Leadership is hard. Balancing personalities and interests of thousands of people is harder. The hardest thing is admitting you’ve made a mistake and owning it. If there is one fault that Mike Miles had as superintendent, it’s his inability to build bridges and coalitions. Part of that was not being willing to make compromises. It was his biggest strength and his biggest weakness.
Throughout history there are leaders who have made similar mistakes. To compare Mike Miles to these great leaders of men would be a bit of a stretch, but the parallels are there. Despite the vocal detractors, Mike Miles had quite a supportive and passionate following, smaller at the end, but still devoted. He was able to encourage investment and interest from people with money and power to make some much needed changes and upgrades to DISD. Some in Dallas will miss him terribly while others will be dancing in the street, burning him in effigy by nightfall. Me? I’ll be letting out a giant sigh of relief for an end to fierce infighting, administrative missteps, and upheaval in the teacher ranks. Then I’ll be bracing myself for the next wave of chaos that will come in his wake.
Dallas will not soon forget Superintendent Miles. I don’t mean that in a good way. The scars that have been carved deep into DISD have festered. Lines have been drawn between teachers, administrators, community members, and others. Miles leaving doesn’t me the pro v anti Miles camps are gone. The Superintendent’s inability to connect with people on a human level has divided the district and tainted the “reform movement” for the foreseeable future. DISD wasn’t perfect, but now the resistance to change or improvement will be more difficult now than ever. People will fear the rise of another Miles. All the people who believed in his ideas while disagreeing with his methods will be lumped into one category and punished for it, maybe forever.
The story of Napoleon is the closest parallel to our outgoing Superintendent. Smart, good ideas, the ability to draw people too his cause. He created something that nobody else had before. It was hubris that led him to march one of the largest, most successful armies in human history to its doom in Russia, and the few who supported him to the end came back shattered, utterly broken, because of the poor leadership decisions of a strong leader. Europe was never the same again after he was ousted, and neither will DISD post-Miles.
Was it the wrong decision to hire him? No, he had some good ideas that were executed poorly. Was it wrong to fire him all those times it was put to a vote? Again, no, you can’t fire someone because you don’t like them. Even though many will say that’s how Miles acted, two wrongs don’t make a right. I largely agree with the board and think many of them showed forethought and carefully deliberated over their decisions. The reality is that Miles didn’t make the most of the many chances given to him and he destroyed himself.
Who wins? Who was right? Nobody. We all lose and our students lose the most; however, we have an opportunity now, without the 3 year lightning rod of negativity that Miles was, to come back together and make DISD work again. It’s going to take community, veteran DISD teachers, novice DISD Teachers, and even student input, but great things are still possible. It’s also going to take someone willing to listen, not just make the tough decisions and ignore the results.
DISD Teacher Believes in DISD
DISD Teacher Unhappy with DISD
DISD Test Results are Flat
Firing DISD Teachers
TEI Evaluations for DISD Teachers
Good Governance for DISD Trustees
Miles fires DISD Principals