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Friday, June 20, 2014

The lessons we can learn from the West disaster and how much it resembles Allen ISD

It’s been awhile since I last wrote. At the moment I am at the TASB Leadership conference. A few really good sessions. Always good to get a few other perspective of things, but the one that struck me the most was the session on the West School District disaster.

I have asked for Dr Hindt to connect with Dr Marty Crawford, who is the current Superintendent and was the Superintendent during the disaster. I spoke with Dr Crawford about the disaster and wanted his view on our setup for the new Transportation Facility. Seeing first hand the affects of the blast on the school district needs to be heard in our district. The proximity of the blast to their school facilities and neighborhoods is the same setup we have with our new Transportation Facility. One of the striking topics was the “canon balls” that penetrated the roof lines of the houses within the area. “Canon balls” are the projectiles that get blasted into the surrounding areas, i.e. dirt, clay, rock, steel and chemicals. Plus, the affect of the blast and how it reverberated within the confined spaces of homes, the schools and open air obstacles should be of great interest to this school district.

Most people don’t realize that their was actually 250 Metric tons Nitrate at that facility but only 25,000 pounds of it exploded resulting in the devastation that was experienced. This makeup eerily resembles the 25,000 pounds of high-pressure gas, diesel, gas and oil being stored in the above ground location of our new bussing facility. By having the above ground storage encased within a berm structure only adds more “canon balls” to the equation if a blast were to occur.  The fact is that the facility in West was also built to code and to standards that the city thought were sufficient for any such disaster, unfortunately, we as humans all too often fall into this circle of comfort in how much hardening we build into a structure, but the fact is we just need to re-look at where we are putting it. The City and the School District should reconsider the impacts of the above ground fuel storage, and either place into underground, or move it to the City facilities where the Police store their fuel (across the street from the Allen Bowl).

I’m hoping that Dr Hindt, our new Superintendent, will heed my suggestion and have the Superintendent of West come and speak with our Board.

Dr. Michael Myers
Trustee
Allen ISD


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Monday, May 19, 2014

It’s all about the long game. Setting the course for the future is what’s important.

It’s all about the long game. Setting the course for the future is what’s important. Talking about shade coverings or marquees can be decided by the administration. Setting the course to cutting our taxes, and re-prioritizing our facility plans towards the direct needs of the kids, is way more important for a board. The primary issues we, as a board and the community, need to address is our schools overall security; the rebuild of the Lowery Freshman Center; and the possibility of developing a Magnate school as an outlying campus to the main High School.

When it comes to security we need to think more along the lines of road-mapping an all-encompassing corporate security solution that combines our investment into learning for the students as well as protecting them. As an example: ideas around video recording, streaming and classroom knowledge transfers must be included when we talk about video. Monitoring a hallway is not the endgame. We need to incorporate our entire video solution to include lecture cameras to record classroom teachings so that students can re-visit historical classroom topics. When I say “all-inclusive video” I mean “all”. Why not utilize our investment in security as a combined solution of classroom instruction? Those same classroom-recording tools for learning also act as an emergency video feed if something goes wrong. It also enables us to keep record of any typical misbehaving of the student body. When everyone knows cameras are present incidents reports will fall. Let go of the notion that video is intrusive, in fact, it’s pervasive and there is nothing anyone can do about it. What better way to take charge of a Facebook post or Youtube video upload from the student body. 

When a lot of people hear security and video in the same sentence they instantly start thinking about George Orwell and 1984, but in reality they couldn’t be further from the truth. Our kids weren’t even born in 1984, so trying to force our “out-of-touch” reality on them will only make things worse later on. The truth is our kids utilize video, audio and instant access to information way more than you or I did. I sit with my 11th grader doing Pre-Calculus and remain amazed at the amount of great video content on the web that illustrates examples that far outpace what she is getting from just one individual in a classroom (I’m just excited that I can understand Calculus better than I did when I was a kid… I wish I had those tools when I was in high school).  If we don’t start incorporating our own-recorded video solutions of classroom lectures, then the kids will get it from somewhere else. When they exit our ISD and go into the collegiate environment they will be faced with a plethora of these tools; my fear is that we aren’t preparing them for that change. Don’t fight the change in how things are being taught, grab hold of it, explore it, be creative and own it. Being a technologist you will be amazed at what can be accomplished, especially when we spark curiosity.

The Lowery Freshmen Center is a great opportunity to truly push our learning models into the future. Why not think out of the box and take the classroom way beyond sitting at a desk and listening to one teacher.  Lets incorporate a real architecture of advanced learning that the rest of the nation will want to model their strategies on; I’m talking about group structures of learning that incorporate all the latest of technology tools that can immerse the students into the topics that concern them. Literally design the new Freshmen Center as corporate framework of technology introductions, immersed classroom instruction and advanced laboratory learning. Work with the City to provide tax incentives for the largest corporations to fund our initiatives, build new labs, and augment student, teacher and real-time experts.  Which leads me to the final topic about a Magnate School.

In order to alleviate some of the overcrowding at the high school -- and I don’t really care if you think it’s at capacity or not -- a roadmap to off-load capacity can only help our kids. By not strategizing a downward track of classroom sizes, or hallway crowding, we are doing our kids a disservice. One of the topics I covered in an earlier article was about building a Magnate School; such a Magnate School could be academic oriented by including such things as all AP, IB or any advancement placement curriculum. The school could also house the arts, to include band, as way to better accommodate the space required. These are just ideas of course, my ideas, I have many more but as one gentlemen recently told me, “I see you are in it for the long game”. Indeed I am. All I can do is concentrate on the long game, because we have plenty who want to be involved in the day-to-day activities of awnings and sun coverings.


Dr. Michael Myers



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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Change is good!

I’ve thought about it long and hard. I’ve read some of the, how do I put it, colorful thoughts from the community open forums. Frankly, I think the viewpoints are interesting, let alone entertaining, especially as they relate to the old versus the new.  In reality the commenters are a small group of individuals. There is nothing wrong with a little change to stir things up. The real fact of the matter is that if more people within the community voted on such topics, the message boards would be moot, but you can only work with what you got.

My accepting the notion to run for the Allen ISD School Board stemmed from my own personal viewpoint. I saw a school board liberally accepting courses of action that I disagreed with, such as the prioritization of what is really needed for the district and the frivolously spending of our tax dollars. The excitement of the stadium, and the push to get the TRE passed, may have blinded a few and confused the weak. Being that the Trustees come from all walks of life, and all have deep-rooted ideas how the school board should conduct business, it is inherent that the process ran into conflict. Those that do not have strong beliefs do not run for office.

As a “very conservative” board member I have taken my share of the arrows, which really don’t bother me. If I can stir things up, and get the board to make some changes, then so be it. I do believe the school district is better off today because of the turmoil. Although we have a ways to go, that turmoil brought us better accountability, more direct transparency, less secrecy, and a new Superintendent, in essence a clean slate. You can count on the notion that we will face some more tough hurdles in the future, reduction in taxes, security, Lowery bonds, the Stadium resolution and the discussion about a second High School. I feel we will be better prepared and inclusive of the community with more open dialogue.   

It has been stated that our school systems are heavily leaning left. I can in fact state that there is some truth to that. As it stands today, although some will state otherwise, my observations tell me that the majority of the board do lean left. Not that there is anything wrong with that, unless you are a conservative like me, the fact of the matter is that our district lost sight when it came to taxpayer spending. We capped out on the tax rate and the entire Nation knows about it. Thanks to our new Superintendent, we have started to reverse that trend. Combine the tax issue with the lack of transparency on issues, only fostered conspiracy theories that fragmented the community – the taxpayers. Plus, it doesn’t help that there is an “Eastside versus Westside” when it comes to the small amount of voters who post about everything.

We have to remember, we had only 2100 show up to vote in the last election, that’s 2% of the population of Allen, so naturally the message boards will create some new “social intellects” on the small local scene. At the end of the day, we the 2% of the population, are starting to believe that we are bigger, and more important, than we really are. What is really scary is that 2% actually controls the election process in selecting a board that has the biggest impact on our taxes. How asinine is that?

