Cuts Like a Knife

Incumbent Dallas school board president Lois Parrott is trying to beat back an inspired campaign from challenger Leigh Ann Ellis in tomorrow's hotly contested DISD board of trustee elections. This afternoon, Parrott's campaign will be staffing the corner of Buckner Boulevard and Garland Road trying to lure last-minute voters to give her another three years, a humbling spectacle for a 10-year incumbent.

If Parrott loses, it will be because too many forces in the universe lined up against her. Ellis has won the repeated support of The Dallas Morning News editorial page, who fault Parrott for not supporting DISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa's reform measures. In its endorsement of Ellis, the paper's op-ed board also characterized her as misinformed and part of the problem. Other than that, they love her. "It would be unfair to blame all of the district's problems on one trustee, but it would be equally unfair to students and taxpayers to keep electing defenders of the status quo," read the editorial.

In addition to Parrott's pelts from the old media, the sharp, biting blog run by Allen Gwinn, which is not affiliated with the district in any way and would like to drop a cluster bomb on the entire trustee-teacher's union-industrial complex, has basically declared a fatwa against her and Ron Price. A certain segment of Dallas, and tomorrow we'll find out if they've amplified their discontent through the online echo chambers or if they really are more than just a bunch of underemployed bloggers in pajamas, think of Parrott and Price as rusty relics of DISD's corrupt and bumbling bureaucracy and want Hinojosa to have a loyal slate of trustees on his side as he tries to rid the district of its considerable waste. (To wit, the district spends more money on legal fees than New York City.)

In response, the Parrott camp have tried to stress its loyalty to Hinojosa even as the incumbent has not marched in lock-step with his ideas. As a business owner and outsider, Ellis can probably cast her self as the more credible agent of change. There are rumblings here and there that Hinojosa and several of Parrott's colleagues on the board are quietly supporting Ellis. At the very least, Hinojosa wasn't afraid to tell the News that Parrott's characterization of him as being against merit pay for principals "would not be accurate."

If this race is something of symbolic one for the district, it's also been plenty bizarre. The News' Kent Fischer deftly chronicled some of the weirdness last week. Writing about the losing lawsuit Parrott filed against the district over a contract with Edison Schools, he tried to have the incumbent give her side of the story. "I would not talk about that legal stuff because you wouldn't understand it," she replied. Nice.

Fischer also wrote how Parrott's husband, Bruce, is basically serving as a shadow trustee and in turn made local PTA president Cheryl Herman cry over a candidate forum at Bryan Adams High School. Brill O'Brien, Parrott's hard-working campaign manager, spun it thusly: "Cheryl Herman cries very easily. She cries all the time."

I can't pass it up: It cuts like a knife. And if feels so right. --Matt Pulle

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky