Time For Hinojosa to Go?

The most asked question of the week: is it time for DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa to step down?

OK, let's talk about it.

Dr. Hinojosa is a bright, talented and gifted educator.  He's a great dad, and he cares deeply about the education of each-and-every kid in DISD.  Though the money is nice, Michael isn't in this for the money.

He is in it for the kids.  If you believe otherwise, you're wrong.  Period.

Each time a child does good, he's proud.  Failures and achievement problems disappoint him to his core.

All in all, Michael Hinojosa is a very caring individual.

That being said, Michael also has some very pronounced weaknesses.

His interpersonal skills are somewhat lacking--as is his patience.  He doesn't tolerate dissent very well and occasionally his temper gets the better of him.

But Michael's biggest problem is his lack of administrative skills.  They've been lacking from the start.

While he's a great educator with a huge heart for kids, he seems to lack the skills to manage and watch over the day-to-day business operations of a $1.6 billion dollar school district.

Aggravating the situation is Michael's inability to surround himself with top quality administrators.

He and his staff have been dogged with everything from "questions" to high-profile "scandals" virtually from day one and it doesn't seem to be getting any better.

"Michael inherited many of these problems," some might say.

O.K.

This is a great excuse for the first year.  But what about after that?  Is it a good excuse after two years?  Three years?

How long should it reasonably take for someone to correct a system that allows these kinds of problems to develop and flourish?

Fast forward to the present predicament.  Today's "scandal."

$64 million dollars is a lot of money--especially when it is public money.  The DISD Employee Salary Database really helps put it in perspective (you need to be logged in for the database links to work).

For example, last year all 1,505 jobcode "60F0" Bilingual Education teachers cost the District a combined total of $72,905,568.86 (gross compensation).  Using the average gross pay figure of $53,883.52 to balance a $64,000,000 "oversight" the District would need to fire about 1,188 of them--or 78%.

If the District just wanted to cut plain-Jane everyday jobcode "6000" classroom teachers using the average gross pay figure of $55,688.86, it would only need to cut 1,150 jobs to bring things into balance.

But why should teachers suffer?  Let's go up the line.  Using last year's gross pay (again, the actual cost), firing all 559 principals, associate principals and assistant principals (deans and all) would save the District a healthy $41,641,483.19--leaving the administration a much reduced $22.3 million dollar shortfall to deal with.  Doubtless, kids would be cheering!

But why shouldn't the District get even more creative? 

If the District, say, focus on last year's lowest paid employees (you know: folks like substitutes, support staff, custodians and some of the lowest paid teachers, etc.), they would have to fire 5,705 people to bring the budget into balance.

Better yet, let's come at this from the other direction?  What if the District were to fire the top, highest paid people instead?  Only 708 of those (say 713 if Michael's job were preserved) would need to be fired to whack out $64 million dollars and eliminate the shortfall.

It's important to note that we're only talking about numbers.  Heaven forbid anyone should talk about people's livelihoods, careers, futures, families and kids--because, if we did, the fallout from this $64 million dollar oversight might start to look really ugly.

But, as the District's spin told us last week, we need to look past the deficit.  We need to focus on intentions. 

The $64 million dollar "honest mistake" was made because the District was trying so hard to educate our kids that no one was really keeping an eye on what it was costing.

The upcoming 1,000+ person "payroll correction" will obviously be made out of respect to the taxpayers--and we certainly don't need to be going and turning "numbers" into "faces" at this point do we?

Enough of this.  What's the bottom line?  Should Michael resign or shouldn't he?  Should he be fired or not?

That, folks, is the question of the day. 

On one hand, some argue that we are starting to see some positive academic trends thanks to Michael.

Another consideration is: if Michael goes, who will DISD find to take his job?  Who would want it?  Though a 3-year tenure somewhat breaks the "revolving door" cycle of superintendents, DISD has a legacy that may tend to dissuade people from rushing to hand over a resume.

On the other hand, a turnover at this point has nothing to do with politics or philosophy this time.  There's nothing subjective about this.

It is all about a $64 million dollar shortfall--nothing more.

Further, if past and current performance is any indication of what to expect in the future, is it realistic to believe things will change?

Perhaps a more apropos question is: should the person who brought us to this point be charged with the responsibility of fixing the problem while moving the District forward?

So what's likely to happen on Friday?

The Board will go into closed session to discuss Michael Hinojosa's future with the District.  Five board members will likely keep anything drastic from happening in the upper administrative levels.

Michael will probably be given one last, absolute, ultimate, end-all, final chance to get his administrative act together.  He'll be told: "that's OK, we know you didn't mean it, and we're behind you 100% as you make these upcoming tough decisions."

Then the Board will vote to declare a financial emergency.

And the firings will begin.