Financial issues are the biggest concern facing the district, says one Dallas ISD Board of Trustees candidate. Linus Spiller, a Dallas businessman who has worked in contract procurement, is challenging District 1 Trustee Edwin Flores in the May 13th school board elections.
At the core of the problem, according to Spiller, is the budget shortfall facing Dallas ISD.
“Right now, we are scrambling to figure out how we’re going to deal with Robin Hood if we’re going to have to export money out of the district to property-poor districts,” said Spiller. “We have to deal with the $17 million budget shortfall.” Spiller explained that there are pockets in Dallas, such as those in District 1, that have astronomical property taxes which have caused Dallas ISD to have a property-wealthy status.
Spiller added that the money lost to the FedEx/Kinkos contract doesn’t help the district’s financial situation.
“Close to 9 million is too much to lose over a contract,” said Spiller. “There’s no way the district would have lost money like that under my watch. That’s money that could have gone back into the classrooms.” Spiller also said that many of the recommendations put forth by the National Center for Educational Accountability (NCEA), and recommended by Dr. Hinojosa, could have been funded by the money lost to the FedEx/Kinkos contract.
Under the contract, DISD outsourced its printing and copying needs to FedEx/Kinkos. The contract was intended to modernize the district and also save it money over time. It ended up costing the district millions between 2003 and 2005.
“If they have that type of shortfall with one project, what type of money did we lose or are we losing every day on other contracts,” added Spiller.
Job cuts are crucial to saving the district money, according to Spiller. While Spiller said that he did not support a recent DISD proposal to cut hall monitor jobs, he proposed “cutting the fat” from the DISD bureaucracy by eliminating unnecessary middle-management jobs.
“I would like the Superintendent to look at the layers of bureaucracy that are there and the positions that are not necessary – eliminate those,” said Spiller. “Cut out the fat, basically. The objective here is student achievement. You don’t need so much oversight that it overshadows your end result, which should be student achievement.”
Spiller said that retaining great teachers was crucial to student achievement. He said that if additional money was going to be spent anywhere, it should be in the classrooms and for the purpose of teacher retention. “Put the money back into the classrooms and into the schools,” said Spiller. “Once you handle the money, the academic portion is going to fall into place. We have to pay our teachers more to retain them – if we don’t, they are going to go to suburban schools or leave DISD altogether.”
Spiller also emphasized that the bottom line was the achievement of students and whether they can compete in the global marketplace after they finish with school.
An issue that has been the source of division within the district and among trustee candidates is principal incentives for high student achievement.
“I do not support it. Principals and teachers are paid to do what they’re going to do. So the joy should come in doing their job,” said Spiller. Spiller said that during his days in school, teachers and principals did their job because they liked it. Spiller also suggested that the incentives could invite dishonesty and cheating.
“It’s a team effort,” added Spiller. “If that school is high performing, then let’s put that ten thousand back into that school because you definitely cannot divide ten thousand among everybody there. I feel that’s incentive enough.”
Another issue that has been the source of division within the district is the requirements for the increased use of bilingual principals. Spiller said that he did not support requirements for hiring bilingual principals for any school, regardless of what the percentage of Hispanic students might be.
“At a school where the principal is not Hispanic, as long as the principal puts together a support team that meets the needs of the population, that’s all that is necessary,” said Spiller. “Evaluate principals on their ability to do that. Give the principals more control over their team. Build that into their evaluations.”
“As long as that principal has the ability to assemble a team to meet the needs of the student population, that’s all that matters,” added Spiller.
On the issue of dual-language programs, Spiller suggested that there was very little data to prove these programs could produce high achieving students in any district. Spiller suggested that his opponent was completely “out of touch” with education in urban centers. Spiller sharply contrasted himself from his opponent’s support for the development of dual-language facilities. Spiller said that the facilities, which are a part of the NCEA recommendations, would constitute separate-but-equal learning institutions.
“We don’t want to open the district up for lawsuits,” said Spiller.
“My vision is a multilingual program that’s integrated into the curriculum,” said Spiller. Spiller suggested that students could start learning foreign languages when they are young, so that when they get to high school, they will have the opportunity to take additional foreign languages so that they could become multilingual and compete more effectively in the global marketplace.
Spiller called the ability to be multilingual the “sleeping giant” in the global marketplace. He also said that he supported the more rigorous math and science requirements that are part of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed this morning that almost 100 illegal immigrants were arrested at three Dallas area plants in a raid on IFCO Thursday, a wooden pallet maker, as part of a crackdown on the company nationwide. About 1,200 were arrested at other sites, including Houston.
Most of those arrested were released within hours.
AAA has named Big D the champ again with the highest gasoline prices in Texas at $2.90 a gallon. That is up a dime since last week. We are ahead of the Texas average of $2.83 which is also the national average. San Antonio is still in last place with $2.73 but they are trying hard with a jump of 9-cents in the past week.
