The UNT Health Science Center has named a new provost and executive vice president of academic affairs, promoting the dean of the system’s college of pharmacy to the position. Dr. Charles Taylor will take on the role starting Aug. 1. He will serve as the chief academic officer and oversee and align budgetary policies and priorities. Prior Provost Thomas Yorio stepped down in 2016 following 40 years with UNTHSC. Claire Peel, vice provost of academic research and dean of the school of health professions, has been serving as the interim provost since then. Taylor has packed a lot into his… Full Story
Two of the top 10 lowest cost medical schools for out-of-state students are located in Dallas-Fort Worth, and seven of the 10 are in Texas, according to U.S. News and World Report. Among the 69 institutions that submitted data to U.S. News, average tuition for out-of-state students during 2017-18 was $58,000—more than the average for private med schools, which is around $55,000. Things are different in the Lone Star state. In DFW, Dallas-based UT Southwestern Medical Center came in at $33,621 and Fort Worth-based UNT Health Science Center at $34,854. Here’s all 10: 1. University of Central Florida ($31,063) 2.… Full Story
For Todd Frazier, earning buy-in from his health system’s higher-ups to build out a musical therapy program took a concerted effort to shift the conversation. Rather than discussing reimbursement and how the system could pay for it, Frazier put the focus on why what he proposed to offer was essential for any leading-edge provider. It ultimately worked, with Frazier—who directs the Center for Performing Arts Medicine at the eight facilities that make up Houston Methodist Hospital—earning backing through philanthropy in the early stages. The juice has proved worth the squeeze, and Houston Methodist now employs seven full-time musical therapists, making… Full Story
Dallas-based Parker University has launched the Journal of Contemporary Chiropractic, which it says will help account for a need for more access to scientific publications throughout the chiropractic and integrative health professions. A news release from the school defines the new publication’s mission: The Journal’s mission is to provide high-quality, scientific and educational research and information that helps enhance the practice and delivery of integrative healthcare. Emphasis will be placed on gaining the best information covering the scientific basis, clinical practice, educational practice, and sociological and political aspects of chiropractic. The “open-access” journal has started taking submissions.
Got to hand it to the Commit Partnership, the local education nonprofit, for having at least the second best podcast in town. The latest episode of the Miseducation of Dallas County, published Thursday on the 64th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that kicked off the desegregation of public schools, is especially strong, and especially timely as the city is trying more often lately to reckon with the ugly and persistent reality of segregation.
Hosted by Josh Kumler, of Bar Politics fame, the podcast explores how Brown v. Board of Education played out in Dallas, and leads us into the present day, closing with an interview with Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. Its premise, that federally mandated desegregation has failed to create integrated schools, holds up, and it’s worth exploring why.
The podcast features clips from a 1961 “pseudo-documentary” produced by the Dallas Citizens Council and aired the night before desegregated classes began, ostensibly to help what was once the most racist city in America integrate peacefully. But, as Kumler puts it,
…peaceful integration was never really the intention of this massive public relations campaign. It was, instead, the perception of peaceful integration, conveyed through carefully monitored newspaper editorials, overwhelming police presence, and, of course, a movie, meant to reassure an anxious city that:
“The changing face of Dallas will remain unscarred.”
All this, because the next morning, white elementary students at eight select schools would be joined by eighteen African Americans, all of whom were six years old.
The film, “Dallas at the Crossroads,” is striking in that it avoids any talk of “integration,” or the city’s moral duty to provide opportunity for all its residents. The Dallas businessmen who produced it, being Dallas businessmen, only urge the protection of private property, a stiff upper lip, and a little decorum to avoid the violence that accompanied desegregation in places like New Orleans and Little Rock. Violence is bad for business.
Medical City Healthcare and the UNT Health Science Center are partnering to create 500 residency positions, the two sides announced on Monday. The positions will help UNTHSC appease regulators over residency requirements as it seeks accreditation for its new medical school, a partnership with Texas Christian University. The residencies—and regulators’ requirements—address the physician shortage in Texas, a topic of increasing conversation in recent years. “As we continue to add more medical schools, there’s a need to grow more residency training slots in Texas,” says Dr. Michael Williams, UNTHSC’s president. The 500 resident positions will be developed over the next seven… Full Story
The Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas is helping the national organization get closer to its goal of adding 2.5 million girls in the STEM workforce pipeline with the opening of its STEM Center of Excellence.
The center, which celebrated its grand opening at Camp Whispering Cedar in South Dallas last weekend, offers year-round science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum via day camps, summer camps, and after school and weekend programming. It also will provide space for the community and programming for boys and girls within Dallas ISD. The 92-acre living laboratory serves as a model for a national strategy to build more STEM centers at urban camps. Nearly 20 Girl Scout councils from across the country already have visited the center
“We’re at the very beginning stages of a national strategy,” said Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas who is leading the national $70 million Girl Scouts STEM initiative. “We have 112,000 acres of property across U.S. … So other councils that have urban camps are taking a look at that.”
The overall goal is to expose girls to STEM opportunities before they start making their career choices. Girls start identifying with how active they will be in STEM as young as second grade, Bartkowski said. So with programming that will come out of the STEM Center of Excellence, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas believes it can increase the number of females in the pipeline.
“It was back in 2010 when Texas Instruments came to us and said … ‘There’s not enough engineers to hire and by 2020 we’re going to have a crisis on our hands,’” Bartkowski said. “And they asked … ‘You’ve got all the girls. What can you do to help them become engineers?’”
STEM initiatives aren’t new for the Girl Scouts, though. The organization has been educating girls in STEM since it was founded in 1912, Bartkwoski said. However, it had not been focusing on STEM as a concerted effort geared toward strengthening the pipline until TI challenged the group to do so. That’s when the Girl Souts began started approaching STEM with progressive programming to help build girls on their skillset and eventually lead to a related career.
“Everyone’s struggling, especially in computer science and engineering,” Bartkowksi said. “Those are the careers where women are really underrepresented.”
The Girl Scouts are not alone in their interest in strengthen STEM education. The Boy Scouts also have STEM-based programming, and last year, the organization announced that it would also be accepting girls into its Scouting program. While the news was disappointing, it didn’t change the organizations advantage: offering girls STEM programming in a girl-centric environment, where studies show they learn best, Bartkowski said. This provides girls the opportunity to gain more confidence in their skillset and become better equipped to be confident in coed environment. That learning paired with partnerships with local corporations provides opportunities that helps Girl Scouts continue to chip away at the gender imbalance that currently exists in STEM fields.
“This is hard work, because the work we’re really doing is cutting-edge. It’s innovative, it’s risky, and it’s hard,” Bartkowski said. “So when companies think how they can lead, we’re always looking for board members and committee members who can help us think big and think outside of the box.”
City Council Urges Atmos to Hurry Up. At yesterday’s briefing, City Council members told Atmos that their plan of replacing all cast-iron pipes in the city by 2023 isn’t fast enough. Atmos didn’t exactly say they would complete the fixes sooner, but said they’re looking at how to accelerate the process.
Staff and Parents at Garland School Didn’t Know about Shooting Threat for a Week. A former Garland Classical Academy student had posted a video on April 10 on social media saying he was going to shoot up the school. He was arrested that night, but the school’s director didn’t tell teachers, parents, or students about the threat until six days later. Teachers and parents say they should have been notified immediately and are angry over how the threat was handled.
Dick’s Sporting Goods Destroying Assault Weapons. The company is no longer selling assault rifles at its 35 Field & Stream locations, one of which is near Dallas, in Prosper. It’s also destroying and recycling the rifles instead of returning them to the manufacturer to get its money back.
Community Protests Dallas Father’s Deportation. Mario Amaya is trying to fight his deportation to El Salvador and says if he’s deported, he fears for his life because he refused to join gangs there. The group Faith in Texas protested outside the ICE office yesterday to keep Amaya here. His reps at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services said they hope his deportation, scheduled for today, will be stopped and that he will be granted asylum.
Sinclair Could Own Dallas Station.Sinclair Broadcast Group is in the process of purchasing the company that owns the news station KDAF-TV on Channel 33 in Dallas. If you haven’t watched the Deadspin edit of local anchors around the country reciting the exact same anti-fake news spiel, which Sinclair mandated, you should.
DeSoto ISD Superintendent Resigns. David Harris had been on leave for more than a month but has now resigned. Trustees had hired an attorney to investigate concerns about his performance.
Hit-and-Run Driver Fled with Victim on Her Hood. Police are searching for a driver who, after a crash in southern Dallas, hit the other driver who’d gotten out of her car to exchange information and drove for a mile with the victim on the hood of the car.
The UNT Health Science Center and the Catalyst Health Network say a new partnership will allow more future physicians and physicians assistants to train in the outpatient settings in which they’ll eventually practice medicine. The agreement, announced Wednesday, will put UNTHSC students into primary care clinical settings under the direction of Catalyst providers. “Catalyst not only aligns perfectly with UNTHSC’s values, it is the future of healthcare in North Texas,” UNTHSC President Dr. Michael Williams said in a statement. While most medical schools are tethered to traditional teaching hospitals, UNTHSC now attaches itself to a three-year-old network of 515 independent… Full Story
Tonight, the conservative provocateur, comedian, and political commentator Steven Crowder will speak at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium at the invitation of SMU College Republicans, drawing protests from an LGBTQ+ campus group that says Crowder has a history of homophobic views.
Crowder, who has a collective online following of over two million, is known for his use of slurs against LGBTQ+ people, including the words “faggot” and “tranny.” He has also claimed that being transgender is a delusion, and has disparaged Muslims and racial minorities, leading many to consider him a hate speaker. In recent weeks, Crowder also became something of a meme after he appeared on the Texas Christian University campus with a sign inviting students to change his mind about his notion that “male privilege is a myth.”
SMU’s College Republicans defended their decision to invite Crowder to campus. In a statement, the group said that “Some of the things he says and does do push limits, but often times that is the purpose of comedy in that absurdity often brings truth and discussion to the forefront. Mr. Crowder is in line with most conservative/libertarian ideology and has an audience and a platform that allows us the opportunity to bring in a vast audience (particularly a large number of young people) and share conservative belief and thought in an entertaining format.”
Many people on campus, however, believe that rather than push boundaries, Crowder crosses lines. They intend to make their objections to his presence known. OUTlaw, an LGBTQ+ group of SMU law students, is set to protest Crowder’s appearance tonight, arguing that inviting him undermines the very dialogue that College Republicans claim they are seeking to open.
“While we…respect and value the principle of free speech, we are disappointed in the SMU College Republicans organization for not selecting a more substantive and eloquent speaker to contribute to an intellectual discourse on the issues,” said Joanna Pearce, OUTlaw president and associate managing editor of the SMU Law Review.
In an email, Pearce went on to describe Crowder as “an antagonist with an insatiable hunger for provocation. He makes his living by finding ways to ‘trigger’ others; that is, finding ways to offend and denigrate as many people (or people groups) as possible. In doing so, he freely employs hate speech, including derisive epithets like ‘f*ggot,’ and he chooses to use these words precisely because of their ability to injure and offend.”
OUTlaw emphasized that the group in no way objects to Crowder’s legal right to speak on campus, or to College Republicans’ right to invite him. Rather, OUTlaw contends that it was irresponsible.
“Our protest is designed to show our displeasure with hate speech and intolerance being disseminated on our campus. Although we respect the SMU College Republicans’ right to bring speakers to campus, including speakers of little to no intellectual value, we nevertheless plan to exercise our right to demur and express our disappointment with their choice of speaker in this case. Additionally, we hope that our protest alerts the administration to the presence of its smaller minority student populations, and leads to productive future dialogues regarding measures to be taken in defending both free speech and the interests of minorities on campus. We support speech, but we also reserve our right to engage in respectful counter-speech, which is particularly important where a featured speaker chooses to shun respectful dialogue in favor of using reprehensible insults.”
College Republicans are also drawing fire for promoting the event with posters of Crowder wearing a shirt that depicts Che Guevara and reads “socialism is for f*gs” (on the shirt design, the asterisk is a fig). SMU’s logo was also visible in a version of the poster that was originally displayed. College Republicans later had Crowder’s team replace the poster with a version in which the text on the shirt was blacked out, saying, “We are not looking to simply generate controversy simply for the point of doing so. We did not feel that the language on the shirt was conducive to the message we are trying to promote on campus and so we chose to black out the verbiage.” Still, students have reported seeing both versions.
Pearce said that OUTlaw was “disheartened by [SMU administrators’] indifference to the use of SMU’s logo and branding on Crowder’s flier for the event, which also depicted a homophobic epithet. We hope that our protest and communications with the main campus administration will spark a dialogue regarding SMU’s stance on the degree to which it should publicly claim affiliation with guest speakers in the future, in order to prevent inadvertently creating the impression that the university does not value diversity.”
In a statement, SMU President R. Gerald Turner’s office stated that it did not endorse Crowder, emphasizing that he goes against SMU’s policies of diversity and inclusion. But SMU reiterated the right of College Republicans to invite outside speakers who “express objectionable or offensive ideas,” as well as the right of OUTlaw and other student organizations’ to “join together to demonstrate their concern by orderly means.”
Some have pointed out that because Crowder’s speaking fee of $15,000 was allocated to the College Republicans from SMU’s annual budget by the student senate, students and donors, many of whom belong to the groups that Crowder insults and disparages, are paying for the speaking engagement.
Though Crowder’s caustic presence is being met with significant backlash, interaction between the two student groups has remained civil, if somewhat tense. Lines of communication between College Republicans, OUTlaw, and Young Americans for Freedom (another conservative campus organization planning a counter-protest in support of Crowder’s right to speak on campus) have all remained open. All three organizations claim to support a constructive dialogue between people of opposing viewpoints.
Pearce said that OUTlaw believes “the foundation of respectful dialogue is respect. Hateful epithets designed to denigrate historically oppressed minority groups are not used with respectful intention, and their use immediately strips all vestiges of respect from conversations that otherwise could have been productive.”
Editor’s note: Alec Petsche is a student at SMU and a former intern for D Magazine.
A Southern Methodist University medical anthropologist made a call for deeper understanding of and better communication on health issues like the flu during a lecture Thursday evening at SMU. Carolyn Smith-Morris took on the topic of the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 million to 100 million people—as many as some Black Plague casualty counts, which range from 50 million to 200 million. Her thoughts, delivered in the Gene and Jerry Jones Great Hall at SMU’s Meadows Museum, were part of the ongoing Godbey Anniversary Lecture Series. Smith-Morris discussed the ways that an epidemic unfolds, beginning with the… Full Story
An assistant professor of kinesiology at the university of Texas at Arlington, Michael Nelson, has secured a five-year, $3.3 million grant to study the link between fat storage in the heart and cardiovascular disease. He’ll also look at how gender influences the development of cardiac dysfunction. The grant comes from the National Institutes of Health. Here’s Nelson and UTA with more about the genesis of the project: “You’re not supposed to store fat in the heart, but patients who suffer from obesity, diabetes or heart disease tend to store more fat in the heart,” Nelson said. “This excess fat is… Full Story
As we mentioned in “Leading Off” this morning, Dallas ISD is working to reassure students and their parents over uncertainty concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which could affect thousands of undocumented children enrolled in Dallas schools. The school district has more than 70,000 students who are English Language Learners (it does not keep track of students’ immigration status, so that’s not a flawless measure) and employs 78 “Dreamers,” including 36 teachers. That’s a lot of people whose futures are at stake while Congress bickers over DACA and immigration policy.
The district’s efforts, a campaign based on the always sensible advice of “don’t panic,” include the debut of a new webpage that’s very much worth a look. It has the text of a school board resolution from last year promising to protect students “TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW,” regardless of their immigration status, and links to useful resources for undocumented immigrants, like a guide to your constitutional rights, legal assistance for undocumented immigrants, and scholarships for undocumented students.
An FAQ answers immigration questions and elaborates on how the school district would respond to, say, a request from ICE for information on undocumented students. A: “We do not ask for students’ immigration status when they enroll. If we get a request for student information, Dallas ISD’s policies will protect all of our students’ constitutional and legal rights to keep their information private.” A few of the answers are frustratingly vague. For example:
Q: Are immigration enforcement actions allowed on school grounds? A: In February 2017, Dallas ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution to designate all Dallas ISD schools as welcoming and protective to the fullest extent of the law.
Others describe a kind of worst-case scenario:
Q: If I am a parent or guardian, and I am worried about being detained while my child is at school, what should I do? A: In the event that any parents are detained during school hours, the District will keep students safe until an authorized adult can pick up the child. Please take this opportunity to update your emergency contact information for your students at your school.
The webpage also links to a letter from Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, which I found striking enough to copy below in full:
Dear Dallas ISD Families,
Dallas ISD’s top priority is providing a welcoming and protective environment for students and staff. Our mission calls for the education of not just some students, but all students.
As a member of an immigrant family, I see myself reflected in the faces of your children, and your faces are those of my parents who sacrificed, worked and dreamed of a brighter future for their children.
Thus, it is heartbreaking to see the uncertainty and fear among undocumented families across the country prompted by the recent developments in the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. While DACA primarily impacts young adults, it has understandably caused anxiety throughout our community.
Regardless of the outcome of DACA, you can rest assured that the great team of educators across Dallas ISD will continue to provide every child a quality education that prepares them for college and a career, regardless of immigration status.
This promise extends to our district staff. Dallas ISD has a proud history of helping young adults realize their dreams of pursuing a career in education. Their contributions, both in and outside the classroom, are vital to prepare our students to become future leaders. As Congress makes a decision on the future of DACA, our attorneys will continue working to determine how we can best support these valuable employees.
Dallas ISD is defined by our diversity. Our district stands united with students, parents and staff of all cultures who believe that every student can grow, succeed and contribute, regardless of background.
Thank you for your support as we continue our work to protect the rights of all students and staff to pursue their dreams!
Remember Tonya Sadler Grayson? If you read the Dallas Morning News from 2014 to 2016, you saw her name in a series of seemingly sensational front-page stories. Grayson was the executive director of Human Capital Management for Dallas ISD (human resources to you and me). An internal report accused her of lying about her criminal background on a job application. Then there was an alleged physical skirmish with a staff member and reportedly more than one heated argument with trustee Bernadette Nutall. After Grayson was eventually dismissed — a dismissal upheld by a three-member panel of trustees, which included Lew Blackburn — she filed a lawsuit accusing Blackburn of sexual harassment and the district of wrongful termination. Despite her claims, the News stories, written by Matthew Haag and Tawnell Hobbs, along with Channel 8 stories voiced by former journalist Brett Shipp, painted a picture of a woman who was fired because she was an unstable, bullying liar.
I always thought the case against Grayson was overblown. First of all, multiple DISD officials and trustees have told me about Nutall working diligently to undermine the human resources people brought in by then superintendent Mike Miles, because those new people threatened to dismantle her network of cronies. It seemed to me that Grayson fell prey to Nutall’s machinations. For example, Grayson’s “criminal background,” that thing she lied about on her job application? It was a misdemeanor from when she was 19. Apparently she defaced the front door of a rival for a man’s affection. And that alleged attack on the DISD staffer? It was thoroughly investigated, and the charges against her were dropped. And the internal “report” used to justify all this coverage? It was put together by a rogue district employee who was himself fired when it was discovered that he was “investigating” Grayson. At the same time, Nutall was attacking her publicly. After Grayson filed her lawsuit and the News ran its final story about her, in April 2016, that was the last we heard from her. But a lot has happened in two years.
The reporters mentioned above have all moved on. Haag writes obituaries and Metro stories for the New York Times. Hobbs was hired by the Wall Street Journal. And Shipp is hoping his high North Texas Q-rating will help him in his bid for Pete Sessions’ U.S. House of Representatives seat. Corbett Smith is now leading DISD coverage for the paper and doing a much better job of it. The self-serving leaks from status quo trustees have dried up. And, in response to an open records request from Smith, we’ve learned that Grayson and the district have reached a settlement in her suit. But his story, published yesterday, missed something important.
Here’s what I know. Grayson alleged Blackburn repeatedly asked her for “sexual favors in return for employment protection and support.” This past Halloween, Grayson and DISD came to an agreement that was a slam-dunk win for the district. For just $60,000, Grayson agreed to dismiss her case, and the district agreed to retroactively accept her resignation instead of terminating her. Grayson agreed to forever hold blameless the district and the board of trustees. She agreed to a confidentiality clause, as did the district — except when faced with open records requests like Smith’s.
That’s what the documents reveal. But after talking to numerous high-level sources who were there during the controversy or who are currently district officials, I’d like to raise three questions.
1. Despite the dismissal of the lawsuit, did trustee Blackburn have sex with Grayson?
2. If so, was he offering a quid pro quo arrangement wherein he agreed to protect Grayson from Nutall?
3. No matter the answer to No. 2, why did Blackburn sit on Grayson’s three-member review panel and uphold her firing when he had a conflict of interest?
Regarding No. 1: Blackburn did have sex with Grayson. This fact is not in the settlement documents that the district recently coughed up, but sources I talked to say he did not contest to district investigators that he’d had sex with Grayson. Sources say the lawyers on both sides operated as though that sexual relationship was a given. Blackburn, by the way, has not responded to multiple requests to talk about this.
Regarding No. 2: I don’t think there was a quid pro quo arrangement explicitly stated, not after interviewing people who knew key details about their relationship. But, under the law, it needn’t be explicitly discussed to exist. If Blackburn had hinted that he would protect Grayson’s job if she had sex with him, then that’s sufficient.
There is a lawyerly argument that Blackburn, who is not technically a district employee, had no real power over Grayson. There is a more than reasonable argument that she, as director of HR, should have known better. But that doesn’t get to the real-world fact that Nutall was lighting the fires that turned up the media heat on Grayson and the district. Media heat only made superintendent Miles dig in more to protect her, because he is stubborn and isn’t afraid of taking said heat. But then Michael Hinojosa became superintendent, and he wanted that heat turned down. So he quickly fired Grayson. Protection from Nutall and the media was a valuable asset that someone in Blackburn’s position could offer. Although that power isn’t made clear by an org chart, it is real.
A lot of people in DISD and the North Texas education ecosystem regard Blackburn as –professionally speaking — a “terrible trustee.” I’ve heard stories from administrators and his fellow trustees about Blackburn promising to vote one way on a matter before the board, and then a few hours later reversing course. (His most famous cowardly turn was voting multiple times against taking a tax hike to citizens despite having co-written an op-ed in the News that supported the tax hike.) He has been at this trustee job since 2001 and has done little in those 17 years but grandstand.
Which brings us to question No. 3: the answer is that Blackburn is, again, a terrible trustee. Let’s assume that he explicitly told Grayson, “No matter what happens, I do not have your back.” It’s still a clear conflict of interest that he sat on the panel that upheld her firing. He wasn’t compelled to be on that panel. He could have easily let another trustee take his place. In fact, he should have. Sources I’ve spoken with say that trustees recuse themselves from these panels with regularity and that they can do so without having to provide a reason.
(It must be noted that the review panel is not supposed to review whether the district’s actions were fair, just whether the actions taken by DISD were legal and within the district’s guidelines. In the past, other trustees have told me about Blackburn playing judge and jury with these exact sorts of cases before him, ultimately voting in favor of employees based on whether he thinks they were treated fairly.)
I think it’s awful that Blackburn did this, but it doesn’t surprise me. There are those who will tell you not to cry for Grayson. She’s a smart woman who made bad decisions all along the way, they say. But I cringe when I hear stories about how Grayson’s friends in the administration would do things to make sure Blackburn didn’t intimidate her, which they felt he did. One would go so far as to position herself during trustee meetings so that she blocked Blackburn’s sightline of Grayson, because of what she felt was his intimidation through his gaze.
One of the reasons Blackburn could vote to uphold Grayson’s firing is that there is almost no recourse against bad actor trustees. Boards can censure a trustee, but that almost never happens in Texas, and it’s only a political shaming anyway. We should add a provision that would allow for the impeachment of trustees, but such a change in the law is not likely to happen soon.
Could you find something in district policy or the Texas Education Code that forbids what happened between Blackburn and Grayson? Perhaps. But I wrote about the removal of school board trustees in 2014. This still stands: “Trustees can be removed from office if convicted of a crime and if subsequently removed from office by a judge because of that crime. But the local DA … would have to convene a grand jury to indict and convict one of our elected officials for breaking provisions of the Texas Education Code, which aren’t tied to the Texas Penal Code. These aren’t viewed as ‘go to jail’ laws.”
No, the only way to react to something like what happened here is for us to demand more of our public officials by voting out of office people like Lew Blackburn, someone who has proven himself incapable of putting the concerns of students before his own interests. His term ends in the spring of 2019.
A residency program associated with the UNT Health Science Center has closed its doors. The Wichita Falls Family Medicine Residency Program officially shut down at the end of June. According to a UNTHSC spokesperson, the program’s sponsor—North Central Texas Medical Foundation—made the decision. A story from the Wichita Falls Times Record News details the steps that led to it; the trouble started when NCTMF and the Community Healthcare Center, which was managing the program, cut ties. The dagger came when Wichita Falls-based United Regional Health Care System pulled its support. Without the backing of a teaching hospital, a committee of the… Full Story
UT Southwestern Medical Center sits atop a new Nature Index list for high-quality research output among academic medical centers. Dallas-based UT Southwestern tops Columbia University Medical Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which come in at No. 2 and No. 3 on the list, respectively. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston sits at No. 7. The Nature Index is a product of the scientific journal Nature, and it looks at research article output among 82 high-quality science journals (which are chosen by a panel of scientists that are independent of Nature). The index’s top 100… Full Story
Philip Tolley’s journey to medicine began with a broken collarbone. After injuring it while playing football in high school, Tolley’s interest in becoming a doctor piqued as he experienced the long recovery process. “That forced me to be see the medical side of it,” Tolley says, “and made me realize that I wanted to be a part of that.” Last month, Dr. Tolley accepted the Ho Din Award, the most prestigious accolade a UT Southwestern Medical Center student can receive. Recipients represent the “ideal physician,” who demonstrates academic excellence and compassion within their communities. Tolley will receive the award—given out… Full Story
City Hall Will Pay $15.5. Million to Have School Crossing Guards. Yesterday, the council approved a $15.5. million contract for three years for All City Management Services Inc., which will run the crossing-guard program.
McKinney Councilman Apologizes for Alleging Racial Profiling. The McKinney City Council voted 6-0 yesterday to approve a resolution that expressed disapproval of how council member La’Shadion Shemwell handled a traffic stop earlier this month, when he accused a white police officer of racial profiling for pulling his over for an alleged speeding violation. Shemwell brought forward the motion to censure himself. It doesn’t remove him from office and there is no added punishment.
Frisco Student Faces Felony Charge for Threats. A 14-year-old student was taken into custody after authorities suspected the student made a terroristic threat yesterday against Cobb Middle School. The kid could get two to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Body Found in White Rock Creek Identified. The body found earlier this month was identified as 39-year-old Eric Hall, but the medical examiner’s office hasn’t released an official cause of death. Hall, who went by Nicole, was described as a pioneer in Texas’ black transgender community. A vigil is being planned for Saturday.
Our own Eric Celeste has written about the Mike Miles-initiated ACE program in DISD, for “Accelerated Campus Excellence.” Here’s how it works (from 2016):
[T]he program [is] designed to provide a more equitable distribution of teachers. Two years ago, Dallas and Houston ISDs each had 43 failing schools, accounting for about 30,000 students in each district. Today, Houston has 40 schools with about 32,000 students still found by the state to be failing. Dallas, largely because of ACE, has reduced its number to 22 schools, with about 16,000 students. In those failing schools, third through eighth-grade students improved by double-digit percentages in 13 of 14 state measures in just one year (e.g., 35 percent in fifth-grade math and 33 percent in eighth-grade science).
How did DISD produce these astonishing gains in some of its most impoverished schools? By getting the best teachers in front of those kids. Which means it had to do two things: fund the ACE program (teachers were given $8,000 to $10,000 bonuses to move schools) and identify the best teachers. The Teacher Excellence Initiative in fact showed that, before ACE, students at magnet schools—the best students—were 3.5 times more likely to have a distinguished teacher than kids who needed them most, the students at failing schools.
Mike Miles, you’ll recall, was pretty much run out of town.
So how are things looking today? Let’s take just one example, Blanton Elementary in Pleasant Grove. The STAAR test results have just been released, and Blanton fifth-graders did very well this year. Again. Their scores are up 67 percentage points over where they were before ACE started, just three years ago, and 82 percent of them scored at the TEA’s “Meets” grade level standard. The Blanton student body is almost entirely students of color who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. For years, it was one of the lowest-performing schools in the entire state. Now look at em. Here’s the chart; it doesn’t yet include this year’s results.
How good are the Blanton fifth-graders at math? Like I said, 82 percent met the TEA’s grade level standard. Over in Highland Park ISD, that number for fifth-graders is 79 percent.
One more thing. The fifth-grade math teacher at Blanton? That would be Josue Tamarez Torres, DISD’s teacher of the year. Here’s Torres, in a video produced by the Commit Partnership, talking about how he does it.
UPDATE (5/17/18): A reader asked a very good question. Is Torres the only fifth-grade math teacher at Blanton? No, he’s not. My apologies for not also shining a light on the work of Jessie Helms, the other fifth-grade math teacher. She deserves credit, too, for her students’ progress.
Dallas ISD STAAR Test Scores Improve. Both reading and math scores went up a higher percentage than the state’s growth. DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said as long as the state’s criteria stays the same, he foresees fewer than five schools getting a failing mark from the state later this year.
Irving Elementary Teacher Accused of “Unwanted” Contact with Students. The teacher at Lee Britain Elementary School has been removed from the school while the allegations are being investigated.
FBI Raids Dallas Healthcare Company. Yesterday, FBI agents raided Medoc Health Services in Northwest Dallas and filled a van with materials. The reason for the raid is unclear, but Medoc said they are cooperating with the investigation.
Cedar Hill Student Shoves Teacher, Curses at Him. A cellphone video captured the student losing his temper after his physics teacher, Bobby Soehnge, took away the kid’s phone during class. He knocked papers off Soehnge’s desk and shoved his face with his hand. Cedar Hill ISD is “following district policy on disciplinary action.”
