Saturday, May 24, 2014

The First Time-Capsule Project Vault is now full!

8th graders at Quintanilla Middle School in Dallas placed their own letters to themselves, often with letters from their parents in the same envelope, into the Quintanilla Time-Capsule on May 23, 2014.  These 350+ letters will be opened again in November of 2023.  But today, by accident, an old friend of the project, Mercedes Olivera, was present to oversee the Junior Honor Society Awards Ceremony.
Mercedes Olivera, Dallas Morning News Columnist, with Bill Betzen on 5-23-14
Standing in front of the Quintanilla Time-Capsule Vault, now full!
She posed for this photo in front of the vault.  As you can see, the vault is full!  It contains about 3,500 letters from 8th grade students going back 10 years!  Mercedes wrote a wonderful article about the Time-Capsule project in 2010:   She has also mentioned it in other columns.

This week two more middle schools received vaults to begin their own Time-Capsule Projects: Zumwalt Middle School and Boude Storey Middle School.  Now the entire South Oak Cliff High School feeder pattern is doing the School Time-Capsule Project.  SOC received their vault last year.

There are now three full feeder patterns, SOC, Pinkston and Sunset, plus two other middle schools, Atwell and Brown,  for a total of 11 schools with school time-capsules inside DISD.   Over 2,000 letters are being written this month by 8th graders and seniors to themselves about their dreams for 10 years into the future.  All 11 of the vaults are slowly being filled. 

Hopefully all the School Time-Capsule Project high schools will see the same progress that Sunset has enjoyed since the project started in 2005.

Remember, this progress cost taxpayers nothing.  It is ran by volunteers.  If you want to help support School Time-Capsule Projects in DISD, tell us how you want to help or just send a check to  LULAC National Educational Service Center, School Time-Capsule Project, 345 S. Edgefield Ave, Dallas, Texas, 75208.   If you have questions please call me, Bill Betzen at my cell, 214-957-9739.  You may also call Ray de los Santos, LULAC NESC Director at 214-943-2528. 

We now have enough money for one additional vault but it has been committed to a Dallas High School.  If you want to help this reach more schools, or want to become a volunteer helping this work in your local middle school or high school, please give us a call.   This is an open source student motivation and dropout prevention project.  Take the idea and make it your own!   Change your community by making a focus on the future real!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Were you asked to sign a petition to "improve Dallas ISD" never hearing the words "home rule"?

The petition to begin the process of forming Dallas ISD into a "home rule charter" district is very clear:
In spite of the very clear directions printed in bold on every petition form to begin the process to establish "home rule" for Dallas ISD, the petition workers, paid for each signatures, quickly learned they could not use the word "home rule" or they would not get a signature.  They quickly learned to speak only about "improving DISD."  They did this in many different ways, but stopped reading the statement the were required to read, if they ever did read it.  Then, as the forms were completed and turned in, they signed a notarized affidavit at the bottom of each form swearing that they had in effect read the required statement to each person before they signed their signatures above on that same form, clearly perjury!  The name of the petition worker was given followed by "who being duly sworn, deposes and says: “I called each signer’s attention to the above statements and read them to the signer before the signer affixed their signature to the petition. ..."" followed by other clarifying statements as to the signature. 

Due to these clear indications of perjury, the DISD Trustees must have a study done to verify 24,600 or more signatures were secured in a manner consistent with the process described on the forms themselves.  A random sample of 300 or more signatures is recommended.  Depending on the results, more detailed research may be indicated.
Dallas must know that the procedures written on the petition forms were followed 24,600 times.  If that cannot be verified with reasonable certainty, then there is no legal justification for the "home rule charter" process to go forward at this time in Dallas.
Channel 8 news is doing an investigation of "home rule" petition validity and testimony about the manipulations use to get people to sign. It is online at

This Channel 8 investigation needs to hear from people who were approached to sign the "home rule" petition, and especially folks who actually signed it, and who not only did not have the statement on the petition read to them, but never even heard the words "home rule" during the process.  The phone number for Brett Shipp, the investigative reporter, is 214-748-9631.  Please leave a voice mail message if he is not available when you call.  His e-mail is .
The signature verification process should take two steps.  The first step is now happening with the verification that the 48,000 signatures are valid voters inside DISD with correct data recorded.  That process will take 5 days.  The second step in the process must be initiated by the DISD Trustees.  It must be shown that there is no reason to suspect the truth that instructions printed on each petition form were followed often enough to have 24,600 valid signatures or more.  
As described at, a petition worker came to my home and attempted to get me to sign, but never read any statement nor even used the words "home rule" at any time during the process. 

Here is another full copy of the SOPS home-rule petition with the explanation inserted in the location of the signatures as to why perjury is strongly suspected.
Click on the above form to enlarge and/or print.
 A news story was posted on 5-19-14 that describes what happened very well:

Please encourage any friends who were so manipulated into signing this form to contact us, or Brett Shipp at .