Community activist and educator Joe Tave is saying that Dallas ISD has been misdirected. DallasBlog recently interviewed Tave, who is one of seven candidates running for the District 6 seat on the Board of Trustees, and talked to him about the misdirection that he believes the district is headed in.
According to Tave, Dallas ISD needs a “general superintendent” that will serve all of the district’s children. While Tave didn’t suggest that DISD find a new superintendent, he did say that the current agenda of the Superintendent needed to be changed.
“That misdirection, I feel, has been the push for the Hispanic agenda. It’s been noticeable. Particularly when it comes to the general superintendent, he needs to be a superintendent for all of our children,” said Tave.
Tave said that the agenda and misdirection could be replaced by a “broad umbrella of fairness and educational programs” that meets the needs of the various different populations that the district serves, and not just the Hispanic population.
“If (the misdirection) is not corrected, regardless of who is superintendent, there is going to be racial conflict and that will hinder progress,” said Tave.
According to Tave, the issue of fairness and educational programs in the district was very complex. He said that he would have to study problems with the current misdirection of the district before he could recommend specific solutions.
“(If elected) I would spend an inordinate amount of time researching to make sure that nobody would mislead me,” said Tave.
Tave also said that salaries, insurance, and benefits are major issues for him. “Teachers are paying far too much money for health insurance,” said Tave. “That’s not only a local problem, but it’s a state problem because any school district is an extension of the state of Texas. The state is needed to aid local districts to ameliorate that situation.”
On the issue of principal incentives, Tave expressed concerns that a recent DISD proposal to implement principal incentives based on academic performance could lead to unethical conduct.
“From the information that I have, the Superintendent wants to impose expectations for the principals to attain a certain level of academic performance,” said Tave. “I think in doing that you put pressure on principals to meet statistical plateaus and that may encourage dishonesty and test manipulation. If people get into this position, they are going to do what it takes to get there and to stay there.”
Tave also said that he had no problem with merit pay and goals for principals and teachers to meet, but he emphasized that parents are also participants in the effort to increase academic performance in the district.
When asked about studies showing the high performance of students enrolled in dual language programs, Tave said that often “statistics” can be manipulated by whoever is presenting them and that the bigger picture is much more complicated than dual language studies have shown. Tave also mentioned that native Spanish speaking students that are immersed in Spanish language programs don’t do as well on standardized tests as those that are immersed in English instruction.
When asked what he thought was the biggest issue facing the district, Tave said that it was public school financing. “I anticipate that funding will be the biggest issue,” said Tave. “The district is slated to lose millions of dollars if this thing is not changed. Public school financing both at the state and local level is the top priority.”
Apple: You're not the real press.
Online journalists: Sawk eet.
A California court in San Jose is scheduled to hear a case where Apple Computer claims that online journalists don't have the same rights as traditional reporters. Apple's lawyers say in court documents that Web scribes are not "legitimate members of the press" when they reveal details about forthcoming products that the company would prefer to keep confidential.
(Personal opinion: Journalists - be they traditional or cyber-based - should have no more rights, privileges or special treatment than any other member of the public. Journalists aren't a privileged class, and the First Amendment applies to everyone or it applies to no one.)
Fox News is reporting that President Bush's approval rating hit a new low this week of 33 percent. Support is dropping, even among Republicans: "Approval among Republicans is below 70 percent for the first time of Bush's presidency. Two-thirds (66 percent) approve of Bush's job performance today, down almost 20 percentage points from this time last year when 84 percent of Republicans approved." Among Democrats, Bush has an approval rate of 11 percent today.
The news from the latest Fox poll also is not good for the Republican-controlled Congress with 25 percent of the public approving the job Congress is doing and 52 percent disapproving. That could put Republican control of the US House and the Senate in jeopardy this November.
ABC News quotes its foreign affairs analyst Tony Cordesman as saying that the War in Iraq could wind up costing US taxpayers as much as a trillion dollars: "When the administration submitted its original budget for the Iraq war, it didn't provide money for continuing the war this year or any other. We could end up spending up to $1 trillion in supplemental budgets for this war. " The ABC report notes that "not only in human lives, but in monetary terms as well, the costs of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq far exceed the initial projection of a $50 billion tab."
The ABC report comes at a time when the Bush Administration is reported to be considering military action against Iran over its nuclear program. On that subject the U.S. Intelligence chief John Negroponte was quoted Thursday as saying that "we believe that it is still years off before (Iran is) likely to have enough fissile material to assemble into, or to put into a nuclear weapon; perhaps into the next decade. So I think it's important that this issue be kept in perspective."
Today is the 170th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, wherein Texas won its revolution and became free of Mexican domination. More or less.
Inscribed on the San Jacinto Monument outside Houston:
"Measured by its results, San Jacinto was one of the decisive battles of the world. The freedom of Texas from Mexico won here led to annexation and to the Mexican War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma. Almost one-third of the present area of the American Nation, nearly a million square miles of territory, changed sovereignty."