Can Dallas Superintendent Miles Still Be Effective? | KERA News

Can Dallas Superintendent Miles Still Be Effective?

Sep 6, 2013

Supporters of Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles believe he can still be effective despite an investigation into whether the school leader interfered with the granting of a contract.  Critics say community trust has evaporated.

The investigation report is due today in this latest controversy of Miles’ contentious tenure.

After the departure of Superintendent Michael Hinojosa in 2011, the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) hired a search firm.  The board said: meet with everyone you can - business leaders, educators, and parents- and develop a profile for what Dallas wants and needs in its next superintendent.

Edwin Flores, a board member at the time, says the public consensus was clear.

“The overall vision was to find a reform leader.  To find someone who was reforming schools in a way no one else was in the country,” Flores recalls, saying the community wanted someone who could hit the ground running. 

“The profile said we want change now.  Immediate. We don’t want change three years from now.”

As Proact Search began to recruit candidates Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“I asked him for a list of potential candidates that he knew might be good.  I had five or six I passed on to the executive search firm.  That’s all I did,” said Rawlings.

One of them was Mike Miles, a career military man who had become superintendent in Colorado Springs, a district one-fourteenth the size of DISD.

Miles was initiating changes there, implementing a new evaluation system aimed at weeding out ineffective teachers, and paying them based on how well their students performed.

Reformers like Edwin Flores liked that profile.   

Rena Honea, president of Dallas largest teachers group, Alliance AFT, says many educators didn’t. 

“Why would he be chosen to come to a large urban school district when he doesn’t have that experience?” she asked.

Whether it was the lack of big district experience, Miles’ style, or the inevitable pushback that comes with change, controversy has dogged Miles since he came to Dallas in June of last year.

It began with his paying top dollar to new administrators including a communications director hired at $185,000 a year. 

“How can he come in and pay nine people six-figure salaries knowing that the educators and employees in DISD had no pay increase in three years?” Honea asked.

Then Miles began evaluating teachers and principals in Dallas the way he had in Colorado Springs.  And when he decided to fire some of them during his first year on the job Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and others called for Miles’ resignation.

Edwin Flores says he knew change wouldn’t be easy.

“When a reform leader comes in, implements bold changes, then you are going to get pushback,” he said.

But Rena Honea says the pushback comes from Miles trying to shove change down the throats of educators without giving them the training and time they needed.

“People are not afraid of accountability when it’s done fairly and they get training but not when it’s dictated to them and you will do this or you don’t need to be here,” said Honea.

So could the report being released be the final straw for Miles?

Mayor Rawlings still supports the superintendent.  His chief of staff Paula Blackmon is going to work for Miles.

Rawlings seems to think board members should consider something bigger than the report itself.

“I hope that they look at that information and decide how we continue the progress we’re making with those facts,” said Rawlings. 

“If they focus there I think they’ll make the right decision.  We have got to continue this reform movement,” he said.

The decision on what to do will ultimately rest on the shoulders of the school board, which is divided on support for the reforms and the superintendent who introduced them.