How to get things done in Dallas schools

September 28, 2012

Interesting.  Troubling?  I think so.  Matthew Haag blogs at the Dallas Morning News site:

This time of the year, we often hear from parents and Dallas ISD teachers that their schools are stifling hot. The district has lots of older campuses, where air-conditioning units are on their last legs and the chillers don’t operate fully.

That was the case for a few hours yesterday at Harry Stone Montessori in East Oak Cliff. And a father of a Stone student took a different route to get the AC fixed. He messaged DISD Superintendent Mike Miles on Twitter, which he rebooted six weeks ago. (His Twitter account, I should add, is managed by his special assistant, Miguel Solis, who is rarely more than a few feet from Miles all day.)

@MMilesDISD Hard to study when the A/C is broken w 90 degree heat @harry Stone…you wants results and so do Let’s Fix it. @matthewhaag

Four hours later, Miles responded.

We are on it @ChrisSuprun: Hard to study when the A/C is broken w 90 degree heat @harry Stone…you want results and so do Let’s Fix it.

And about two hours later, the AC was fixed.

Feel like we should time it: “@MMilesDISD We are on it @ChrisSuprun: Hard to study when the A/C is broken w 90 degree heat @harry Stone.”

@RobertWilonsky@ChrisSuprun Crew is telling me we are fixed now Thx to facilities, HS Staff, and community involved with this

Obviously, the moral of this story is that if you need something fixed in your school, message Miles on Twitter.

It’s interesting that the new Superintendent, Mike Miles, responded quickly.  On one hand that suggests things may have already changed in Dallas.  On the other hand, people who study organizations understand that a calm surface can hide a lot of turmoil in the deep water.  It was a parent who Tweeted. What if it had been a teacher who got to Miles?  What happened to the teacher and principal at Harry Stone?  What happened to the HVAC guy nominally responsible?

What happened to the students?

My experience in Dallas ISD is that almost everyone in administration will claim they cannot control classroom temperatures.  My last classroom regularly hit 85°, and often enough climbed into the 90s.  Meanwhile, my colleague across the hall had to wear jackets.  Our thermometers regularly had the temperatures in her room in the 60s.  One week it dropped further.  I bought a laser-pointer thermometer to check the answers we got from the HVAC guys who would come into the classroom, usually in the middle of a presentation, point the thing around and tell us that the temperature was where it should be, or moving that way. (Then they’d disappear.)   We recorded several days of temperatures in her room below 60°, as low as 52°.  Eventually the solution was to cover the air vents coming into that classroom, and take out the thermostat.

I am not kidding.

I wonder what the HVAC people in Dallas ISD would say about the ultimate solution at Harry Stone Montessori?  From the Superintendent’s office, did he chalk this off to a great anomaly, or did he check deeper to see whether there might be a deeper problem?

Unnecessary cooling is a huge energy waster in schools.  Unnecessary heating wastes energy, too.   Dallas’s fraud and abuse hotline claimed not to have jurisdiction over these issues . . . when an organization is hemorrhaging money, as all Texas school districts are after the Lege took so many potshots at them over the past six years, good management could be lifesaver.

So, to get action, teachers only need to Tweet their problems to the Superintendent?  Want to bet how happy that makes principals?  Want to take bets on how this shakes out?


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