"Commit!" to This Sneak Preview of Dallas Regional Chamber's Plan to Rescue DISD

At its August 11 board briefing, Michael Casserly, executive director of the D.C.-based Council of the Great City Schools, told the Dallas Independent School District's board of trustees: It could be a good, long while till you find a suitable replacement for Michael Hinojosa. Casserly, invited by board president Lew Blackburn to come to Dallas to "impart his wisdom" about the process of hiring a schools chief, told the trustees this will be a long, torturous process (could last up to a year and a half) made especially difficult because Dallas is one of 15 big cities -- including Fort Worth, Seattle, Little Rock, Anchorage, Atlanta -- looking for a new chief. "Get on with the search process," he said. "Do it ahead of the competition."

He told the trustees they need to find a good search firm, not just one that recycles same-old-same-olds. He said the cost of finding a new super will run upwards of "50, 100 grand," perhaps even much higher. He said "non-traditional" candidates, those who come from government and the military, "struggle" when it comes to "academic achievement." He suggested the board do a little self-searching before moving ahead: "What kind of person do you want? What kind of district do you want?" And he begged the board to do this without community committees, which tend to "slow down" the process, and to act as a unified front. "They're going to be interviewing you," he said, "and if there's dissension or a fractured board in this process, your best candidates will smell it."

But let's be honest: The board won't be the only ones involved in the search process; far from it. No doubt Mayor Mike Rawlings, who campaigned on a platform of DISD overhaul, will offer his input. So too the Dallas Regional Chamber, which has included DISD in its five-year "strategic plan," Blueprint for Economic Prosperity, and has expended much time and money in recent months flying DISD officials cross-country to study "best practices" while crafting its own platform for reform. Why, as a matter of fact ...

On Thursday, the DISD board will take a long look at the Dallas Regional Chamber's plan to "Commit!" to the district with "a collaborative of Dallas area stakeholders, each highly committed to the transformative power of education, who are willing to work together and be mutually accountable to each other for their respective roles in strategically ensuring that all students graduate from Dallas-area high schools and succeed in either college or the work force."

That's from a draft of the Commit! manifesto, which follows. There's also a lengthy PowerPoint, in which the chamber says that among the initial stakeholders who will commit to Commit! you will find the mayor's office, the Dallas Citizens Council, the superintendent and J.P. Morgan Chase.

The chamber hopes to have this in place within months, well before a new super's been hired. And what the chamber's doing here isn't anything particularly new. Dallas Achieves, anyone? Road to Broad? And there are national precedents. But the PowerPoint below insists: Commit! will be more effective than Dallas Achieves, swear, because Dallas Achieves "didn't have ability to drive adaptation of all recommendations or ensure internal staff capabilities to drive plan implementation." Says the presentation, Commit!'s "strategic plan will be much broader than that envisioned by Dallas Achieves." How so?

‣ It will likely be Pre-K to college graduation (vs. just K-12).
‣ It will involve multiple education providers (higher ed, other districts, etc.) in the greater Dallas area and not just DISD.
‣ It will involve numerous non-profits focused on various educational, strategic "pillars", ranging from parental education/engagement, after school and summer programs, college access, human capital/leadership training and many others.

[And] accountability/implementation will be driven by Commit!'s evaluation and communication of results. As results become more transparent, funders will fund those who have the most demonstrated impact, and parents will move their children to educational institutions who achieve. Commit! should be viewed as an impartial communicator of results, good or bad.

Other cities have similar public-private compacts. The Boston Private Industry Council, for instance, is a longstanding effort to connect the classroom with the workplace. Cincinnati has Strive Together, counting among its partners the public schools, Procter & Gamble, Xavier University and Toyota. And in Los Angeles, there's the L.A. Compact, which last year raised $5 mil in school-reform grant money, has the blessing and backing of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and had a major say in the hiring of reformer and former Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-layer John Deasy as LAUSD super in January. In other words: When it comes time to pick a superintendent, prepare to Commit! More to come in coming days. Till then, a little Sunday-afternoon reading. Commit! Goals

Commit Power Point

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