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?


New Dallas superintendent Mike Miles warns the troops

May 25, 2012

Dallas ISD superintendent-designee Mike Miles held a press conference and sat down for an interview with the in-house television production group this week.

Miles starts the job in Dallas at the first of July, but he is working at Dallas ISD headquarters under a consulting contract until then.

Should the interview, below, be regarded as anything other than a warning to Dallas teachers and administrators?

Is this any way to rally the troops one depends on?

This interview with Dallas ISD Superintendent-designate Mike Miles occurred on May 22, 2012.

More, Related, and Tangential articles:


Colorado’s Mike Miles named “sole finalist” for Dallas ISD Superintendent job

April 5, 2012

Four teachers mentioned to me last week their fear that Michelle Rhee might get the top education job in Dallas.  She didn’t, but is Mike Miles enough different to make them breathe easier?  Probably not.

Here’s the DISD video of his press conference, at which he was named sole finalist.  Under Texas law and regulation, a district must name a sole finalist, and then wait a period before confirming the appointment.

Miles, a former Army Ranger and Foreign Service officer, leads a school district serving part of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Harrison District #2.  He’s led the 11,000 student district since 2006; Dallas has 157,000 students.

Dallas ISD sent a notice to employees late Tuesday afternoon about Miles’s designation as superintendent-to-be:

Dallas Independent School District’s Board of Trustees have named Mike Miles as the lone finalist for the district’s superintendent position.

Trustees have been conducting a nationwide search for a new superintendent that included receiving input from several stakeholder groups.

Miles, 55, has served as Superintendent for the Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs since fall 2006. He is known as an innovator and reformer who is changing the face of public education. His ideas and innovations around systems thinking, measuring teacher and principal effectiveness and building an adaptive organization have been recognized by national education institutes and have been adopted by numerous districts around the country.

Under his leadership, Harrison County District Two has experienced increased graduation rates and improved student achievement.

“The Dallas ISD Board of Trustees is thrilled with our selection of Mike Miles as the lone finalist for Superintendent of Schools,” said Lew Blackburn, President of the Board. “Mr. Miles has spent his entire life serving the public and has a proven track record of success. Not only will his life story serve as an inspiration to our students, he is a recognized leader who is focused on student results. Today is a great day for the Dallas Independent School District.”

Mike Miles is a former Army Ranger who graduated from West Point in 1978. He then entered the ranks of the officer corps at Ft. Lewis, Washington, where he served in the Army’s elite Ranger Battalion and commanded an Infantry Rifle Company.

After the Army, Miles studied Slavic languages and literature at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Leningrad in Russia. Miles then pursued advanced study of Soviet affairs and public policy at Columbia University and earned a master’s degree in 1989. The same year, he joined the U. S. Department of State as a policy analyst at the Soviet desk, and then from 1990 to 1995 as diplomat in Moscow and Warsaw at the end of the Cold War.

Miles and his family returned home to Colorado Springs in 1995 where he started as a high school teacher in his alma mater school district – Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8. Miles continued to grow professionally and held other positions such as middle school principal, coordinator of administration services and from 2003 to 2006 served as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, in the same school district.

Currently, Miles also serves as an educational consultant and motivational speaker for school districts and other public organizations around the state of Colorado. He is recognized as an accomplished practitioner of curriculum alignment, organizational effectiveness, and systems thinking.

Miles is married to Karen Miles, and they have three children.

The Dallas ISD School Board plans to officially approve hiring Miles on Thursday, April 26. If approved, Miles is slated to begin work Monday, July 2.

Miles’s experience at the Soviet desk may prove useful in his work to understand various bureaucracies inside DISD (I hope I’m being overly, cynically sarcastic).  One might wonder how a leader could come from an Army Ranger background, but turn around to advocate pay-for-performance for teachers, as he did in Colorado.  Miles said he has no plans to do anything like that in Dallas, at least not without studying Dallas’s situation more.

Maybe more comments here, later.  Still have too much in the in box to write a lot here.

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