For several weeks I have been wondering if anybody else was hearing the same drumbeat of deep bitter dissatisfaction from Dallas public school teachers that I've been getting. So now it turns out somebody else has been hearing the same thing. But guess who!
Tod Robberson! Oh, no! Not Tod Robberson! I don't want to be on his side! He's the guy on The Dallas Morning News editorial page who writes all that stuff I hate about the Inland Port and how we should clean up Southern Dallas by running off all sources of gainful employment.
Turns out I need him though. Look, I know this stuff about the teachers is all anecdotal and not very journalistic. But that's how drumbeats start. The teachers are afraid to come forward, certainly to be quoted, so they whisper in our ears. And it means something to me that Robberson has been getting the same whispers.
He had a good piece a week ago on one of those innumerable Dallas Morning News blogs (hey, Wilonksy, I thought you were supposed to clean that mess up): It was about Dallas school superintendent Mike Miles appearing before the Morning News editorial board where apparently he minimized the problem of teacher morale while singing the advantages of firing older teachers.
The attitude Robberson described was unsettling because it echoed some of the less attractive themes I picked up among the big-money North Dallas donors to school reform when I wrote about them last June. For the most part I thought the business group supporting Miles as our new superintendent were pretty enlightened. They tend to be younger with a broader experience of the world than some of their business leadership predecessors in Dallas.
But some of them did have this passion for firing teachers. The problem with that mentality is that it flies in the face of a lot of research and experience indicating it's way more efficient to keep teachers and retrain them. Robberson caught Miles citing some other kind of research, which Miles said proved just the opposite. But when Robberson looked it up, it didn't say what Miles said it said.
I wasn't going to write about this, but then this week I got another raft of calls from some very seriously unhappy senior teachers. I'm not getting it from my own part of town for some reason -- maybe the ones who live near me know better than to talk to me -- but I am hearing a hell of a lot if it from North, Northeast and Southeast Dallas.
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They think Miles and the people backing him despise and revile them. That's the message. And they think the district wants to force them to self-deport from DISD so the district can replace them with younger, cheaper models.
They're also picking up a kind of totalitarian culture at DISD headquarters. That crazy stuff with the power words didn't help. Miles went to the same PR company that invented swift-boating and hired them to come up with a list of magic power phrases that principals were then required to use whenever they spoke to parents.
That's just woo-hoo-loony, superstitious-Mussolini, Idi Amin-wacko, batshit crazy crap. Maybe you can pull stuff like that in the software services industry where everybody's stoned anyway, but you can't do it in an institution full of teachers and expect them to respect you.
Anyway, much as I hate being on the same side with Robberson, I have to admit I am hearing the same stuff he is. And, anyway, gosh, you know. Blush. What do you think, Tod? Should we start dating?