Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2008 Bond Program Changes the Landscape in Dallas ISD

Dallas Weekly  March 18-24, 2010

Dallas ISD Trustee Carla Ranger, District 6
The 2008 Bond Program will provide the school children of Dallas facilities that meet the needs of a 21st century education. Many of the district’s schools are more than 50 years old and do not meet today’s educational needs. This extensive project is well under way; architects and program management firms have many design projects nearing completion and a substantial amount of the land has been acquired.
The target for completing Phase I of the program is August 2011, before classes begin. It includes the construction of five new schools. Other schools are being substantially renovated and expanded. The former Wilmer-Hutchins High School facility and athletic stadium, located in District 6, will undergo a true transformation. Phase I also includes additions or expansions to six schools and renovations at an additional 73 schools.
The renovated Wilmer-Hutchins High School and Wilmer-Hutchins Stadium
Phase II is expected to be complete by the summer of 2012. This phase includes the construction of six new schools, additions or expansions at four schools and renovations at an additional 75 schools. Phase III, due to begin in early 2011, will include three new schools, additions or expansions at five schools, and renovations at an additional 56 schools. 
On completion, the 2008 Bond Program will provide 14 new schools, including eight elementary schools, four middle schools and two high schools.
The Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary School
Twelve existing schools will receive additions to provide 177 new classrooms. Five of those schools are in District 6: T.L. Marsalis, Clinton P. Russell, L.A. Stemmons and Daniel Webster elementary schools and L.V. Stockard Middle School, each of which will receive a new wing. More than 200 schools will be renovated, including 19 science labs at six existing secondary schools, kitchen renovations at 16 schools and expansion of lunchrooms at 22 campuses.
The program includes updating classroom and lab computers, campus supporting infrastructure and interactive student technology, as well as classroom presentation devices. The district’s regional sports complexes also will be refurbished as part of the program.
The Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy
Plans have been made for Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy and Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary School, with groundbreakings for these District 6 facilities to be held this spring. Groundbreaking for Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School (also to be located in District 6) is expected sometime this summer.
The Zan Wesley Holmes, Jr. Middle School
In other news, Dallas ISD students recently donated more than $49,000 to 24 charity and nonprofit organizations during the annual Common Cents campaign. Students from 40 Dallas ISD schools participated in the campaign, a student-led coin collection effort designed to raise money for charity and non-profit organizations while encouraging good citizenship and social responsibility in students. Several of the charity and non-profit organizations which will receive a donation include the American Red Cross, Children’s Medical Center and the Lymphoma Society.
Other news in District 6:
Readers are leaders, and it was my pleasure to visit Daniel Webster and T.G. Terry elementary schools last month for delightful reading celebrations with first-, second-, and fourth-grade students. Regularly reading out loud to children will produce significant gains in reading comprehension and vocabulary. If you would like to read to or with students, check with your neighborhood school for information about how to volunteer.
Debate is a formal contest of argumentation in which two opposing teams support and oppose a given proposition. Students competing in debate must have both knowledge and quick-thinking skills to prevail. The University Interscholastic League had its beginnings as the Debating League of Texas High Schools and is about to celebrate with its centennial debate tournament. At last month’s UIL Cross Examination Debate competition, David W. Carter High School took first place in the 4A-11 division. Congratulations to Carter Cowboys’ debate team and coach Paula Jones, and good luck at the state meet in Austin later this month.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Trustee textbook decision

Recent reports indicate there was an uproar sparked at the Dallas ISD Board meeting on last Thursday, March 25, 2010.

Dallas ISD trustees' textbook decision sparks uproar

The "uproar" was caused because the 5-4 vote approved a Spanish reading textbook that was stated to be "riddled with errors."  It was reported that this angered Latino Board members Edwin Flores and Jerome Garza.

Trustee Flores requested in Spanish that those who "voted for - and against - Spanish-speaking school children" be identified.

Trustee Nancy Bingham stated that she hoped "every Hispanic parent in this city .. gets up in arms because they have a right to."

The textbook in question was a sample provided by the publisher and is on the Texas State Board of Education  list of approved textbooks.  Normally, errors are corrected before entering into the final state contract.

Voting for the K-5 textbook selected:
  • Blackburn
  • Medrano
  • Nutall
  • Parrott
  • Ranger
Voting No:
  • Bingham
  • Flores
  • Garza
  • Lowe
It was stated that the debate "ignited passions and racial tensions."

