Last night, I attended an education forum hosted by D Magazine and TEDxSMU. And because this is my blog and you’re not the boss of me, I’m going to share my thoughts from the evening. Bullet-point style. Everything is easier when you bullet-point.
* My Jetta might lose its going-to-Dallas privileges. It’s eleven years old, paid off, and convulses, stutters, shakes (and other unfortunate verbs) while I drive.
* The event was at the Kessler. This venue is a lot nicer than I suspected, and smaller. To explain would take more time than I have (bullet points!), but the Kessler is more public radio/VH1 friendly than the Granada or Majestic. Mature but somewhat hip.
* I met Krista Nightengale, editor at D Magazine. I introduced myself by saying, “I give you invoices!” I don’t think I even gave her my name. Face, palm. I will always be a little awkward. If you transcribed what I sometimes say, you might confuse me with Ralph Wiggum. I sleep in a drawer.
* I sat down in the theater, near the front. I spot Tim Rogers across the room. Tim has more hair on his head than he lets on. (He often laments his receding hairline.) I’ll be bald before him. Bastard.
* Dallas ISD Trustee candidate Elizabeth Jones gave me a campaign flier. I grabbed a pen and played “circle the cliche.” I found “proven,” “committed to excellence,” “cutting edge,” and “hands on.” Four points. Well done, political candidate. I admire your proven track record, your commitment to excellence and hands on approach.
* Shiner beer is popular here.
* Tablets. (I don’t know why I wrote “tablets” in my notepad. Maybe I noticed that they are no longer surprising to see. When I was younger, I saw a man talking on his cell phone while driving. I was impressed. Look at that! A cell phone! Tablets aren’t as impressive as they used to be.)
* I have another page of random notes, nothing to do with the education forum. Let’s skip that mess and get to the important stuff.
* Guests were handed a “grade the candidate” paper. The scores were compiled and posted on Frontburner. Click here.
* Format of the event: Each candidate will give a brief introduction (no stumping). They will draw a single question from the fish bowl and have three minutes to answer the question. Done. The event was organized to be very civil. Also, it gave citizens an opportunity to see how each candidate would respond to educational issues without a prepared statement.
* My method of scoring is inspired by Zac Crain. Numbers are so passé.
Click here to read what they actually said.
* First up: Roland Love. Attorney. He was asked what could be done in the first six months to dramatically improve the DISD. He said he would review the administration for redundancy. (Is this code for fire people?) He wants to make everything more efficient to fix the greatest problem: shortage of funds. He wants top-notch principals. He didn’t use the full three minute. If he had, I’d like to know what top-notch principals look like. His answer was boring, but valid.
Score: Paint drying
* Jennifer Levy. She veered into her platform during the introduction. However, Moderator Tim was quick to redirect her. Well done. It took Levy a long time to eventually say “stay-at-home mom” for her occupation. Levy, it’s okay. Be proud. I’ll admit I zoned out on the question and answer. Something about helping teachings and “strong leaders,” “front lines,” and a “strong HR department,” and “increased retention.” (Aren’t you glad I’m not giving the official report for Frontburner?) I just remembered she sounded very enthusiastic and kinda like she was running for Student Council.
Score: Reese Witherspoon from Election
* Bernadette Nutall. Executive director of something (leave me alone). She was asked about charter schools. Like everyone else, she started with “Good question.” Well, of course, they’re good questions. D Magazine and TEDxSMU organized the event. Do you think we’d ask you about Lamar Odom? She suggested that the charter schools and public schools can work together. “We can learn from them.” She emphasized the need for parents to have a choice. Nutall suggested that “LA has figured it out.” Really? I never thought of Los Angeles as a model for education. I’m not being sarcastic. They might be. It just surprised me. Nutall believes we can learn from charter school’s “best practices.” Personally, I’m not a fan of charter schools. I’m wary of them as a sustainable model for educating large populations. But whatever. It was an answer.
Score: Better than Damarcus Offord. Seriously, do not vote for Offord.
* Damarcus Offord. Oh man, where do I begin? He’s a college student. Moderator Tim once again had to keep a candidate off his platform. “Easy, easy.” Offord was asked a perfectly reasonable question about how to approach the increasing number of Hispanic and ESL (English as a second language) students in DISD. Even if you aren’t running for a DISD position, most people have an opinion on this issue. Yes? He started by saying that all students need to educated. That is true by the very definition of “student.” Then, he said that since he doesn’t have access to all the information he cannot give an answer at this time. He completely, obviously side-stepped the question, then he sat down. Offord literally took less time than the time it took you to read what I just wrote about Damarcus Offord. He was also the first candidate to leave during the meet-and-greet afterward. I’m sure someday he’ll be a valued community leader, but he’s not quite ready to interact with adults.
Score: Vote for Bernadette Nutall, district 9. I’m not kidding.
* Let’s move on. I’m getting a headache.
* Michael Greenberg. In his introduction, Greenberg talked up the Kessler. Classy. He was asked if the trustees should have a code of conduct, which prevents them from criticizing board decisions in public. Greenberg disagreed with this policy. He cited the need for free speech and professional responsibility. He was the only person so far to actually impress me. He was poised and knowledgeable.
Score: Spud Webb, 1986 slam dunk contest
* Bruce Parrott. He’s wearing a lot of beige. Parrott was asked about getting businesses involved in our school district. Too much beige. He suggested that businesses can help with fundraising, support DISD’s use of Teach for America, and beige. Business involvement is important, and DISD needs to dialogue with local businesses. Beige.
* Elizabeth Jones. Jones also impressed me. It’s a shame she and Greenberg are running against each other. I would have a tough time choosing. District 1 is fortunate. She was asked about the challenge surrounding middle schools. She was familiar with the study cited in the question and gave a thorough response. She emphasized the need for better alignment. Jones clearly speaks “education” and is very well informed.
Score: Longest answer!
* Dan Micciche. Tax and business attorney. He opened with a comment about needing a pronunciation guide for his last name. Humor. Very smooth, Micciche. His question was about Lamar Odom. Oh wait. No, it’s about making cuts to athletic budgets. Micciche said we need to look at spending priorities, also to get businesses and non-profits involved. He said he wouldn’t outright dismiss the idea, but that school is more than classes. I think the athletic budget is staying untouched.
Score: Coach Eric Taylor
* Afterward, the candidates mingled with the guests and had a chance to answer any specific questions they might have.
* The event was short; this was a good thing. No one wants to listen to candidates ramble for two hours.
* I went with Tim Rogers and Michael Mooney to the Foundry. Three beers count as dinner, yes? We talked about the National Magazine Award and golf. Two writers from the Observer (Brantley Hargrove and Leslie Minora) also showed up. I do not mind listening to writers ramble for two hours. The next door chicken place closed at 9:30. I wandered over there at 9:29 and could not be helped.