Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Texas school leaders rally to "Make Education a Priority"

State Capitol - Austin, Texas

Hundreds of school leaders gathered at the Capitol today to deliver a message to lawmakers to Make Education a Priority when crafting the state’s budget.

Roughly 1,000 school district administrators and school board trustees came to Austin today for a free Legislative Conference put on by the Texas Association of Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards.

After the conference, school district leaders headed for the Capitol to meet with their lawmakers. At 2 p.m., many of them rallied on the south steps of the Capitol, standing unified in their message with red placards, fans and a banner, all reading: "Make Education a Priority."

--TASB Legislative Update
Texas Association of School Boards 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Booker T. Washington student Amber Pickens admitted to prestigious Juilliard

Amber Pickens is one of the latest outstanding students to excel in the arts at Booker T. Washington High School. Congratulations!

Dancer Also Awarded Fellowship to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater School for Summer Studies in New York
Amber Pickens
Dallas, Texas  - Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts senior/dance cluster student Amber Pickens has been admitted to The Juilliard School for the 2011-2012 academic year.  She is one of 12 females extended an invitation for admission out of their entire worldwide applicant pool.  Amber will study in the Dance Division as part of their four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts program that includes a Liberal Arts curriculum.

The Juilliard School is considered as one of the most prestigious performing arts conservatories in the world. Amber has also been awarded a fellowship with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater School.  She will participate in the Ailey Fellowship Program in New York this summer beginning on June 20, 2011 through August 1, 2011 before beginning her first year at The Juilliard School.

Says Amber, "I can't believe it!  I was on Spring Break last week when I got the call from Katie Friis, Dance Admissions Coordinator at Juilliard.  When she said I was in...I couldn't talk or move.  I was so excited.  Getting accepted to Juilliard is a dream come true for me.  When I did the audition back in February, after all the cuts I was the last female dancer standing with three male dancers from Houston and North Carolina.  Out of all the females, I was the only one to finish the audition.  That alone was exciting and unbelievable for me.  But actually getting the call that I made it...well that's incredible!  This is truly a blessing."   

As a student at Booker T. Washington HSPVA, Amber has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the award as a Texas Young Master of the Arts by the Texas Commission on the Arts during her freshman year.  The National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts recognized Amber as a YoungArts 2011 Honorable Mention Winner for her exceptional artistic achievement in Modern and African dance.  She made her acting debut as the Fairy Moth in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the inaugural production of the Dallas Theater Center at the Wyly Theatre in the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas.  Amber is also featured in advertisements across the country as part of the national marketing campaign for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  She is featured in the ad as the ballerina princess making the wish come true for a little girl by crowning her a princess too.  

Amber will make her final curtain call on Booker T. Washington's Montgomery Arts Theater stage during Dance Festival Week scheduled for April 4 - 8, 2011.  Under the direction of Lily Weiss, Dance Cluster Coordinator, she will direct her senior choreography work for the Best of Senior Choreography Concert and she will perform as a member of the Repertory Dance Company I for the Ensemble Concert.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Percentage of teacher staffs in Texas school districts

TASBO: The Final Word
By Tom Canby - TASBO
Mar 25, 2011, 08:40

On the topic of the percent of teachers in the public education system, the chart below was prepared from the Texas Education Agency Snapshot publications for school years 1994-1995 through 2009-1010.  Also, for school year 1985-86, the percent of teachers was 50.7% according to Table 79, in the Digest of Educational Statistics 1990, published by National Center Educational Statistics. 

TASBO is concerned about misinformation published on this topic that reported there had been a significant shift downward in the percent of teachers in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Specifically TASBO is concerned about misinformation in reports that teaching staff to non-teaching staff shifted from 5:1 to 1:1, which is incorrect because staff counts reported to TEA in the 1970’s and early 1980’s prior to PEIMS did not include all staff.   The Snapshot data and NCES data clearly show no shift has happened involving nonteaching staff over the last two and a half decades. 
The chart prepared below by Moak, Casey & Associates provides additional information on the topic of staffing in public schools.  Mandates, changing student demographics and reporting requirements have contributed to the percentage increase in professional support staff.  According to TEA, “ Support staff are defined as therapists, psychologists, counselors, diagnosticians, physicians and nurses, librarians, department heads, and miscellaneous other support roles. This category does not include secretaries.”  Many of the support staff work directly with students during the school day. Instructional aides work directly with students alongside teachers and also show an increase over this time period.

