The final report investigating Dallas Schools Superintendent Mike Miles is done, and former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins turns it in to trustees today. Coggins looked into allegations that Miles interfered with bids to hire a school district contractor. Two companies are at the center of this summer-long saga.
“It is 7 pm, Thursday, June 27, 2013, and the board meeting for the Dallas Independent School District is in session…”
This was the meeting when trustees were scheduled to approve a $220,000 contract for what’s called parent services – a program that trains parents to get more involved in their kids’ education. There were five finalists. No. 2 was Concilio of Dallas. No.1 was Practical Parent Education of McKinney. Kent Kramer runs it.
“We know if you use our curriculum and follow our game plan, children become easier to work with, with teachers,” says Kramer. “They have a better relationship and understanding with parents, and they also improve grades.”
Kramer says Practical Parent Education, launched in 1984, has worked with Dallas and other districts through the years.
“This process is one where parents have to be engaged and involved,” says Kramer. “We know that. They have to understand how you set up a child’s study process so they can do homework and have an environment in which they want to learn.”
Kramer says he learned in news stories that his organization won the bid, but before trustees could approve the contract, Superintendent Miles pulled it from the agenda. That move led to a complaint of bid interference by Rebecca Rodriguez, who was then the district’s Communications Chief. And that helped prompt the investigation. Kramer says the district has since gone silent.
“We’re totally frustrated an entity like DISD doesn’t communicate with vendors or people that will help them accomplish goals and objective,” Kramer says. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Concilio of Dallas is frustrated too, but that has not changed its mission.
“When we do go into schools and we do work with families, we really are able to move the needle and help children,” says Florencia Velasco Fortner.
She has been President and CEO of Concilio for 8 years. But even before that, the non-profit worked especially with Latino parents to urge involvement in their children’s education.
“These are primarily immigrant families,” says Fortner. “We connect with them in their language with people that understand who they are, bring them to the table, and we’re able to help them understand how to navigate this new educational system.”
Fortner says when she discovered Concilio scored second behind Kramer’s business, she was prepared to appeal the decision. After all, she says, Concilio has successfully fulfilled similar contracts for other districts and for Dallas, with its majority Hispanic student population. The longer this year’s contract goes unfulfilled, she says the higher the price families pay.
“Education is critical to ending the cycle of poverty. With us not being able to serve more families, then the families will suffer.”
Fortner says last year, for example, Concilio’s parent services contract included getting kids to class the first day of school. And 5,000 more showed up on time than the year before. But this year, with the contract unfilled, she says 14,000 fewer students arrived on day one. The Coggins report won’t be released at least until the board meets again.