In the ‘honeymoon’ phase of a relationship, everything looks rosy and both parties in the relationship are convinced that their union is invincible — until that union’s happiness with each other is tested.
On April 13th, District trustees made a trip to Colorado Springs, CO to observe, then candidate and one of three finalists for Dallas ISD superintendent, Mike Miles, at work. What DISD trustees saw as they toured with Miles in his job as superintendent of Harrison School District Two got a proposal from them, and an assurance that what had worked so well in the Colorado Springs schools was exactly what Dallas schools needed.
Back at home in Dallas, the Board agreed. Miles was hired — official starting date set for July 2 (July 1 is on Sunday) — as the next superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, and vows were exchanged — Miles vowing to bring the same kind of change he had wrought in the Harrison School District to Dallas area schools; the Board vowing to accept that proposal of change, embrace it, and support the new superintendent without their past habits of intervening hampering policy and procedural modifications. The community watched and waited for the first sign of trouble in the union.
It showed up roughly a month later on May 15th, when Superintendent Miles made shocking cuts to top-level administrators, followed by the announcement that they would be obliged to re-apply for the limited number of open positions, in direct competition with candidates from across the nation. He made it apparent he was in search of the best in their fields to join his professional team of administrators; legends propped up by their laurels need not apply. Aside from a soft, stunned muttering, the board stayed silent but for a tentative comment of approval offered by one unidentified member.
Following that impromptu strike, Superintendent Miles created a new position designed to aid him in his search to build his team and find superior teaching talent for District schools the coming school year. The Chief Talent Officer will evaluate existing DISD teachers and recruit new ones from across the country. To fill that newly-created position, the superintendent hired Charles Glover, director of Dallas-based Teach For America.
The superintendent’s goal is to improve students’ academic achievement through improving educators’ teaching skills and procedures. Entitled Destination 2020, Superintendent Miles’ plan came under fire in the June 14th Board meeting. Many of those in attendance were confused as to how evaluations of those educators would be made, using the plan as a guideline. Trustee Bernadette Nutall had been among the delegation to travel to Colorado Springs to observe Miles’ “on the job” performance prior to naming him to his new post. She responded to the superintendent on the editing and language of Miles’ plan in that meeting, “… As a board member, I don’t know how to hold you accountable.” She added that she could not determine what the specifics for measuring performance would be since they appear to have been removed from the plan. Miles admitted that “… some things had to be changed.” But he believed that too many details would make it difficult for the principals of individual schools to function or operate effectively to get things done at their school. The end result was a consensus that there was still work to be done on Destination 2020 before it became acceptable to the Board.
Things are heating up down at the DISD Board. But, does that mean the thrill is gone from the once promising relationship? Superintendent Miles — operating as a paid consultant until his official starting date of July 2 — says he is still excited about his new position and the plan he is continuing work on implementing for 2012 school year. The preceding chronicles only the changes to mid-June. With a couple of weeks in the month yet to review, leading up to official starting day, will the tale have a happy ending?
Like the superintendent’s work, however, this story is to be continued.