Sharon Grigsby of The Dallas Morning News editorial page posted an interesting item on their opinion blog yesterday saying the paper's pontification board had just met with Dallas school Superintendent Mike Miles, that Miles wouldn't tell them anything and they support him.
He won't tell me anything, either. But let's be frank and candid about what we're not talking about here: This is all about Miles calling school district gendarmes to boot school board member Bernadette Nutall out of a middle school last month.
You know this story. Miles went to Dade Middle School at 6:30 am one day to replace the leadership team after touring the school and deciding it was messed-up as a junkpile. Nutall showed up along with Juanita Wallace of the Dallas chapter of the NAACP, claiming they had been called in by the incumbent staff. Mile said it was his staff, his meeting. An argument ensued. Cops were called. Nutall dared them to arrest her. Instead they took her by the elbows and walked her out to the parking lot.
After that -- and this is the part we're really not going to talk about -- somebody at school headquarters hired an outside lawyer to investigate Nutall for some kind of shit. What kind? That's what we're not going to talk about.
Miles apparently told the pontification board yesterday he would not discuss who hired the lawyer or what charges the lawyer was asked to investigate. I can confirm that he won't discuss any of that with me, either.
So, wait. He won't discuss anything with us, and we all support him anyway? We're unwitting corporate zombie suck-ups, right? First, may I say this? If I have become an unwitting corporate zombie suck-up, then I'm going to be the last guy in town to know about it. Right? As Jerry Lee Lewis said, thank about it.
Meanwhile, the pontificados at the News can answer for themselves, but I can tell you why I'm on Miles' side so far, very provisionally and subject to change when more facts come out. Miles may not be willing or able to tell anybody what the Nutall investigation is all about, but other people, speaking not for attribution, have been willing to talk to me about it.
The first thing to say here is that we are talking about allegations, not facts. I only know what the outside investigator is looking at. I have no idea what he is finding. He may find that the allegations have no basis in fact whatever. But given the nature of the allegations, the school district had no choice but to investigate, and, once that reality dawned, they had no choice but to flip the investigation to somebody who doesn't work for the school district.
Nutall is being investigated for abusive treatment of school district employees. Some of the behavior is well known and has been reported here. Last May I wrote a story about Miles and Nutall in which I quoted letters written to Miles by middle management executives who complained that Nutall was threatening them with retribution if they carried out Miles' directives.
One wrote that Nutall, "tried to engage me into conversation, but I did not. After she was complete in releasing her venom about the superintendent, she left." Others said in a group letter, "We were encouraged by Ms. Nutall to not hold certain principals accountable for their performances."
See also: Mike Miles Versus the World
The charges -- not the facts, remember, just the allegations -- recently got way worse. For example, the outside investigator is looking into allegations that Nuttall on at least one occasion, maybe more, has completely lost it and laid hands on school district employees. Physical hands.
I reached Nutall yesterday. She said, "I have not been in any physical altercations with school district staff. If so, I should be arrested. I don't know where that's coming from. That is a new one for me."
The fact remains that this is the general tenor of the charges the outside investigator is looking into. We'll know more, we hope, when a report becomes public. But given the nature of the charges and the fact that abuse of district employees is alleged, the school district would have been derelict had it turned a blind eye or deaf ear to the charges just because a trustee is involved. Ignoring it would have been the easier thing to do in many ways, and it may turn out that the district took the easier path for a long time before making a difficult decision to act.
A number of media opinionators have weighed in recently saying they think the trouble between Miles and Nutall is pettiness, implying a moral equivalence in their positions and suggesting the two should kiss and make up. I don't understand how the question of who runs the district -- who can tell district staff what to do -- is a petty issue. I'm hard-pressed to think of a more fundamental issue.
Of the two, the one whose public documented behavior has crossed the line has been Nutall. How far across, we do not yet know. But no one has offered an instance in which Miles has acted outside his authority or mandate. That could change, depending on the findings. But right now I'm with the Beloan pontiffs. Until we get some bad news about him, Miles is doing everything we hired him to do.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.