Nearly 1,700 Dallas school teachers resigned this past year. That’s 10 percent more than left a year ago. Meet some Dallas teachers who say they would have stayed except for one reason: the superintendent who just finished his first year on the job, Mike Miles.
Lots of teachers leave the DISD every year. Some retire, move with a spouse, change careers, or don’t get rehired. Last year, the district says that number was 1,529. This year, it rose to 1,686. Maricela Zuniga is one of them.
“I loved going to work, and this past year I didn’t. So I knew I had to leave.”
Zuniga taught kindergartners at William Anderson Elementary in southeast Dallas. She says the superintendent introduced a regimented, one-size-fits-all teaching style and evaluation structure her colleagues called the “Mike Miles Way.” She says it stressed out teachers and short-changed the kids.
“Things we were celebrated for, we were praised for, we were getting good evaluations for the year before, were now all wrong.” Zuniga added
“We were told no cutting, no coloring, no pasting. No singing, no dancing. These are 5 year-olds. That’s a lot of their foundation. To me, how they wanted us to teach early childhood, like it was a high school kid, is criminal.”
So Zuniga says after seven and a half years teaching youngsters she loved, she turned in her resignation and is heading to another district.
Fourth grade teacher Kay Brewer left too, after 26 years with Dallas. She now lives in Austin.
“I would have stayed at least three more years. I left because I couldn’t put up with the pressure and the micro-managing and the ‘my way or the highway.’ ”
Brewer says she retired early because of evaluation methods implemented under Superintendent Miles that did not make sense to her.
“I’ve seen teachers - Teachers of the Year - getting spot observations and being marked down. I mean, how can you go from being Teacher of the Year to just average or so-so? I’ve had spot observers before but not to this extent. And you never knew when they were going to come in,” said Brewer. “I had one at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and we released our students at 3:00.”
Miles has said some teachers might not like reform, or his methods, but change is tough and necessary. Last August, he told teachers at a rally that he would help improve their teaching skills.
“That’s where it’s at, for our kids, is when you teachers do a great job in front of every kid. That will include us giving instructional feedback and building a culture of feedback and we can’t be afraid of that. We’ll train principals well on how to do it.”
After a year, 17 percent of Dallas teachers said “no more.” Meanwhile, DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander says the district has been aggressively recruiting teachers, and will begin this next year with hundreds fewer vacancies than last year. And he says the district hopes to recruit yet more teachers at Thursday’s invitation-only job fair at Conrad High.