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Dirty Schools and Bad Teachers: Mike Miles Delivers His Assessment of DISD

You already knew that Mike Miles, DISD's new superintendent, isn't one to mince words. That was, after all, part of the thinking in hiring him: that a straight-talking, pull-no-punches leader could transform DISD from an improving but still struggling urban district into one of the country's finest.

So far, Miles' rhetoric has been focused on the need for more accountability in DISD: among teachers, among principals, and among district administrators. All fairly general stuff. But Miles' critique of the district is about to get very, very specific.

On Thursday, Miles will brief DISD board members on all of the major, systemic flaws in the way the district is run. There are 32 of them, and yes, that is a lot.

A lot of the areas for improvement identified in the list deal with arcane aspects of district administration (Shortcoming No. 16: the process for filing contracts and bid documents needs to be streamlined) or ripped more or less straight from Miles' Destination 2020 plan (No. 1: "Employees are overall satisfied with modest gains or minor changes to the status quo. We need to build an organization that strives for excellence and that understands the need for significant change.")

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Taken together, though, the individual bullet points portray a district paralyzed by a sclerotic bureaucracy and amount to a scathing critique of the way the district has been run. There are no mechanisms in place to seek out and recruit highly-qualified candidates to DISD; more than 100 coaches aren't certified to teach; teacher and principal evaluations are "routine and meaningless"; cleaning and maintenance standards at schools are far too low; the bus system is poorly run, causing kids to miss school; programs that have clearly failed are funded and continued through sheer inertia.

The list doesn't propose solutions, but it does identify the member of Miles' cabinet responsible for fixing the problems and how long he or she has to do so. And it's far more revealing than anything Miles has said yet of how he intends to deliver on his promises.

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