A resignation letter from one of Dallas Independent School District superintendent’s former cabinet members criticizing board members was allegedly written by then chief of operations, Kevin Smelker. According to a News 8 Investigates segment Friday, Aug. 30, the letter “in large part attacks trustee Elizabeth Jones.” It also specifically mentioned board president Eric Cowan and Smelker’s lack of confidence in Cowan’s ability to “lead and guide the board.”
This letter, in the form of e-mails sent to Superintendent Miles from interim chief of communications, Lisa LeMaster, may now prove to have a significant influence on the external investigation of the superintendent, results of which are expected within the next week. However, according to Dallas Morning News, although LeMaster sent a copy of the letter to the superintendent’s DISD e-mail address, “There is no indication Miles responded to LeMaster on his DISD account.”
Smelker’s resignation letter did offer praise and confidence for Miles’ management style. Smelker wrote, “Mike, your leadership, courage, and passion for kids, leveraged by an effective staff and a supportive, functioning board, would be tremendous assets for the students, community, and staff of the Dallas Independent School District. Although previous voluntary departures of Cabinet members were not explained out of respect for the district, I can confidently say that most of the resignations were linked to the extraordinarily difficult working relationships, or lack thereof, with several of the Trustees.
“Quite simply, while Cabinet members admire your tenacity and vision, many do not want to continue working in an environment where select members of the Board of Trustees behave in a dysfunctional and disrespectful manner ... I admire your fortitude and commitment. Perhaps with Eric Cowan as the president of the Board and the leadership of other board members I greatly respect, the situation will be different.”
LeMaster admits to having assisted Smelker in drafting his resignation letter. She adamantly denies that Superintendent Miles had any involvement in the process. Smelker told News 8 that he wrote the final draft and did consult with the superintendent about it. The letter and incidents surrounding it is “expected to be included in the final investigative report being prepared by Paul Coggins and submitted to trustees as early as next week,” says Brett Shipp for News 8 Investigates.