Despite a last-ditch effort by alumni to preserve the SMU student newspaper’s independence, The Daily Campus will end its print edition and become a part of the university’s journalism department. Friends of Student Media, the alumni group that had raised concerns about the potential for university censorship, was able to raise about $40,000 in a week to try and keep the independent Student Media Company in business.
In a letter sent to SMU President Gerald Turner and journalism faculty at the school, the group says that it was told by members of the company’s board that it was “too late.” The money, and any future donations, will instead “be used to fund annual scholarships for Dallas-area students who plan to study journalism at colleges and universities with independent student presses,” according to the letter.
The American Academy of Osteopathy has selected a University of North Texas Health Science Center professor as its president-elect. Dr. Kendi Hensel, a professor in the osteopathic manipulative medicine department, was chosen for the role during the AAO’s annual meeting last month. She’s been involved with the organization for 18 years and on its board of trustees for eight. “I love the art of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM),” Dr. Hensel said in a statement. “Because in so many other specialties you see a patient and write them a prescription or schedule them for surgery and you see them again in… Full Story
La Rondalla is an incredible after school music program located in Oak Cliff. Its founder, Dennis Gonzalez, runs it with his two sons, Stefan and Aaron (who also make up the trio Yells at Eels), as well as instructors who include guitarist Kenny Withrow, of New Bohemians fame, as well as a number of other notable local musicians. The program, which has been in operation since 2010, offers neighborhood kids an opportunity to learn how to play the instrument of their choice from some incredibly accomplished musicians. And here’s the kicker: it’s all free. Students sign up, show up, are given instruments, and they learn.
Unfortunately, La Rondalla has fallen on some tough times. The Dallas Observer has more info, but here’s the gist: the program has had to temporarily shut its doors in order to raise money to keep the program going. Here’s how you can help: the Gonzalez’s will be hosting a few benefit concerts over the next month, and they are accepting donation direct via PayPal. Here are the details:
The family has spread awareness via Facebook and is planning a two-day benefit garage sale from 7 a.m. until sundown April 7 and 8 at the La Rondalla building, 1107 W. Jefferson Blvd. There will also be a series of benefit concerts. The first is at 9 p.m. April 15 at Tradewinds Social Club, 2843 W. Davis St. The program is requesting donations of $5 or more, and a portion of all bar sales go to La Rondalla. A Spinsters Records benefit show and more benefit venues will be announced soon.
The quickest way to donate is via La Rondalla’s PayPal account at email@example.com with a note that says “donation for La Rondalla,” along with your name and email. Gonzalez says people have already begun to donate to the PayPal account.
As a high school student in Frisco, I’ve never had much reason to feel unsafe. The anxieties students like myself most often face should include making it to class on time, or somehow passing that test we failed to study for. A new issue, however, has forced itself to the forefront of our minds. It’s the question of whether we’re safe at school.
It’s no news that mass shootings have become an all too common fact of American life. Schools haven’t been spared from these acts of gun violence, which follow a familiar cycle of shock and heartbreak. But increasingly students, fed up with thoughts and prayers and little else, are calling for action.
Following the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, many of the students of Stoneman Douglas High School have shown the country that, despite their age, students can be a fierce and influential political voice, especially when it comes to the topic of their safety. Now, young people across the country have channeled their efforts into a tangible movement for change, introducing a student-led demonstration for stronger gun laws and safer schools, the March for Our Lives.
On Saturday, young people in more than 800 cities worldwide will take to the streets to rally for gun control. North Texas students are bringing the effort here, with a rally and march planned for 1 p.m. that day, beginning at Dallas City Hall.
Over the past month, students from high schools and colleges across North Texas have banded together to organize the Dallas march, with the help of gun control organizations such as Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety.
Students will be marching in support of three specific policies: a ban on bump stocks, increased regulation of high capacity magazines, and the institution of universal background checks. However, the Dallas branch has strategically chosen not to call for a ban on the sale of AR-15 assault rifles—one of the policies supported by others calling for reform of gun laws.
“We’re not trying to take away people’s Second Amendment [rights]. We believe in the right to bear arms but also believe in the right for people to have a life,” says student activist and march organizer Waed Alhayek . “This is just the beginning. These are our three policies that we’re trying to push for, because we don’t want to take away your guns. We just want to regulate, making sure people feel safe.”
Like millions of students, Alhayek was deeply touched and inspired by the boldness of students at Stoneman Douglas and felt compelled to take action.
“For the longest time, we’ve seen mass shootings happen in different places: at concerts, at homes, and public areas. But when it hits a school, that’s when it really starts shaking people up, because you go to school to get an education…” Alhayek says. “Once that’s taken away from you, once fear gets instilled in students, that’s when it becomes really scary. If I’m not even safe at my own school, where am I safe?”
Student organizers hope that the march brings awareness to many young people’s support of increased gun control, while encouraging action among all age groups. “My hope is really to get people to speak up and to really get involved…Go to the polls. Start voting, because local elections are insanely important, and they affect everybody,” Alhayek says.
Despite being student-led, people of all ages are encouraged to attend, says Matt Tranchin, a community organizer and an adviser to the March for Our Lives in Dallas. (Full disclosure: Tranchin is also the executive director of Coalition for a New Dallas, the political action committee launched by D Magazine founder and publisher Wick Allison. March for Our Lives-Dallas organizers have met at the D Magazine offices.)
“One of the asks is to have parents, teachers, and mentors wearing red and lining the march path, as the guardians of this march,” Tranchin says. “This is led by students, but the real need is to show the support and symbolic role of protecting and encouraging the students to do what they do.”
Students know that putting a stop to every gun violence tragedy is an impossible task. We also know that we must take steps to try.
“No more waiting for someone else to speak up,” Alhayek says. “It’s your time to start speaking up, to start speaking up for what you believe in.”
Editor’s note: Chloe Young is a high school student in a mentorship program that has her learning from editors at D Magazine.
