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Jan 13th, 2002 by James Breedlove | 0

The $1.37 billion DISD bond package appears to be a slam dunk for approval.  There is no argument that more schools, equipment, and resources are needed.  But the pertinent question is can the current DISD leadership team be entrusted to translate the bond money into a first rate education system for students.  Based on recent history the answer is a resounding NO.


DISD is a one billion dollar business and should be perceived, organized, and operated as such.  But this is not the case.  Neither fiscal responsibility nor quality education has been the priority over the years. And the students have suffered.


Texas Education Agency data for 1998-2000 show a negative gap between the percentage of Dallas students passing the TAAS and the state average.  The gap is currently averaging 9 percent.


Dallas will experience a huge disappointment if there is the slightest presumption that the new buildings and equipment itemized in the bond proposal will automatically improve the quality of education in the schools.


The bond package identifies twelve major areas for funding but nothing and no one addresses how the most critical problem of recruiting, training, motivating, and retaining an adequate supply of teachers will be solved.


Nothing about the bond plan makes sense without dedicated and committed teachers to encourage, motivate and guide the children through the learning process.  The primary cause of student failure is bad teaching, not the lack of facilities.  Without first rate teachers, the primary result from spending the $1.37 billion will be students flunking, failing, and dropping out at the same unacceptable levels but in more comfortable surroundings.


DISD student population is 90% minority with 73 %  economically disadvantaged. Yet DISD embraces education models which focus on teaching to the cream of the crop.  This is fine when dealing with well behaved students from middle income, two parent families.


But TEA statistics show the real education environment includes a large percentage of low income students from chaotic backgrounds.  Why haven’t experts who have successfully taught in similar demographic situations been called in to show DISD administrators and teachers how to educate these “unteachables” and “unreachables”?.


The Marva Collins (Chicago) or the Joe Clark (New Jersey) models did not require grand buildings or the latest equipment, but focused on well trained teachers that placed high expectations on students, accepted no excuses, and were dedicated to the premise that children do not fail, teachers fail to teach.


The teacher’s attitude, motivation, and preparation is paramount.  But DISD management prefers to focus on building brick and mortar monuments.  Dallas teachers over the years have been paid at or below the average state salary for teachers but administrators are paid 20% above the state average.  Is it any wonder that most teachers approach teaching as a job instead of a mission. 


Superintendent Moses has been on the job one year and is gaining public support.  But the school board, a critical element of the leadership team, is still out of sync. However, the public is being bombarded with editorials and public relations announcements indicating that the board and administration are now a compatible team.  The evidence shows otherwise.


Transcripts of the eleven closed door meetings that Judge Haynes ordered released in overturning the board’s redistricting vote reveals a divisive, scheming, self serving, racially insensitive board that is still indifferent to solving education problems.  Even after Judge Haynes’ admonitions the board continues to show its disdain for fairness by announcing that only one redistricting meeting will be held.


Last year former Mayor Kirk branded this board as incompetent, unstable, and dysfunctional. They have been a national embarrassment for the city.  In October 1999 they claimed they were not aware that the premiere magnet school program was not receiving millions in funding that had been agreed to in a 1994 court order.  Six million promised from the 1996 sale of  Old Crozier Tech was never delivered leaving the magnets underfunded in many critical programs.. 


They have permitted major contracts to be awarded over the years without adequate checks and balances to ensure that products contracted for were delivered.  Millions of dollars that could have been used for repairing old buildings, upgrading technology, or improving teacher quality had to be spent buying out contracts, paying legal fees, or redoing shoddy work previously paid for. Inventory of much needed supplies and equipment has been allowed to stack up in warehouses without any record of its existence.


The bottom line is the current DISD management team has clearly proven it cannot successfully manage a long term complex program. Odds are if the $1.37 billion bond revenue is placed in their hands there will not be $1.37 billion of value delivered.  The exemplary leadership of Dr. Moses is not enough to carry the dead weight of an inept board.


It will be scandalous if Dallas continues to pay above average education prices for below average education results.


James W. Breedlove

Comments or opinions may be sent to the writer at: www.truthclinic.com

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