Ten Things We Learned from Last Night's Dallas ISD Forum at the Kessler Theater
In the spirit of last night's D-slash-TED-slash-SMU DISD Education Forum at the Kessler -- which asked each school board candidate one and only one randomly drawn question -- here are some rapid-fire observations from an evening that, while admirably efficient, was over not long after it started.
1. School Board Politics Still Aren't That Sexy While the Dallas Independent School District and its travails seem to have become trendy among businessmen and mayors and the like, regular folks didn't really turn out for this one. Just about everyone inside the Kessler was a school board trustee, a candidate, a campaign staffer, a campaign supporter or a sleepy journalist. Parents? A few. Students? Pshaw.
2. We've Found Our Budget Hawk, And His Name is Roland Love The District 1 candidate is a serious man who said the first thing he would do is go hunting for inefficiencies and redundancies in the administrative apparatus to prepare for what he said would he the district's chief problem in the coming years: being broke all the time.
"I think we need to review where we have extra capacity, where we have redundancy, where we have accounting software where we have several programs that could be integrated," he said. "There are a lot of things we can do on a primary basis that would address the shortage of funds, and it is the number one issue that DISD has to face."
3. Jennifer Levy Feels Your Pain, Teachers The stay-at-home mom takes care of her three kids, but she's found some extra time in her busy schedule to run for the District 1 seat. A teacher got suspended for writing a scalding letter, where he wrote that, basically, teachers get pissed on by the whole world. How would she have handled the letter?
"I think what I would do is I would understand that people tend to act a little out of emotion rather than thinking," Levy answered, before getting to a solution. "We need a strong human resources department."
4. Bernadette Nutall Loves Charter Schools And Doesn't Care Who Knows It District 9's incumbent got no love after her tearful vote to consolidate 11 under-populated public schools, five of which were in her district. Folks got more upset when they found out that one of the closed schools could be turned into a charter school. It all looks a little strange, the theory goes, since Nutall served on a charter school ad hoc committee. Serendipitously, Rogers asked Nutall: Should DISD compete with or work against this new menace?
"I think we can learn from charter schools," she started. "We have to figure out how to work together. We can't continue to work against each other."
5. Damarcus Offord ... Damarcus ... Damarcus, where are you ... So Dallas has a quandary: As Rogers put it, 105,000 Hispanic students are enrolled in DISD schools (68 percent all students), and over half of them only speak Spanish at home. So how should DISD educate these kids?
In the lowlight of the night, the 20-year-old District 9 candidate froze, fumbling for words and muttering something about how trustees get information that candidates don't. He then retreated to his seat, declining to answer the question and telling Rogers he'd "get back" to him.
6. Michael Greenberg Is More Dallas Than You The guy's spent his whole life in Dallas, graduating from Hillcrest High. He loves this place, which counts for something. He also talked about "getting the best teachers in the classroom for our kids," which sounded good, too.
7. District 3's Incumbent, Bruce Parrot, Is Pretty Adorable Parrott: "My door's always open, my number's on the website, and I'm the only candidate who's got my own phone number on the Dallas ISD website."
Call this guy up, people. He wants to talk.
8. Elizabeth Jones Is Quite Smart Jones was asked a question about whether or not we should scratch middle school altogether and extend elementary schools to 8th grade. The District 1 candidate lost us there for a second, but only because her big-ass brain got out in front of her mouth.
The bottom line: She was asked a completely random question, yet she'd already read a Harvard study on it and had someone in her camp who'd conducted a study himself, and she talked in detail about all of it, explaining the challenges of DISD's geography and convincing us that middle schools weren't terrible simply because teenagers are the worst people in the world.
9. Daniel Micciche Clearly Hates Sports Rogers jokingly asked Micciche, "Do you think the Mavericks signing Lamar Odom was a mistake?"
"No, no," Micciche said. "I think he'll bounce back."
Of course, Odom was released from the Mavericks on Monday. So, no, he won't. Micciche was then asked about cutting athletic budgets from schools to save money. He said he wouldn't do it, but no one believed him.
10. Dominic Jackson Is The Man Jackson, a senior at Skyline High, got a standing ovation at the end when it was announced that he was accepted Tuesday to New York University. What makes Jackson special, sadly, is that he's black, and only three out of 100 black DISD students go on to graduate from four-year colleges, according to some data being perused in the bar before the show. (DISD stats: They go well with beer.)
What makes Jackson more special is that he moved to Oak Cliff from New York when he was eight to live with his father. (His mother was an alcoholic.) He could've been a statistic, probably should've been one, but he made it out OK.