Unfair Park Exclusive: TEA Appoints Monitor For DISD's "Academically Unacceptable" Schools

The state's Commission of Education, Robert Scott

This morning, Dallas Independent School District spokesman Jon Dahlander confirmed for me that Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott has appointed a special monitor to straighten out the Dallas school district’s academically unacceptable high schools. Dahlander didn’t know about the Texas Education Agency's decision when I first called this morning.

I learned about the monitor -- whose name is Dr. Judy Castleberry, who was among those who headed up the TEA's Hurricane Katrina Disaster Response Team -- not from anybody at DISD, but from Southern Christian Leadership Conference Regional Director Rev. Ronald Wright. Wright, who has been very involved in this issue, wrote to the TEA weeks ago complaining about the way DISD was handling things. Scott wrote him back last Wednesday, telling him he has appointed a special monitor. The whole letter is available here, but toward the end of his missive to Wright, Scott wrote:

"In a letter dated July 31, 2008, the Dallas ISD was informed of the agency's determination that the H. Grady Spruce High School would not be ordered closed at this time. However, the letter also informed the district that, due to performance concerns for this and other campuses, the agency would assign a monitor to the district to support and oversee multi-year AU campuses within the Dallas ISD."

The Texas Education Agency has the power to appoint a special monitor when it believes a school district lacks the will or wherewithal to conduct its affairs properly on its own. A recent notable example was the Wilmer-Hutchins school district. The Dallas school system has been in serious trouble over its inability to fix several high schools ruled “academically unacceptable by the state.”

I am not blaming Dahlander for anything here. I trust him. But the school board and the superintendent are real pieces of work. Some school board members have been telling people who have asked them about this that they know nothing about a monitor. But I happen to know that the entire board have known about it for some time and have been in possession of a letter from Scott informing the district of his decision.

Who do you trust?

By the way, I need to use this opportunity to correct something I reported here weeks ago. I more or less described “Dallas Achieves,” a private education advocacy group, as meddling plutocrat carpetbaggers bent on turning DISD into one big reformatory who had been given office space in DISD headquarters. Dahlander complained to me that my characterization was unfair. He said Dallas Achieves does not have offices at 3700 Ross. I apologize for this mistake. --Jim Schutze

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky