When voters to the go polls in Dallas next month, there’s only one school board race without an incumbent. A strong opponent of Superintendent Mike Miles is stepping down. Trustee Elizabeth Jones decided not to run again. The race to replace her pits a Miles fan against a Miles foe.
A home near Interstate 635 and the Dallas North Tollway sports a giant Edwin Flores sign on the lawn. We’re in a District 1 neighborhood where host Jeanne Culver welcomes her guests.
“Everybody, thank you for coming, I really appreciate you sharing this evening with us. I know everyone has a million things to do,” Culver says.
Edwin Flores held the District 1 seat for seven years starting in 2005. He stepped down in 2012. Now the patent attorney wants it back.
“We need to face facts. I mean the status quo isn’t acceptable for all students,” Flores tells his small audience. “We have some pockets of excellence where kids are getting a great education. In District 1, in the northern part of Dallas, we also have some really good schools that do well for kids, but that’s not the case everywhere.”
Flores wants change now, Mike Miles style. He might’ve been the only member of last year’s Home Rule Committee who actually wanted home rule. It would’ve changed the way the district’s governed, but it failed to get on the fall ballot. Flores likes the superintendent’s reforms, from new principal and teacher evaluations to a pay plan that no longer pegs a raise to years of employment. And Flores says, given his board experience, there’ll be not wasted time.
“I will be effective immediately - the moment I walk, in because I know all the trustees," Flores says.
Most people at this gathering know Flores and will vote for him. Former teacher Sari Bahl, who’s lived in the neighborhood more than 40 years though, is undecided. She worries about too many tests, including some imposed by Miles.
“I see mostly teaching for the test,” Bahl explains. “And then they just move on and hope the children understand the concept. There’s not a broad understanding of the materials they need to know.”
This race is a rematch. Flores beat pediatrician Kyle Renard, six years ago. She wants to turn his board experience against him.
“He was the chair of the business committee and they lost $64 million in 2008,” Renard says. “We had to lay off almost 400 workers, very disruptive for children. Back in ‘09 when I first ran, they illegally extended their terms and then they canceled the election, which people felt strongly about because it was the democratic process being interrupted.”
Renard lays into Flores’ support for Miles. She says the superintendent’s reforms are unproven, like similar reform efforts in Washington D.C., New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. Renard wants to hold Miles more accountable.
“We’re not seeing a lot of good results,” she says. “We’re seeing massive amounts of teachers leave. I will not believe that over 5,000 teachers who have left were all the bad teachers.”
Miles has already survived one attempt to strip him of his job. If Renard wins, he could keep feeling the pressure. A Flores win almost certainly would reduce the heat.