Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Salute to Scholarship at 2010 Superintendent's Scholarship Reception

Kimball and Carter High School Scholarship Winners

Though it had similar qualities, the evening wasn't a graduation.  It was, however, an excellent dress rehearsal for the sixty-two students who walked across the stage at Emmett J. Conrad High School this evening.

Parents, family and friends envisioned upcoming commencement exercises as they celebrated student achievements at the 2010 Superintendent's Scholarship Reception.

Students were greeted by Dallas ISD Board of Trustees President Adam Medrano and Dr. Liliana Valadez, Executive Director of College and Career Readiness.

Jesika R. Jones, a 2009 Superintendent's Scholarship Recipient, returned from her freshman year at Texas A & M University to deliver an encouraging Salute to Scholarship.  I'm sure honorees will remember her #1 Tip for success at college: " Get up thirty minutes early for your 8:00 a.m. class."

In addition to remarks by Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, members from the family of the late Dallas ISD Trustee Joe May and the family of Rev. Amado S. Hinojosa presented scholarships named in their honor.

Regina O. Jones, executive director of the East Secondary Learning Community was M.C. for the evening.

Thanks to the sponsors of this recognition program and the scholarship selection committee.

Congratulations to the two scholars from each of  thirty-one Dallas ISD high schools.  It was a special delight to greet Curtizia Alexander and Tracie Green--seniors at Carter High School and Araceli Calletano and Ashlyn Rolfe--seniors at Kimball HIgh School. .

Students were awarded $2,000 scholarships.

We salute all of the  honorees!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Diane Ravitch speaks on what makes a good education

In 1981 at Booker T.Washington High School,  the Dallas Institute of  humanities and culture sponsored its first education forum to facilitate a conversation about the "crisis" in public schools.  This evening, twenty-nine years later, in the same and newly renovated venue, the Dallas Institute forum posed the question, "What makes a good education?"

Everyone who cares about keeping the public in public education would have benefited from hearing the response of guest lecturer Dr. Diane Ravitch, historian educator and former Assistant Secretary of Education.  She emphasized that today, in 2010, we still face a serious crisis in public education - including the threat that the "public" will be taken out of public education.    This is a threat to the very existence of public education.

Among her many points were the following:

  • Teachers cannot do their best when they are afraid.
  • Merit pay diminishes collaboration and team work.
  • Closing schools rips away social capital and community anchors.
  • There is no proven model currently in existence for turning schools around.
  • Education is more than testing.
  • Accountability now blames only teachers for problems far broader than a classroom.
  • Poverty does matter and harms educational outcomes, but nobody wants to talk about poverty.
  • Charter schools occupy a very small  part of the educational system and will not solve the huge challenges.

I had previously attended her session on "Strengthening Public Education" at the National School Boards Association annual meeting in Chicago earlier this month.
After being a supporter of many so-called "reforms", Diane Ravitch now believes that many of the currently popular public education "reforms" will harm, not help public education.

Much of this is outlined in her current, best-seller book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Zero Tolerance in Texas public schools

A symposium on Zero Tolerance, the first of two proposed information sessions, was convened this past Saturday, April 24 at the African American Museum in South Dallas.

Participants included representatives from the following groups:  ISD administrators, judges, state and local elected offices, law enforcement, civil rights, court systems, children and youth organizations, as well as state and local school board trustees.

This educational event is a product of one of the challenges given during a 2009 lecture by Dr. Juanita Simmons, former Lincoln High School educator/now university professor, who cited some harmful effects of zero tolerance.

A presentation on "Positive Pro-Active Discipline" by Leslie Smith, Student Advocate from Austin, TX, defined the topic and scope of this half-day community discussion.

Bob Ray Sanders, Ft. Worth Star Telegram vice president and columnist, moderated a panel and posed questions to several  responders who addressed the topic from their respective positions of authority and experience with zero tolerance and student discipline.

To learn more about zero tolerance, go to:

Thanks to the symposium planning committee, chaired by community advocate Earnest McMillan, for this thought-provoking event.  Audience was informed that Symposium II on Zero Tolerance will follow.

Appreciation to Dr. Harry Robinson, Jr., President/CEO of the African American Museum, for hosting the event and to Dr. Roscoe G. Smith, symposium planning committee member, for presiding.

All were enlightened by what they heard and highly anticipate Symposium II.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The best is yet to come at Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy

Family, neighbors, long-time PTA members, elected officials, community organizers and retired educators were among those at  Nolan Estes Plaza for the Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy Groundbreaking ceremony  on Friday, April 23.

It was a groundbreaking as well as a celebration of the longest serving Dallas ISD trustee in recent history - 23 years. 

Students set the tone for this spirited occasion, presenting music and choreography of  their version of "The Best Is Yet to Come."

