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Wednesday Morning Roundup


by Stephen Becker 6 May 2009

BOOKER T. FACES CUTS: Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts stands to lose as many as 13 employees as DISD discusses the possibility of cutting funds to specialized campuses. The district must figure out a way to even out per-student spending across the board or risk losing $105 million in […]

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BOOKER T. FACES CUTS: Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts stands to lose as many as 13 employees as DISD discusses the possibility of cutting funds to specialized campuses. The district must figure out a way to even out per-student spending across the board or risk losing $105 million in federal funding. Trustee Lew Blackburn no doubt summed up the sentiment of many parents whose kids attend the arts magnet school. “When you don’t put the money to create a star, you don’t get a star,” he told The Dallas Morning News.

THE MAN BEHIND THE BOARDS: If you’re a fan of North Texas acts Polyphonic Spree, Sarah Jaffe and St. Vincent (whose new album, Actor, dropped this week), you should be thanking John Congleton in part for their music. The Paper Chase frontman is also a producer who’s worked with the above and is nominated in the “Big Studio Ace” category at Quick‘s Big Thing (circle June 5 on your calendar now before you forget). He talked with Hunter Hauk over on the Quick blog about the duel roles of producer and band member. Of St. Vincent (who’s album Hunter also drools over here), he said she is: “Teetering on superstardom and a role in a Woody Allen film.”

I think I would watch that movie.

EATING ON THE ROAD: Scottish band Franz Ferdinand rolled through town late last month, playing a show at the House of Blues. But before said show, they were hungry. Where did they go to take care of that? Burger House, it appears. The members of the band are well-known foodies, particularly frontman Alex Kapranos, who wrote  Sound Bites: Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand – a fun behind-the-scenes look at a band eating its way through the world. On the band’s Web site, drummer Paul Thomson had this to say about his experience at the venerable Dallas burger joint:  “I had the double cheeseburger which came with mustard, pickles, onion and tomato, ‘famous’ fries which come sprinkled in their secret seasoning, which to me tasted like salt, pepper, garlic salt and a bit of chili powder, could be wrong though. Pretty good, possibly the best yet on this trip. Nice soft bun, 2 flat patties, perfect burger to bun ratio all laid out in one of those red plastic baskets lined with greaseproof paper.”

Can’t argue with that assessment.

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  • As is somewhat apparent from the News article, a chief problem for the magnet and vanguard schools, especially one that’s so much in the limelight like Booker T, is the understandable but misplaced resentment from neighborhood schools. They see them as budget hogs, when actually they’re not (Booker T, to take the most obvious example, built that new campus mostly with private money). The magnets and vanguards were created from the desegregation order, and they’ve worked well not only in academic terms but in beginning to attract the long-vanished, middle-class white population back into the system. Well-performing, racially mixed schools are extremely attractive to parents of all persuasions.

    But now that the desegregation order is null and Judge Barefoot Sanders is sadly gone, there’s really little support within DISD for the magnets — except from the parents whose children are there, who know how good they are and are desperate to hang on to the endangered improvements. There’s little real support, despite the schools’ obvious successes, because the overwhelming driving force in school systems (other than longstanding racial animosities and budget wars) remains the TAKS test, and the arts don’t count on TAKS. So the arts get shoved aside by the desperate need of principals and superintendents to show some statistical improvement, any statistical improvement among their students. The fear, expressed by Lew Blackburn in the News article, is quite true: to appease parents and boards at the many different schools, leveling all of DISD into struggling mediocrity is a very real option for the future.

    Full disclosure: My daughter graduated from Booker T last year, and my wife teaches at the Sidney Lanier vanguard, essentially the elementary “feeder” school for Booker T. That didn’t influence my support for Booker T. As a theater critic for the Dallas Morning News many years ago, I thought Booker T was a hope for DISD long before my daughter ever set foot in the place.