DISD Board Meeting Live Blog 2/28/08

Ron Kirk to pitch the bond for the District!

It's 5:38 and we're off. The superintendent's report is first. The topic: the "learning block." Subtopics: "leading and improving instruction" and the "learning walk." Everybody get ready. There will be a quiz in your Tuesday folders!

Ahh, but on tap tonight: pitching the bond package. Are we ready for it? Better yet, is the administration ready to deal with it?

Did we waste bond money in 2002, or did we save so (and spend so well) that we could afford to build schools we hadn't planned for?

It will all, likely, be on tap tonight. But read on...

5:46: We're deep into the committee briefings. And they're brief.

And we're in to resolutions and recognition. Young Dalton, a 4th grader, is speaking now. Very impressive orator. Giving speech on Martin Luther King. Dalton has a great future as a Toastmaster and a public speaker. Very impressive kid!

5:58: Speakers to agenda items. There are 35 speakers registered to speak tonight. Ten of them will speak to agenda items.

Oops. Somebody came to speak on behalf of another speaker. Not allowed!

We're on the third speaker signed up to speak on the bond. So far, however, nobody's mentioned the bond. Maybe we'll get lucky as the night moves on.

Up now is a student from Skyline High School. She's thanking Superintendent Hinojosa for keeping the magnet programs together.

Another student from Skyline talking about working out the overcrowding at Skyline.

Robin Brown: "where are the financial specifics for the bond..." "where is the itemized breakdown on how the bond money will be used..." Now she's asking when the open meetings were regarding the movement of clusters from Skyline to Conrad?

"Is the bond structured for the growth of Skyline and the Dallas area?"

Good questions.

Brown asked for responses to her questions in writing. Anybody want to wager when she gets those?

Gloria Patrick speaking on the bond and on the movement of magnet clusters from Skyline to Conrad. Cleverly couched carrot and stick. She looks forward to working out the problems with Skyline and supporting the May election.

6:13: Jack Lowe announced that all board trustees have completed their training as required by Texas law.

And it's on to the consent agenda.

And Carla Ranger has a "point of order." She wants to pull one of the items. She has a conflict of interest on the consent agenda and wants to abstain from the vote. Kudos to Carla!!

What she pulled: the item related to calling a special bond election in Dallas. Why was that in the consent agenda anyway?

Ranger wants to amend the item to include community input before the May bond election.

Jack Lowe pointed out that there is a plan for a massive communication effort. But not town hall meetings.

Ranger wants to hold town hall meetings to obtain community input.

Ron Price noted that 10 community meetings to answer questions about the bond program. Price pointed out that the District cannot legally promote the bond, and that there is a plan to hold community meetings.

Ranger says she isn't aware of a plan for town hall meeting. "We discussed it at the last meeting," said Price. Ooh! It's Price versus Ranger.

"Meetings in each board member's district are going to take place," said Price. "The staff attends the meeting," Price explained, "[and] answers the questions in communities throughout the city."

"And that plan is already in existence," asked Ranger?

Jack Elrod (Chief counsel for DISD) is trying to answer. "We are concerned about amending the 'call' itself," he said. "As Mr. Price has said, the trustees can hold [town hall meetings]--I don't think we need to amend the call to do that."

The lawyers don't want meetings to be a condition of the election.

Ranger withdraws the motion on assurances that the community meetings are really, really going to happen.

She then brings up another issue: ethics. I think she wants to find a way to write into policy a way to make sure that nobody involved with the bond benefits from the bond.

Ranger wants the audit report before calling the bond election. The discussion on this should be interesting.

Question from Ranger: "Nobody is supposed to receive information on the audit. Has anyone received information about the audit?"

Response from Leigh Ann Ellis: "Are you referring to my quote in the paper?" Ellis noted that she was speculating and hadn't seen any portion or details of the audit.

Elrod and Lowe noted that nobody was to discuss the audit.

Ranger noted that people in her district were opposed to the bond because they were concerned that the District administration wasn't being open with the audit. There was much applause.

[Ed Note: Good question: why is the release of the audit being delayed? Perhaps the audit will be exculpatory. Maybe the findings won't be particularly bad. But the longer it's delayed, the more "conspiracy theories" will arise.]

Price noted that the audit is an "operational audit" and it has "nothing to do with the bond." The question one would likely ask: if the operational audit shows mismanagement, might that mismanagement extend to the "capital improvement side of the district."

On the flip side, if the audit shows operational effectiveness, why wouldn't the District want to produce it?

Price apologized that he was going to have to leave the meeting early to judge a competition. "I think it is the right thing to do when you have to leave early."

With respect to the audit, Price noted: "it won't be as damning as people think it will be."

Ranger: "The management of the District is what is important."

It passes 9-0. We're having a bond election!

6:52: Now we're on to speakers on non-agenda items.

Jerome Garza is asking that a particular speaker be allowed to speak first. Why is he doing this?

Jose Rendon is asking why his mother, Rosita Rendon, was "let go" and replaced with another T.A. after 30 years of service? Rosita apparently passed away after that. Joining Rendon standing is Aimee Bolender of Alliance AFT.

Oh yes! Later in the speakers we'll have the world famous William Hopkins! William, in case you've never heard him, is worth listening to. I can't wait!

But first, Maureen Peters speaking on the CEIs. She's concerned that teachers are told to teach the TAKS but they're judged on the student's knowledge of general curriculum. "They're being fired for following direction."

Nashia Miller speaking on the cell phone policy. She's concerned about her son going to the "academically unacceptable" Conrad? She asks what she needs to do to keep from her son bouncing from school to school.

It's William Hopkins!

He notes he's been coming down here 10 years and "it's the same old thing." Fraud, waste, etc. Hopkins went to jail a few years ago when his son was attacked.

Now Hopkins is attacking Blackburn. Now Hinojosa. Asking why DISD "went and got another school district" (Wilmer Hutchins).

"And Ron Price runs off to go to parties!" Even Carla Ranger laughed!

That was the famous William Hopkins! Always a treat!

Wanda Banks speaking in support of Roosevelt's principal Myrtle Dixon.

She is followed by Mary Tucker speaking in support of Roosevelt's principal Myrtle Dixon. Dixon has been at the center of grade-changing allegations. Other charges have been leveled at Dixon. Read more here.

But the auditorium is filled, tonight, with Dixon's supporters.

There's also a Carla Ranger supporter. "We need more people [like Ranger watching out for] ethics." "I believe people need to have input." "No taxation without representation." "I don't believe in giving you a blank check." "You need vision and insight," he said to the board.

Lots of people standing, as has been usual, for speakers defending Skyline High School. Tina Laird, head of the school's SBDM, has them standing.

7:37 - That's the end of the speakers and it's on to individual board member reports.

Jerome Garza is giving the first individual trustee report (which follows speakers to non-agenda items). Garza spoke about activities in his District.

Leigh Ann Ellis next. She read a nice letter from a student.

Carla Ranger is up next. Giving a report on her district as well. Thanking "District Attorney Craig Washington." [Ed Note: It's "Watkins." Just picking a nit, but I bet Craig would be glad we did!]

Side observation: hearing the positive things going on in the DISD, in general, certainly points to the possibility of improvement. I think everyone just argues over how we get there.

Jack Lowe wraps things up by noting that he hears a lot of positive feedback about the direction the DISD is going. He touted the $5M dollars given by the Dell foundation.

"They're pretty smart business people," noted Lowe. "They don't give $5M that they think will be poured on sand."

Ron Kirk is going to apparently be involved in leading the charge for the bond package. "They don't waste money," noted Lowe.

7:50 and it's a wrap. So what do you think?