Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sixth Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium

Photograph of Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luthe...                                         Image via Wikipedia
The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture
Presents the Sixth Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium
Just and Unjust Laws
The Core of the Civil Rights Struggle

The Sixth Annual MLK Jr. Symposium, On MLK Day: 7 p.m., Monday, January 17, 2011

At the AT&T Performing Arts Center Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St.
On its sixth anniversary, the Dallas Institute's MLK Jr. Symposium will consider one of the most crucial but often neglected aspects of the American Civil Rights Movement: the law. Rev. King insisted from the beginning that the fundamental challenge of the movement was to make a necessary distinction--between just and unjust laws. In his words, "A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law." This distinction was repeatedly tested in the dangerous struggles of the 1950's and 60's, when activists willingly went to jail in defiance of segregation's unjust laws. But who worked behind the scenes to free them? Who fought the legal battles while protestors filled the streets--and the jails? The story of resisting Jim Crow while fighting to institute just laws once and for all is rich, many-layered, and compelling.
General Admission - $20
Dallas ISD Teachers, Educators & Students - $10
Groups of 10 or more, $15 per person 

FOR TICKETS: Visit the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Web site at or call the Box Office at 214.880.0202.

GROUP SALES: Contact Ashley Delaney, the Group Sales Coordinator at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Phone: 214.978.2879.

Jeffrey Toobin - A high-profile senior analyst for CNN and staff writer for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin is one of the country's most esteemed experts on politics, media and the law. Toobin has provided analysis on some of the most important events of our time, including the O.J. Simpson trial, the Kenneth Starr investigation and impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and the disputed Florida recount of the 2000 presidential election. The author of critically acclaimed New York Times best seller, Toobin's 2007 book The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, delves into the historical, political and personal inner workings of the Supreme Court and its justices to reveal the inside story of one of America's most mysterious and powerful institutions. He received his bachelor's degree from Harvard College and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Fred Gray - Veteran civil rights attorney Fred Gray's legal career began in the midst of America's modern day civil rights movement. With a quiet demeanor, strong determination and secret commitment made in college, he vowed, "to become a lawyer, return to Alabama, and destroy everything segregated I could find." Gray began his legal career as a sole practitioner, less than a year out of law school, and at age twenty-four, he represented Mrs. Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus, the action that initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Gray was also Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s first civil rights lawyer. This was the beginning of a legal career that now spans over fifty years. Gray was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and is a graduate of the Nashville Christian Institute, Alabama State University, and Case Western Reserve University.

Monday, December 20, 2010

African American males are not waiting for superman - they need mentors, coaches and heroes

They were climbing the ladder for 33 years during the desegregation era.  But the support programs of that era have been increasingly removed in recent years by design.

Dallas ISD Trustees were recently presented information on the African American Success Initiative.

The mission of the Success Initiative is stated in these words:  “Dallas ISD is committed to the achievement of each student and is moving to eradicate the achievement gap and increase access to opportunities for its African American students.”

Growing out of the Success Iniative is an offshoot identified as The African American Male Leadership Team composed of Principals and other district leaders. These leaders recently held the first Dallas ISD Speak Out.

Speak Out: Obstacles Keeping African American Males from Graduating from High School and Going to College

An Op-Ed piece by Principal Earl Jones of Kimball High School, a member of the Male Leadership team, was published today in the Dallas Morning News.  It is well worth reading.

Choose one young man to mentor

"One of the most powerful moments of the speak out came from a student who challenged each adult present to look around and choose one young man to mentor and encourage, so the young man would know someone is pulling for him."

A wish that school was a hotel
Principal Jones described “a young man who shared his story of an incarcerated father, a mother who had given up her parental rights, brothers who didn’t want him in the family - and told him as much.  This determined young man, president of his senior class, wished only that his school was a hotel so he could live there instead.”

These young men don't need a superman myth, but they do need the support and help of mentors, coaches and heroes.

Book - Black Males - An African American View on Raising Young Men - Harvey Alston Best

Little Eyes Upon You
There are little eyes upon you
and they're watching night and day.
There are little ears that quickly
take in every word you say.

There are little hands all eager
to do anything you do;
And a little man who's dreaming
of the day he'll be like you.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Students and staff spread holiday cheer

During the past week, Dallas ISD students and staff welcomed the holidays through a variety of activities.  Participating in them brightened and broadened my holiday experience.  It also provided a chance to greet, applaud and appreciate. 

DAEP at  Nolan Estes Plaza

Recently settled in their new home at Nolen Estes Plaza, DAEP students displayed vocal talent as they delighted family and friends with rhythmic moves that made students giggle and the audience cheer.  Wearing Santa caps or reindeer antlers, each grade performed a medley of festive, with some tap-your-toes-to, songs.   Through the coordination of June Johnson, teachers helped students, some of whom arrived as late as the day before, prepare for this first holiday program.  Students were visibly overjoyed to perform, which they did so well.  Guests were proud and, recognizing  value in this activity for these students, recommended this program as the start of a tradition.

Thanks to teachers, staff and principal Eva Hunter for the holiday teaching and learning experience given to DAEP students and families.

