Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Failure to admit cause for Civil War, & ongoing cost for that failure.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans are having their national convention this week in Richardson, an excellent opportunity for exploring U.S. History.  

Most Confederate Monuments were erected, and Confederate names given to buildings, over 60 years after the Civil War. 

More significantly, the monuments and Confederate names only began to appear in greater numbers a decade after the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  

It would suggest that the naming and raising of monuments was associated with active work to defend “separate but equal” and segregation.  It ended by 1960 with few if any such monuments, or Confederate names given to buildings, after the end of the 1950’s. Even though the legal foundation was laid with the Brown v Board of Education 20 years earlier, the last major city to legally integrate all schools was Dallas in 1976. The reason for Confederate names and monuments was gone long before 1976, but the failure to discuss and admit the reason for the Civil War has continued to this day at great cost.

The attempt to create a sanitized history of the motivation behind the Civil War was universal across the south.  The large majority of slaves were owned by less than 2% of the wealthiest citizens of the south who were the major architects of the Civil War. That justification for the war disappeared after the war. “States’ Rights” were fabricated as the central cause. This happened in spite of the ample historical documentation, most recently recorded in the 2015 book The Myth of the Lost Cause: Why the South Fought the Civil War and Why the North Won,” by Edward H. Bonekemper III.

There is little doubt that this sudden appearance of Confederate names and monuments across the south, especially during the final 30 years before “separate but equal” was declared illegal, was only another method used by those fighting to keep “separate but equal” required by law. What else would explain this 30-year focus on the resurrection of Confederate names and memorials, then suddenly it was stopped?

The Sons of Confederate Veterans Convention this week is an opportunity to revisit critical U.S. History.  If there is agreement as to the true main causes of the Civil War, we will have taken a first step toward a peaceful resolution of the agony now being faced in our streets.  It is no accident that those who are fighting against groups such as Black Lives Matter are also groups who erect monuments like this:




Here is a review of “The Myth of the Lost Cause” that helps shed light on this history that is part of today’s battle.


A July 5th Washington Post article this year quoted Patricia Hardy, a member of the State Board of Education in Texas, as stating that slavery was a “side issue to the Civil War. There would be those who would say the reason for the Civil War was over slavery. No. It was over states’ rights.”

Ms. Hardy should read Ed Bonekemper’s latest book, "The Myth of the Lost Cause." In this, his sixth Civil War book, which is perhaps his finest, Mr. Bonekemper uses his gifts as both an historian and a lawyer to shred revisionist history that has tried to sanitize the reasons Southern states seceded from the Union. Mr. Bonekemper’s research is thorough; his arguments are compelling. The high percentage of slaves compared with the total population in the seceding states (57 percent in South Carolina) and the high percentage of slave-holding families in those states (49 percent in Mississippi) are strong indicators of the importance of slavery in the decisions of these states to leave the Union. The reader is provided with the actual language from the declarations at the state secession conventions. Mississippi got right to the point: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.” At that time, the issue of states’ rights was not on the agenda of the seceding states; Southerners were dissatisfied instead with the Northern exercise of their states’ rights – failing to return fugitive slaves in accordance with the Constitution and Federal law! Additionally, the South’s rejection of the use of slaves as soldiers and the South’s failure to promise to end slavery to gain the diplomatic support of Britain and France demonstrated that the independence of the Confederacy was a lessor priority than the preservation of slavery. It is clear that the only states’ right the Southern states were interested in was the right to maintain slavery.

I agree with one reviewer’s assessment that the first 95 pages alone are worth the price of the book. After refuting the states’ rights myth, the author refutes other popularly held beliefs: (1) the Confederacy had no chance to win the war; (2) Robert E. Lee was one of history’s greatest generals; (3) General Longstreet, not Lee, was responsible for the Confederacy’s loss at Gettysburg; (4) Ulysses S. Grant was a “butcher” who won the war with superior numbers and brutality; and (5) the North won because it waged total war against the South. Mr. Bonekemper explains that the allegation that the North won by waging total war is a myth, because it fails to distinguish between “hard war,” which involves the destruction of enemy armies and property, and “total war,” which adds the deliberate and systematic killing and rape of civilians. As the author demonstrates, unlimited, large-scale attacks on civilians are absent from the Civil War.

There are two reviewers who inexplicably gave this extraordinary book only one star. One reviewer said that the book was intentionally deceptive, but he failed to say in what way. He further claimed that the author omitted important facts, but he failed to clarify what these were. It is questionable whether this reviewer even read the book, and I find his unsupported conclusions to be a disservice to potential readers. Although the second one-star reviewer did provide specific objections, they were either irrelevant to the author’s points or they were factually incorrect. The reviewer states that only 10 percent of whites were wealthy enough to own slaves, even though a chart is provided showing that the percentage of slave-owning families in the 11 states that seceded ranged from 25 to 49, with the average being 31. Moreover, Mr. Bonekemper points out that fear of Negro equality by Southern whites who were not slave owners helped to reinforce the institution of slavery. This is an exceptional book, well written and meticulously researched, and should be read by all who want to truly understand the history of the Civil War. I challenge the State Board of Education in Texas it to make "The Myth of the Lost Cause" part of its curriculum.

The Myth of the Lost Cause by Edward H. Bonekemper, III

Monday, June 27, 2016

Enrollment dropping while DISD archives disappear

A series of posts to http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20160216-talkdisd-an-open-ended-ongoing-discussion-of-all-things-dallas-isd-related.ece agonize over dropping enrollment not reflected in DISD 2016/17 Budget. They also bemoan the 10-22-14 meeting where misleading information from DISD staff claiming enrollment over budget was used to get approval for $6.4 million for additional staff while that day the enrollment was 1,033 under budget and the official 2014/15 school year was recorded as being 1,268 below budget. 

Sadly the video of the 10-22-14 meeting documenting this series of events, that was online a week ago, now cannot be located.

DISD now has a budget projecting an increase in student enrollment when Dallas County Birth records and the growing number of charter schools both indicate DISD enrollment will be going down again in 2016/17.

Following are these posts made to TALKDISD Blog.

 @billbetzen
 44,414 births in 2007 remain Dallas County record. 2011, 2012, 2013 births stable, within 100 of 38,700. pic.twitter.com/IUpj0gWl1I

Thursday, June 23, 2016

06-23-16 Board Testimony regarding 9400 North Central Expressway Purchase

Items 9.13 and Item 10.2 relating to the new DISD Administrative Headquarters at 9400 North Central Expressway

At the DISD School Board meeting on 4-28-16 the 8 trustees voted 5 to 3 to purchase a $46 million building at 9400 North Central Expressway as Administrative Offices.  Two of the yes-vote trustees are no longer on the board.  Now it appears this issue has been pulled from today’s agenda. 
That is sad.
This current Central Headquarters is actually north of the DISD student population center for DISD.  The 9400 North Central Expressway location will simply be 6 miles more distant from most DISD students and parents. DISD wants parents to get more involved, but is moving 6 miles farther away from the large majority of parents.
The original vote on this purchase was only made public within a week of the board meeting.  The only testimony at the meeting was against it, by me.  I gave copies of a map, online linked from dallasisd.us, to the trustees to document how this is a move away from the children.  That was apparently not important except to the three trustees who represented far south Dallas and the schools that would simply all be 6 miles more distant from DISD Headquarters.  Now there are two new trustees whose districts will also be 6 miles more distant from this new “Central” location and thereby negatively affected by this move.  DISD must have a second vote as only 1/3 of the current board approved this damaging move.  The people should be represented.
Here is the map I handed out at the 4-28-16 meeting:
This map clearly shows how the 9400 North Central Expressway location pulls the "Central" Headquarters much farther away from the center of DISD and away from the large majority of DISD schools.  
Also, I have not heard data about the energy costs in this new location.  Buildings this age are often imploded due to maintenance and energy costs.  Is that a factor with this building?  At the meeting discussing this building I do not recall hearing questions about energy consumption.  Now we are already talking about $12 million for modifications.
I have gone to examine the building on a cold morning and could not help but notice locations where air was obviously leaking around windows from the building.  Are such repairs included in the modification?

The logic behind centralizing staff is very good, but not when it is 6 miles more distant from most DISD families.  The Nolan Estes Plaza is a much better location and within 5 miles of three times the number of schools of the 9400 North Central Expressway location. Clearing that land for a new building seems to be the most efficient move, especially if we can take advantage of the next Dallas building downturn.

6-23-16 Testimony at 2016/17 Dallas ISD Budget Hearing

(See testimony below illustration of Board Constrants below on the 10-22-14 request for $6.4 million. This 10-22-14 testimony is either evidence of incompetence due to statements that enrollment was over 3,500 students higher than it actually was, reflecting ignorance of basic enrollment numbers, or these were simply lies knowingly said by that same staff trying to claim student enrollment above the budget allocation to justify the $6.4 request.)

