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Outgoing Dallas ISD Superintendent Defends His Record

Bill Zeeble
Superintendent Mike Miles next to Deputy Superintendent Ann Smisko, as Miles announces his resignation. He said Smisko would take over, but the school board will decide who the interim leader will be

A day after he announced his resignation, and a day before he leaves the job, Dallas ISD superintendent Mike Miles talked withKrys Boyd on KERA’sThink.Miles defended his record and talked about the district moving on.

Three years ago, Miles arrived from Colorado in a swirl of controversy. He was the reformer brought in to change things, because he says Dallas wasn’t delivering for 160,000 kids. Miles says the district suffered from a culture of compliance.

“We are not a high performance culture yet but we’re moving in that direction,” Miles said. “High performance culture means a lot of different things. Some of the things it means is that people take the initiative, that people grow the leadership capacity. It’s commitment versus compliance.”

Miles was criticized for paying too much for some of that team, and hiring others later forced to resign. But they got things done, like the controversial principal and teacher evaluation plans and a pay-for-performance system unlike any other.

“In three years,” Miles explained, “this district has been able to do more reform-minded transformative things than any other district in the United States. In the end of the day the community, the board and admin team worked together to pass the most rigorous reform elements you’ve seen in the country with actually relatively little noise.”

There was plenty of noise. Otherwise, Miles might be staying. On Wednesday, he talked at some length about the recent controversy involving Human Resources Specialist Tonya Sadler Grayson. She didn’t disclose a criminal violation committed as a teenager. Critics wanted Miles to fire her.

“Should we ever hire anybody who doesn’t disclose?” Miles said. “Let’s just say they lie about it on their application, a misdemeanor from their youth?”

Miles says the district looked at a hundred cases this year where people didn’t disclose a misdemeanor. After a review, he says two-thirds of them remain with the district.

“We don’t have to be the place of second chances but you know what? We know that people need to grow,” Miles said.

And he offered a theoretical: “I hope 30 years later nobody says something about them and then tries to ruin their life.” 

Miles remains upbeat about his own future and that of the district.  

“I think over the last three years we’ve laid a great foundation,” Miles said. “But the district is poised to move forward in the future and we’re right at that point and so I think the timing was right for me to go.”

Miles makes his final board appearance Thursday night. Then on Friday the board meets again to discuss his replacement. 

Listen to Mike Miles' conversation with KERA's Krys Boyd here.

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