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Dallas School Superintendent Mike Miles Survives Another Attempt To Oust Him

Bill Zeeble
The Dallas School Board voted again to keep Superintendent Miles. This time, however, some trustees indicated they're ready for him to go, but on their own terms

The Dallas school board decided to keep Superintendent Mike Miles in a late-night vote Friday. It sent him a “letter of concern” instead. Several trustees who once backed Miles say they now want a succession plan so he’s replaced with as little disruption as possible.

The letter of concern, approved in a 7-2 vote, offered no specifics. That came after the board voted down a measure seeking the superintendent’s resignation by December. Trusteee Elizabeth Jones, one of the three board members who voted to oust Miles, criticized the superintendent in areas he usually claims as strengths, such as hiring top people.

“We have more than five chief positions that remain unfilled,” Jones said. “It strictly is not enough to get the job done. The excessive turnover based on this superintendent’s choice has been nothing less than problematic.”

Jones also criticized data Miles typically uses to defend his plans.

“The data, when you get to the scores, you get to the campus level, we’ve not made much progress,” Jones said. 

Trustee Eric Cowan voted against the motion to fire Miles, calling it irresponsible.  

“[It] doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with his management style,” Cowan said. “I think he’s not a good communicator, and quite frankly I’m not satisfied with the results either.”

Cowan wants to keep proven reforms and discard failed ones. Determining those will take time. He’s also ready for a new superintendent. But, after the meeting, he said he wants to change the way Dallas has picked them before.

“We’re mad at this superintendent. We’re going to fire him. Oh, but what’s our plan? Oh we don’t have one, but we’re going to fire him now,” Cowan said. “We have an opportunity to do the responsible thing and conduct a thorough search while not interrupting key aspects and projects we’re working on.”

Cowan likes Miles’ school choice plan, the push to place more kids in improved early childhood education, and he wants to pass a bond package. He’s not sure Miles’ "disruptive change" has been good for the district. He wants talks about a succession plan to start this June.  

“Right now I think we need to look for a leader that can unite this city,” Cowan said. “And we have got a divided city right now.”

Cowan’s joined by trustee Dan Micciche in coming up with a succession plan, a proposal still very young. 

A judge ordered Friday's meeting. Three trustees -- Jones, Joyce Foreman and Bernadette Nutall -- sued board president Miguel Solis, saying he missed a deadline to hold a meeting to discuss Miles' performance.

Solis, a supporter of Miles, had scheduled the discussion of his contract May 14 -- after the May 9 elections, which includes Dallas school board races.

Before Friday's board meeting, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, former Mayor Tom Leppert, and almost every sitting Dallas City Council member – and some former members - sent trustees a letter in support of Miles. They said firing Miles would "gravely damage the performance and perceptions" of DISD.

Leading up to Friday's meeting, Miles had survived an independent investigation, the departure of several top cabinet members, and a no-confidence vote by the school board last year. He apologized and promised improvements, all while continuing his reforms.  

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.