Title I and other Federal need-based funds must serve the neediest DISD students without these same students suffering an under-allocation of regular funding.  Sadly as you know such supplantation was documented in a 76-page complaint made to the Department of Education a year ago. (See https://www.scribd.com/doc/266976224/Title-VI-complaints-filed-against-Dallas-ISD ) Following that complaint there was increasing news coverage of this issue leading to the most complete coverage on June 3, 2015. (http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/investigates/budget-director-leaves-amid-questions-of-misspent-disd-at-risk-funds/148904332) It was 20 days after that news coverage that Mike Miles resigned, an action that obviously involved multiple variables.

Regular funding cannot be taken from high poverty, high need schools so as to fund other needs within DISD. That is against federal law.  If you authorize such supplantation you are legally responsible.  I strongly recommend you ask the supplantation question today about this budget before you approve it so as to be assured by accounting staff that no supplantation is present.  That would help relieve you of legal liability. I am not a lawyer. I have no idea if that is an adequate removal of such liability. Consult your own attorneys.

(Supplantation is still happening as of May 2016 even in multi-year Improvement Required elementary schools that should be having extra resources available to them instead of less.  See http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2016/05/5-26-16-improvement-required-turnaround.html .)

On another issue, you have in front of you a copy of slide # 5 that is posted on page 13 of this budget.  It lists the Board of Trustee Constraints. 

I have already addressed your violations of 2 and 5 above and do not have time for 3 and 4.  I will only focus on number 6: “Do not allow the board to be without needed information in a timely manner.”

The failure of the board to meet the legal obligation to have needed information has led to very embarrassing incidents. 

On 10-22-14 it led to a exceptionally confusing board meeting. That confusion is documented sixteen minutes into the video on agenda item 7A1, pulled from the consent agenda by a minority of board members concerned about transparency.  (See video at http://www.dallasisd.org/Page/35453  Go to 10-22-14 date, click view video.  Go to item 7A1.)

The board is discussing the request for $6.4 million to cover 165 new staff, 137 of which are teachers, allegedly to serve student enrollment above the enrollment budgeted for of 161,521 students. The accounting director at that meeting claimed there were 2,500 students above this budget projection, but said "Don't hold me to that." Trustees continued to ask for details and another staff person went to Data Portal to report that days enrollment number was 160,488, 1,033 BELOW budget that day. The official enrollment that was frozen at the end of October was 160,253 for the official annual count. This was 1,268 students BELOW the budget projection.  

The 10-22-14 Board meeting conversation awkwardly ended after the quiet statement captured on the video that current enrollment was 160,488. The allocation was approved with NONE of the critical inconsistencies pointed out during the meeting due to lack of timely data.  None of the trustees appeared to understand what had just been said!

(Here is the budget page for DISD to allow you to see this and all the past 10 annual budgets:  http://www.dallasisd.org/Page/338.  Here is a blog on this event: http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2015/06/lies-at-10-22-14-dallas-isd-board.html)

Trustees cannot function without monthly basic data about DISD! They must have monthly data reports on basic data such as current student enrollment!  Nothing affects the following of any 632 page budget more. Trustees must know what is happening!
(Here are some items recommended for such a monthly report: http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2015/01/superintendants-monthly-report-must.html.)

These 10-22-14 actions continued to haunt the trustees 4 months later in news coverage:
http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20150221-instant-messages-raise-questions-about-6.4m-for-new-teachers.ece and  http://educationblog.dallasnews.com/2015/02/deputy-superintendent-ann-smiskos-letter-about-the-6-4-million-for-new-teachers.html/, and  http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20150226-dallas-isd-officials-deny-misleading-trustees-in-hiring-request.ece

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Parental Involvement more than doubled in a middle school!

Written parental dreams for a child can become a treasured possession. Sadly for the years since 2009 when a project to get such letters from parents started, a 30% response rate was about the best achieved. Now that has changed to over 80%! 

The process of discussing these goals within the heritage of the family, and updating those dreams over time, changes lives. The world becomes a very different place, especially in middle school and high school.

The School Time-Capsule Project started in 2005.  Then it was only focused on students writing letters to themselves at the end of 8th grade.  Since 2009 the project has encouraged parents, and/or important relatives, to write letters to their student about their dreams for them. Such potentially priceless letters have rarely been written for more than 30% of students. A copied request for this letter sent home with students has not been very effective in getting parents to write. 

