What Mike Moses doesn't want anyone to know

But welcome to the big city. The mistake was thinking something this hot wouldn't leak for some reason and that you could spring a 40 percent eviction rate on Stonewall at the last minute.

Moreno had been battling behind the scenes to save Stonewall from an even more severe gutting, according to every account I have been able to gather. But because of the way it broke, he was vilified for having taken part in a secret process. Now he wishes the whole thing had been open from the get-go.

"The way I personally looked at it, we should have done that from the very beginning," Moreno said. "We were not doing anything suspicious or anything, but it looks suspicious when you're not out in the open, and that really bothered me, because you're dealing with people's emotions, people's futures.

DISD Superintendent Mike Moses is a nice guy from East Texas, but he may already have done all the good he can do in the big city.
Mark Graham
DISD Superintendent Mike Moses is a nice guy from East Texas, but he may already have done all the good he can do in the big city.

"I felt over six months of my life was a waste of time. It was a no-win, no-win situation for me, personally."

He's not the Lone Ranger. Another enormous blow-up happened when people in Seagoville, not a part of Dallas but a part of the Dallas school district, found out half of their elementary kids were going to be sent across Interstate 635 into predominantly minority Pleasant Grove schools.

I think I don't even have to spell this out. Think Seagoville: Think outpost of East Texas. Now think Pleasant Grove: upwardly mobile South Dallas. Now, think oil and water.

When I spoke with George Williams, the outgoing board member for Seagoville, he took most of the blame on himself for not having opened up this process sooner. "I should have had a town hall meeting," he said several times.

The problem is that the process was designed to be closed by Moses.

There is good news here: All of the most severe blow-ups over attendance-zone changes probably will be fixed in the weeks ahead. But they will get fixed in a process opposite of the way Moses thought it would be done. Nothing will be logical, tight or streamlined. It will all be gnarly, idiosyncratic and rife with exceptions to rules. And the outcome will not be something school board members impose on the populace like a Supreme Court ruling. If anything, I see more examples of school board members on all fours doing salaams in front of their constituents to try to calm them down.

Seagoville, for example, wants to keep the portables at its three elementary schools. Why? If they keep their portables, they're not overcrowded. The kids don't have to move.

The Stonewall parents know that people have been bootlegging their kids into the attendance zone for years. The school used to let kids in if there was a history of hearing loss in the family. I have several neighbors who went up there for the interview (we're way out of the attendance zone), and when they got to the part when they were asked if there was any history of hearing loss, they said, "Whaaat? Speak up, willya?"

They got in. I can tell that story now, because those kids are already through Stonewall. If I put something like that in the paper when the kids were still there? Next move: Change name, move to Ohio at midnight!

So with great reluctance, the Stonewall parents are agreeing to a more rigorous policing of the attendance zone to throw out the infiltrators. They hate it, but they hope it will be enough to save the school.

It'll all get worked out. But it will be worked out in the big, messy, political, sausage-factory way that things tend to get worked out in the big city.

Moses did have to do this. The zones did have to change. And it was never going to be bloodless. On the big broad administrative challenges he faced when he took over the district four years ago, he's done a great job. But the attendance zone issue is in some ways the first time he's had to deal with grassroots, door-to-door, school-to-school community politics.

Board member Ron Price was defending Moses' handling of it to me, when he said: "He's never been the superintendent of a massive organization like this. He's only been in relatively small school districts."

Now we find out.

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