Been talking to people on deep background about Mayor Tom Leppert and his proposed, alleged takeover of the Dallas Independent School District. Some of this is from people who know Leppert, and some is from people who know DISD. Here is the thrust:
1) Leppert's idea about taking over the school district is not a whim or a fluke. He's serious about it. He has been talking to people close to him about it for a couple months.
2) The Dallas Morning News had a legitimate scoop on the story. I was wrong. It wasn't a flag-pole operation. In fact, Leppert was very caught off-guard seeing it in print.
3) He did one thing that was politically astute, probably on advice of his Southern Dallas political talent. He talked to state Sen. Royce West about it, not state Sen. Florence Shapiro. If he intends to put this idea before black and Hispanic Dallas, he better come to the picnic on the arm of somebody black, like West, not white and suburban, like Shapiro.
4) But he didn't do any due diligence on the law. He has really made himself look goofy by not having a proposal for his course of action legally. Maybe it's because The News caught him half-cocked, so to speak. But as each succeeding day passes without a detailed plan for how he would do it, he looks more and more like a hapless don't-bore-me-with-details CEO numbnut.
5) When he does talk -- and he will, one day -- he will say that for too long we have dealt only with questions that affect adults, DISD staff in particular. We need to think about teaching kids. In particular, we need to blow up 3700 Ross Avenue, empower teachers and principals and establish rigor, rigor, rigor. In that, he will be supported by a lot of the data that produced the early version (the good one) of No Child Left Behind.
Then, depending on whom you talk to, it's one of these two conclusions: He doesn't understand the growing cloud of skepticism over his head related to the Trinity River toll road and the city-owned convention hotel. This DISD thing just makes him look more like a boardroom air-head in a bad suit. OR ...
He does understand that the toll road and the convention hotel may not turn out to be the wings of glory he was hoping for. Maybe the DISD gambit will make up for it.
A final thought. A lady who follows school stuff closely made this point: We have seen the results of the business community's ideas for DISD -- specifically, staffing the finance department at DISD with people from the business world who know jack shit about school finance. Outcome? Total financial disaster.
Now the superintendent is trying his idea: bringing in the smartest guy in the state about school finance. Maybe we should wait and see how that works before we think too seriously about putting Leppert in the driver's seat.
My own thought? I have this dream. It is night. Baby carriages are floating by beneath the windows of City Hall. In the distance an angry mob approaches with torches. By boat. Leppert turns to Chris Heinbaugh and says, "Dictation. 'The mayor has decided he needs to spend more time with his family.'"
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