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Dallas ISD leaders, future of the district

MIKE McGEE | 10/12/2015, 7:36 a.m.
“I met with County Judge Clay Jenkins the other day. He goes, ‘Mike, you’ve been named lone finalist – wrap ...
Interim Superintendent for the Dallas ISD Dr. Michael Hinojosa, right, and school board president Eric Cowan took questions at the Dallas Regional Chamber 2015 State of the District luncheon Sept. 22. – Photo by Mike McGee/The Dallas Examiner

The Dallas Examiner

“I met with County Judge Clay Jenkins the other day. He goes, ‘Mike, you’ve been named lone finalist – wrap yourself in bubble wrap and don’t say a word,’” announced Dr. Michael Hinojosa, interim superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, as he mined humor from the appearance of the often political nature of the Dallas ISD.

He made the remarks at the Dallas Regional Chamber 2015 State of the District luncheon held at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel Sept. 22. The event provided an opportunity for Hinojosa and Eric Cowan, president of the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees, to present the chamber a brief overview of plans for the city’s schools and further concepts still in development at the district’s headquarters.

Hinojosa, who had also served as Dallas ISD superintendent from 2005 to 2011, expressed pride in the fact that he graduated from Sunset High School and started with the district as a teacher and coach. He also put his three sons through district schools.

The interim superintendent suggested those factors helped make him the ideal superintendent to lead the school board. He further offered that such experienced leadership was an absolute necessity at a time when both the previous superintendent, Mike Miles, resigned under a cloud of controversy and the district faces an upcoming bond election.

“When you ask me about the state of the district, I can tell you an awful lot,” Hinojosa decreed. One of his self-appointed tasks was to poll principals and other employees of the district to find out their concerns about the school system so he could get a better understanding of the district’s current status.

“So I listened, I listened and I listened, and I put together a report,” he stated. “So, let me start with the bad.”

Issues of morale and high employee turnover within the school system was a major concern, he found. Good relationships with the school board was also high on the list of points that employees brought up. He stated that he would be working on it, but admitted stemming the teacher turnover will be more challenging.

Part of his plan to prevent what he called “the churn” of teachers and principals coming and going was to build trust among current employees. He disclosed that the Teacher Excellence Initiative, a performance-based pay system created under Miles, could make a difference in slowing the tide of employees fleeing the district.

“In education we’ve always been paid for how long we were breathing instead of how good we were. That’s foreign to a lot of other policies.” The superintendent offered that rewarding skilled teachers was an idea he supported – and he offered that the concept received quite a bit of positive feedback from current employees – but the board still needed to hone the plan’s implementation.

Hinojosa conveyed that the November bond election may help with the execution of comparable initiatives since putting such ideas before the public and securing funding for them are part of the larger, public process of the district. The last such bond election was held in 2008.