Lindsay Wilcox, NBC 5 News
Dallas Independent School District superintendent Mike Miles kicked off the 2013 school year with a convocation that focused on the positive in the district.
"I'm here to stay." Those were Mike Miles' words to reporters when asked about his commitment to the Dallas Independent School District. It's been a question since Miles sent his son and wife back to their Colorado home to avoid the negative media attention that plagued his first year at the helm of DISD.
On Tuesday, he used the annual convocation to try and begin the 2013 school year on a more positive note.
He brought out students in caps and gowns to Pomp and Circumstance, and danced to hip hop with some of the staff.
"I look at the excitement in this room, and I look the energy of the moment and that is what we have to try to carry forward," said Miles.
During the hour and a half long event, Miles touted the district's achievements from last year.
85 percent of DISD schools met the state's accountability requirements with 41 schools being distinguished in all three categories.
There is also a $275 million fund balance that allowed for the first teacher raises in three years and the first contributions to health care in six years.
But the improvements were made during some sweeping and controversial reform policies that teachers say were an obstacle to success rather than a stepping stone.
"The micromanagement of being in the classroom; having to put up what teachers call eye candy," said Rena Honea, president, Alliance AFT.
Honea says teachers are observed regularly and among other things, are required to have demonstrations and different teaching strategies that interrupt teaching rather than compliment it.
Some teachers, like Sherrie Rowe, say they feel many of the changes are in the best interest of the students but that Miles' implementation was simply too harsh.
"Now, he's starting to come in a little bit softer and say, 'okay, now this is what we need to do' and teachers respond better to that just coming in with a blow horn," said Rowe.
Teachers say they are cautiously optimistic that this year can be better than the last. But they say much of that depends on Miles and whether he is willing to be more collaborative than they say he has been in the past.