Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Businessman Don Williams calls Bill McKenzie's DMN editorial on Superintendent Mike Miles 'seriously flawed'

From Don Williams
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
To: Bill McKenzie
Subject: Your September 17 Editorial


Although I have great respect for you, your Op Ed piece is seriously flawed:

1) Any tour or appearance with Miles, as well as his public presentations, are carefully choreographed events – spin control – and are quite different when done directly with teachers and principals; your piece echoes fellow traveler journalists getting a “special inside look” into a totalitarian state hiding the truth, the everyday control of its citizens.

2) You refer approvingly to the Todd Williams piece, which repeats his mantra of “focus on classroom instruction and concern for the kids vs. adult issues,“ which is used as a blunt instrument to silence critics and deflect legitimate differences and conversations about important issues needing public debate – everyone I know in this debate is equally concerned about the kids; in fact it is the teachers who are daily on the front line helping the kids learn and develop and whose opinions should be garnered and carry the greater weight. You (along with Williams and Morath Op Ed pieces) refer to “uptick” in student achievement but you ignore the evidence from Colorado Springs and here, e.g., ACT test scores being manipulated by testing 18% fewer students year over year to reveal a better but false picture.

3) You and the editorial board blame conflict within and questioning by the School Board for problems in fact created by Miles himself. It is the Board's responsibility to deal with these issues and raise questions about legitimate concerns, particularly when the CEO has given them inaccurate or misleading information, violated board approved policies, and is orchestrating a public and private campaign to keep his job.

4) Please, no one is worried about Miles’ lack of jocular style, but many are worried about his lack of integrity.

5) You say “his style is not berating, belittling or autocratic…” and question allegations of his bullying style,” despite scores of teachers and principals reporting such tactics, as you heard from their representatives last week, and as I and many others have heard directly.

6) Of course, change agents can be “disruptive,” for good or bad; remember Bill Rojas at DISD and Ron Johnson and Dick Brown as the new CEOs at JC Penney and EDS respectively who were indeed disruptive but were soon fired by boards before destroying their organizations – that’s what is at risk here and now. That Miles should not have been hired is no excuse for keeping him here.

Frankly, it’s hard for me to understand how such whimsical and musing Op Ed pieces crowd out serious interpretive reporting and opinions on hard news issues such as those raised by Tawnell Hobbs and Matthew Haag in posts on the DMN education blog and those raised by Channel 8’s Brett Shipp.

Bill, if you truly believe in the corporate reform movement, high stakes testing, students as ciphers and teachers as assembly line managers, please just say so. But don’t insult the public intelligence of this community by trying to defend Miles as a good guy or a good leader. The weight of evidence is clear that he is neither.