© Copyright 2009 by

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kimball knights light up the day in state basketball victory celebration

Senator Royce West and Mayor Dwaine Caraway hold trophies
Saturday, March 26, 2011
“I love a parade," was the look on everyone’s face this morning as children of all ages -- from those in strollers to those on canes -- lined up along West Ledbetter Drive in Oak Cliff.   Citizens came out to greet the parade of the Justin F. Kimball (Knights) basketball team.  It was the first opportunity, since their dreams-come-true victory in Austin two weeks ago, for the Knights to present to the community their winning trophy for being Class 4A State Basketball Champions.

Parade arriving at Justin F. Kimball High School

In addition to Kimball cheerleaders, majorettes and organizations, student groups from surrounding feeder schools also marched  in the parade.  They all, elementary - 12, entertained the crowd with performances and enthusiasm.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown

This was the Knights' second public celebration this week.  On Thursday at Dallas ISD Board meeting, Supt. Michael Hinojosa and I gave resolutions of recognition for the sixteen team members as they stood handsomely dressed in school colors navy and crimson.

Appreciating the number of other basketball teams the Kimball Knights had to defeat and games they won to get to the state championship, a packed board room of students, parents, staff and teachers gave the Knights a standing ovation and several rounds of applause.  We recognized that for many months, these humble  young men had to commit to performing athletically and academically in order to have a chance at winning the title, ...and they did.  With effective coaching and teaching, with steadfast determination and dreams, ...that’s just what they did.  They took the challenge.  They got the chance.  Now, they are 2011 state champions.

Congratulations and much appreciation for service, love of the game and deep love for students to: head coach Royce Johnson, assistant coaches Ryan Foppe, Robert Jacobs, Bo Johnson and Toby Daniels; and athletic coordinator Carlton Nelson.

Thanks to Ms. White and Ms. Stevenson for coordinating the parade and festivities.

Great gratitude to Principal Earl Jones for campus leadership.

Thanks to Senator Royce West and Mayor Dwaine Caraway for their participation.

Justin F. Kimball Class 4A State Basketball Champions!

In 2011, Kimball Knight time is the right time!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Myth of Charter Schools

Diane Ravitch has written a lengthy article on charter schools and the effect they have on traditional public schools.
"Today, charter schools are promoted not as ways to collaborate with public schools but as competitors that will force them to get better or go out of business. In fact, they have become the force for privatization that Shanker feared. Because of the high-stakes testing regime created by President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, charter schools compete to get higher test scores than regular public schools and thus have an incentive to avoid students who might pull down their scores. Under NCLB, low-performing schools may be closed, while high-performing ones may get bonuses. Some charter schools “counsel out” or expel students just before state testing day. Some have high attrition rates, especially among lower-performing students."
Diane Ravitch

More Here

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Legislative Conference and rally March 30 in Austin

The Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Boards (TASA/TASB) Legislative Conference and Rally will be held in Austin on March 30, 2011. Attendees will receive an update on legislative happenings and then travel to the Texas Capitol for a "Make Education a Priority" rally at 2 P.M. on the south steps of the Capitol and opportunities to meet with legislators.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Appointments to Citizens Budget Review Committee create potential conflicts of interest

I attended the first meeting of the newly appointed Citizens Budget Review Committee on Monday evening.

Are these meetings open? Yes.

In light of the fact that 9 of the appointments to this advisory committee were made by elected trustees, all of the meetings should meet the notice requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) and be announced to the public in the same manner as all school board meetings.

The Board appointments are as follows:
  • District 1 - Edwin Flores - Louisa Meyer
  • District 2 - Jack Lowe - Debbie Sherrington
  • District 3 - Bruce Parrott - Michael MacNaughton
  • District 4 - Nancy Bingham - Jose Hernandez
  • District 5 - Lew Blackburn - Jim Kipp
  • District 6 - Carla Ranger - Kenneth E.Walker
  • District 7 - Eric Cowan - Andrew Newman
  • District 8 - Adam Medrano - Warren Westmoreland
  • District 9 - Bernadette Nutall - Todd Williams
  • Superintendent Michael Hinojosa - Phil Montgomery - Chair
There appear to be several potential conflicts of interest which are troubling.

Persons who formerly served on Dallas Achieves should not be on this committee. This committee should be a fresh start without citizen input being primarily influenced by previous recommendations.

Persons connected to charter schools have a potential conflict in light of the current push to expand charter schools in Dallas ISD (Charter School Ad Hoc Committee).

Uplift Charter has a potential conflict in light of the Superintendent's intention to partner with them on federal grants and charter school initiatives.

Final decisions about the budget remain the responsibility of the elected Trustees.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Superintendent John Kuhn at the Save Texas Schools Rally 2011 - "I will teach these kids"

John Kuhn, Superintendent of Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District gave remarks at the Save Texas Schools rally on the steps of the state capitol in Austin, Texas.

