More On the Rogers Situation: Because, Really, Is Anything More Important?

Great. Tell me you're sick of journalists talking about journalists. I was too. I was perfectly ready to drop L'Affaire Tim Rogers -- whether or not he used his clout as the editor of D Magazine to get his kid bucked into a preschool program ahead of qualified poor kids. But Mr. Rogers feels a need to keep stirring the pot, so I feel a need to stir back.

The question is whether Rogers used his connection with Jon Dahlander, the head of media relations for the school district, to get his kid into a preschool program at Hexter Elementary. The program is federally subsidized and designed for disadvantaged children. Rogers' kid is not disadvantaged. There was a big waiting list of poor kids when Rogers's kid got in.

He has been contending on the D Magazine blog that his child did not get in ahead of the children on the waiting list, even though his kid got in and the kids on the list are still waiting. He has a very complicated theory about how this works, and some of what the district has had to say over the last 24 hours might seem to give credence to his theory. But remember this, Dear Reader. The school district is also trying to absolve itself of blame in this matter, which does, after all, involve federal funds, as in the phrase, "a federal case."

I spoke to school officials on background yesterday. Their best story was this: that when Rogers e-mailed Dahlander to bitch about his kid not getting admitted to the program, there was no formal policy on hand to decide when and how to admit tuition-paying kids like Rogers's child to the program.

Rogers and the district have all kinds of stories about how many slots were open at any given point in time and how many children were on the waiting list. That's all over the map.

The district told me that Rogers's child could be bumped out of the program at any time when a qualified child showed up to take that slot. I asked why they would run things in such a sloppy, potentially damaging way for the children, especially for Rogers's child. Why risk kicking the kid out at mid-year?

Why not tell the Rogers family no? Then go to the waiting list. Recruit those kids into the program. And fill the slots with kids who can stay at the school because they are qualified and belong there.

I was told there was no procedure for filling the slots. And of course, from that, DISD extrapolates that it has committed no offense.

Yeah. Well. Into that void Mr. Rogers traipsed, and he did it by going to Dahlander, whose difficult job it is to deal with the media.

Dahlander is not a pushover for us, by the way. He's very loyal to the district. He can and will call and make trouble for a reporter who has written something he thinks is unfair to the district. He's a good guy, but as a reporter you keep an eye on him too. He's got some teeth.

In this case, he tried to make this thing go away the easy way. The quiet way. Then it was Rogers, incredibly enough, who outed the whole thing by going on the D Magazine blog and mentioning that his kid got into the school.

Rogers is angry, and I must say his anger seems to have less to do with feelings about himself than about his child. He is angered by the suggestion that his child took a slot away from a poor kid.

That's the one question I have been able to ask Dahlander: I asked him if he took a slot away from a poor kid and gave it to Rogers's kid.

"Absolutely not," he said, with some feeling.

I understand how they feel, both of them. I just don't happen to believe it. I believe that's exactly what happened.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze