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Mike Miles, Dallas School Superintendent Since 2012, Is Resigning

Mike Miles, who pushed for controversial reforms in the Dallas Independent School District, announced Tuesday morning that he’s resigning as superintendent. 

Stella M. Chavez's KERA radio story: A Look Back At Mike Miles' Tenure

“It’s been a privilege to serve this community and the staff and students of Dallas ISD,” Miles said at a news conference. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me.”

Miles will serve through Thursday’s board meeting. Ann Smisko, the district’s deputy superintendent, will then take over as interim superintendent. Smisko has been with the district since 2012 after serving with the Texas Education Agency.

[At 1 p.m. Wednesday, Miles will talk with KERA's Krys Boyd about his time in Dallas ISD. That's at 1 p.m. on Think on KERA 90.1 FM -- or you can listen online.]

Since summer 2012, Miles has been in charge of Texas’ second-largest public school district. Miles says he's heading back to Colorado, where his family lives and where he served as a district superintendent before coming to Dallas.

Miles' resignation comes just weeks after he survived a no-confidence vote. The Dallas school board on May 1 voted 6-3 against a motion to fire Miles. The board instead voted to send Miles a "letter of concern." 

Miles' resignation comes after a "disagreement over contract amendments" that he wanted, The Dallas Morning News is reporting. Miles wanted "immediate access to the $50,000 per year that the board has set aside and wouldn’t allow him to get until 2017," The News is reporting.

Miles made about $300,000 annually.

Some Dallas school trustees have long been concerned about Miles' performance and management style, saying he's not a good communicator. Some trustees weren't satisfied with Miles' school reforms, including evaluations for teachers and principals that he called the most rigorous in the country. Several management-related scandals rocked the district -- and critics say the mismanagement was a result of Miles' lack of leadership.

One recent example: The discovery of derogatory instant messages from Human Capital Management Chief Carmen Darville. She and another executive were forced to resign over the messages described as racist, discriminatory, false and insulting to the district and its employees.

Miles didn't discuss any specific scandal, but he defended his overall performance this morning, citing improving graduation rates. He says the Dallas school district is in much better financial shape than when he started. And he stands by his evaluation reforms.

District materials say the Distinguished Teacher Review process has “fundamentally changed how highly effective teachers are identified and assessed.”

Miles says more students are taking and passing more Advanced Placement exams than ever before.

The school district started the past school year with the lowest number of teacher vacancies on record.

"When I arrived three years ago Dallas was ready for a change," Miles said at the news conference. "There was broad recognition that we couldn’t continue what we’ve always done. I was asked to lead this district and take it into uncharted waters.

"The team and I accepted that challenge, knowing that we would have to think differently and act courageously. We knew that we would have to make the tough decisions that few others were prepared to make and that many would oppose."

Video: Watch Miles' resignation speech

Criticism of Miles

Rena Honea, who leads the largest teacher group in Dallas, has been a longtime critic of Miles. She told KERA in April: “It’s been a tumultuous two-and-a-half years under Mr. Miles’ leadership. Educators aren’t afraid of change, but it has to be something that they’re a part of and they understand and not something done to them.”  

Honea wanted Miles out a year ago. She argued his teacher evaluation plan threatened long-time instructors, morale is down, and the district’s in flux.

“Stability is needed but we’ve not had stability in the two-and-a-half years that Mr. Miles has been at the head of the district,” Honea says. “The teacher turnover, the employee turnover, the administrative staff turnover.”

Supporters of Miles

Before the May 1 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.

Children At Risk, a statewide nonprofit, said this spring that Miles’ changes are working.

“Some children who historically have not been doing well are doing significantly better than expected,” Bob Sanborn, the group's CEO, told KERA in April.

He says a few years ago, only one low-income Dallas elementary school earned his organization’s Gold Ribbon. This year, that’s up to 24, the most of any district in Texas. Sanborn said more kids are learning.

“They are improving in districts where there are superintendents who are reformers” Sanborn said this spring. “They’re not caretakers. They’re being proactive. They’re showing leadership. They’re not always popular, but we’re seeing significant improvement among some of the children we really want to see a positive future for.”