The University of North Texas Health Science Center is the recipient of a $10 million federal research endowment to study the health disparities impacting ethnic, racial, rural, and economically disadvantaged populations in the U.S. The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities awards the endowments, which are paid over five years. UNTHSC is one of just two institutions nationally to get it. The endowment was put in place in 2001 by Congress to help out institutions committed to disparities research. The money goes toward scientists and students rather than the research projects themselves. Fort Worth-based UNTHSC lists its priorities… Full Story
Craig Miller became the DISD police chief more than six years ago, after 30 years with the Dallas Police Department. I worked with him when he was still with DPD and I was still with the City Attorney’s Office. When I received a call from a DISD teacher concerned about safety measures in her secondary school following the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, I checked in with him to find out how the DISD Police Department is responding. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
I don’t know much about the DISD Police Department. How does it work? We’re the second largest school district police department in Texas. If you had 1,100 police chiefs in Texas, roughly 180 of those are going to be school district police departments. In the state of Texas, 90 percent of all police agencies have less than 30 people on the department. We’re up around 200 people in our department. If you put things in perspective, not just compared to school police departments, we’re in the top 5 percent of the largest police agencies in the state.
Who does your department report to? I think, for me, one of the things that’s important to the school district is that our police department actually works for the superintendent of schools. When you’re an SRO [School Resource Officer] for a municipal police department, you’re actually still working for your police department. If you’re in Richardson, Plano, Garland, Mesquite—they have SROs that work in schools, but those SROs are still assigned as employees to their police departments. Me and the guys that work for me are actually employees of Dallas ISD. I think for that reason, we have a responsibility to work with the campuses and the administrators because we’re all on the same team.
How do individual schools develop safety plans? I think when things like Florida happen, I think all of us feel the sorrow for the people experiencing the problem. Then we realize how important it is that we have a plan and we know what we’re going to do in the event something should happen. The emergency management function for the school district falls under the police department. We’re responsible for the safety plans that the campuses get, the Campus Emergency Operations Plan or CEOP. We work with them in the fall. In doing that, there’s a part that deals with active shooters, and the expectation is that every school in the district, in the first two weeks of school, will do an active shooter lockdown situation. We kind of start the school year off with that because we have a lot of principals that change here. Each new school year brings about new challenges for each of the campuses. Emergency management folks work with them on their plans.
Are the drills only done once a year? In the fall, the state of Texas requires that you do one type of drill. Dallas ISD does two drills. One is a lockdown drill, and then another type of drill. That doesn’t include a fire drills, which they do all the time. Then in the springtime we do, once again, two more drills. Those include the weather, shelter in place drills for the storms that come through Texas. I feel like we’re prepared that way. I just think anytime something like this happens, it’s a shock. There’s always outrage. How could this happen? I think it’s just a reminder to us of how important our function is here.
What do you think that DISD is getting right in terms of student safety? I think physical security is really important. I think two years from now, there’ll be a question when the civil lawsuits come out in the case in Florida about how did this person get onto the campus and get into the school to pull their alarm and then get back out? With many doors on our schools, I think it’s really important that we harden our facilities. Since most of our resources are placed at the secondary campuses, the middle schools and the high schools, I think it’s really important that we provide the elementary schools with things to make their lives easier. That really came about after Sandy Hook happened, and we were given $2 million. With that $2 million we were able to do some real enhancements in physical security. When you go up to the school, you’re greeted by a buzzer that has a camera. You talk to the buzzer. Then we made sure the portables all have the doors that have the peephole in them where a teacher can actually be 7 feet away from the door and see who’s knocking on their door. Previously, they didn’t know who was knocking.
Card access is something that we’ve really rolled out following Sandy Hook, and then we have crazy cool, intricate camera systems in our secondary schools and middle schools and high schools. We didn’t, at that time, have so much camera coverage in any of the elementary schools. Today, we have camera systems in all the schools in the district. I really think that’s something DISD is really getting right.
I heard from one DISD teacher who said she was concerned that her school has a secure front door, but there were a number of side access doors that were never locked. On several occasions, she had discovered former students and other individuals roaming the halls without authorization. She felt that her administrators weren’t taking the issue seriously. If teachers are seeing a failure in security on campus, how is that best handled? I think that the mantra going across the country right now is “See something, say something.” I personally take it another level and I say, “See something, say something, do something.” If you’re a teacher and you are aware that other teachers are leaving doors open, or there’s access points where an intruder could come in and violate your safety, it’s your responsibility to report that to your campus administrator and have them work with our emergency management folks. If you are at a school that’s a secondary school and you have a police officer or security on that campus, you can actually reach out to the police officer who’s on campus and say, “Hey, I’m noticing this, what do you think?” I think a lot of the times, if you really get into that “do something” part of the phrase—don’t sit there if you know there’s a problem. We can’t fix it unless you let us know.
Part of the problem with the shooting in Parkland appears to be the fact that the local police department, and even the FBI, had received prior complaints about the shooter, but that information was not followed up on or communicated to the school. Do you feel that you have a good line of communication with DPD and federal authorities? I tell you what I feel comfortable with, Kathy, is the fact that with 158,000 kids—and I have no idea if 100,000 of them are on social media or what the number is—it’s impossible for us to monitor every kid’s social media site. I think that gets back once again to that “See something, say something, do something.” When it’s brought to our attention that a student has made a threat, similar to what happened in Florida, I do believe that we do a very good job of vetting those complaints, those concerns. It’s an ongoing thing, where one parent will have heard from another parent who heard it from a parent that a child said they were going to do this. It’s incumbent upon us to be able to review those things. You and I, being from the city, have a great relationship with DPD. And the ability to reach out to the North Central Texas Fusion Center, gives us an asset being here in a large city, that a lot of places may not have. If we think there’s a threat, if we determine that there’s a level of credibility and it indeed rises to that level, we have the ability to reach out to the Fusion Center, which is an incredible intelligence source and can help us out. I feel real comfortable that when threats are brought to our attention, that we act on those threats and do everything we can to vet them and to ensure whether or not they’re legitimate.
The teacher I talked with was also concerned that metal detectors weren’t being used appropriately at her school, and that while students walked through them, their bags weren’t being searched. Do you think they are an effective tool? I think that metal detectors are something that there’s a lot of debate about. The Houston ISD’s larger than us, and they don’t use metal detectors. They use wands. I think that’s one of the things, moving forward, is doing random spot checks with wands, might be more effective. Our district’s stand is still to use metal detectors in the secondary schools and that’s what we do. Are they successful or not? I know that we don’t get weapons as they come through metal detectors. I know that we had a situation a couple years ago, a student did come through a metal detector and inadvertently shot himself in the leg. That tells me right there that they can get on the campuses. That’s the way it is. I think that it’s just incumbent upon us to stay vigilant, and when a kid says they think there’s another student with a gun, or when anything comes to our attention that we think there might be a gun, that we investigate each of those. I think that’s the beauty of us.