Yet, the very same K-5 global textbook publisher that Dallas ISD selected was also selected by the overwhelmingly Hispanic San Antonio ISD on February 15, 2010.

Here's the link to that San Antonio ISD decision.

San Antonio Textbook Selection Committee - February 15, 2010
Page 3

Student Demographics - San Antonio ISD
Hispanic - 89.5%
African American - 7.4%
White (not Hispanic) - 2.7%

The San Antonio ISD is 90% Hispanic.  The very same K-5 textbook publisher was selected for their children.

Still, in San Antonio, there were no irresponsible and inappropriate Trustee calls for "every Hispanic parent in this city" to  "get up in arms."

Dallas ISD can do better.  

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dallas ISD Budget Hearing

I have requested a budget hearing for District 6.  Details will be completed after staff returns from Spring Break.

Last year during budget discussions I clearly supported the importance of having budget hearings - as I had done before.

Years ago budget hearings were an important part of the budget development process.

Budget hearings are not solely dependent upon an individual Trustee.

The administration can have budget hearings without Trustee involvement.

Any Trustee can also have a budget hearing without the administration's participation in helping to promote it.

In any case during election season,  every effort must be made by elected Trustees who are campaigning to avoid using district resources in a way that might violate the Texas Education Code rules against "electioneering."

I hope to have a District 6 budget hearing at Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center in Oak Cliff as soon as the arrangements can be made.  All will be welcome.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Board luncheon today with Dallas Citizens Council and Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors

The Dallas ISD Board of Trustees and Superintendent Hinojosa will be joining a luncheon today with the Dallas Citizens Council and the Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors at 11:30 A.M.

The regularly scheduled monthly Board Briefing is being delayed from 11:30 until 12:30 P.M.

The  Board Briefing public notice for today reads:

Upcoming Events

Board Briefing - 3/11/2010March 11, 2010 - 12:30 PMAgenda
This listing of today's Board events does not show the reason for the delay of the regularly scheduled public Board Briefing.

I believe in open government, and this troubles me.

I will not be in attendance at the luncheon.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

3rd Annual Hispanic Food Festival

Justin F. Kimball High School students celebrated at the 3rd Annual Hispanic Food Festival today.

Wearing colorful native dress and t-shirts bearing the name of their homelands, students and parents served delicious dishes and desserts, many of which were prepared by students.

Parents, faculty and staff enjoyed learning about and tasting many different cultures.

The Food Festival was a culinary and conversational delight.

Thanks to teacher Ms. Carmen Carrillo and Interim Principal Earl Jones.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

McNair Elementary celebrates African-American History Month with a miniature museum

McNair Elementary celebrates African-American History Month with a miniature museum
The Miniature Museum of African American Firsts opened last week at Ronald E. McNair Elementary School in celebration of African American Heritage Month. More than 300 individuals and 350 items are featured in the exhibit created by media specialist Pamela Brown. The items show positive contributions African Americans have made to make life easier, more fulfilling, and more comfortable. Visitors are welcome to view the display in the school's media center during the school day through March 12. Parents also may view during parent conferences on Thursday, March 11. The school is located at 3150 Bainbridge Ave.

See Dallas ISD website:

2010 Education Summit - TCBSBM

I was pleased to attend the Texas Caucus of Black School Board Members (TCBSBM)  2010 Education Summit on Friday afternoon and Saturday March 5-6, 2010 in Houston, Texas.

There were a number of informative work sessions and discussions:
  • The Difference Between the High School Completion and Dropout Rate
  • College and Career Readiness that affects the public schools you govern
  • Longview ISD Bullying Intervention Plan
  • Keynote Address - Opportunity Lost:  The Dropout Crisis in Black America
  • Take This Job and Love It
  • Bonds and Investments 101: Things A Board Member Needs To Know
  • Dropout Prevention:  Employing Effective Student Discipline and Intervention Techniques - The Legal Requirements
  • Understanding Your School District's Risk Management Program
  • Gifted African American College Students
  • Board Governance
The TCBSBM awarded $1,000 scholarships to five deserving seniors and paid tribute to dedicated teachers throughout the state who help our students learn.

A showcase of the gifts, talent and creative artistry of several middle and high school students was a highlight of the Education Summit.

They reminded us of why we serve. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Board Meeting Policy - BE (Local) - separate votes and public discussion

Last Thursday, February 25, 2010, the Dallas ISD Board considered two proposals to revise the official Board meeting policy - BE (Local).

