Dallas ISD favors TEA investigation
MIKE McGEE | 11/24/2014, 8:39 a.m. | Updated on 11/24/2014, 9 a.m.
By MIKE McGEE
The Dallas Examiner
The continued concern over the removal of Dallas ISD Trustee Bernadette Nutall from Dade Middle School by police at the request of Superintendent Mike Miles on Oct. 13 moved school board trustees to take action on the issue during a meeting of the school board trustees Nov. 6.
Nutall, the trustee for District 9, and her supporters have argued that Miles – an employee of the district, hired and contracted by the board – did not have the authority to order her removal from Dade since school property and assets are the responsibility of the board.
At 6:17 p.m., Board President Miguel Solis announced the group would be going into a closed session. The board was set to consult with board attorneys to consider items under the Texas Government Code Section 551. Those items included possibly hiring a legal firm to investigate what specifically happened at Dade on the morning of Oct. 13, according to the published agenda. There was also the possibility that the Texas Education Agency would be called to investigate the situation. Potential actions against Nutall or Miles were also considered in the session.
However, before the closed session commenced, District 6 Trustee Joyce Foreman asked that Solis step down from his role for the meeting due to his close relationship with the superintendent.
“I think that it would be in the best interest of this board and the public for the first vice president to lead us in our meeting, so that there will be a separation of closeness with you and the superintendent,” the trustee can be heard saying. “No disrespect to you but I want transparency on this board.”
Solis said that he would have “no problem whatsoever” having the first vice president, District 5 Trustee Lew Blackburn, lead the meeting.
After a six to three vote in favor of the motion, Blackburn took over the reins, whereupon he called for the closed session. The meeting lasted more than four hours.
At approximately 10:40 p.m. the closed session ended and Blackburn announced that no specific decision had been made. Instead, he asked for a vote on hiring a law firm to investigate the events at Dade. That motion did not pass. There was also no action taken against Nutall or Miles.
Blackburn then put forward a motion, amended from the published agenda, after a period of debate on defining what the powers of trustees are and the situations where that power might be limited.
“Consider and take possible action to request a limited TEA investigation under Texas Education Code 39.057(a)(6) regarding the October 13, 2014 incident at Billy E. Dade Middle School involving Superintendent Mike Miles and Dallas ISD Trustee Bernadette Nutall with a focus on a potential conflict between the board and the superintendent regarding the rights and duties set out in TEC 11.151(a)(b) and (c) and TEC 11.201(d), and to request a commission of education or other authorized requestor to render a formal opinion on the following, to whit: Whether a superintendent has the legal authority to remove a trustee from school district property, and under what circumstances,” Blackburn said as he announced the final subject up for vote that night. “Also, what limitations there are to a trustee’s right to be on school district property?”
The amended item passed with all the trustees voting in favor of the TEA investigating the Dade incident and to more clearly define the roles and duties of school board trustees and superintendents.
“We have a unanimous decision for the first time in a long time,” exclaimed Blackburn after the motion passed at about 11:27 p.m.
Calls to Nutall regarding the decision went unanswered. Likewise, Miles declined requests for comments on the issue. However, André Riley, director of the Dallas ISD News and Information, responded with a written declaration that the district continues to focus on improving achievement for all students.