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Our Community Our Schools 5-13-14: the word "charter"

Our Community Our Schools Rally 5-13-14
The word "charter" is a critical component in this battle. 
  • "Charter" means some group was able to pick and choose from state requirements that are no longer required, requirements that evolved over many decades of experience. 
  • "Charter" means parents must be more vigilant.
  • "Charter" means parents must realize that repeated research has shown that charter schools, on the average, do not serve all students as well as non-charter public schools.
  • "Charter" means parents must decide if their child is one of those to be better served by that charter.  (Yes, that is an awkward fact.  When do schools not serve all students?)

Friday, May 9, 2014

SOPS & Dallas ISD Trustees mentoring honesty

DISD in cooperation with SOPS is about to give a priceless, potentially damaging, 
The Dallas ISD Trustees, in cooperation with SOPS (Support Our Public Schools) are about to give a  lesson in honesty to every young person in Dallas.

What level of honesty do we want to mentor to our students?

Click on above sign to enlarge.
Read the petition form that is being used for all the 25,000 signatures SOPS is gathering.  At the top of the form, in bold print, it states: “This statement MUST be read to each person before signing the petition.” 
At the bottom of the form is the statement to which the person collecting the signatures must sign their notarized signature.  It states: “I called each signer’s attention to the above statements and read them to the signer before the signer affixed their signature to the petition. I witnessed the affixing of each signature.  The correct date of signing is shown on the petition. I verified each signer’s registration status and believe that each signature is the genuine signature of the person whose name is signed and that the corresponding information for each signer is correct.”

A petition gatherer came to my home.  I pretended to know little of the process to see what would be done.  Misleading information about DISD and schools in southern suburbs were given in the attempt to get me to sign. The word "home rule" was never used by the petition worker.  Then I was handed the petition to sign.  I noted my neighbors who had signed, and just before signing handed the form back and began to correct the petition gatherer as to the misleading data she was giving the public about southern suburban school systems, which are documented as having higher dropout rates than DISD.

My neighbors have affirmed that the process documented on the form was not followed with them. I have heard identical statements from many who signed the form or were asked to sign. The statement they are allegedly affirming was not read, nor even pointed out to them.

It is certain the majority of the people signing this petition only want DISD to improve.  They never heard the words “home-rule school district charter” during this signature collection process.  If they did, who understands what that really means?

The DISD Board must start with a random sample of 200 or more of the people signing the petitions from all over Dallas.  They should ask this random sample what process was followed as the form was signed.  It is certain only a tiny percentage of those who signed had the statement read to them before signing. Can these signatures be used?

What is the level of honesty this process reflects?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dallas ISD "home rule" effort ignores data

The SOPS (Support Our Public Schools) group consistently gives only simple one number statistics when they are attempting to show the problems inside DISD, as if a PR company somewhere was running the entire operation.  They do not give how those numbers have changed over time for a reason.  It destroys their message!   Almost any simple one-point-in-time number from any urban district in the US with over 85% poverty levels is frightening, just like Dallas.   But Dallas stands out from this crowd when you look at the rate of change.  From 2007 to 2012 DISD was probably the most improved million population plus urban district in the nation! 

This spreadsheet is of all DISD enrollment data since 1996.  I will gladly share this Excel format spreadsheet.  Email me at

This spreadsheet documents monumental progress this past decade, and several frightening indicators of loosing that progress this year.  The percentage of 8th graders now making it to enroll in the 12th grade dropped 7 percentage points this year to the lowest percentage in 4 years! 
Dallas ISD enrollment by grade from 1996 to present
Click on above chart to enlarge, or email for Excel version.
Dallas must not ignore the progress that is reflected above, or the fact that the same progress is now being rapidly lost.  DISD high school enrollment is now the lowest in 5 years.  The current DISD superintendent has a history of loosing high school enrollment.  High school enrollment numbers went down 25% during the last 5 years he managed Harrison District Two in Colorado.

Dallas must not focus only on test scores and ignore massive student attrition.  Can we prove such student attrition is not part of a plan to raise test score averages among remaining students?

The "home rule" effort wants to hide the massive improvement in DISD graduation rates since 2007.  It took years of change for the DISD Class of 2013 to become the largest DISD graduation class in over 32 years!   That progress must not stop, but it is. 

How is the SOPS group supporting our schools by hiding this progress, working to change the system that achieved this it, all the while ignoring the damage started under Mike Miles?  It is a very dangerous set of facts for the children of DISD.

DISD must resume the 2007-2012 progress.  To do that the current DISD leadership must be replaced.  If anyone thinks that is not necessary, please explain the record of constant student and teacher attrition in Harrison District Two under Mike Miles. 

How bad will things have to get in Dallas ISD before this decision is made?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Governance in Dallas ISD

Governance is an issue in Dallas ISD, but "home rule" is NOT the answer!  

Term limits, recall capability, a living wage for trustees, and redistricting for more compact and representative districts that do not fragment minority populations, are all needed governance reforms that do not require "home rule!"  But November elections are not a positive reform!

