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DALLAS — Is time running out on the short tenure of Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles?
The Board of Trustees is investigating him for alleged misconduct, and Miles recently moved his family back home to Colorado.
Now, one of the city's top business leaders says Miles is a bad fit for Dallas, and it's time for the city to cut ties.
"DISD is a great school system,” said Don Williams, retired CEO of Trammell Crow Company and Chairman of the Foundation for Community Empowerment. “Dallas is a great city. We deserve a great leader. We don't have one now."
They are words that few Dallas business leaders would dare to express, but few are more qualified to say them.
For decades, Williams has volunteered in Dallas schools in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Five years ago he led a citywide initiative — a broad collaborative think tank on how to overhaul education at DISD called Dallas Achieves.
“It was crafted over a three-year process over inclusiveness, over debate of research, of listening and all being at the same table," Williams said.
Five years and $25 million later (with the money raised through private sources), many of the reforms have been implemented.
Then Miles was hired.
Williams said after weeks of trying, last September Miles finally agreed to meet and discuss Dallas Achieves.
"He didn't express any interest or curiosity, and he didn't follow up on a single one of the items we discussed," Williams said.
Since that time, Williams and others say most of the reforms have been scrapped.
Miles soon began initiating his own reforms, doing it in his own style, which some close to him have described as “autocratic” and “divisive."
After only a few months, one by one, a majority of the new superintendent's leadership team began to resign, “seeking other opportunities,” or — in the case of his handpicked chief of staff, Jerome Oberlton — indicted for fraud in another state.
"It seems to me that the new superintendent has made a major miscalculation about his work in Dallas,” Williams said. “His bullying tactics towards teachers and principals; his ‘Newspeak’ as his cabinet members left, departures he called 'an opportunity for improvement.' Those were the same leaders that he picked,” Williams said. “It all makes it unlikely in my mind that he will be successful in carrying on at DISD."
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has been one of Miles' key supporters, and says the new superintendent has had a good start educationally. Rawlings points to data from Miles’ first year, which shows DISD outperforming state standards in every category being measured. The district scored higher percentages of success than Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth.
“Miles’ leadership has been one focused on reform, and I like that a lot, a real sense of urgency in making it happen,” Rawlings said. “The school board has been endorsing him, and those are really the three reasons I have been a big fan of his."
While Williams says he applauds any educational improvements, he also feels gains were already being made due in part to the legacy of Dallas Achieves. Williams feels Miles' methodologies are doing more harm than good, and his support among Dallas leadership is starting to fade.
"I'd say that there is widespread doubt among the business and political leadership in Dallas about the new superintendent's capability of carrying on the work,” Williams said. “The difficulty and the quandary is what's best for Dallas. Some fear that we will get a black eye in Dallas if he leaves. On the other hand, some people feel that the losses are probably greater than the gain by keeping him, and that we are better off to face up and cut our losses now and move on."
Miles has already denied rumors that he will resign and join his family back in Colorado. His future in Dallas could hinge on the outcome of an external investigation into his alleged interference in a bid process, and his attempt to stop a resulting internal investigation.
That investigation, being performed by Dallas attorney and former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Paul Coggins, is due to be released next week.