Buzz

Conspiracy du jour
They were all in one place, sitting in a stuffy back room at DISD's Environmental Education Center in Seagoville: Matthew Harden. Kathleen Leos. Don Venable. Shirley Ison-Newsome.

What do all of these folks have in common?
Lawsuits, of course. Big, messy ones--sprinkled with tales of racism, sexual harassment, and other horrid misdeeds at DISD.

The district's favorite litigants converged at last Saturday's board retreat to participate in a discussion on budget matters, and since the meeting itself was so boring, Buzz got to thinking and couldn't help but notice some troubling circumstances:

Given the poor ventilation, such a room could easily lend itself to the transmission of communicable disease.

In fact, just days earlier, a DISD official had secretly faxed Buzz a telling item from an Academy of Organizational and Occupational Psychiatry newsletter, to wit:

"Some litigious employees may suffer from a mental illness known as litigious or querulent paranoia, a type of delusional disorder. People with this disorder file multiple lawsuits, often with several cases going simultaneously. One suit is generally followed by another, with each case targeting a person or entity who has allegedly harmed the suing party.

"In many cases," the newsletter continues, "the suing party imagines that the offenses against him or her are part of a conspiracy."

The DISD official who sent the fax wrote ominously in the corner, "Sound like anyone we know?"

Are we on to something here?
Maybe there's a bona fide disease running through DISD.
Maybe it's catching.

If it is, Buzz is likely to be the next in line to fall ill, stuck as we were with all of the DISD host organisms in one confined space.

If we feel the urge to sue anyone in the next few weeks, we'll keep you posted.

Sin of omission
Linda K. Wertheimer, an education reporter brought here from the Orlando Sentinel to help The Dallas Morning News cover DISD headquarters, wrote a story in the Sunday paper that seemed uncannily convenient for the people she's supposed to be covering: In her wide-eyed and breathless version of things, Wertheimer told News readers that DISD numbers guru Robert Mendro had just come up with a new system for distinguishing bad teachers from good ones.

Wertheimer failed to mention that Mendro's paper on the topic was done years ago. She failed to mention that Mendro is in the big middle of a lawsuit brought by the NAACP and LULAC seeking access to the data he used. Wertheimer failed to mention that the sudden rediscovery of Mendro's paper is a legal stratagem by DISD to avoid giving the same data to the city's minority communities (as in, our white guy who does the numbers has already studied this, so ya'll just forget about it).

Asked how she could possibly have avoided mentioning most of the truth in her story, Wertheimer cited the Morning News' hypocritical policy that forbids their press from talking to our press. She referred the Dallas Observer to Morning News managing editor Stuart Wilke.

We called Wilke on successive days but were informed by his secretary that he was "ill" and "still ill," apparently suffering from ATO (afraid-to-talk-osis). Wertheimer, who did good work on these same issues in Florida, must have undergone some re-education when she came to Dallas and is now off to a depressing start as a typical News beatwalker.

Thou shall not steal on purpose
It wasn't exactly Moses coming down from Mount Sinai, but the wise people at DISD last week finally issued "a reference guide" for administrators about financial activities, a sort of how-to book for bureaucrats who are spending your money.

"We wanted to be better stewards of the taxpayers' dollars," says DISD acting superintendent James Hughey, who took the post last September when Yvonne Gonzalez resigned.

Coincidentally, the DISD commandments came the same week Gonzalez was sentenced to prison for using school district money to purchase bedroom furniture.

The new guidelines, which took months of preparation, include a page describing "consequences for non-compliance," in other words, what DISD administrators would do if they found out that someone was scarfing up nightstands and headboards on the district's dollar. If the first offense were an accident, the guidelines say, the culprit would get a letter of reprimand in his or her personnel file. If the first offense is intentional, the cheater could be fired.

(Just imagine the sort of excuses this distinction might create. "Bedroom suite? I thought I was ordering chalk.")

Still, some guidelines are better than none, we suppose, except for one troubling fact. The district's lawyers will be the ones to decide whether non-compliance with the guidelines was accidental or intentional.

Buzz would like to remind DISD administrators that it is the lawyers who are sucking dollars out of the district's coffers these days. Now, is that accidental or intentional?

Life imitates art
We hesitate to make light of domestic abuse, but a press release from Stacie Lawrence, wife of country star Tracy Lawrence, was hard to pass up.

Stacie, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, accused Lawrence of punching her three times while on a tour bus after a night of gambling in Las Vegas. (Lawrence, who was convicted of domestic violence in late January, says he slapped and pushed her, but didn't punch her.)

So here we have it, Tracy and Stacie feudin' and fightin' after a night of gamblin' and drinkin'.

To top it off, Stacie Lawrence issued this comment in a news release from her Dallas lawyer, Jack Pate:

"I am afraid we are dealing with an individual who talks the talk, but does not walk the walk. When he is ready to walk, I'm prepared to walk with him. But it is he who must take the first step."

Set that to a steel guitar and ship it off to Nashville, darlin'.

Play nice
Apparently, things have been getting a little raw at the Morning News' Web site.

A letter from an editor on the paper's Internet edition recently asked that people who join discussion groups at dallasnews.com watch their mouths.

The Morning News values free speech, the letter stated, "but we do not accept obscenity, sexism, racism, insults, slander or threats in any medium as excusable byproducts of this freedom."

That's the problem with freedom, all those messy byproducts.
Buzz acknowledges that there is a lot of inanity and unpleasantness on the Internet, but isn't the lack of decorum the point? The Internet is one of the few places left for the politically incorrect to revel. Trying to impose rules on a discussion there is like trying to referee a school board meeting.

So, Buzz says, strike a blow for freedom. Go on the News site and say something rude.

--Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

Whisper sweet nothings to Buzz at patrick_williams@dallasobserver.com

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