We need to improve the potential that the voting public actually knows their trustee instead of increasing the potential for PACS and other outside district money sources to control elections.  
100% of the current board started their election campaigns with the blessing of PAC money, except for Carla Ranger!   Carla Ranger remains probably the DISD Board member who is most well known and popular in their home district on the board.  Such popularity must continue to overrule PAC's!
When it comes to being popular in your district, and having a dedicated following who come out to vote for you, a November election pattern will not be progress.  It would only give more power in the election to those with money, too often from outside the district, who are better able to reach the more apathetic segments of the population with this funded outreach.  
Will giving more power in an election to those with money from outside the district be a step forward?  
Look at what is now happening in the two currently contested DISD Board races.  In both districts money from outside the district is having a major role in the election.   It is NOT the voters inside the district controlling the information flow, the mailings, the phone banks, the paid workers walking door to door.   But, due to a relatively small pool of active voters who can be targeted by candidates and devoted volunteers, candidates without the funding have a real potential to win in these elections without such PAC funding.  They have time to target those who have a history of voting in school board elections. 
Power from money for sound bite advertising will only increase exponentially with a November election and lessen the ability of non-PAC-endorsed candidates to win.  November elections will have more voters who are neither studying the issues nor aware of what is happening inside DISD. They are the most easily manipulated by such funded campaign advertising.  

With the current elections, due to the low turnout, you have the most involved and knowledgeable voters from each district who are making the decision.  Sound bite advertising has the least effect on these more involved voters.
What is the true motivation of "home rule" advocates who want to give more control of the governance system in DISD to those most able to donate more money?   Such methods do not indicate benign intent.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Dallas ISD Trustees and Data

(Email sent 5/4/14 to DISD Trustees)

You were either present to hear or have read the priceless feedback from the DISD Student Summit this past week.  Some of the most valuable feedback was from Adamson sophomore Rebecca Woo who was quoted in the Dallas Morning News as stating:

“There are too many subs in the classroom….  We propose that school ratings should go up or down based on the number of subs that a school has for the year. We shouldn’t have to have subs. The teachers should be there just like us.”

DISD must have such student summits more often. How valid are Ms. Woo’s concerns?  Is such data available daily, or even by the month, for DISD trustees by school and for the entire district?   

DISD now has the ability to notify parents immediately when their child is not in class.  Why not also have such notifications when the teacher is absent?  Actively involved parents, such as DISD claims to want to nurture, would want to know.

Currently it is reported that more teachers than last year are planning to leave DISD.  Teacher turnover has gone from 12.9% to 26.5% over the past 3 years according to data available from
the Annual Data Planning Packets for DISD on the Data Portal at: .  Many speak of turnover in excess of 30% this year.

These Data Packets also record that during the 2011/12 school year the average teacher only missed 6.1 days of class.  That average went up to 7.5 for the 2012/13 school year.  What is that average now with the potentially record numbers of teachers leaving the district?
five most productive years in DISD History, 2008 through 2012, also correlate with much lower teacher turnover.  It now appears DISD is deteriorating. High school student attrition measurements have worsened since the high point of 2012: . 

Student attrition has led to DISD now having the lowest high school enrollment in 5 years!  The DISD Class of 2014 reflects the first reduction in 12th grade enrollment in 7 years.  With the loss of 500 students it is also the biggest drop in 12th grade enrollment in decades!

Such teacher and student attrition patterns have followed our current superintendent for 8 years and through employment in 2 districts.

Dallas ISD will not make needed improvements and reforms if Dallas ISD Trustees refuse to talk about these patterns!  Here are five questions not being publicly discussed. Please provide your thoughts on them. Critiques of the data, as well as the interpretations given in this email, are welcomed:

1) While a strict strategy of not passing low achieving students on to the next grade leads to greater student attrition, it also raises district ACT grade averages.  Such policies, when strictly enforced, increase the number of low achieving students who leave the district.  Do you support such a strategy in DISD?  Is it a priority for you to have more students graduating or a higher average ACT score for DISD?  (The Class of 2014 may be the smallest DISD graduation class in years, but that class will probably have higher average ACT scores.)

2) DISD high school enrollment is now the lowest in 5 years.  As a DISD trustee, what will you do if such secondary level enrollment losses continue in spite of record enrollments at the elementary level?  (High school enrollment dropped over 25% under Mike Miles in Colorado while elementary enrollment rose enough to make up the difference.)

3)  DISD suffered the first drop in senior enrollment in 7 years this year with the Class of 2014. It was the largest such drop in decades!  Does the history of much greater drops in senior enrollment (over 32%) under Mike Miles during his last 4 years in Colorado bother you?  Why or why not?

4) DISD parents can now be notified immediately if their child is absent any school day.  Should the absence of their child's teacher be included in such notices?   Should such data on daily teacher absences and vacancies, by school and for the district, (but NOT by teacher) be tabulated constantly and made public immediately?
5) Will you be vigilant and demand more transparency and precision in numbers used so the public will know when the percentage of students being tested goes down, as happened with a 23% reduction in minority students taking the ACT test this past year? 

Please answer these questions as your thoughts are valuable to Dallas.  You only need to hit reply and insert your answers between each of the above questions.

A listing of the answers received by trustee will be kept online at   (below this posting.)

The fact that answers to these questions are being requested of each DISD Trustee is being shared with the media and the public, and at the above link.

Thank you for all you do for our children.  If, over time, you want to change your answer, updates will gladly be made.  
========== Answers received will be posted below ========