Yesterday morning Dallas school district cops forcibly removed school board member Bernadette Nuttall from Billy Earl Dade middle school on Grand Avenue in South Dallas after Nuttall told them, "Go ahead and arrest me."
They didn't. They just put her out of the building. But both Nuttall and a school district spokesperson said it was a hands-on removal by three officers.
Nuttall's eviction followed a schoolhouse showdown between her and Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles. Miles wanted to hold his own closed meeting with staff at the school. Nuttall, who said she had been asked to attend by some staff, wanted in on it.
Miles said no, according to witnesses. Nuttall insisted. Miles said he would have her removed. She said do it.
Nuttall says she was kicked out for trespassing. "I was told that I was trespassing and that's why I had to be removed from the campus," Nuttall told me yesterday, several hours after the incident.
But district spokesperson Jon Dahlander said trespassing was never an issue. Nuttall was bounced from the building, he said, because she was trying to crash a staff meeting convened at 6:30 a.m. by Miles.
"The trustee was told that she was unable to attend the meeting," Dahlander said. "Then eventually security was asked to remove her from the premises."
Superintendent Miles declined to comment on the incident.
Dade has been a scene of staff turmoil and turnover for two years running. Miles called yesterday's meeting to introduce and install a new principal, two new assistant principals and 15 new teachers and instructional coaches.
Nuttall offered me a couple different reasons why she wanted in on the meeting: 1) She was just there to cheerlead the changes. 2) The changes amount to a crisis which she compared to Ebola and Hurricane Katrina.
"I went there to encourage people because we need for Billy O. Dade to be successful and for students to be successful," Nuttall said. "I thought it was a staff meeting to say, 'Hey, we can do this.'"
But she also said, "It's a crisis there. I'm not the focal point there. I'm not the story. It's a crisis, just like the mayor went to the Ebola crisis and [County Judge] Clay Jenkins went to it, President Bush and the Katrina crisis."
Dahlander gave a measured view: "A meeting was held this morning at Dade with the new leadership team there and the new staff members there. This was for staff members only. My understanding is that the trustee wanted to attend this meeting.
"This was not an open meeting," Dahlander said. "It was an administrative meeting, a staff meeting."
Dahlander said the district believes changes at Billy O. Dade cannot wait. "The feeling is that changes need to be made immediately. We cannot wait until the end of the semester or even the end of the month to make changes.
"We need to have a renewed sense of urgency and instructional quality. While it would be easier on everyone to wait until the end of the semester to make the changes, our students don't have a day to wait."
I asked Dahlander if security would be beefed up at Billy O. Dade in the future. He said, "There will be additional security at the school, but certainly if Miss Nuttall wants to come to the school then she is welcome to do so. This was an isolated incident."
I have a call in to the Texas Association of School Boards in Austin asking what they think the deal is on school board members who insist on attending staff meetings. I will let you know when I hear from them.
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