On Friday at 4 p.m., Dallas school board members will meet to decide the future of superintendent Mike Miles.
On Thursday, the Texas Education Agency released a list of 400 low-income schools statewide that earned top honors for performance and progress. Of those, 25 were in Dallas, more than any other district.
That news arrived a day before the Dallas school board once again debates Miles' future. Friday’s decision - eight days before an election that could reshape the board - may be the last chance for Miles' opponents to oust him. Observers say this time around, Miles really could be at risk.
Miles has survived an independent investigation, the departure of several top cabinet members, and a no-confidence vote by the school board last year. He apologized and promised improvements, all while continuing his reforms.
Board member Joyce Foreman isn’t buying in. She says Miles is bad for the district.
‘We just have to look at the churn of the principals and teachers, the dissatisfaction of teachers,” Foreman says.
Under Miles, there have also been more Dallas schools with the lowest state ratings than ever before. After a scandal swept through the district's human resources department, Foreman and two other trustees called a meeting to question Miles.
It wasn’t scheduled until after the May 9th election, when more pro-Miles trustees might get elected.
So Foreman and the others sued. This week, they won.
Friday’s meeting is the result.
“It’s been a tumultuous two-and-a-half years under Mr. Miles’ leadership,” says Rena Honea, who leads the largest teacher group in town. “Educators aren’t afraid of change, but it has to be something that they’re a part of and they understand and not something done to them.”
Honea wanted Miles out a year ago. She argues his teacher evaluation plan threatens long-time instructors, morale is down, and the district’s in flux.
“Stability is needed but we’ve not had stability in the two-and-a-half years that Mr. Miles has been at the head of the district,” Honea says. “The teacher turnover, the employee turnover, the administrative staff turnover.”
A district insider tells KERA Miles really could be fired this time. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, former Mayor Tom Leppert, and almost every sitting Dallas City Council member – and some former members - sent trustees a letter of support.
Two education non-profits are defending Miles. And the superintendent himself talked with KERA.
“I go to schools all the time,” Miles says. “I see teachers doing the hard work every day. I see kids learning. I see principals improving their abilities to lead schools. Change by its nature may be unstable, but there’s not been a lot of change of what has to happen in the classroom.”
Children At Risk, a statewide non-profit, says Miles’ changes are working.
“Some children who historically have not been doing well are doing significantly better than expected,” says Bob Sanborn, the group's CEO.
He says a few years ago, only one low-income Dallas elementary school earned his organization’s Gold Ribbon. This year, that’s up to 24, the most of any district in Texas. Sanborn says more kids are learning.
“They are improving in districts where there are superintendents who are reformers” Sanborn says. “They’re not caretakers. They’re being proactive. They’re showing leadership. They’re not always popular, but we’re seeing significant improvement among some of the children we really want to see a positive future for.”
Sanborn knows the superintendent’s job is at stake Friday. For education to get better, Sanborn says schools need reform, and districts need reformers like Miles.
Read the letter that Dallas city officials sent to Dallas school officials