Harrison superintendent sole finalist for job at Dallas schools

CAROL MCGRAW Updated: April 2, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: April 2, 2012

Mike Miles, the innovative and often controversial superintendent of Harrison School District 2, has been name sole finalist for the top job at Dallas Independent School District in Texas.
After final approval, he would start July 2.

The Dallas district has 157,000 students, 221 schools and a budget of $1.5 billion. Like Harrison it has a large population of students who are impoverished and at risk of dropping out.  Harrison has about 11,000 students and a $80 million budget.

Miles, who has served at Harrison for six years, says he is taking on the challenging job of the 14th largest school district in the nation, because “It’s an opportunity to reach more students and more broadly impact education.”

But he also calls the move bittersweet. “I feel sad to leave. The amount of work and struggle and pain we have gone through to get where we are will be lost to history in time, as it should be. The heroes are the teachers and principals who have done so much to help kids.”
His new employers lauded his resume.  “The Dallas ISD Board of Trustees is thrilled with our selection of Mike Miles as the lone finalist for Superintendent of Schools,” stated Lew Blackburn, President of the Board. “Mr. Miles has spent his entire life serving the public and has a proven track record of success.”

Harrison D-2 School Board President Deborah Hendrix said that the board will conduct a national search.

“We  want to get input from parents, community leaders and other stakeholders to assist us,” she said. “We aren’t in a rush to hire just anyone.”

Hendrix said of Miles’ departure, “We expected it would happen and we are excited for him and we are sad, too. We are proud he hung in there with us as long as he did to impact students.”

She noted that the average stay of superintendents at any school district is about four or five years. She said that others have tried to woo him away since the beginning. Miles said Monday that it is the first job he has actually applied for since coming to Harrison.

“He  gave us six good years, and will be a hard person to replace,” said Harrison board member Richard Price. “His belief in our kids, that  Harrison kids can learn and be academically successful  became everyone’s focus.”

Miles has been in the vanguard of educators nationwide using new and sometimes controversial techniques to  turn around failing schools. Under his leadership he made it clear that poverty and family problems are no excuse for low achievement.  The board and Miles adopted a pay-for performance system that compensates teachers based on how well students do. Since then, the state has instituted a similar program for school districts.

In Harrison’s new five-year plan, they adopted another controversial proposal in which students who can’t read will be held back a year in third grade. They also set up a academy for lagging 8th graders to give them a step up in high school.

During Miles’ tenure, Harrison was removed from state academic probation and  saw improved test scores.

Miles received the award for innovation and civic minded service from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ Center for the Study of Government and the Individual.
Miles has had a varied career: he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, served as an Army Ranger and worked as policy analyst at the Soviet desk in the U.S.

Department of State in 1989. He also served as a diplomat in Moscow and Warsaw at the end of the Cold War.

At Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, he was an district administrator, principal and teacher.

One of the few times he has failed was when he ran for Ben Nighthorse Campbell’s Senate seat in 2004 and lost the Democratic primary to Ken Salazar.

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