"I stand before you today proudly bearing the label of unacceptable because I educate the children they will not educate. I, day after day, take these children broken by the policies adopted by the people in this building, and I glue their pieces back together. And at the end of my life you can say those children were better for passing through my sphere of influence. I am unacceptable and proud of it. 

Look around you. Public school teachers, you are the saviors of our society and always have been. You are the first responders standing in this rubble while they sit in their offices and write judgmental things about you on their clip boards. You are our heroes, and 27 billion is not near enough for what you're worth. You are priceless, public school teachers of Texas.

Fear Not. This is our eternal glory.

It is ours to educate.

I will march into that classroom full of children who need me. I will walk proudly into that classroom.

Bail out the bankers and bankrupt the teachers. We will still teach.

I'm not in it for the money.  I'm not in it for the benefits. I'm in it because it is right. I'm in it because the children ... need somebody like me in their lives. 

I will Teach these kids."

Saturday, March 12, 2011 Austin, Texas

Friday, March 18, 2011

Texas Education Agency seeks to relax fund balance requirements to meet budget crisis

Under revised Texas Education Agency rules that will soon be proposed, Dallas ISD and all other Texas school districts will be able to use more of their fund balance to manage the continuing budget crisis without TEA penalty.
Legislative Update
March 17, 2011

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) distributed a letter to administrators yesterday notifying them that the Agency is beginning the process of modifying fund balance requirements set forth in the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST). 

Specifically, TEA will look at requirements that school districts and charter schools maintain approximately 60 days of operating expenses in their general fund account. The agency will disseminate information on these proposed rule amendments and provide stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the agency’s proposal in May.

“These initial actions, which will affect the FIRST ratings issued in 2012, will be taken to support districts and charter schools as they take proactive steps to address their financial needs for the upcoming years,” the letter states. “Additionally, given the state’s future revenue projections, it is the intent of the agency to avoid penalizing districts and charters that elect to expend portions of their fund balance in the upcoming biennium as a result of the nation’s slow economic recovery and any changes the Legislature may make in state funding. 

The letter states that the goal of this maneuver is to provide schools with the flexibility to manage their budgets locally.

The TEA letter:
March 16, 2011


SUBJECT: Fund Balance and Cash Management Indicators for School FIRST and School FIRST for Charters for FY 2010-2011, FY 2011-2012 and FY 2012-2013

Today, the Texas Education Agency (TEA or agency) is beginning the process of modifying indicators in the 2010-2011 School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) that require school districts and charter schools to maintain approximately 60 days of operating expenses in their general fund account. By early May, the agency will disseminate information on these proposed rule amendments and provide stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the agency’s proposal. These initial actions, which will affect the FIRST ratings issued in 2012, will be taken to support districts and charter schools as they take proactive steps to address their financial needs for the upcoming years.

Additionally, given the state’s future revenue projections, it is the intent of the agency to avoid penalizing districts and charters that elect to expend portions of their fund balance in the upcoming biennium as a result of the nation’s slow economic recovery and any changes the Legislature may make in state funding. The agency’s goal is to provide school districts and charter schools flexibility to manage their budgets locally, and TEA will work on changes to the FIRST rules relating to the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 fiscal years, which will affect FIRST ratings issued in 2013 and 2014.

Additional details on these proposed changes will be shared in the coming months. If you have questions about this letter or School FIRST requirements, please contact ... or ... in the Division of Financial Audits at ....


Robert Scott
Commissioner of Education

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dallas Friends of Public Education community meeting on Dallas ISD budget cuts

This will be a good opportunity for any citizen stakeholder to hear and discuss budget concerns. Former State Representative and former Dallas ISD Trustee Harryette Ehrhardt will moderate the discussion. Sponsored by Dallas Friends of Public Education.

View PDF

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

State leaders come to agreement on Rainy Day Fund to close 2011 budget gap

"Gov. Rick Perry, Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and Comptroller Susan Combs worked out a deal today to access a portion of the Rainy Day Fund to close out the 2010-11 biennium budget, which shows that the state is short by just more than $4 billion.

"Accordingly, the House Appropriations Committee today passed HB 275 (Pitts), which would use $3.11 billion of the Rainy Day Fund to address the 2010-11 budget shortfall. HB 275 now needs 90 votes on the House floor to move on to the Senate.

