Plaza, 3434 South R. L. Thornton Freeway, will host a Commitment to College Ceremony at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 30.

During the ceremony, more than 100 students who currently attend the Early College High School with Cedar Valley will pledge to complete their high school diploma and college degree within six years.

The Early College High School program not only prepares students for college but immerses them in college-level classes and college culture. Graduates of the ECHS with Cedar Valley will leave high school with a diploma and either an associates degree or transfer hours toward the four-year university of their choosing.

"Early College provides a rigorous instructional program with high expectations and strong support that allows high school students to begin taking dual credit courses in the ninth grade," said Principal Gayle Smith. "This ultimately compresses the time and decreases the amount of money it takes to complete a college degree."

Superintendent of Schools Michael Hinojosa will address the students and their parents. Other officials participating in the program are Dallas ISD Board Trustee Carla Ranger, District 6; State Senator Royce West; Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott, and representatives from the Texas High School Project.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Does It Profit A Board To Deny A Student?

Aileen Mukuria is a 12th grade Dallas ISD Skyline student.

She hoped to address the Board on last Thursday (September 25th) but had not signed up.

At the end of speakers on Non-Agenda items, Aileen attempted to make a request to speak on behalf of another speaker who had signed up. She was correctly informed by the Board President that she could not speak in place of another speaker. However, I would add - "unless the Board consents."

While she was standing in front of the aisle microphone, two security officers quickly interrupted, turned the microphone in the opposite direction and escorted Aileen away from the aisle.

While serving on the Board, I don't recall seeing security officers move between any speaker and the microphone, as if a young female student attempting to speak is a security issue.

Maybe this was planned security, but I found it unnecessary and a bit disturbing.

Students very seldomly speak at Dallas ISD Board meetings. No other student had spoken that evening. Aileen would have been the last speaker.

I decided to offer my speaking time normally given for my District 6 Board report to our Skyline student because I wanted her to feel welcome and to provide the opportunity to hear her.

When I did so, Trustee Jerome Garza immediately objected. The District General Counsel stated I would have to make a motion in order to yield my time. However, I do recall when a Board member had yielded time in the past, it was recognized without a motion.

I made the motion to allow the student to speak, but the Board vote was tied and not successful.

The vote was as follows:

The Vote For Our Student - Blackburn, Medrano, Ranger

The Vote Against Our Student - Lowe, Garza, Flores

Abstaining - Ellis

Absent and Not Voting - Price and Bingham

The student left the Board auditorium in tears.

My question: What does it profit a Board to refuse a student the opportunity to speak when there was clearly no good reason not to hear her remarks?

My apology to our young student Aileen Mukuria who simply wanted to share her opinion with the Board.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Prayer At Friendship West Baptist Church

Sunday morning I was blessed to join the great Pastor Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes, III and the members of Friendship West Baptist Church for early morning prayer.

Pastor Haynes recognized Dallas ISD teachers and staff and asked the congregation to remember them during these difficult days. A special prayer was given on behalf of Dallas ISD.

It was an uplifting morning after a week of difficulty.

My thanks to Mrs. Edna Pemberton for all she did to coordinate and make the fellowship a success.

Whose Child Is This?

"Whose child is this?"
I asked one day
Seeing a little one out at play
"Mine", said the parent with a tender smile"
Mine to keep a little while
To bathe his hands and comb his hair
To tell him what he is to wear
To prepare him that he may always be good
And each day do the things he should"

"Whose child is this?" I asked again
As the door opened and someone came in
"Mine", said the teacher with the same tender smile"
Mine, to keep just for a little while
To teach him how to be gentle and kind
To train and direct his dear little mind
To help him live by every rule
And get the best he can from school"

"Whose child is this?" I ask once more
Just as the little one entered the door
"Ours" said the parent and the teacher as they smiled
And each took the hand of the little child"
Ours to love and train together
Ours this blessed task forever."

--Author Unknown

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Enough Is Enough: Superintendent Must Be Held Accountable For Mismanagement

When is enough enough?

Sweep it under the rug. Spin it as a blip on the road. Minimize the pain and suffering caused to others.

The voters will be able to hold Trustees Accountable in future elections.

Who will now hold the Superintendent accountable?

The Dallas ISD Superintendent is the highest paid public school official in the State of Texas and one of the top paid Superintendents in America. Dallas ISD pays well.

Yet, Trustees have failed the District by not demanding accountability. Trustees have not fullfilled our responsibility to provide effective oversight

Those who have tried have simply been ignored by the President and Board majority. The District is not the personal fiefdom of the Board President. It is supposed to be overseen by nine equally elected Trustees.

Reform is a powerful word that can be used for positive good, but it is also a word that can hide very selfish anti-democratic agendas.

The Board has sought at every turn to remove its own oversight and has been simply a rubberstamp for the administration over and over again. This has been the philosophy of the Board majority, and it has created this tragic result.

The Board is also being trained to be a rubberstamp Board, to create distance from the public and to essentially carry out an anti-public education agenda.

Like Wall Street, Ross Avenue needs a Board that will ask questions and even say, "No" - not a Board that believes education is a dictatorship of the elite - and not a Board that seeks to remove the public from an equal place at the education table.

