Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly is written by Superintendent Brian T. Woods and is sent to Northside ISD staff every Monday to keep them updated on local and state education issues.

April 14, 2014  

Good morning! On Tuesday of last week we held the annual NISD Retiree Luncheon. The event was very well attended by a huge group of public education and NISD supporters.  It was great to catch up with friends and former colleagues! Obviously, I spent a little time talking about Bond 2014 and the importance of their participation.

Speaking of Bond 2014, early voting in the Northside election begins two weeks from today on April 28.  Please look at the copy of Lessons newspaper you were given at a staff meeting or on the Bond site at http://www.nisd.net/bond/2014/en/voting for dates, times and locations.  Please make a plan to early vote in the election and encourage your family, friends and colleagues to do the same!

On Friday afternoon I was fortunate to attend the Trinity Prize Awards for Excellence in Teaching.  I was there to help recognize the NISD nominee, Construction Careers Academy teacher Michael Byrnes.  The event is a real celebration of the teaching profession.  I am very proud to have educators like Michael in all of our schools.

I’ve been watching with some interest the happenings in Dallas ISD where a movement called “Support Our Public Schools” is trying to generate public interest in making the district a “home rule charter.” The home rule charter idea has been law for quite some time, but has never been attempted. Essentially, the law allows a district’s voters and trustees to make the entire district a massive charter school operator.

There are many unanswered questions about the goals behind the move; however, given what other charter schools are allowed to do in our state, some questions any educator who is watching this should ask include:

· Would all employees be at-will? (most charter school employees do not have Chapter 21 contract protections)


· What flexibility with curriculum is desirable for students and who should decide that? (charters have more say in what is taught in their schools)

· How would Board members be elected / appointed? (many charters have appointed Boards)

I’d like to focus on this last point.  It is clear that there is a desire to reexamine the governance structure in Dallas ISD.  As evidence of that point, I give you this: the Support our Public Schools movement is funded by Houston billionaire and former Enron executive John Arnold.  Arnold was recently quoted as saying “It’s very difficult to pass effective reforms with elected school boards… What happens is you have window dressing of small reforms that collectively add up to very little effect.” Arnold and other reformers obviously see a benefit to appointing or somehow hand picking Board members to support their ideas.

Whether the trustees in Dallas are good for the system is not my issue – that is for Dallas ISD voters to decide.  My issue is about the foundational principle of popular election in our nation. Governmental entities are entrusted with the expenditure of public funds.  Elected officials are held accountable for the efficient and effective use of those funds and can be replaced at the next election if there is question about the best use of those resources.  Regardless of the value individual board members bring to that district, they were elected by the public.

While I understand and appreciate the perception of dysfunction in a school system, I have serious concerns with abandoning the notion of elected Board members for appointments.  How can we ensure that someone appointed will have the public’s and the  student's  best interests at heart?  It seems to me that the appointed individual is incentivized to worry more about who appointed them than the public at large. The debate reminds me of how fortunate I am to work in Northside.

    Have a great week!