By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Mike Howard, president of local publishing company Ringtail Productions Ltd., thought he had a pretty good deal with the nonprofit Irving Schools Foundation. The foundation's board agreed to distribute his company's book, Just Gimme a Zero! Teaching From the Trenches by semi-retired Irving Independent School District teacher Mary Jack Edwards, as a gift to foundation contributors. Donations to the foundation support scholarships and education grants for teachers at Irving schools.
Then someone read the book. They didn't like it. Now it looks as though the deal may be off, Howard says.
What does Edwards' book reveal about teachers' lives in the trenches? A little Lolita action between coaches and cheerleaders, maybe? Hash brownies in home economics? Sweaty assignations in the teachers' lounge?
Not quite. Edwards, a 32-year veteran educator, says her book exposes fed-up teachers, incompetent administrators, troublesome students, and declining standards in public schools -- all without naming Irving ISD specifically.
So we're not exactly talking All the President's Men here as far as exposés go. Yet it was enough to prompt some foundation board members to ask the board to reconsider the deal with Ringtail later this month.
"Political pressure killed the project behind closed doors," says Howard, who has posted a description of the book on the Internet at www.ringtail.bigstep.com. The site claims the "tell-all tome has been banned in the Irving Independent School District."
Again, not quite. Deborah Montonen, executive director of the foundation, says the school district has nothing to do with the pending decision about the book -- the foundation is a separate entity from the district. Ringtail has already been paid $382.40 for discounted copies of the book ordered under the original deal, Montonen says.
Edwards, meanwhile, is still teaching half-days at Irving schools to supplement her pension. She says her book is intended to reveal "things the average parent, the average taxpayer doesn't know" about public schools.
"It's just a mess, is what it is..." she says. "I tell you, people don't like the truth."
Can Buzz get an amen with that?
What's in a name?
Think the city council's recent 11-2 decision to grant The Arena Group extra tax breaks to cover the costs of street construction near the arena was the last word on the subject? Hah. Meet Sharon Boyd.
Community activist Boyd, who hates tax financing for the arena as much as Baptist preachers hate liquor (more than some), and lawyer James Murphy may file suit to try to have the August 25 vote declared illegal.
They contend that Councilwoman Veletta Forsythe Lill should have withdrawn from the council's vote on the $40 million tax break -- part of which will be paid by the Dallas Independent School District. Lill's husband is a pilot for American Airlines, which plans to pay the arena developers $195 million to call the arena American Airlines Center.
That's a conflict of interest, the pair says. Lill has been careful to remove herself from votes on issues involving American in the past, so Boyd and Murphy want to know what changed her mind on this one.
A city attorney's opinion, Lill says. In a memo dated two weeks before the vote, City Attorney Madeleine Johnson wrote that Lill would have to sit out votes on anything having to do with signs, naming rights, or logos for the arena. But American does not have any ownership rights in the arena, so votes on streets, roads, or big, fat, honking, unconscionable tax breaks are OK.
But Buzz doubts that -- or anything -- will stop Boyd. In fact, we expect to see her at the first Mavericks game ever played at the new arena, being hauled off the floor in handcuffs, shouting "It's still a bad deal!" to the rafters.
God love her.