It is time and our duty as elected Trustees to hold the Superintendent to the same high standard demanded of all other staff.

Mismanagement is a generous way to put it.

Trustees are elected to make hard decisions in the public interest.

What principal would remain in a campus position after a similar track record of financial mismanagement?

It is time for the Board to hold the Superintendent to the same standard of accountability. However, the personal political agendas of certain Trustees will probably win out.

But the truth is - it all begins at the top. And no one is indispensable - whether on the Board or the staff.

The Board should remove Superintendent Hinojosa and move forward with remedying the financial chaos that has been created on his watch.

Failure to do so is a refusal to meet our responsibility as Trustees to protect Dallas ISD from further financial mismanagement.

Our responsility as Trustees is not to protect a person but to preserve the Dallas ISD educational system for taxpayers, stakeholders and students of the generations to come.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

$64 Million Dollar Deficit

On Thursday, April 12, 2007 at its regularly scheduled 11:30 A.M. monthly Board Briefing, Dallas ISD Trustees received the Phase Two Implementation Report of the Dallas Achieves Commission outlining over 100 recommendations to be adopted.

Two weeks later on April 26, 2007 at 5:30 P.M., the Board of Trustees met at Samuell High School for the purpose of considering the over 100 Dallas Achieves Commission recommendations that had been just received by the Board.

Again, only two weeks had passed between receiving the 100 Recommendations and being asked to approve (rubber-stamp) their adoption.

Yet, there was a rush to adopt the recommendations immediately and Trustees were expected to approve the Report without serious discussion. Disapproval was not an option. The rush was on.

One Year and five months later, Dallas ISD is faced with another very serious financial crisis.

At the Samuell meeting on April 26, 2007, I asked the Board to take time to actually study and discuss the recommendations before rushing to adopt them. The Board paid no regard to its responsibility to deliberate and take time to get it right. The Board rushed to adopt the recommendations without careful evaluation of the cost and financial consequences to the district.

Seven Trustees were present at the Board Meeting at Samuell High School. Those present were Jack Lowe, Nancy Bingham, Jerome Garza, Leigh Ann Ellis, Edwin Flores, Adam Medrano, and Carla Ranger. Two Trustees were absent - Ron Price and Lew Blackburn. The vote was 6-0. Carla Ranger abstained.

The following are my actual remarks at Samuell High School on the Dallas Achieves recommendations:

Begin Quote

"This is a very important issue. It is worthy of our best and most conscientious consideration. It seems to me that our responsibility is to carefully review the full implications of such an important report.

"We first discussed the report two weeks ago. The report is a result of many months of effort by many people who could not have possibly done it in a two week period of time.

"Therefore, I am challenged by our approving it - this very intensive initiative - in a two week period of time.

"It seems to me that responsibility as elected Trustees is a broader and higher responsibility.

"We are responsible to the general public at large and the people of our district who elected us.

"I believe it would be beneficial for us Trustees to discuss the report among ourselves with our Superintendent and staff.

"In addition, it seems it would be beneficial also to provide the general public the opportunity to give input to the Board of Trustees.

"We did not share the results of the report with the community before we are adopting them.

"The public at large has no opportunity to even hear the results of this report even if done solely within our own districts and based on our own individual efforts as Trustees.

"In other words, it may not be appropriate, or responsible for us to rush to approve something as important as this initiative with as much work as the Commission has given to it without a process that includes a little more time for us to deliberate.

"Therefore, I do not believe it appropriate to approve the report tonight after only a two week period.

"I would suggest that the Board be responsible to the public that elected us and give further consideration to this important document and make our decisions at a later date after visiting with our own internal administration and staff.

"That is my suggestion. If I need to put that in the form of an amendment, I will do so.

Jack Lowe - Board President - "think you have to put that in the form of an amendment."

Carla Ranger - "I would like to amend the Motion or ask that we amend the Motion to delay acting on this report until the June meeting and place the report for discussion on the Agenda for the May briefing in order for us to discuss it with the Superintendent and the administation.

Jack Lowe - Board President - "Do we have a second?

Lowe - "Motion fails for lack of a second.

Lowe - "Further discussion?"

End Quote

I believe the Trustees of Dallas ISD acted irresponsibly in adopting the Dallas Achieves recommendations withour careful discussion and accountability for potential financial impact.

The Board rushed through approval. The Superintendent rushed through implementation beginning with an immediate delayering and major reorganization.

Both the Board and Superintendent acted irresponsibly. The District now pays a heavy price. Pain will be inflicted again on employees to cover the irresponsible actions of Trustees and the Superintendent.

The Trustees should end the rubber stamp era and act like responsible Trustees.

It is time for a change.

Dallas ISD Proposed Ethics Policy Is Unethical

I first requested that the Dallas ISD ethics policy be addressed in February, 2008. My proposed Ethics Reform was intentionally simple, clear and direct.

Always, it has been very clear that the Dallas ISD Board would refuse to stop the unethical and corrupt practice of allowing business entities in which Trustees have an ownership interest to receive contracts while serving as an elected Trustee.

