DISD's "Case" Against Mike Miles Is Bogus

Why do trustees think they can ignore the law to protect their reputations?

OK, enough about you, let's talk about me for a change. I had the very weird experience last week of covering a Dallas school board meeting where a lot of the story I was covering seemed to be about ... well, you know ... me. Yours truly. It was sooo embarrassing.

And, yes, you guessed it. Indeed, I did sort of love it. I am, after all, a newspaper columnist. I'm in the hey-look-at-me-look-at-me business. Put me on an elementary school playground during recess anywhere in this nation, and I could identify all the future newspaper columnists for you.

But, really now, this is getting ridiculous. I think I need to make a statement. Here goes.

Daniel Fishel

The Dallas school board met at the end of last week to hear some more about an investigative report into the doings of school Superintendent Mike Miles. Some of the board, maybe as many as half of them, want to fire him. The other half don't.

Originally the half who want to sack him were hoping to catch him breaking the law and "bullying" a woman — not a legal term exactly, but it sounds kind of like beating her up. They had their hands on a report from this little mini-KGB department within the school district saying Miles probably did all that stuff. But the other half didn't trust the report.

So the board voted to hire former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins to do an external review of the internal report. When Coggins looked at it, all of the serious charges in the mini-KGB report went up in smoke. Like the bullying thing. The woman who was bullied according to the internal report told Coggins she never said that. If that's true, then the authors of the mini-KGB report made it up.

It's an especially suspect point, because bullying is a specific term the anti-Miles crowd — especially the teachers unions — had been tossing around already for months before the internal report picked it up. Some teachers say Miles is bullying them because he sends people to their classrooms to observe them and offer tips all the time.

A few weeks ago when the anti-Miles set on the board found out that the Coggins report was not going to uphold any of the substantive charges in the mini-KGB report, they met with Coggins and asked him to look into a new matter, now known as "The Smelker Letter." Do you think that would make a good title for a Robert Ludlum novel? No, I didn't think so.

It involves me because I am supposed to be the first person to break the story of The Smelker Letter. I was not. More on that later, because it sort of takes the spotlight off me a little, which is not where I'm trying to go at the moment.

Kevin Smelker was chief of operations for the district. He quit a month ago. He called me and told me he was quitting because the school board was driving him crazy. He said he felt unsafe appearing before the board without a lawyer. He told me that the string of top-level executives under Miles who had resigned over the last year all felt that way.

He said the story put out by the anti-Miles crowd — that they were quitting because they didn't like Miles — was absolute bullshit. He said the get-Miles half of the board was running them off.

He was very passionate about it. I got the feeling there was a kind of pressure-cooker tension within the top staff because the true story wasn't getting out. Most of the people who were leaving were afraid to criticize the school board, because then they'd have a tough time finding new jobs in their field. Smelker told me he was retiring — done with the whole business and not looking for another job — and he was by God going to tell the truth on his way out the door.

He did not come across as slick or tricky at all. He came across as a sincere guy who wanted his story told right. Believe it or not, we get a lot of that at the Dallas Observer.

Here's a key point: For whatever reason, Smelker delivered his resignation letter saying many of these same things to Miles via school district email. That made it legally a public document. By law The Smelker Letter was a public document the instant it hit Miles' school district mailbox.

After I had written my first piece about Smelker's departure but before I wrote the second one, I obtained a copy of the letter. Had the letter not been a public document and had I obtained it against the wishes of its author or recipient, then theoretically I could have been hauled into some kind of court, civil or criminal depending on the matter, and ordered by a judge to say where I got it.

But it's a public document. I am supposed to have it. It belongs to me. I'm a public. That letter in my possession is like a 20 dollar bill in my pocket. Unless you've got good reason to believe I stole it, it's none of your business how it got into my pocket. It's my damn 20 dollar bill, and it's my damn business how I got it.

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22 comments
cynthiarogers178
cynthiarogers178

Am I the only one that has noticed that the last few superintendents, all of which were considered to exemplary in their former districts, could not do anything with DISD???   What should that tell us?  As a taxpayer, I think this board should be taken apart and rebuilt, piece by piece.  I could understand if this was only one individual.  But by my accounts it's three.  If I am incorrect, I apologize.  It seems to me the superintendent becomes the fall guy for all the ongoing discrepancies he uncovers.  As I am very fond of saying, you can only blame others for so long.   Mike Miles did not get DISD in the sorry shape it is in.  THAT TOOK YEARS

texanpatriot
texanpatriot

Finally a superintendent that tries to clean out the rot in DISD and of course the Ross Ave Mafia and their lefty supporters try everything in their arsenal to destroy not only his reputation, but threatens the safety of his family.  The man has a pair and I hope that he stays and finishes the job. As a tax paying citizen of this fair city and a product of a DISD education, it is appalling that the average person cannot deduct that the problem with DISD is Ross Ave. and it's policy of allowing bad teachers, bad principals, and bad administrators to continue to be employed because they fear a highly vocal group of minority citizens that derive their power from the disfunction and collaboration with DISD insiders.  These people don't give a damn about education, it's all about power, influence, and money.  

bbetzen
bbetzen

Reasons Mike Miles must leave Dallas (This posting goes on for 4 different posts due to the damage if Miles stays in DISD.)

