Ross to the rescue

Perot Sr.'s plan to fix DISD makes a multicultural misstep

"Perot thought the survey would be a way to find out what the customer wants from the school district," says DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander. "It's a way to get back to education issues and off high center."

Of course, even at the meetings at which the survey was criticized, the participants eventually got around to discussing the district's strengths and weaknesses. It is obvious from some of the comments that the district's weaknesses depend on where you sit. It is equally obvious that Sirota Consulting has its work cut out for it.

For example, at a focus group held with the districtwide committee meeting, teachers complained about salaries and a lack of funds for programming and field trips. Robby Collins, special assistant to the superintendent, also thought there were problems with the budget--and how it shortchanges the administration.

According to Fullinwider's notes of the meeting, Collins said, "We sacrifice everything on the altar of salaries, benefits, and programming at the expense of staff support for the central office."

Rebecca Pendergrass, a DISD parent of a high school and an elementary school student, left a focus group wondering what the survey would actually accomplish. "The problems that were mentioned were obvious--the board is fractured, there is no accountability or leadership from the central office," Pendergrass says. "This is the same stuff we've been talking about for 10 years."

At this focus group, the subject of racial politics also was broached, but almost as an afterthought. At the end of the meeting, the Sirota group leader asked the audience what they thought of racial friction in the district, but cautioned them to give their answers in only one word, because they had run out of time.

If nothing else, maybe the survey will convince the business community that what the district needs is its money, not its interference. Apparently that fact is something Perot needs to learn. At the same time that Perot is attempting to rescue the school district, his own company is turning its back on one of the district's schools.

For the last six months, Perot Systems was providing several hundred dollars a month in manpower and supplies to photocopy and collate Kramer Elementary's 26-page student newspaper. Right before the March issue was to be put together, Perot Systems told the school they would no longer be helping, because it had put a moratorium on charitable contributions.

Perot giveth to DISD, Perot taketh away.

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