As one board member said the other night, “it’s the perception to the community that matters.” I wholeheartedly agree. What I see is a shift in the Boards mindset, which is shifting to the right, meaning more focus on less tax. Whenever a shift like this happens the people being shifted get upset, especially anyone who was part of the past, or has a more liberal mindset, which, impacts a school system that is dominated by the liberal mindset. We cannot deny the fact that the “perception” that the board has indeed been frivolous, to which, has become evident to everyone in the community – hell the Nation. Doesn’t matter if the Board really has been, or not, the perception still exists.

As a conservative Board Member I’m there to watch over the large impact financial items that the Superintendent presents to us. I leave the knowledge of how the school district gets administered to the Administrator, after all that’s why we pay him the big bucks. My observations also show me that those that lean left want to get into the weeds and help administer the district directly.

The liberal mindset (nothing wrong with that) is based on a more social accepting solution to pretty much everything, nothing is better suited for such a mindset than our education system, after all, focusing on the education of our children is a social issue. The conservative mindset is more focused on the fiscal viability and the analytical thought process and how it governs the body in whole. Thus, from my viewpoint (as a conservative) the overall liberal mindset of the board, and a dominating Superintendent, may have been the root cause for the Board’s disconnect with the community in the past, thus its taxpaying base. This is nobody’s fault; this is just how the process works. Unfortunately, those that were present during the course of events will take the heat for continuing to push the district in that mindset, which, if you looked at it from a higher point of view you will see such corrective action is required in order to change course. 

Those with a liberal mindset tend to be too far into the weeds, thus, lose focus of the big picture. Case in point: the Stadium, had there been the equitable practice in place to conduct a sizable procurement process, measurable to the size of the project the district was undertaking, we would not be in the situation we are today. Nothing is 100% though, and it’s always easier to drive from the back seat. From what I can ascertain the Board was too close to what was going on, plus, the lack of fiscal controls and auditing procedures became open ground to contractor influence, which ultimately impacted the overall project as it pertained to quality controls and oversight, thus my call for an investigation into any possible wrong doings during this timeframe. Which still hasn’t been done yet. When the petri dish is ripe, the mold will grow.  Regardless, we have what we have.

A conservative tends to stay away from the small issues and focus more on the larger ones. By doing so, a conservative is cast as an anti-social and anti-empathetic, thus, the liberal will think the conservative is not focused on the real issues of providing equal and fair treatment to all; what better place to be viewed as anti-empathetic than our academic system where “it is all about the kids” and has a dominating liberal mindset. Conflict is inevitable. This divide between mindsets is what the Board is going through, eventually it will sway back towards the center on its own, and thus change becomes the catalyst. When the mindset becomes stagnant, whether right or left, we lose sight. The reason the Board will always sway to the center is because everyone is focused on the same issue, “what is best for the kids”. By focusing on the kids we are all driving towards the same destination, thus the “Abilene Paradox” theory, it just takes time.

When a septic situation of competing issues arises, we tend to focus on the issues we feel most comfortable with, thus, left versus right, east versus west, this is where the Superintendent comes into play. By focusing on the issues head-on, and openly to the community, the Superintendent can massage the mindsets back towards a centrist approach, that’s how the game is played. There are those that believe that this is “bad” for the district, in fact, it is good for the district. We are clearing the underbrush on the issues and will be left with a forest that has less vulnerability when it comes to the big fires…. and there will be more big fires. At the end of the day, and no matter how much people will shift in their stance, the board has one employee – the Superintendent. We have entrusted a $150 Million dollar, taxpayer funded, company into the Superintendent’s hands. Time will tell, but from my personal standpoint, we have the right man at the helm.

Although there has been, and is, some discourse on the board, I believe it is a natural process, especially given the boards disconnect with the community; its perception of frivolous spending; and the inadequate priorities. What do you expect given the bonding we just went through, the bus barn selection, and now the stadium? I hope you weren’t expecting a smooth ride. The good thing about where we stand now, we have the community’s attention; we have a keen focus on integrity; we are seeing more transparency; we have the brought to light the deficiencies and have made adjustments; and have prioritized the Lowery Freshman Center. How long it will last is a whole other topic, after all, Boards change all the time.