By keeping Mike Miles, Dallas ISD will be sending a very negative message to the world about true education reform, and Dallas.

1. DISD will be keeping a leader whose behavior necessitated a $100,000 investigation exposing many unethical actions by him against DISD policy, and against the board itself, actions that would lead to any CEO in the business world being fired.

2. DISD will be keeping a leader who disrespected some of the most respected leading education professionals in DISD, and their record of achievement, pushing them out of their critical leadership positions: http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2013/08/three-of-our-four-annointed-super-principals-have-been-drummed-out-of-disd.html/

3. DISD will be keeping a leader who has monumental difficulty in hiring and keeping staff who work closest to him. Why are those closest to him leaving? :http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2013/05/when-will-disds-revolving-door-end.html/

bbetzen
bbetzen

4. DISD will be keeping a leader who it appears paid some of the closest staff he had conflicts with to keep quiet: http://educationblog.dallasnews.com/2013/09/coggins-report-did-dallas-isd-superintendent-mike-miles-buy-former-communication-chiefs-silence.html/ To date those staff have kept quiet.

5. DISD will be keeping a leader who, ignoring documented histories of achievement, imposed an untested evaluation tool prematurely, evaluating staff without timely opportunities for improvement (time he then requested and received for himself from the Board), decimating teacher and principal numbers with questionable termination threats and actions. A record number of over 1,700 staff have already left DISD: http://keranews.org/post/more-disd-teachers-resigned-year-last-and-some-say-mike-miles-why. More are waiting to leave if Mike Miles stays.

bbetzen
bbetzen

6. DISD will be keeping a leader who, for the first time in history, decreased the percentage of DISD students taking the ACT exam, and did it by 21%! Since 2007 there had been an average 20% annual increase in the number of students taking the ACT. Miles decreased the percentage of Black students in 2013 by 20.9%, and Hispanic students by 24%, but increased the percentage of White students taking the ACT by 0.7%. He then claimed a testing improvement going from 17 to 18 without pointing out the changes in the tested population: http://www.dfpe.org/pdf/Student-Achievement-Data-Does-Not-Support-Retaining-Mike-Miles-091613.pdf

7. DISD will be keeping a leader who was never questioned about the monumental 26% high school enrollment decrease in his Harrison District while he was there with families moving into the district and causing over a 20% increase in elementary enrollment: http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/2013/05/damage-by-mike-miles-in-colorado.html

bbetzen
bbetzen

8. DISD will be keeping a leader who is now facing a 5% decrease in 12th grade enrollment in Dallas, the first decrease in DISD senior enrollment since the Class of 2007 set the first of a series of senior all time enrollment records, which were broken every year since 2009 as senior enrollment constantly increased, until now. This sudden decrease in Dallas 12th grade enrollment demands that Dallas study details surrounding 33% decrease in senior enrollment during Mike Miles' 6 years in Colorado.

9. DISD will be keeping a leader who, following the monumental loss of tenured staff his first year, then saw a 26.8% increase in DISD discipline problems. Students had seen the loss of power by their teachers. Mandatory open doors were only part of the message. Students responded. Discipline problems exploded.

Mike Miles must leave! Ethics cannot be compromised without leaving a very bad image for reform!

Mike Miles understands that. He has already sent his family back to Colorado. He sold his Dallas home. Does the DISD Board understand?

Dallas ISD must not allow more of what happened in Colorado under Miles to be repeated in Dallas: http://schoolarchiveproject.blogspot.com/

ebailey75057
ebailey75057

Meanwhile ...

The Houston Independent School District won a prestigious national education prize Wednesday, an award that recognizes gains in student test scores and comes with $550,000 in college scholarships.

Seems Houston's ISD has no issues getting their house in order and improving their childrens test scores. 

epicmale
epicmale

So, Jim, can we taxpayers sue Coggins for a refund?  And while we are at it, can we dock the board members for all the expenses and pay involved in this partisan witch hunt?

Thanks for the continuing look behind the curtain!  Good Job!

crg328
crg328

We'll you wouldn't be able to stand with students on a playground in DISD bc those kids are no longer allowed to go to recess! Jerk.

