Reasons No. 487 and 826 Why Parents Don't Send Their Children to Dallas Public Schools

On Monday I moderated a District 1 school board candidates debate, and long story short, all four contenders were thoughtful, well-reasoned and dead-level; even 79-year-old long-shot Melvin Cannon's call for more vocational education was greeted with a few nods of approval. Most of the questions stuck to issues of policy and procedure; "transparency" on the board was the buzzword amongst the candidates, even the one (Edwin Flores) who voted to quash these very elections, so we'll see.

But there were a few uncomfortable moments, such as: Several parents at my son's District 1 elementary school wanted to know why, for instance, Dr. Kyle Renard, a pediatrician with one son in private school and another in Townview, had told The Dallas Morning News last week she couldn't recommend parents send their kids to DISD: "People are very loath to take a risk with their children. ...We have to prove to them it's not a risk [to put their children in public schools]. Right now, I can't tell them that." Some parents believe it's precisely that sentiment that has parents keeping their children out of Dallas public schools -- well, that and stories like this morning's piece about 48 percent of fifth-graders not being ready for middle school.

(Permit me this small detour: Used to be DISD sent us to middle school after sixth grade; that changed not so long ago over many parents' protests. Which I bring up for this reason: At Daniel Webster, the lowest-performing of the lot, only eight percent of its fifth-graders are ready for middle school. But one year later, 56 percent of its students are "on track" for junior high. Maybe that's because sixth-graders are supposed to stay in elementary school? The News story didn't mention the commonplace and occasionally very significant rise in on-track rates among sixth-graders, and a small sampling of the DISD scorecards suggests it's often exponential. Anyway. Just a thought. No doubt I'm wrong. I am, after all, a product of the DISD.)

So, where were we? Oh, yes. Why Kyle Renard can't recommend DISD to parents. On Tuesday, The News -- which has endorsed Flores -- ran a letter to the editor condemning Renard's statement ("reckless disregard for the type of thoughtful deliberation that is required for the culturally and academically diverse student population that makes up District 1") and damning her as "incompetent." Last night, she sent Unfair Park her response to that letter. It follows after the jump. So go -- bell's ringing.

Letter to DMN Editor 10-21-09