If you are looking for the perfect answer to how the school district should be run, well, I hate to break it to you, it won’t happen. No matter how perfect and educated you think you may be on any of the topics, it really doesn’t matter, because the board system is designed to balance itself with a counterintuitive thought process. The only time that balance is threatened is when Board members start to sing in unison on every topic, even more dangerous when the Superintendent is right there with them. No one on the board is perfect, and I believe discourse is good, just wait and see what heat I will take for starting my blog again. The fact of the matter is that I have more readers than we have voters during our ISD elections, if my blog helps get more people involved, then that is a price I am willing to pay. And for all those antagonists out there, as a citizen protected under the First Amendment, these are my own viewpoints. Dr. Hindt speaks for the ISD, not me, and the elected Board President speaks for the Board.  



Dr. Michael Myers


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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nepotism in Allen ISD

Today I want to talk about the term “nepotism”. Nepotism is favoritism granted in politics or business to relatives regardless of merit. It’s actually even cited in our own policies and procedures under Legal Policy (BBFE) as excerpted below:

NEPOTISM
Except as provided by law, a public official may not appoint a person to a position that is to be directly or indirectly compensated from public funds or fees of office if:
a. The person is related to the public official by blood (consanguinity) within the third degree or by marriage (affinity) within the second degree; or
b. The public official holds the appointment or confirmation authority as a member of a local board and the person is related to another member of the board by blood or marriage within a prohibited degree.
Gov’t Code 573.002, .041; Atty. Gen. Op. JC-184 (2000) [See DBE]
DEFINITION OF PUBLIC OFFICIAL
“Public official” shall mean:
a. An officer of this state or of a district, county, municipality, precinct, school district, or other political subdivision of this state; or
b. An officer or member of a board of this state or of a district, county, municipality, school district, or other political subdivision of this state.
Gov’t Code 573.001(3)
The nepotism law governs the hiring of an individual, whether the individual is hired as an employee or an independent contractor.  Atty. Gen. Op. DM-76 (1992)
A public official may not approve an account or draw or authorize the drawing of a warrant or order to pay the compensation of an ineligible individual if the official knows the individual is ineligible.  Gov’t Code 573.083

These are actual laws that make it a crime for an individual on the board who knowingly had, or has, members of their family working in the school district. Doesn’t matter if it is known, or not, the fact of the matter is that it is a law not a guideline. We cannot just make a board vote to circumvent the law. As an example, my daughter had a small contract to create bows for the Allen High School Cheerleading program, even though she had negotiated the deal before I was on the board, I have informed her, that none the less, she can not pursue the next contract due to Nepotism laws, which I agree. It’s OK for her because she does have business outside this district, in fact around the world.

I even had a sister-in-law that was thinking about applying for a job to support the school as well. Even my wife wanted to help in the cafeteria when needed, but both of them did ask, and I referred them to our Interim Superintendent Beth Nichols. It was also noted that they too would not be allowed to work for the district due to Nepotism laws.

Why am I telling you this? Well I want to stress the importance of following the law, and I believe we cannot jeopardize any of our board actions if Nepotism exists. What I have requested is that an audit be done on all Board Members to insure no one makes a blind mistake and put board judgments at risk. Sometimes these things sneak up on us and nobody wants to get caught in a bad situation.



Dr. Michael Myers


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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Eagle Stadium and a Public Private Partnership -- lets sell a stake in its marketing capabilities!

If you haven’t noticed, the atmosphere at the new stadium is charged and is attracting a lot of attention, not just across the State, but the entire Nation as well. Why not capitalize on that? The best way to take advantage of the publicity is to sell a stake in its marketing potential through the use of a Public Private Partnership (P3). Essentially we would sell the rights in naming the stadium.

There are ways to contractually obligate the Private portion of the P3 to accommodate the namesake of the Eagle Stadium, like still maintain the Eagle Stadium title, but have a large AT&T logo underneath, or whomever were to buy the rights to do so. It’s no different than the larger stadiums, or stadiums at the Universities. I graduated twice in a stadium called the MCI Center at the University of Maryland – now I believe it is titled AT&T stadium. These partnerships can bring in as much as $1 Million annually, plus funding for further advancements at the stadium to include marketing and concessions. 

We need to make the best out of our investment and use the proceeds to help fund our children’s needs. Plus, it would be nice to be advertised to the entire Nation, not just as the most expensive High School football stadium in Texas, but also for our ability to tap into its marketing machine as well.


Dr. Michael Myers




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