“We have worked closely with state leaders and lawmakers to balance the current budget, which includes using a one-time amount from the Economic Stabilization Fund to help our budget deal with the impact of the national recession,” Gov. Perry said. “As we craft the next two-year budget, Texas leaders will continue to focus on a more efficient, fiscally responsible government, essential state services, and private sector job creation. I remain steadfastly committed to protecting the remaining balance of the Rainy Day Fund, and will not sign a 2012-2013 state budget that uses the Rainy Day Fund.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Texas AFT Lobby Day and Community Rally in Austin

Monday, August 14, 2011 - Austin, Texas
Texas Can Do Better
Fifteen buses bound for Austin lined up early at the Dallas AFT office. Before sun-up they were packed, resembling the cans of sardines several Alliance officers carried to legislators.  Today was Lobby Day, an annual event sponsored by Alliance AFT, state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

Dallas ISD  teachers, counselors, librarians, custodians, cafeteria workers, parents, community supporters among others on the buses or driving their cars, spoke a unified message -- "Please invest in our students and the future of Texas. Don't cut funding for education."

Achieving a balanced approach to balancing the state budget will require bi-partisan votes.  The AFT delegation from Dallas visited offices of members of the Appropriations Committee, watched the general session, sat in on committee meetings, spoke with representatives or their assistants, left messages and did a lot of chasing.

Linda Bridges, president Texas AFT, introduced national president Randi Weingarten among several speakers who encouraged thousands of AFT members and school supporters from throughout the state as they rallied on the capital lawn. State Senator Royce West also spoke at the rally.

Dallas Alliance AFT members did an outstanding job of organizing and facilitating Lobby Day 2011.   This opportunity, which occurs every two years, was available for all Dallas members and school supporters who wished to participate.

Thank you Dallas Alliance AFT president Rena Honea, Lobby Day 2011 coordinator Judy Bryant, executive committee and members who worked to make this mission a success.

Texas AFT Petition

I support:

• Saving thousands of teachers’ jobs, pre-K funding, and other crucial public education services by taking a balanced approach to balancing the state budget, rather than relying on cuts alone. Texas can do better for our kids and our future.

• Using the $9.4 billion Rainy Day Fund, a self-replenishing stabilization fund meant to meet service needs in tough economic times.

• Maximizing federal assistance, such as the Education Jobs Act money--$830 million for retaining teachers in Texas . Legislators should work with the governor NOW to complete the steps needed to obtain the money.

• Closing unproductive tax loopholes, exploring new revenue sources, funding schools equitably and fixing the structural deficit that leaves our state billions of dollars short each year.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dallas ISD student Dalton Sherman speaks at the Save Texas Schools Rally

Saturday, March 12, 2011 - Austin,Texas
Those of us in attendance at the Save Texas Schools Rally held on the steps of the state capitol in Austin on Saturday were treated to the remarks of Dallas ISD 6th grade student Dalton Sherman.

Multiple thousands from across the state - more than 12,000+ citizens - attended the rally.

After being introduced by Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, student Dalton Sherman said:

"Dear Governor Perry,

"I know you love this state, but there are millions of us who love it every bit as much and maybe more.

"We're scared Governor. We're scared for our teachers, our schools and our dreams.

"Governor, it may look like sunshine outside today, but I've got to tell you,

"From where I am in the classrooms, it's raining ... and it's raining hard.

"Not only should you use the Rainy Day Fund for our education, but also strive to come up with a permanent solution to our state budget crisis."

Amen to that.

It was a good and uplifting day at the Save Texas Schools Rally.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kimball Knights win 4A state basketball championship

At the University of Texas at Austin Frank Erwin Center (within walking distance of the state capitol building), Justin F. Kimball parents and supporters cheered the season-long performance of  the basketball team (38-3).

It was great to walk from the Save Texas Schools Rally held in Austin today on the steps of the state capitol to the final championship basketball game of Justin F. Kimball High School, our neighborhood school.

We watched these Kimball Knights make their best shots to become 2011 4A Texas state basketball champions along with 12,836 other basketball fans.

Taking an early lead in the game against La Marque high school, the Knights made all the right moves. Then with a precious few minutes left, fans had no time to be comfortable. The La Marque Cougars had come back, and they showed their attitude and skill by closing in on the  score, threatening  to claim victory.

The Kimble Knights prevailed. The final score was 78-64. La Marque had twice pulled within three points in the fourth quarter.  It was an exciting game.

Kimball junior guard Shannon Lilly was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the game and scored 23 points.

Congratulations to head coach Royce Johnson, assistant coaches Toby Daniels, Ryan Foppe, Robert Jacobs, Bo Johnson and trainer Brian Welch.

Congratulations to Principal Earl Jones and staff.

Congratulations to all Kimball Knights!