What’s your approach to potentially violent students? I can tell you something that the DISD is doing, I think, that’s really out of the box. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term “restorative justice“? In our situation, a lot of times, a student, possibly like the one in Florida, might have been intercepted after having 36 calls to the police. Having his own history, he might have been interjected here into a restorative justice type of program. In doing that, he would have been surrounded in this circle, and had a chance to really vent and say the things that were going on, or the concerns, or thoughts that he had. In our scenario, a Dallas ISD police officer would have been a part of that restorative team. I think that’s trying to foster kids to come forward and tell campus officers. If you’re aware of something, let your campus officer know. I don’t know if they were doing this in Florida, and I don’t pretend to, but I know that in our district we’re moving forward with that restorative justice program.
How has DISD historically handled it when kids have brought weapons into schools? Our goal as police officers in schools is not to criminalize children. I always want to work with a kid. If it’s just a failed threat, and they don’t actually have a weapon, that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t arrest them, but I think it’s our intent to try and find out what the problem is. A couple years ago, we had the clown threats and we had a lot of stuff going on. We had kids that weren’t in school and people were concerned, and we handled that in the appropriate way. I do think that we investigate those crimes that we feel are appropriate to be investigated. And if they need to be criminalized in our school district police department, I’ve got the exact same arrest capabilities I have right now as a DISD police officer as I did when I was a Dallas police officer—no more, no less. Being school employees, our goal is to try and work with these kids and not give them a criminal record, but if someone does something that warrants being interjected into the criminal system, we’ll certainly do that.
I read a Dallas Morning Newsinterview with you, I think it was several years ago, where you were talking about the training that the officers go through for school shootings. You mentioned that, down the road, you wanted to see teachers receive active shooting training, but at the time I think it wasn’t an option or wasn’t a priority. Is that something that’s happening now? Well, I don’t think it’s not a priority. I just think that we’ve still not really evolved to where we have teachers engaged in that. I think a part of that problem is the fact that schoolteachers are what I refer to as 187-day employees. They’re off in the summer, and they’re off on the breaks. When the teachers are off in the summer and off on the breaks is when our police officers really have an opportunity to train them. We’ve not been able to marry up those two to where we can get teachers involved in our active shooter training. They get introduced to active shooters and what to do through the Campus Emergency Operation Plans.
When school shootings like the one in Parkland happen, does it prompt any sort of internal analysis? Unfortunately, in our world, to be honest with you, Kathy, major events are what prompts major change. Look what happened after Columbine. Police officers learned, as a result of Columbine, that we really don’t have the opportunity to wait for backup in some instances. Even with lesser resources, we’re going to have to handle that. Then you look at what happened in Virginia Tech, and the Clery Act that was basically introduced about that time, and how it’s enhanced today where you can notify 50,000 students at the University of Texas that there’s a problem. Then Sandy Hook prompted the changes that we made to physical security. One of the very first things we did that didn’t cost very much money at all was to put that peepholes in the doors of 1,500 portables. It’s as big as a silver dollar on the inside, and it looks like a peephole on the outside. And then we put the cameras in all of the elementary schools. We started card access, and we put what I call the buzzer intercom systems, some people refer to it as the 8-ball system, at the front of the school where you push the button and then you talk and you’re on a camera. We did all of those. Look at what’s taken place with Dallas PD following the shooting there—the officers getting millions of dollars to get Kevlar helmets, to get Kevlar vests. Sensational events prompt sensational things.
The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Pharmacy will move all four years of its program to Dallas-Fort Worth. The area has been home to years three and four since 1999, including partnering with 240 hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies. But students have traditionally had to move to Amarillo, Abilene, or Lubbock for their first two years. About half of the program’s enrollment comes from DFW and surrounding areas, but TTUHSC President Tedd Mitchell said in a statement that qualified candidates have been left on the table due to their inability to relocate. “So bringing all four years of… Full Story
Parkland is creating highly-skilled nurses fit specifically for the world of correctional health with a 12-week course the hospital says is the only one like it in the country. The Correctional Health Nursing Residency program, offered through Parkland’s Clinical Education department, combines classroom instruction and clinical experience with a mentor. It’s offered twice a year and trains nurses on the full spectrum of correctional health, from juvenile services to psychiatric services. Parkland took over healthcare for inmates at the Dallas County Jail in 2006. Dallas County Sheriffs Deputies are always on hand when patients are being treated, and very few… Full Story
Dallas Police Targets Home or Business Owners Who Tolerate Crime. Yesterday, the City Council passed a “nuisance abatement” ordinance, which lets Chief U. Renee Hall pinpoint properties that tolerate crime and focus on the owners. City officials can now put up a sign on these properties and mark them as “habitual criminal activity” sites. Anyone who removes the signs without approval will be committing an offense, but owners who fix up the property can get the sign taken down.
Developers Want to Save Part of the Old Dallas ISD’s Headquarters. Leon Capital Group is spending more than $9 million on DISD’s former Ross Avenue headquarters. It plans to build an apartment complex on the block at Ross and Washington with 380 rental units and a six-level parking garage. The space includes the existing central building of the DISD headquarters.
Dallas Firefighter May Be Charged with Intoxication Manslaughter. An off-duty firefighter, who was suspected of driving drunk in Cedar Hill yesterday, crashed into an 18-year-old woman and her unborn baby, who were killed in the crash. He rear-ended the woman, Alyssa Pimentel, who was ejected by the impact. The firefighter, Horace Shaw III, was booked into the Dallas County Jail and faces a count of intoxication manslaughter.
Hazing Gets TCU Fraternity Suspended. The Epsilon Beta chapter of Delta Tau Delta was suspended due to allegations of hazing. Details of the hazing are unclear, as is whether a police investigation is underway. “This chapter, including its leadership, willfully violated not only the fraternity’s risk management policy but also our stated values. Hazing is an aberration to those values,” said Jim Russell, executive vice president of the fraternity’s national chapter.