Dallas Public Schools: Committed, For Now


Last week, I wrote about the decisions we have coming up regarding real estate, and our son’s education. And I love, love, love all the reader feedback and comments. This week? This week I’d like to talk about our thought process thus far.

My husband and I are products of public schools – albeit not in Dallas, since we both landed here as adults. But in our time as a couple, we have kept a watchful eye on our adopted hometown’s education offerings, and once Tiny became a waving little alien on an ultrasound screen, we began, in earnest, discussing what we would do.

We’re kind of planners. OK, more accurately, I’m a raging planaholic, and my husband is a planner. But this now-ongoing discussion needed to happen that early because it involved real estate – which, as we all know, is something you try not to go into willy nilly.

So we first took a look at the school we would be assigned to for elementary school – Withers Elementary. As luck would have it, we have several friends and acquaintances with children who were attending at the time, and at least one whose children are now attending. Nothing but raves. A dual-language program that has benefitted hundreds of children. Robust parental involvement. Great ratings from the TEA, and compares well with  many of the elementary schools in the area of similar size and make up. (more…)

$799,000 Will Buy You Mike Miles North Dallas Home on Hockaday

Mike Miles 4026 Hockaday (2)Listing agent Linda Vallala, who really specializes in that area, just confirmed the pricing of 4026 Hockaday… $799,000. The property was listed for $749,000, which is what Miles paid for it last July 27. Figuring in a 6% Realtor’s commission, should he get asking, which I see no reason why he shouldn’t as the area is HOT, he will actually only be making a couple extra thousand.

Mike Miles Has His North Dallas Home on the Market, In a Great DISD District

Mike Miles 4026 Hockaday (4)

This is the Dallas house Mike and Karen Miles bought when they moved to Dallas last May. It’s not in MLS, but it is being quietly marketed by Coldwell Banker’s Linda Vallala. There is even a sign in front. I took this (top) photo on August 30.

It’s a beautiful, 3566 square foot North Dallas ranch remodeled by Ron Davis, who does superb work. Was on the market last year for $749,000. Open floor plan, raised ceilings, new addition, and larger rooms, the home includes four bedrooms, three and one half baths, including a guest room with private bath. I am loving the storage in the master closet and the great spa master bath  —yeah, you might could get a margarita machine and a masseuse in here —  and while the home has no pool, there is a great outdoor living center on this over-sized lot! The wood floors are yummy.

4026 Hockaday foyer 4026 Hockaday DR 4026 Hockaday kit 2 4026 Hockaday kitchenThe home is, ironically, located on “Hockaday” not too far from the esteemed private girls school. I am told a moving van backed up to this house a few weeks ago. Well, that’s when Karen Miles and the couple’s middle-school aged son, moved back to Colorado Springs because of all the hassles Mike is encountering in trying to clean up Dallas public schools. Apparently, the family’s Colorado Springs home did not sell, so Mrs. Miles and their youngest son will live there. I can only imagine that paying two mortgages must be a killer.

I  contacted Mike Miles through his assistant and also through Jon Dahlander, News and Information Director for the DISD. Here’s what Jon told me:

“Mr. Miles loved his house in North Dallas but decided to downsize once his family moved back to Colorado for the school year. He has moved closer to the district’s administrative offices since he spends the majority of his time there,” says Jon, who says Miles told him he was going to sell Hockaday two weeks ago.

Miles, who was third in his class at West Point, faces mounting scrutiny on his work in Dallas. There’s that investigative unit to figure out if he broke rules handling a service contract. The review was suspended when Miles was accused of “interfering”, so the school board asked for an independent review which is headed by Paul Coggins and costing the District $100,000.

I give Mike Miles credit: he has succeeded in implementing at least some of his agenda in just over a year — more teacher observations, a rigorous principal evaluation system and diligent efforts to improve some of the lowest-performing schools in DISD. However, he apparently removed some very popular principals.

Leadership is tough — you have to make unpopular decisions — and it seems like Miles has done just that. He said right from the beginning that he would be into reform and tough on principals. I have always (personally) thought that DISD was administration top-heavy. DISD teachers earn more than private school teachers. So I did think he set some high salaries for his first cabinet members. But then, my point of salary reference comes from being in media. Then seven cabinet members left in his first 11 months. An internal audit faulted administrators for not following rules. Or something. Part of me thinks we really ought to give the guy a break, give him a chance,  or we will NEVER fix the Dallas schools. Who are these people making it so tough and unpleasant a man’s family moves out of town?4026 Hockaday master bath 4026 Hockaday master 4026 Hockaday patioWell, Karen certainly has great taste in real estate, and they chose a wonderful neighborhood. Anthony, their son, attended the Marsh Middle School, not St. Marks or ESD or Parish, like most of the kids in this neighborhood do.

Apparently something Mike Miles is really hoping to change. The public elementary school in this neighborhood is Withers, where parents recently raised more than $75,000 to renovate the school’s library:

Parent-Led Efforts Help Re-imagine School Library

Harry C. Withers Elementary School students will have a brand new library space to return to come this fall. The school’s library was gutted earlier this summer, after a parent-led effort to raise funds for a new school library was completed. Withers unveiled the new library space at an event in August.

The new library will boast a new circulation desk, tables, chairs, shelving, carpet, desktops, an interactive whiteboard and an area for students to stretch out and read. It has also included new desktop computers complete with interactive software programs for students to practice their reading skills.

“Our library is the nucleus of our school. At any time of the day, it may be used for classroom instruction, on-line reading assessments, staff and community meetings, staff training, and of course, to simply check-out books,” said Withers parent and fundraiser Elizabeth Garrison. “Our old library had tables of varying heights, window shades that didn’t adjust; stained carpet and too many dark corners. We wanted to design the library in a way that would encourage children to come in, pick up a book and read!”

Almost all of the donations that came in for the library were awarded in increments of less than $100 each. The project should have cost the PTA more than $100,000, but it was done for about $75,000 with Dallas ISD providing labor, and the architectural firm, led by Withers alum and school architect Jeff Miller, providing work pro bono.

“We are so thankful to our great community, PTA parents, Dads Club and volunteers who have invested their time, financial support and effort to make this new library a possibility,” said Withers Principal Connie Wallace. “Withers Elementary has a track record of academic success and we are excited to provide our students and staff with an up-to-date library set up for 21st century learning and a great environment to foster reading. What a great way to welcome students back for another successful school year.”