Filldaddy
Filldaddy

Teachers and admin alike seem kinda like politicians these days, they don't give a crap about what they are there to do, they seem to only focus on keeping their job or increasing their kickbacks and pay. 

Filldaddy
Filldaddy

Fire the teachers, hire scabs, tell the board to STFU and get on with educating the youth of the community without the drama and hoopla.  

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

when the teacher's union alliance aft has multiple robo calls sent all over the county telling people to fire Mike....you can bet that Mike is DOING A GREAT JOB...and the UNIONS are having to put bigtime spin on the failure of the TEACHERS......the robo calls merely made me convinced to ignore the buffoon members of the BOT and to pay attention to PROGRESS, not accusations....John Wiley has the corner on the false accusation market anyway.

EastDallasDad
EastDallasDad

This was a rambling mess. You give yourself far too much credit. The letter was only one small part of the issues discussed at the meeting and the release of the letter is far less important than the crafting of it. Anyone with half a brain realizes that at the very least Miles helped craft the letter and at worst he directed it be written and dictated its contents. If you really obtained the letter through a freedom of information request, please post a copy of it and tell us how you learned of the letter's existence. 

hall16243
hall16243

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Gabe48
Gabe48

@EastDallasDad Post evidence of your spurious claim, or kindly shut the fuck up.  It's quite clear you have some vested interest in this ridiculous sham. This is a witch hunt.  Perhaps you are crazy enough to have convinced yourself the above verbal diarrhea is true, but I'm pretty sure you're just a greedy, evil person. That, or a DMN subscriber. (Same difference?)

Your ilk keep throwing ridiculous accusations, which are proven false, then coming up with new, even more ridiculous accusations.  Throw enough shit, I suppose it's going to stick, eh?

The smell of that shit you and your kind keep throwing is really starting to stick to you. You reek of it, and more and more people are smelling it.

Guesty
Guesty

@EastDallasDad EastDallasDad, it's time to fess up.  You're a teacher, or someone very close to you is a teacher or administrator, and you or your friend hate your boss for being, well, a boss who tells his employees how to do their jobs (i.e. his job).  That is why you and certain board members want him fired.  The rest is just a pretext.  

The original OPR report is bull shit.  Even Coggins couldn't spin any of the accusations into something, not even for $100,000.  I don't know anyone that believes a word in the OPR report except for people who decided Miles should be fired for other reasons long before the OPR report existed.  In other words, you believe it only because you want it to be true.  

As to the Coggins report, the questions are: (1) did Miles caused the Smelker letter to be created; (2) did he cause it to become public; and (3) and if he did either, should that matter?  

No evidence of that exists that Miles caused the Smelkerletter to be written.  Jim seems to have conclusively demonstrated that Smelker meant every word in the letter, and Smelker wanted to take his story public.  Do you have any reason to disagree other than your dislike of Miles?  Why would Smelker, who retired and no longer under anyone's thumb, defend Miles unless he really believes the contents of his letter and wants the community to know that he believes the problem is with the Board and not with Miles?  

No evidence exists that Miles caused the letter to become public.  Jim conclusively demonstrates that Smelker always intended his story to become public, so we have good reason to believe the letter would be made public regardless of how Miles handled it.  

Finally, even if Miles was involved in the creation or public dissemination of the letter, should that matter?  Here is where I think the rubber really meets the road, because the answer to this question tells me everything I need to know about the motivation of the person answering.  Only someone who wants Miles fired for other reasons would conclude that Miles should be fired for making public what his people are telling him about the dysfunction caused by the Boards' management of the DISD.  Board members are elected, and the only way we can have good information on how the Board is performing is if employees of the district tell us when Board members are  hurting the district, which is what Smelker believed and put in his letter.  This is something we, the public, are entitled to know.  As Jim wrote, once Miles had the letter, it was public and belonged to every one of us.  He had no right to hide it, so how can he be fired for letting a public document become public?  And why would anyone want him fired for letting it be known that the actions of the Board are actively hurting the DISD?

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

@hall16243 send your message out to the fired principals and failed Disd teachers...they are not hireable for a real job anyway...maybe they can work the internet other than just Facebook.

EastDallasDad
EastDallasDad

@rufuslevin Did you read the original OPR report? Did you read Coggins' report? Did you attend the meetings where the report findings were discussed? 

There is no question or doubt that Miles violated district policy and the terms of his contract. The only question is whether or not he will be held accountable as any other district employee would be or he receives a pass thanks to the efforts of the Mayor, Todd Williams and the reform PACs.

cynthiarogers178
cynthiarogers178

@EastDallasDad So who are you holding responsible for all the problems before Mike Miles arrived?  I have a student in DISD as well.  Many of those teachers and principles deserved to be terminated, they just assumed that since they were DISD employees  they could hold onto their positions no matter what. 

 
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