Miguel Solis, Dallas ISD's school board vice president, posted this note of support on Twitter:

Reaction from around Dallas

  • Mike Rawlings: Board did not 'fully support' Miles

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said that the Dallas school board did not "fully support" Miles.
“While he’s got great support from many parts of the city of Dallas, ultimately I believe that the board tolerated him but did not fully support him," Rawlings told reporters this afternoon. "It made that decision to leave easier for him. I understand that because any employee, anybody should not stay around in their job if they don’t feel their boss totally supports them.  It’s critical to any successful operation.  But really this is not about Mike Miles. This is about 160,000 schoolchildren and the future of our city.”

Rawlings said that going forward, the district needs to get an interim superintendent in place who will not dismantle Miles’ efforts and to find a superintendent as quickly as possible so senior staff members don’t leave. Rawlings also encouraged voters to approve a bond package later this year that he says will help improve the school district.

“The silver lining in all of this is we have no reason any more to be divided over any one individual,” Rawlings said. “If everyone truly wants to focus on the children and truly backs the agenda that we have laid out and we have been trying to implement, I believe this city will be successful.”

  • Rena Honea: DISD teachers had 'rocky' relationship with Miles

Rena Honea with the Dallas Alliance/AFT teachers group issued a statement: “It is no secret that Dallas Independent School District teachers have had a rocky relationship with Superintendent Mike Miles. During his tenure, our District has suffered the loss of far too many highly qualified, experienced teachers who chose to retire or move to other districts rather than practice their profession under policies, regulations and practices that undermine our students’ chance for success. Even though our relationship with Superintendent Miles has at times been tumultuous, Dallas educators wish him well as he begins a new chapter in his professional life. The most important thing now, as the Board of Trustees moves forward with the search for a new superintendent, is that the full Dallas community play an active role in the selection process."

  • Rene Martinez: Miles 'lost Latino support dramatically'

Rene Martinez, the LULAC District 3 coordinator for education, talked with KERA this afternoon. Here are excerpts: "I’m not surprised. I basically thought that he was gonna resign probably by the end of the summer, so from what I understand, he was losing support across the community. I’m sure the business community had a lot of reservations about him in terms of his recent actions, personnel actions, so I think it was just a matter of time. He lost Latino support dramatically within the past three to four months."
Video: Miles' farewell to staff

Dallas ISD posted this YouTube video of Miles offering prepared remarks:

In Dallas ISD, a rocky tenure for Miles

The Dallas Morning News has compiled this timeline of Miles' time in charge of Dallas ISD.

What the district says

Read Dallas ISD's story about today's developments. 

Who is Ann Smisko?

Here's Smisko's bio from Dallas ISD:

Dr. Smisko is Deputy Superintendent of Dallas ISD. She joined Dallas ISD in 2012 after serving as the Associate Commissioner for School Improvement and Educator Initiatives at the Texas Education Agency (TEA). In that role, she oversaw TEA’s efforts to provide support for districts and campuses not meeting student performance goals under both Texas and federal accountability systems. She was also responsible for educator certification programs, including development of educator effectiveness metrics for use in accreditation of educator preparation programs. During an earlier tenure with TEA, Smisko was the Associate Commissioner for Curriculum, Assessment and Technology. In that position, she oversaw the creation of both the curriculum standards (TEKS) and the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), the student testing program. In addition, Smisko served for four years as the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction with the Austin Independent School District and as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Schools for the Texas A&M University System. Smisko began her education career as a teacher in the Boston Public Schools. She holds elementary, special education, mid-management and superintendent certifications in Texas. She earned a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Texas, a Master of Education from Boston College and a Bachelor of Science from Pennsylvania State University.

Earlier story: The Dallas school district has announced a press conference for 9:30 a.m. KERA has confirmed Superintendent Mike Miles will announce his resignation.

There have been attempts in the past to oust the superintendent amid concerns over reforms he has implemented.

KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports:

Miles had survived an independent investigation, the departure of several top cabinet members, and a no-confidence vote by the school board last year.

Miles has been the district's superintendent since 2012.

Watch the livestream below:

KERA's Stella M. Chavez and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.
Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.
Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.