Maintenance Northwest Division

Another highlight of the week was the annual luncheon with staff at the Northwest Maintenance Division.  Every work day,  members of this crew use their skills to maintain approximately 70 campuses in their service area. However, at this time every year,  they show off their cooking skills, bringing homemade dishes and desserts for a fun-filled lunch with secret gift-exchange and lots of fellowship. What a pleasure it was to be among and talk with these workers.    

Thanks to the Northwest Division maintenance crew for the work you do to support teaching and learning in Dallas ISD.       

El Centro Middle College High School

Middle College High School at El Centro hosted the annual Tamale and Thank You Party.  The Parent Teacher Student Association and the Site Based Decision Management committee joined students in thanking parents and Middle College friends for their support during Fall semester.  For added fun and to work off calories from the tamales and sides, students and guests learned how to do the cha cha cha and a couple of ballroom dance steps.  It was truly a fiesta in the Student Center at El Centro College. Much appreciation to all who helped.

Many students left with a tamale and holiday spirit to share.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What Diane Ravitch told Teach for America

By Valerie Strauss - Washington Post

"Education historian Diane Ravitch gave a speech at Rice University about school reform in which she directly challenged officials from Teach for America and the Knowledge Is Power Program who were present -- the very people who had invited her.
About Teach for America:
“If I were just graduating from college, which I wish were true, I would surely want to join Teach for America. I understand why tens of thousands of idealistic college students sign up for a two-year term as a teacher in a school serving poor students. I have met many many young people who are in TFA now and I have been impressed by their intelligence, their enthusiasm, their sincerity and dedication.
“But I would urge you please, stop claiming that TFA will close the achievement gap. That may be a nice slogan but nobody can teach for two or three years and close the achievement gap. Closing the achievement gap requires a lot more than really smart and dedicated young people with five weeks of training and a lot of enthusiasm. It requires highly skilled career professionals with deep experience who are willing to stick to the profession.... You send out a false message that your corps of young people is all that it takes and that’s not true.
"The TFA message is supporting efforts to undercut professionalism in every part of education. Not only do we now have superintendents who were never educators but now we have many programs to train non-educators to be principals.
"TFA supposedly proved that no professionalism was needed, just really smart people. So now we have the George W. Bush Institute, allied with TFA, planning to train 50,000 new principals over the next decade, many of them drawn from business, the military, sports and other non-educational fields.
"As I was driving into Houston yesterday, my brother pointed out to me a billboard that said: 'Want to be a teacher?' As we were driving past, I got my cell phone. You just have to put down $395 [the full cost, according to the website, of getting alternative teacher certification is $4,195]...
"Does TFA want to be remembered in history as the leading edge of a movement that destroyed the education profession?"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dallas ISD Trustees to extend terms for up to 18 months

Martin Luther King Jr. 
"Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right."                          - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And politics asks the question, 'Is it legal.'

But a public servant - a servant leader - would ask Dr. King's question, 'Is it right?'

Former Dallas ISD Trustee Ron Price was sitting in the audience at the public hearing held Tuesday, November 30 2010 at 5:30 PM.  At one point, former Trustee Price spoke out from the audience, "You should have done it two years ago.  Vote Yes."  Or something close to those words. 

It appears Dallas ISD Trustees will again vote to extend Trustee terms of office - this time for as long as 18 months for single member districts (SMD) 2, 6 and 8.  

Since I represent District 6, my term will be extended under the current proposal for the full 18 months of additional public service with no voter approval.

At the December Board Briefing Trustee Lew Blackburn indicated that two years ago he requested  the change to four-year terms.  He then asked if the current effort to make the change is legal.

Of course, it is legal this time - until December 31, 2010.  There is a deadline now, just as there was a deadline two years ago.

However, the most important question is  not just about legality.  It is about doing the right thing.

It is also important that the Dallas County Elections Office has now confirmed that it will be even more costly to Dallas ISD to move the May election date (Saturday) to the often partisan and crowded November election date (Tuesday).

Extending Terms Will Cost More - Bruce Sherbert - Click Here
"You have a lot more supplies, a lot more personnel -- it's a huge production," Sherbet said of the November election. "There's no question, it's going to cost them more."

If you want to get a preview of where all of this is headed, take a look at the special election recently held in Houston to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of a Trustee who happened to represent an Hispanic District.

Stipechie wins Houston ISD school board runoff - Click Here 

There were about six candidates for the vacant position.  Two candidates participated in the run-off held on Tuesday, November 30, 2010  - one an attorney and one a homemaker (former Teach For America teacher) - raised almost $200,000.00.  

The runoff vote total was 2,052.

The attorney won the runoff by 44 votes (1,048 to 1,004 = 2,052 vote total) - this was the result in a school Trustee runoff election in Houston between two candidates who together had to raise $200,000.00. 

The homemaker and former Teach for America candidate was heavily backed by the Houston Business Education Coalition.  The attorney who won was backed by teachers and community.

The winning candidate Juliet Stipechie stated: "My agenda is based on what the community wants and needs as opposed to somebody telling us what our community needs."

Is this what is ahead for Dallas ISD - $200,000.00 school Trustee elections where money will dominate?

