DALLAS -- For the past few months, Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles has had to defend himself at just about every turn.
Lately, community leaders, activists, and even members of the business community have taken to expressing their concerns about the embattled superintendent through letters and e-mails.
The latest war of the written word comes through e-mails exchanged between Miles and former Trammel Crow CEO J. McDonald “Don” Williams. Both Miles and Williams copied several other individuals in their e-mails, including the DISD board of trustees, Miles’ chief communications officer, and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.
The first e-mail was sent by Williams to Miles on May 22. It was in response to a letter sent to him by Miles on May 5, asking that the two meet again for further discussion.
In that e-mail, Williams said:
“We have already had two private meetings, which, in my view, were unproductive. Based on those meetings, as well as numerous interviews and conversations with a representative cross-section of stakeholders both inside and outside the District, I am deeply concerned about your leadership and believe Dallas needs and deserves a broader conversation on how you are executing your “reform” agenda.”
Attached to that e-mail is a “discussion paper” prepared by the Foundation for Community Empowerment. It’s a non-profit group that Williams founded and chairs.
On May 25, Miles responded to Williams:
"I remain open to meeting with you to discuss concerns and ideas. Such a meeting might be particularly helpful as it would provide me an opportunity to correct many of the inaccuracies and misstatements in your document. However, I don’t think we are serving the children of Dallas ISD, or the educators working hard on their behalf, to conduct a public letter writing campaign.
"We have thousands of great educators across our district; my goal is simply to ensure that each and every student within DISD has one guiding their future. On that I hope we can agree."
Then Tuesday, Williams fired back with another e-mail. He addressed the claims of inaccuracies by saying that Dallas ISD’s lack of transparency in the district's "processes, methods, standards and data" make it difficult for his organization to analyze data.
"Much of our information was developed in interviews with parents, teachers and administrators," Williams wrote. "Hence, rather than receiving merely dismissive conclusions and labels, we would welcome specific evidence or data supporting corrections to our document."
Williams also said that he believes a public, rather than private, discussion of the issues within Dallas ISD better serves the community.
"So, rather than lowering the “amplitude” or avoiding a “public ... campaign,” we believe a public dialogue vetting these issues is exactly the better community-based, and democratically useful, way to go about this," Williams wrote in the response (emphasis his).
He also took issue with the firing of Marian Willard, the former principal of Madison High School.
"As you know, we believe your firing of the current principal, Marian Willard, was both unwise and unjust," he wrote. "Our objectives are based on neither race nor job protection; rather, on her remarkable record of leadership and performance for students in our toughest socio-economic environment – comparing unfavorably to New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward."
Previously, letters both backing and criticizing Miles have been made public.
In April, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price sent letters to dozens of Dallas pastors urging them not to allow Miles to speak at their churches. Then on May 17, the Dallas Regional Chamber and Dallas Citizens Council sent a letter to the board of trustees saying they support the reforms Miles is pushing for the district. It was signed by dozens of prominent business and community leaders.