Step One Is Admitting You Have a Problem And Other Lessons Learned During Flores's Forum

In the end, of course, the commenter was right: They took it easy on Edwin Flores last night at E.L. DeGolyer Elementary -- mighty easy. The audience was small, equal parts critics and cheerleaders; the faces, familiar -- Michael MacNaughton, Bill Betzen, one-time school board candidate Kyle Renard, newly announced District 1 candidate Mike Greenberg, Aliance-AFT reps, neighborhood parents. Maybe 20, 25 people in all -- not including the three Dallas ISD police officers posted at the auditorium doors.

And if you're following along, you know why they were there: Teachers blame Flores for having fourth-grade elementary school teacher Joseph Drake put on leave, after Drake sent the trustee a fist-shaking missive over the board's vote Thursday to formally extend workdays by 45 minutes. Flores insists he was just following policy to pass the letter to 3700 Ross, since the email contained personal information obtained through an easy search of public records -- the trustee's home address, for starters. He said after the meeting that the letter left him feeling ... uneasy.

I asked one of the few teachers in attendance why he didn't address the incident with Flores in front of an audience; he said he didn't feel it was the right forum. Besides, there is a press conference this morning at AFT-Alliance HQ, during which teachers' reps will "call on the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees to stop bullying and intimidating school employees and parents and keeping them from having a voice in Dallas schools," per the release that landed in the in-box last night.

"We can't build a stronger school system without providing equal voice to teachers, parents, students and school board members," says AFT-Alliance President Rena Honea. "We should be able to disagree without fear of retaliation. Teachers and parents will no longer allow some school board leaders to use fear and intimidation to drive their agenda at the expense of our students."

There is at least one trustee who agrees -- Carla Ranger, who else. "Should a teacher be suspended for criticizing a Trustee?" she asks on her blog. "Of course not. A teacher and father of six should not become a victim of Dallas ISD political injustice and reprisal."

Flores would only briefly touch upon his -- and the board's -- vote to extend workdays. Said he: "I saw it more as aligning our policy with our practice."

And yet he managed to fill two hours nevertheless with remarkably precise stats: "30 percent of our students move schools every year" ... "The superintendent spends 80 percent of his time dealing with trustees" ... "We turn over 30 percent of our custodial staff every year, and it costs us 35 percent more per square foot to clean our schools than other districts in the area.". Said one teacher at the end: "He's an extraordinary politician."

The Dallas ISD trustee spoke broadly of superintendent searches and trying to bust out of E-Rate jail and how the ghost of Ruben Bohuchot haunts this district still. He spoke about whether he thought it likely the board will vote to outsource custodial services to save a few million, another Alliance-AFT concern in recent months. And for the record, no, he believes "that's going to be close to impossible."

He offered kind words for interim superintendent Alan King, who has spent months cleaning house of higher-ups at 3700 Ross like it was his money: "Alan's going a great job," Flores said, "because it's not his job." Said the trustee, King has no interest in keeping the top job, and even less interest in making friends. "And maybe that makes it perfect." And Flores, who is leading the teacher-evaluation revamp, acknowledged: "We turn over not enough principals."

Said Flores, what the district is missing is "a great communicator," someone who could have explained to teachers and parents and students why the district needed to close 11 campuses and why the board was formally extending workdays even though many teachers already work beyond the policy. "Unless you can communicate with teachers, parents what you're doing and why you're doing it ..." He paused. "It's tough." Then, a grin. "And the board is part of the problem."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky