Mike Miles discusses opposition to his reforms at Dallas ISD

Mike Miles

Credit: WFAA

Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles sat down with WFAA's Jason Whitely for a wide-ranging interview about his first 11 months on the job.

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on May 22, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 22 at 9:34 PM

DALLAS — After months of discussion, Dallas Independent School District trustees will finally vote Thursday on whether to fire the principals at failing schools.

The proposal has created backlash in the community, and many have called for Superintendent Mike Miles to be terminated.

But for the first time since he took the job 11 months ago, Miles agreed to sit down to discuss opposition to his reforms.

MILES: "Change is going to be tough."

Miles' soft-spoken demeanor can be disarming. But his plan to improve the district already has some stakeholders in southern Dallas calling for his resignation.

"Trustees, cut your loss — admit you made another mistake," said NAACP Dallas Chapter president Juanita Wallace at a news conference outside DISD headquarters earlier this month.

WFAA: "The NAACP has come out wanting your resignation. Dallas Commissioner John Wiley Price also saying the same thing. Have you considered resigning at all?"

MILES: "No, I'm here in support of our kids."

Miles admitted he could do a better job explaining the changes he's making — especially his plan to fire principals at failing schools.

WFAA: "What kind of report card would you give yourself on communicating your reforms?"

MILES: "Progressing."

Still, the superintendent discounted the stinging criticism from the NAACP and Commissioner Price.

MILES: "The fact that you guys are reporting on Commissioner Price and whomever... that doesn't mean that's where our time and attention have to be. I'm focused on the job. If he wants to focus on other things, that's fine. That's what our team is doing. And that's where I'm going to spend my energy."

WFAA: "Why haven't influential stakeholders like those folks in southern Dallas embraced you, do you think?"

MILES: "Well, first of all, there have been many influential stakeholders who have embraced me."

That's true. Miles has received support from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and some — but not all — influential business leaders.

But not one member of the districts Board of Trustees has come forward publicly to support for the superintendent, according to a News 8 report on May 9. Trustees have either refused or failed to respond to requests for interviews.

"I'm neutral," said trustee Bernadette Nutall on May 9. "I don't have a stance one way or the other."

"What's going on with Miles?" asked  Dr. Lew Blackburn as he walked away from a News 8 reporter that same day.

WFAA: "These folks hired you. Do you feel betrayed at all?"

MILES: "I think it's hard being a board member. You have to try to balance the interests of various parts of your constituency ... But look at how the board is supporting. On the major votes, you get the board voting in support of reform."

Still, in only 11 months on the job, some of Miles' most trusted aides have already resigned, including his Chief of Staff Alan King, and Chief Financial Officer Rene Barajas.

Miles said their talent made them highly sought after.

But the only question Miles would not answer is why his Communications Director, Jennifer Sprague, unexpectedly left after following the superintendent here from Colorado.

WFAA: "You brought her here, and you defended her very heavily against the new cabinet position you made for her and the [$185,000] salary. What didn't she like about Dallas, or what didn't she like about your leadership here do you think?"

MILES: "I don't want to talk about any of the reasons for why she left ... I think I'll say the same thing as I've said before. Jennifer Sprague did a great job for us, and she chose to leave at that time. I made my own communications mistakes, and I think sometimes she got blamed for some of that."

Even when pressed, Miles still would not reveal the real reason for Sprague's abrupt resignation.

Miles said 900 people applied to be principals in Dallas last fall, which is twice as many applicants as the previous year. The superintendent said that proves his reforms are creating interest in a district many consider to be deficient.

MILES: "I try not to be too critical of the criticism, because at the end of the day, that's what they really want."

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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