Sharon Grigsby of The Dallas Morning News has suggested, on more than one occasion, that Mike Miles tell the Board of Trustees and his many detractors in Dallas to take the job of Superintendent and shove it. I tend to fall into the same camp as Sharon Grigsby in the sense that I’m also unsure how to feel about a lot of these issues. The reason for that is none of this is entirely black and white. The inability of people to pin down where our blog fits is testament to that.
Where do I stand on the DMN article? I disagree with the opinion that Mike Miles should tell everyone to shove it because I believe he has basically already done that and there’s no need to be redundant. Mike Miles has been uncompromising from the beginning. That is one of his biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses.
You have to respect a leader who believes so firmly in his goal and vision that he doesn’t let the nay sayers slow him down. There is some truth in the belief that once the leader starts questioning himself, he’s no longer a leader. That once he starts to doubt, everyone will doubt. The problem with Miles isn’t his belief in his methods, goals, and visions, it’s his blind belief in them.
His uncompromising attitude and “no excuses” approach seems to apply to everyone except himself. Miles’ problem is a credibility problem. He overpromised and underperformed. Now he wants more time to show he’s right and a little bit of understanding. Here’s why he won’t get it.
DISD Principal/Teacher Turnover – Miles decided to fire some very popular principals and many more that, if it weren’t for Holly Hacker, we’d never have known about. Instead of putting the Rosemont principal on a growth plan and giving her (more) time to improve, he gave her the boot, despite outcry from the community and resistance from the Board of Trustees. Now, I don’t agree with the decision of the DISD Board of Trustees to try to block the firing outside the appeals process because the SI is supposed to have authority in that area, but there is something to be said for trusting the people in those schools every day. – This hurt Miles’ credibility 1. because he’s asking for the same opportunity that he has denied so many over the years, a chance to show results via more time. 2. Because he decided to charge ahead without listening to anyone in the community, Board President Eric Cowan included. Perceptually anyway.
STAAR Results – The DISD STAAR scores are flat. Some places they are worse. Some places they are a little higher. Bottom line, they aren’t as good as promised and people are looking at this saying “LOOKS LIKE YOU WERE WRONG JUST LIKE WE HAVE SAID ALL ALONG!” The guest column from Todd Williams in Learning Curve yesterday was a solid read and much more fair and balanced than Todd Williams is usually accused of being. The TL;DR of it all is that 1. There are a lot of reasons why our kids are behind. 2. There are a lot of reasons the scores aren’t as good as we want them to be. 3. These things need time to turn around. I agree with all of that, but the problem is that nobody is in the mood to hear any of that because of how Mike Miles has chosen to lead. – This hurts his credibility because he did not deliver on his promises so nobody wants to continue to back what looks like a losing horse. Mike Miles may curse the many hands in the DISD pot of cowardice and short sightedness for the rest of his days, but it won’t change the fact that nobody is willing to give him an inch because he hasn’t proven that that inch is worth it ON THE SURFACE. “Reform” is now synonymous with Mike Miles and that will sting for the next few years.
Administrative Mistakes – Every few weeks a new “scandal” pops up. While entertaining, many of these just end up being noise, but they do make it appear that Miles has no idea how to steer the ship he’s captaining. The Carmen Darville stuff, Dade, Director of Transportation, Tonya Grayson, etc. all chip away at the belief that Mike Miles is able to hire and delegate authority effectively. – This hurts his credibility because a leader is really only as good as those who serve and support him. It makes it look like Miles is a poor judge of character and plain just doesn’t understand human beings. This wouldn’t be as big of a deal but education is a business, not about numbers, but about PEOPLE. If you don’t understand people at a fundamental level, you’re in a tough spot in an environment where you have a diverse set of opinions and personalities that are all passionate about their beliefs and the direction of their organizations. These are peoples’ lives and peoples’ children. If you’re putting people in charge that threaten either or both of those, you’re going to get some serious pushback.
Board of Trustees – Miles has been butting heads with the Trustees since he arrived. Watching this doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. The BoT breaks down into 3 sections. They all care about our kids in their own way, but this is how it breaks down to me. The first is the risk takers. These folks (Morath, Nancy, and Solis) have what tends to be described as “reform at all costs.” They are willing to gamble and support the shiny and new with the hopes of hitting a home run. The second are the clear eyed and level headed. President Cowan and Dan Micciche are the ones I tend to agree with the most. They look at the facts, they make sound and consistent decisions, and they aren’t willing to risk rocking the boat to the point of flipping the whole damn thing over. Dr. Blackburn also falls into this category more times than not, but is between this group and the 3rd. The third group, often demonized, is the defenders of the old ways. The skeptics. There’s something to be said for this. The “do nothing because something bad might happen” approach has some validity, but not a lot of improvement comes out of that mindset either. The problem for Miles is that this is also the “Kill him and bring me his head!” group. With every misstep they become more correct. Trustees Nutall and Foreman both care about the kids, unlike many of their detractors would have you believe. He hasn’t done enough to make peace here. The “blame” if there is any lies with all parties involved, but he hasn’t made it any easier– This hurts Miles because it amplifies all of his mistakes. He has burned his supporters on the board by refusing to compromise and not producing results. He has empowered his opponents by having so many administrative blunders both in central staff and at the campus level.
Should he tell everyone to shove it? No. I think he should have done a better job building bridges rather than fording the river. That never worked in Oregon Trail and it won’t work in Dallas. Should he have to? Compromise sometimes comes at a price and if that is not something you are willing to pay, then the answer is “no.” But what is the cost? Pride? Money? The future of our kids? Your answer to that question determines your willingness to compromise.
Other Related Blogs:
Mike Miles Governance
DISD Veteran Teacher Reflections
DISD Novice Teacher Reflections
DISD Principal Turnover
DISD Principals - Best Qualities
Moving DISD Teachers
Personnel Decisions - Learning Curve