I submitted the proposed changes shown in the document labeled Version B for Board consideration.

Version B would have accomplished several changes and restored flexibility to the Trustees in discussing agenda items - the same flexibility that had existed before changes were made on September 11, 2008 (Special Called Board Meeting) and November 20, 2008.  Trustee Nancy Bingham had previously indicated that the restriction on pulling an item from the agenda was requested at that time by Trustees Price and Blackburn.

Version B attempted to:
  • restore the right of any Trustee to pull an item for a separate vote
  • return the deadline for pulling an item to Wednesday (as it had been previously), the day before the Board meeting, instead of Tuesday
  • require the approval of the Board President before changes can be made to an Agenda between a Board Briefing and the Board Meeting date
  • make a minor clarifying language revision
However, Version B was defeated primarily because of the proposed deadline change from Tuesday back to Wednesday.

The defeat of Version B moved ahead despite staff confirmation that the current electronic system would allow an item to be pulled (and voted on separately) even at the Board meeting.

Voting for policy Version B:
  • Medrano 
  • Nutall
  • Parrott
  • Ranger
Voting against version B:
  • Bingham
  • Blackburn
  • Flores
  • Garza
  • Lowe
There have been numerous times when it was necessary to pull items from the consent agenda which otherwise would not have been discussed at a Board meeting.  Yet, many of those same items, once pulled,  generated important Board discussion.

Even the decision to extend terms and cancel Board elections was going to be passed on the consent agenda with no public discussion.  I pulled these items at the last minute in order to have public discussion of such an important Board action and to oppose it.

Why would such important issues be placed on the consent agenda?

Another example - last week I pulled for separate vote the agenda item calling for the May 8, 2010 Trustee Election.  I did so in order to speak against using Dallas ISD resources to send out thousands of full color newsletters and other communications during the election that would unfairly benefit the Trustees already in office - in potential violation of the state law against "electioneering.".  I had made the same comment before the previously delayed election.

Trustees Blackburn and Bingham were not pleased.

Another Trustee - Jerome Garza, who indicated he will not be running for re-election in May - also voted against calling for the May 8, 2010 election for an entirely different reason.  While that was not expected, there would have been no discussion at all and no opportunity for Trustee Garza's vote against calling the election had this item been left on the consent agenda.

Yes, I believe in public discussion of important public matters.

The vote last Thursday indicates there are Trustees who still want to make that more difficult.

Destroying public education and leaving democracy behind

Who will defend public education?

Decades ago economist Milton Friedman openly advocated the systematic destruction of public education.

Today, use of the word "reform" has become the easiest way to hide agendas that have little to do with improving public education and everything to do with undermining public education on the road to increasing privatization by placing public money under private control.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has become a red flag because it covers up what is sometimes an ideologically driven effort to weaken public support of public education.

The new book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System - How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education" by education historian Diane Ravitch attempts to explain that a train going in the wrong direction on the wrong track is not a good thing and great damage will be done.

I share this concern.  Count me as a public school advocate and supporter.

I believe in democracy and the crucial role education plays in maintaining it. The worst lesson we could possibly teach our students is to embrace dictatorial methods as an educational model and solution within a democratic society.

I  support public school education for all citizens who take advantage of it - the good, the bad and the ugly. I support public democracy.  I support public control of public education.  I support human freedom that recognizes no limit on human possibility.

Dictator education - mean-spirited education - test and punish education - corporate education - money driven education - is a threat to it all public education.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Full Scholarships for African American Men and Women Interested in Studying Architecture

Syracuse University has 10 Full Rides/Scholarships for African American Men and Women Interested in Studying Architecture. 

Mark Robbins, Dean of  Syracuse University 's School of Architecture is desperately seeking young men and women of color interested in pursuing a five year professional degree in Architecture. He says he's deeply committed to bringing diversity to his field and has scholarship money set aside to fully cover education costs for 10 students. He says that Hispanic enrollment in the school has increased substantially.  But it's been harder to attract Blacks. 

Syracuse University School of Architecture has a great reputation and this seems like an excellent opportunity. Please pass this on to everyone you know.

Contact: Mark Robbins, Dean, School of Architecture - (315) 443-2256 

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School of Architecture
Syracuse University
201 Slocum Hall
Syracuse , NY 13244-1250

(315) 443-2256