This issue is quite clear to any right thinking citizen or Trustee.

Many games have been played since that time and great energy wasted to undermine the one clear ethical issue facing the Board. The Board President sits as Board Chair and former CEO of a business entity - TD Industries - that has received close to 10 Million dollars in contracts in recent years. Is this unethical and should this be stopped?

Of course, it is unethical and it should be stopped.

But this Board will not do so.

Instead of addressing this most important ethical issue, what has been done is the Board President appointed two of his closest political allies, Edwin Flores and Nancy Bingham - to a three person Committee - thereby guaranteeing there would never be any possibility the Committee would recommend the end of his contracts. Trustee Flores has distorted the policy in ways designed to greatly confuse the ethical issue.

The ethics policy has been turned into a political fishing expedition that creates foolish illusions that non-profit and profit making entities are the same. That is simply false but serves the political agenda to confuse the ethical issue.

The city of Houston prohibited most contracts with Trustees in 2004. The 1-page Houston Ethics policy - unlike the confusing two and one half page Dallas policy - specifically exempts not for profit institutions. But certain Dallas Trustees have a political agenda to attack non-profits. The Houston policy states:

"Business entity" shall not include non-profit corporations or religious, educational, and governmental institutions."

When I was asked to Chair the same Committee by the Policy Chair, I realized the issue would be sidetracked for months exactly as happened. I also realized that the Policy Chair did not have Board authority to appoint committees. So I decided not to participate in a sideshow that was designed to do nothing but waste time and undermine the ethics reform I had proposed.

I certainly knew that I could not and would not support a policy that did not stop this unethical practice.

On Thursday, September 25, the Board will vote to continue this shameless 'good ol' boy' unethical arrangement.

My position is simple. I will not vote for a sham policy that allows any Trustee to so clearly violate the public trust for financial gain.

Any Board that supports this kind of unethical arrangement is compromising principle on the altar of politics.

The public clearly deserves a higher standard in ethics reform and a Board with the integrity to prevent Trustee contracts with the District they serve.

Selfish politics wins - ethics loses.

Dallas ISD Board Votes Against Democracy 8-1

Eight Dallas ISD Trustees voted against democracy at the monthly Board Briefing held at 11:30 A.M. on Thursday, September 11, 2008. Board Briefings are not convenient for public participation.

A special Board meeting was called by the President and Superintendent to adopt a single item on the same Board Briefing day it was first requested by Ron Price and Leigh Ann Ellis. Obviously someone wanted the policy to be in effect immediately so that it will apply to the September Board Meeting to be held two weeks later on September 25, 2008.

I wonder why? Maybe it has something to do with Agenda items like the proposed Ethics policy that will appear on the September 25th agenda for approval.

The Board passed the following amendment to Board Policy BE(Local) that previously required one Trustee but now requires two Trustees to pull an Agenda item for separate vote at the monthly Board meeting:

"Except in the event of a possible conflict of interest, a request to pull an item from the consent agenda for a separate vote must be made by at least two Board members."

Those Voting Yes
Jack Lowe
Ron Price
Leigh Ann Ellis
Lew Blackburn
Jerome Garza
Edwin Flores
Adam Medrano
Nancy Bingham

Those Voting No
Carla Ranger

They might call this the Carla Ranger policy. It was designed to keep me from pulling items from the consent agenda. The Trustees want a dictatorship of the majority. They want corporate domination. That want short meetings with no dissent. They want decisions made in secret not before the public. They don't want democracy or equality. They want to prevent public disagreement, debate, and discussion.

They think they have silenced Carla Ranger. Instead, they have done great damage to democracy and their own rights as Trustees. Truly amazing what selfish politics does to people.

This is one of the worst Boards in Dallas ISD history. It is driven by an anti-democratic ideology that is self-serving. It is pursuing an ideologically driven agenda that undermines public education. It is a cold and callous Board that disrespects the public and acts against the public interest.

All this Board needs is one rubber stamp.

Dallas ISD Undemocratic Board Meeting

On Friday, August 29, 2008, the Dallas ISD Board held a very special called Board meeting to clarify the name - Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

Six Trustees were present - Price, Ellis, Blacburn, Bingham, Flores and Ranger.Three Trustees were absent - Lowe, Medrano and Garza.

Ron Price was presiding in the absence of the President.

The vote was 6-0 in favor of the preservation of the Booker T. Washington High School name.

I certainly voted for Booker T. Washington and fought hard to preserve its historic name and identity.

Democracy is precious and it can be lost by those who don't respect it.

A motion was made to 'call for the vote'(previous question) without allowing for any Trustee discussion - none. This appeared to have been decided in advance.

If you would like to see how easily some will disrespect the rights of others, watch the video of this meeting.

Robert's Rules of Order were not followed when no discussion was allowed and no second was made to the motion to close discussion (previous question).

The vote on the previous question itself was also not clear.The video shows how authority will be abused.

We left the meeting and Booker T. Washington supporters in the audience were asking what the Board had just voted to do.

They did not understand because of the rush to vote with no Board discussion.