A new approach was started in 2016. 


First, instead of being only an 8th grade exercise the letter writing was expanded to be done by all students in Quintanilla, all three grades. 
Second, students themselves wrote a personal letter to their parents asking for a letter back about their dreams for them. 

The results have been dramatic. As many as 85% of students have now received one or more such priceless letters back, almost a 200% increase! 

The letter may not be written in English, but that makes no difference!  It is priceless.

Students also ask for one story from their family history to be included in the letter, a story the writer of the letter wants them to remember 30 years into the future, an important piece of their family heritage and history.

The resulting letters should be immediately shared with and studied by the students at home so any questions can be answered.  That often leads to valuable discussions at home.

Then the letters are all brought to school and used in Language Arts Class as students write letters to themselves about their own plans for the future.


Parents and/or relatives should be prepared to write such letters to their child every year from 6th through 12th grade, until their child graduates from high school. 

A child changes greatly in just one year.  Each letter will be different, with a different story from their family history.  The more a child knows about their family history, both painful stories and wonderfully positive stories, the better.  It all helps ground a child in a valuable personal heritage providing a solid foundation for life, and for school work. 

A written record is being created.


All the letters for each child (more than one relative can write a letter) would be placed into one self-addressed envelope for each student, along with the student's own letter to themselves, and then stored in the school time-capsule, a 500-pound vault bolted to the floor in a prominent place in the school lobby.

The vault is not necessary if teachers have other ways of storing such priceless letters. 

If parents immediately see how priceless these letters are, they can certainly ask to keep the letter at home and only send photocopies to school to place inside the time-capsule. Or a photo copy can be kept at home.  Such requests are certainly understandable regarding all these letters. 


Each year the letters from the previous year are returned to the child and family for use in preparing to write new letters. That changes with the 8th grade letters that are written with plans for 10 years into the future. The 8th grade letters remain in the time-capsule for a decade. 


A student can also choose to collect all three years of letters for placement into the final envelope that is kept secure in the vault for a decade.  It is a potentially powerful record of their middle school years.

Students must know that upon their return to get back their letters in 10 years they will also be invited to speak with current students about their recommendations for success.  Such priceless mentoring has already started at Quintanilla Middle School with the reunion of the Class of 2006.  It will now be an annual event, making the future ever more real for Quintanilla students. Achievement at Quintanilla should continue to improve.


In high school the annual letter writing pattern continues.  The final 12th grade letter will also be planning for 10 years into the future. 

Imagine how powerful high school 10-year reunions will be as students read their letters, and their parents letters, once again.  Most important, imagine the power of what these former students can say to students sitting in the same seats they were in a decade earlier!

These are the plans working within the School Time-Capsule Project as of June of 2016. We have just completed the second 10-year reunion at Quintanilla Middle School.

Graduation rates for Quintanilla students have more than doubled and continue to rise.  Behavior problems are down and pregnancy rates are down. The most recent School Effectiveness Index (SEI) for Quintanilla is the highest of all 35 middle schools in Dallas ISD!  The chart below was made from the listing of all SEI scores for middle schools in DISD found in the DISD Data Portal at 
https://mydata.dallasisd.org/docs/SEI/SEI1415/201415_SEI_REPORT_LIST_no_div.pdf  
School Effectiveness Indices (SEI) details and history are online at https://mydata.dallasisd.org/SL/SD/SEI/Default.jsp 
These achievements happened in spite of the 96 percent poverty rate for Quintanilla students, which places Quintanilla within the most poverty stricken third of all middle schools in Dallas ISD!  In addition, discipline problems and pregnancy rates at Quintanilla have dropped dramatically since 2006.  The best birth control is active personal planning for the future!

Again, this year was the first year that all students wrote letters for the Quintanilla Time-Capsule.  It used to be only an 8th grade activity, but Quintanilla wants to raise their record SEI score even higher than the 59.3 in the above chart.  This change will intensify the focus on a future grounded in family heritage for all students in all grades.  With the return of the previous year's letters it should help lead to improved letter writing and planning in the 7th and 8th grades.  

Quintanilla will stay on top with the highest SEI, unless other middle schools begin to also have a more effective future focus with all of their students, the best competition possible for Dallas ISD students!


Actively planning for their futures, in active cooperation with parents and relatives sharing family heritage and dreams with them, will continue to help students of poverty achieve more like, and in some cases certainly better than, middle class students from any Dallas suburb! The progress must continue.