Please note - this important item is now buried as the very last item to be discussed on the Thursday evening Board agenda.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Four hundred Dallas ISD students deck the halls with music at 18th annual Christmas concert

If you were not at the Black Academy of Arts and Letters (TBAAL) Saturday evening, you missed an outstanding seasonal concert. Combined choirs and musicians from eleven Dallas ISD high schools and one elementary school decked the halls with a superb performance on the Naomi Bruton main stage. It was the 18th Annual Christmas Kwanzaa Concert. 

Name your favorite musical genre, classic to contemporary -- they performed it, with vocals and instrumentals for everyone. Parents, families, friends, teachers and staff were in awe, stilled by exquisite renditions of the more complex seasonal music or arrangements. They also found themselves swaying to traditional, toe-tapping to swing, calling and responding to rap, clapping to pop, bobbing to jazz, and testifying to spirituals. 

The grateful audience got plenty of exercise, up out of their seats over and over with applause and praise throughout the performance. And what a boost for these 400 students -- vocalists, musicians, helpers and technicians, all handsomely attired in red, green and black. Guests saw a packed stage of student performers who were pristinely-disciplined, keenly-attentive and highly-prepared. The high-quality concert was another affirmation of the value of music and the arts in education. By participating in choir, orchestra and service, these students are acquiring knowledge and skills to help them be productive and responsible. 

We appreciate the teaching and dedication of the choral directors and band conductors who worked with our students to present the concert. The music team represented Umphrey Lee elementary and the following high schools: Carter, Kimball, Lincoln, Rangel YWL, Roosevelt, Samuell, Skyline, South Oak Cliff, Spruce, Sunset and Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center.

Thanks to Craig Welle and the fine arts, choral and general music administrators and staff for on-going efforts to present Dallas ISD music and fine arts programs to the community.

Special gratitude to TBAAL founder/director Curtis King and the staff of The Black Academy of Arts and Letters. Thank you for consistently demonstrating the importance of partnerships in education for student success.

Students -- Congratulations and Thank You! Your 18th Annual Christmas Kwanzaa Concert celebrated the season and beckoned the happy holidays that you and your directors deserve.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Carter high school hosts seminar for parents and male students

There was no sleeping-in late this Saturday morning for several students at Carter high school. Members of the Man Up Group were preparing to greet and assist their peers from other schools who would attend “It’s Time--A Seminar for Male Students.” Dressed in uniform t-shirts with the printed message, “No sagging pants allowed," these young men were ready to give and receive positive lessons throughout the day.

Founded by Carter High teacher Curtis Ferguson, the purpose of Man Up Group is to “transform the lives of boys and help them become responsible men. This is achieved by providing a secure, positive peer environment where males regain hope and belief, earn trust and self-respect; and learn skills to lead a constructive lifestyle--free of gangs, drugs, violence, cycles of failure, mental” welfare” and poverty. Realizing that partnerships can lead to greater influence and broader results, Man Up Group partnered with Project Student Leaders, Inc (PSL) to present the seminar today.

Project Student Leaders is the creation of Richard Davis, because of his passion to help youth and his 29 years in education. PSL focuses on providing “challenged but talented” students with training that will empower them to make good decisions to improve their lives and communities.
Along with hearing positive rap and experiencing other entertainment, students and parents were scheduled to interact with several presenters during four sessions: 1.) Who Am I for Real? 2.) Who’s Listening to Me? 3.) Don’t You Have Dreams and 4.) Catch the Rope and Live! (Helping Teens Reconstruct Their Lives).

I was glad to welcome eager parents, students and supporters. How refreshing it was to see the male students carry out their different duties with respect, helpfulness and an attitude of service. They are being well-taught, thanks to their sponsor and trainers.

We are pleased when teachers and educators connect to implement programs that benefit students and parents. This morning’s seminar for males presented at David W. Carter high school, where Mr. Gail Dupree is principal, was a fine example of collaboration to benefit parents and students.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Students and elected officials meet at annual reception

Middle College High School at El Centro  M. F. Bailey Concert Choir - Lincoln High 

City Club was the gathering place this evening for the Elected Officials and Student Advisory Committee Reception. The annual event is hosted by Sen. Royce West.

Planned by Education Director LaJuanna Barton and implemented by the senator’s staff, this is an occasion for students interested in leadership and public service to meet and talk with elected officials in various offices throughout the city, county and state.

The festive atmosphere is a comfortable setting for easy talk and laughter among parents, teachers, school sponsors students and public servants.

Serious and not-so-serious conversations were interspersed with talent of students from Booker T. Washington HSPVA, Yvonne Ewell Townview Magnet Center and Lincoln High school respectively.

Student teams representing several schools and IDS were excited to learn that the annual service project to gather canned goods netted over 25,000 pounds of food donated to the North Texas Food Bank.

Congratulations to the winners and all of the student leaders and teams. Special hats off to our own District 6 T.W. Brown Middle School, 3rd place winner.

Thanks to Sen. West for hosting this opportunity that includes many Dallas ISD students.

Much appreciation to parents, teachers and sponsors for your help and support of these student leaders.