The game was also attended by Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and State Senator Royce West.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Budget Blues 2.0

Board of Trustees reviews Budget Reduction Plan 2.0
Thursday, March 10, 2011

Superintendent of Schools Michael Hinojosa and Dallas ISD Chief Financial Officer Alan King presented to the Board of Trustees on March 10 a revised Budget Reduction Plan 2.0 that reflects an anticipated $150 million decrease in funding from the state of Texas, an improvement over the initial "worst-case" decrease of $253 million projection (Budget Reduction Plan 1.0).

On Tuesday, March 8, I sent the following request to Superintendent Michael Hinojosa:

“Please provide a copy of all Preliminary Budget Reduction Plan 2.0 information that
will be presented at the Thursday Board Briefing.”

I received a response from the financial department on Tuesday:

"We are still working on version 2."

Never received the requested  information or any further explanation.

Trustees should be provided all Budget Briefing information in advance of the meeting - not see the new budget information for the first time at the horseshoe. 

This is the most serious financial crisis in the history of Dallas ISD and Trustees must have the opportunity to review a new budget proposal before arriving at the Board Briefing.

How can Trustees prepare for a Board Briefing with no information?

TASA/TASB/Texas School Alliance responds to Gov. Perry’s comments

Gov. Rick Perry and some lawmakers have indicated that local districts are to blame – not the state – for projected draconian budget cuts to school district budgets, including the potential loss of tens of thousands of school district jobs.

Representatives from TASA, TASB and the Texas School Alliance jointly released the following statement Wednesday in response.

“Let there be no mistake, the decisions being made in school districts across the state regarding staff layoffs are a direct result of state funding cuts proposed by the lawmakers.

“We urge lawmakers to use a balanced approach in developing a state budget, including accessing the Rainy Day Fund ...

“Local school leaders make education a priority every day. Texas students need our state leaders to do the same and protect funding for the classroom to ensure a quality education for every child.”
More Here

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the No Child Left Behind Act wrongly fails schools

No Child Left Behind has helped to wrongly label public schools as failures.

According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, an estimated 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled as “failing” under the nation’s No Child Left Behind Act this year.

The Department of Education estimates the number of schools not meeting targets will skyrocket from 37 to 82 percent in 2011 because states are toughening their standards to meet the requirements of the law. The schools will face sanctions ranging from offering tutoring to closing their doors.

"No Child Left Behind is broken and we need to fix it now," Duncan said in a statement. "This law has created a thousand ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed. We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk.”

More Click Here

Monday, March 7, 2011

Texas Caucus of Black School Board Members

San Antonio
The 4th Annual Education Summit presented by Texas Caucus of Black School Board Members (TCBSBM) was held in San Antonio on Friday, March 4 -- Saturday, March 5, 2011.

In addition to veteran and new Trustees from across the state, the summit hosted national speakers, local/state presenters, superintendents, Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) staff, public school stakeholders,  as well as local students and their teachers.

Sylvester Vasquez, President of the Texas Association of School Boards and James B. (Jim) Crow, TASB Executive Director, were in attendance.

Topics, including student achievement, discipline, bullying, communication, redistricting, college readiness among others, engaged summit participants in deep discussions. As would be expected, the topic of  school finance was on everyone's mind; Catherine Clark, TASB Finance, was session leader for this discussion.

TCBSBM also awarded five student scholarships.

Trustees will receive professional development credit for attending the sessions.

Thanks to TCBSBM President Josie Smith-Wright, Gonzales ISD, and planning committee for a superb Education Summit.

The early pioneers of the organization (Est. 1978) included three former Dallas ISD Trustees for whom schools have been named:  Dr. Emmett J. Conrad (Emmett J. Conrad High School), the first President of the Black Caucus, Kathlyn Joy Gilliam (Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy) and Dr. Yvonne A. Ewell (Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's a rainy day in Texas - public education needs a helping hand

Save neighborhood schools.

Every neighborhood needs a heart.

It's a rainy day in Texas - we need a helping hand.

Children in Austin sing about their schools and this rainy day.

Will the state legislature give a helping hand to the children of Texas?

It's a rainy day everywhere in Texas - certainly in Dallas.

Who can hear the innocent voices of children and not have a heart?
It’s a rainy day in Austin
And we need a helping hand
It’s a rainy day in Austin
But we’re not ‘Waiting for Superman’
We need a better plan
Kids aren’t the ones to blame
So don’t make them pay.

Every hood needs a heart
Try to look inside yours
To see it's where the children are
So don't lock its doors.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Read Across America Day

Michelle Obama Read America.JPG
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
First lady Michelle Obama, right, laughs as she reads "Green Eggs and Ham" with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, during the National Education Association's 14th annual Read Across America Day on Wednesday at the Library of Congress.