Two things are likely to trip up DISD’s likely new superintendent before he leads the district to the glory land of education, whatever that may be.
One, he likes to make decisions and believes in himself. It sounds good, but in the long run it won’t be.
Two, he has never faced the type of political intrigue, race baiting and media scrutiny that he will receive here on a daily basis.
In fact, here’s a prediction: the Dallas Morning News — the self-appointed guardian of public schools in Dallas, even thought most of its senior executives don’t (and never have) enroll their own children in DISD — will in two or three years change from its current lukewarm tolerance of Miles to describing him as an egomaniac who doesn’t kowtow to the Dallas power crowd and isn’t sensitive to racial reality. As a result, Miles will be off and running some other district before he’s here three years.
The DMN offers up a few stories on Miles in Sunday’s paper (they’re behind the paper’s paywall), and I would describe them as generally sympathetic to what Miles has accomplished in Colorado Springs. And what he has done appears to be impressive enough: He has improved student achievement incrementally in what sounds like a fairly poor school district, and he has devised and implemented what sounds like a fairly comprehensive evaluation process that determines which teachers are fired and which receive big raises.
All of that has to be much easier to accomplish, though, in a district that includes 24 schools and 11,000 students. Compare those numbers with DISD, with about 160,000 students and 227 schools. That’s like the difference between running a single restaurant and managing all of the McDonald’s in Dallas.
Yeah, you’re still serving people food, but when it’s your only restaurant, you can afford to be hands-on and confident in your evaluations because you either know the people you’re firing or you have a solid relationship with the people who are telling you to let someone go. But when you’re a franchise operator, you generally don’t get to know the people serving the french fries; you have to hire someone else who hires someone else who hires someone else to do that.
And that’s the story here in Dallas, a district so large that no matter how much of a micromanager you are (and Miles is reputed to be one), you’re still several levels away from people with feet actually on the ground.
Personally, I like what I’m reading about the guy, and DISD — as always — can use a good shakeup. But I still believe, and probably will until the day my keyboard dies, that DISD is a gargantuan district too large to be effectively managed by anyone.
The needs of students in one quadrant of DISD have absolutely no relationship to the needs of students in other quadrants, and the solutions are completely different, too. Unless DISD is broken into pieces, no superintendent will ever last more than five years here — the politics and the sheer size of the problems will overwhelm even the best performer’s ability to keep his or her hands on the rudder.
I say all of this not to be negative, but to be realistic. We can’t expect miracles from Miles. We just need to hope he can keep kicking the ball forward incrementally, until we inevitably become tired of him and he becomes tired of us.
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