Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Supporting Kristi Lara & Questions for Miguel Solis

Kristi Lara  is by far the strongest candidate in the District 8 election due to both her positive abilities and support for students, parents, and teachers, and due to her concerns about actions taken by Mike Miles.   Too many questions remain unanswered about the apparently positive and blindly supportive relationship Miguel Solis enjoys with Mike Miles.  

Most professionals would probably support the majority of the reforms Mike Miles has both continued and initiated in DISD.  However, a painful minority of his other actions appear to be oblivious of the progress made since 2006.  He pushed many of the central leaders in DISD schools out, destroying too much of the ongoing critical progress being made since 2006. Mike Miles thereby specifically appears to be doing much damage, including repeating in Dallas the damage he did to student enrollment in Colorado.  Senior class enrollment has dropped by 530 students in the past year in DISD!

To secure specific opinions of Miguel Solis regarding this evidence and these practices by Mike Miles, the following questions were sent to him on 10-22-13.  

1)      Before he was hired in Dallas ISD there is no evidence that Mr. Miles was asked about the 26% drop in high school enrollment during the 6 years he was superintendent over Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs.  During a time when elementary enrollment rose over 20% in Harrison, indicating families were moving into the district, this loss of high school enrollment is an exceptionally dangerous sign.  Does this loss bother you?  What does it mean to you?  Can you secure, or did you ever receive an answer from Mr. Miles as to what happened in Harrison to cause this student loss?   Are you comfortable with that answer?   Would you allow such a loss to happen in DISD?

2)     Mr. Miles is known for a policy of not allowing students to move to the next grade unless they can do the work well.   That policy would eliminate low scoring students, encourage students to transfer out, and encourage higher testing students to remain. Hundreds of students left Harrison and transferred to District 11 to the north where ACT averages then went down.  Is graduation a priority for you, or are higher average ACT scores a priority?  In what solutions to this issue would you place your energy?

3)     The majority of the above mentioned loss was to seniors.  The Harrison District senior class lost 33% of their enrollment during the 6 years Mike Miles was superintendent.  Now in Dallas, during Mike Miles second year in DISD, it appears the senior class has lost over 500 students compared to last year’s enrollment, over a 5.5% loss.  Does this loss bother you?  What accountability would you require from Mr. Miles if such senior enrollment loss continues?

4)     Mike Miles’ behavior necessitated a $100,000 investigation exposing many unethical actions by him against DISD policy, and against the board itself.  You have probably read that investigation.  What discipline would you have required as a board member?

5)     Mike Miles has alienated some of the most respected and accomplished leading education professionals in DISD.  It has resulted in many of them leaving their critical leadership positions as reflected in this article: http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2013/08/three-of-our-four-annointed-super-principals-have-been-drummed-out-of-disd.html/   Does this leave you comfortable about his leadership style?   What issues do you see?

6)     Mike Miles has had monumental difficulty in hiring and keeping staff who work closest to him in spite of the exceptionally high salaries he has given them: http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2013/05/when-will-disds-revolving-door-end.html/ .   What is your opinion of this turnover?  What issues does it present that you can identify?

7)     Mike Miles has paid some of the closest staff he had conflicts with to keep quiet. Are you comfortable with that?   What actions would you take, if any, to allow the board to freely speak with all such departing staff?  http://educationblog.dallasnews.com/2013/09/coggins-report-did-dallas-isd-superintendent-mike-miles-buy-former-communication-chiefs-silence.html/

8)    Miguel, you have said you support transparency.   Would you vote to require DISD to have the same level of transparency regarding teacher positions filled, and vacancies, as we now enjoy with student enrollment? (I am thinking of the enrollment listings at https://mydata.dallasisd.org/SL/SD/ENROLLMENT/Enrollment.jsp?SLN=1000)    That is, would you require that within the next working day every new vacancy would be public and listed online by school as well as totaled for the entire district?   This would allow the public to know exactly how many classrooms in their local school are not filled on any day with a full-time (not substitute) certified teacher for those students and subjects, as required by law.  How concerned are you about the record number of over 1,700 staff who have already left DISD these first 16 months of Mr. Miles tenure?  http://keranews.org/post/more-disd-teachers-resigned-year-last-and-some-say-mike-miles-why.

9)     In 2013, when reported at the end of July, DISD did not officially notify the board that, for the first time in DISD history, the proportion of DISD students taking college entrance exams went down.  The percentage of DISD Minority students taking the ACT exam fell by over 23% while that percentage was virtually unchanged for the SAT exam.   Does it bother you that Mike Miles did not point out these reductions in the student population tested to the Board?  Does it bother you that instead, through reports given, he claimed very questionable and unjustifiable student progress with higher average grades reported for the ACT? 

10) In 2013 Mike Miles decreased the public transparency relative to the average ACT scores reported to the public.  Historically they had been reported to the first place after the decimal point.  In 2013, due probably to the 23% decrease in the minority percentage tested, the scores increase from 17.2 to 17.6.   Then for the first time in history these results were reported to the nearest whole number only.   The result was that it appeared the scores went from 17 to 18 instead of  the 4/10 of one point improvement that actually happened.  Does that reduction in transparency bother you?  What do you think explains this? What would you have done if you were on the Board when such reporting was attempted with no clarification of the changes?   Nothing?

The responses of Miguel Solis to these questions will be posted here if and when they are received.   (as of 11-30-14 nothing has been received.)