Principal Gail Ferguson-Smith introduced Kathlyn Joy Gilliam and spoke of the meaningful relationship she is developing with the students.

We thank Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, Dr. Wright Lassiter - Chancellor, Dallas County Community College District,  Dr. Jennifer Wimbush - President of Cedar Valley College,  Arnold Viramontes - Chief of Staff, Alma Garcia - Early College School Initiative Program Officer, and all other participants who made the activity a very special occasion.

A highlight of the morning was hearing Mrs. Kathlyn Joy Gilliam speak with wit, wisdom and humor.

The new Collegiate Academy is scheduled to open in August 2011.

Thanks to central office, teachers,staff and students, Principal Gail Ferguson-Smith and everyone who contributed to the success of the Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy Groundbreaking ceremony.

It brought us Joy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Superintendent Hinojosa exceeds his authority

Superintendent Hinojosa has no authority to commit Dallas ISD to any initiative - public or private - without specific prior Board approval.  

We have seen this before.

On last night we discussed a contract that had been signed and commitments made without Board approval.

We saw this earlier with an item being slipped onto the agenda without knowledge or approval of the Board or the President.

There is a clear pattern ignoring and disregarding the proper oversight authority of the Board.

Only the Dallas ISD Board has the authority to determine appropriate policy changes or initiatives of the District.  The Superintendent's duty is to follow and uphold Board approved decisions.

The Superintendent does not decide when or if charter school partnerships will be expanded in Dallas ISD.  Only the Board can make that decision.

The Board has not approved any such initiative to partner with West Dallas charter schools as apparently announced by the Superintendent on Thursday morning.  Without such official Board approval of such partnerships the Superintendent is again violating the established policies and procedures of the district.

The Superintendent is to recommend - only the Board approves.

What will the Board do about this?

We need a special meeting of the Board to discuss this latest inappropriate action by the Superintendent and determine what action - if any - needs to be taken.

The Superintendent has again exceeded his authority.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Secretary Duncan - No Child Left Behind "far too punitive"

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan feels that the old standard, No Child Left Behind "was, frankly, broken." He explains, "it was far too punitive -- everybody was going to be labeled a failure, eventually."

"Growth and gain" is the standard by which schools will be measured going forward. For example, Duncan elaborates, "under No Child Left Behind, if you are a sixth grade teacher and I came to you three grade levels behind, if I left you a year behind, you'd be labeled a failure, and your school would be labeled a failure."

"That's not fair, says Duncan, because the teacher has actually made tremendous gains with the student. "Not only are you a good teacher, you're an amazing teacher... We need to be learning from that teacher... That teacher's an absolute hero." Duncan hopes the focus on the growth and gain achieved by schools, not absolute test scores, will level the playing field."

Click Here!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy Groundbreaking Ceremony

The Dallas Independent School District
Board of Trustees and
Superintendent of Schools Michael Hinojosa
welcome you to the
Groundbreaking Ceremony for


Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy
1700 E. Camp Wisdom Road
Friday, April 23, 2010 – 10 a.m.
Groundbreaking Ceremony
University of North Texas at Dallas Campus
Special thanks to student greeters from Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy

Monday, April 12, 2010

National School Boards Association Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) 70th Annual Conference convened Friday - Monday, April-9-12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 5,000 school board Trustees and leaders from across the country, many with their Superintendents, participated.

I was pleased to have the opportunity attend.

A sample of many informative work sessions and discussions includes the following:
  • Focus on Strengthening Public Education - Diane Ravitch
  • Ethics, Board Meetings, and the Role of a School Board Member
  • Board Member Leadership Training
  • Focus on Getting Accountability Right - Richard Rothstein
  • Dig Deeper, Dig In: Questions and Answers about Accountability
  • General Session (Value student curiosity)   - Charlie Rose
  • General Session ((Lessons learned from America's music)- Wynton Marsalis
  • National Black Caucus - Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) - Geoffrey Canada, President
  • Urban Advocacy Skills Building
  • Leadership Training - Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) 
  • Broadening the Student Health Debate - Social Determinants of Health
  • Superintendent Succession and Transition Planning: Research Findings and Best Practices
  • Building a Culture of Trust
    The sessions with Diane Ravitch and Richard Rothstein were especially informative.

    Conference highlights included student performances and the presentation of the National Teacher of the Year Award.

    In addition to being a valuable source of ideas and strategies, school board conferences offer workshops that provide insights into the many challenges facing urban school districts.

    The theme for this year's conference was "Count Us In."

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    "March to the Mailbox" this Saturday - 2010 Census

    Banners and flags will fly all around Dallas this coming Saturday, reminding everyone about the 2010 Census form.  It's time to "Fill it Out and Mail it back."

    This Saturday, April 10, "March to the Mailbox" to return your 2010 Census form.

    Why:  The U.S. Constitution requires a national census once every 10 years.

    A Complete Count:  The Importance of Census Data
    • Every year, the federal government can allocate more than $400 billion to states and communities based, in part, on census data.
    • Census data guide local decision-makers on where to build new roads, hospitals, child-care and senior citizen centers, schools, and more.
    • Businesses use census data to locate supermarkets, new housing and other facilities.
    • Census data determine how many seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives.
    The 2010 Census is important.

    The 2010 Census questionnaire takes only 10 minutes to complete.

    Don't forget:  "Be Counted in 2010."

    Help our community - Help our schools.

    We can move forward when you mail it back.

    It's Easy - It's Safe - It's Important.

    You can make a difference.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    District 5 candidate files residency complaint

    This needs to be resolved in order to avoid potential election problems and unnecessary election expense.

    Subject: Board Members Eligibility / Qualifications
    From: "Daphene-Smart Price Travel" <>
    Date:  Tue, 6 Apr 2010 23:12:23 -0500
    To:     deharris
    CC:    edwinsflores, jlowe, bparrott, nbingham, cranger, jgarza, amedrano, benutall, lblackburn

    Mr. Deno Harris
    Director, Board Services
    Dallas Independent School District

    Dear Mr. Harris

    As a candidate for the District 5 Board of Trustees I have a concern regarding Board Members Eligibility/Qualifications in particular the residential status of Trustee Lew Blackburn. Lew Blackburn lists his home address as ..... Dallas, Tx. 75203. It has come to my attention that Mr. Blackburn does own this residence but there is a possibilty that ...... is not his permanent place of  residence. In fact, if my sources are correct Mr. Blackburn's daughter is the current resident ...... Mr. Blackburn is newly married to Mrs ..... Blackburn who resides at ..... Grand Prairie Tx. 75054. Does Mr.Blackburn reside in Grand Prairie with his new bride? I doubt very seriously that the newlyweds are residing at separate residents.

    BBA (LEGAL) - C & BBC (LEGAL) - D clearly defines residency term, residence and nonresident. I believe that Mr. Blackburn is in violation as a sitting board member for District 5 and as a candidate for the May 8th election. I am requesting that the permanent residential status of Mr. Blackburn be verified to determine if Mr. Blackburn is in violation of DISD policy. Time is of essence therefore; your immediate attention to this matter would be appreciated. I am requesting that I receive a written response to my concerns in a timely manner.

    Daphene Edmond
    Candidate for District 5 Board of Trustee 

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Textbook letter to Superintendent Hinojosa

    The following letter of clarification was sent to Superintendent Michael Hinojosa by the President (K-12) of textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  It confirms the textbook selection process and the April 30, 2010 Texas Education Agency deadline for corrected books.


    March 29, 2010

    Dr. Hinojosa
    Dallas Independent School District
    3700 Ross Avenue
    Dallas, TX 75204

    Dear Dr. Hinojosa,

    We understand that members of the Dallas Independent School District Central Committee were concerned about errors in our Spanish-language reading program, Senderos, and that, despite overwhelming teacher support for the program, the committee recommended another reading program. We respect and appreciate your concern, and guarantee you that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has corrected all errors noted by the Texas Education Agency.

    It is important to note that the books which the Central Committee reviewed were first-round sample copies, not classroom copies—meaning they, were printed for evaluation purposes only. We anticipated that reviewers would make some suggestions, and that, after bilingual State Board of Education members approved those suggestions, we would print a second round of updated copies for classroom use.

    We are making every effort to produce the most flawless and effective curriculum as soon as possible, and must submit a second round of corrected books to the Texas Education Agency by Friday, April 30. We will provide copies of these books to Dallas ISD this week. Any publisher that does not correct errors as requested in state adopted books is subject to large fines or possibly even replacing incorrect books, according to the Texas Education Code.

    We value our longtime partnership with Dallas Independent School District, and like you, we consider it unacceptable for any student to use an incorrect textbook, regardless of his or her native language. We look forward to working with you to implement Senderos in classrooms district-wide, and hope that you are as pleased with this product as the others you have implemented in the past, including our Harcourt Clenclas program that is used in Dallas ISD.

    It may also provide reassurance to know that many other Texas districts have adopted our reading programs, Journeys and Senderos, including San Antonio ISD, Northside ISD, Brownsville ISD, Pasadena ISD, Ft. Bend ISD, Lewisville ISD, Irving ISO, Carrollton Farmers Branch ISD, McAllen ISD, Amarillo ISD, and many others. In fact, most of these districts also adopted our programs K-12.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me directly with any questions or concerns you may have.


    President, K-12