It's curious to note a couple things I've heard from inside DISD over the past 24 hours. Of note, I'm hearing descriptions of how former COO Eric Anderson's mood had swung from what was at times described by insiders as an almost "arrogance," in the way of, "I'm from big business, why don't you long-termers here take 15 minutes and go get yourselves a coke and by the time you get back, I'll have all this worked out," to a more subdued attitude over the past month.
The Dallas Morning News was reporting yesterday that Superintendent Michael Hinojosa allegedly didn't learn of the $64 million question until Monday at 3:30 p.m. Sounds like others knew before then. And the memo that TDMN put forward from April or whatever that shows the problem in 1s and 0s is about what, four or five months old?
So I'm guessing either HInojosa was doing a pre-briefing meeting for Thursday's committee meetings and this was an agenda item, or he was in his Executive Team meeting and it came up there; but that usually was something held in the mornings on Mondays.
It should also be noted that under Michael's staffing structure, he's brought in a several budget people who might be very learned in how to run corporate finance where companies can keep their earnings and other such numbers secret until their SEC reports are due. I'm told Chief Financial Officer Steve Korby kinda came in with the same montra as Anderson: "Boys, go get yourselves a coke and take a 15-minute break, and I'll have this all worked out when you get back, too."
Were those words ever said? No, but I"m told that's the understanding the veteran district budget people got from the beginnings of both these guys. I think it would help or would have helped had Hinojosa actually brought some people to the table who have worked with the Legislature and Texas school finance laws. They tend to be very complicated processes. And if you ever sat through one of those mind-numbing meetings where they're talking about all the weighted formulas used to fund public schools, you'd know what I'm talking about.
So in the defense of the people HInojosa brought to his team, you've got to remember right off the top they were perceived to have an aurora of "hey, we're from big business, and you rookies, need to step aside." You know, it's all part of that silly idea that a school district can be run like a business.
So in large part, I'm going to assume that's what happened. People stepped aside. Did they mention it when the car started to weave along the white line at the edge of the road? Probably. Was the warning heard? Probably, and probably not.
I'm told that "arrogance level" of Anderson subsided lately. I'm told a long-time budgeting official who used to pull 70-80 hours a week at the helm cut his involvement way back over the past few months. Now did that mean he was stifled by the actions of those previously mentioned or was it something else? That, I don't know. It is easy to understand how this could happen though under the watch of Hinojosa.
I'm also told that Anderson of late has been multi-tasking so much by directives from Hinojosa. Too many off message responsibilities made it challenging for him to stay focused on the ball.
I'm told Anderson has told fokes lately that they'd better get X, Y and Z done and done right because he didn't want to get chewed by Hinojosa over them.
TDMN comment section reads like a cyber lynch squad is brewing for Hinojosa's job.
When asked about resigning, here is how the paper quoted him: "I'm not planning
on walking out of here," he said. "It would be bad for somebody else to
try and come in. They'd have to start all over to try and fix this.
Ultimately, I am responsible, and I'm not going anywhere."
He might not be planning on it, but it certainly seems like the cyber population might be. For me, I'll have no part in calling on it to happen. That to me goes beyond what I want to use this space for.
I support the decisions of the board. And if my good friend Jack Lowe says Michael should stay, I stand behind Jack. He's a good, honest man whom I have the utmost respect for.
Last night on the news Michael was saying that there are going to be a lot of people upset about the cuts that are going to have to be made. I've seen the quote about how everything is on the table. Well, if that's true and 10 percent cuts need to be made, maybe he should try leading by example here. Perhaps instead of a 10 percent cut he should draft a memo to Payroll at 3700 today and say this:
"Effective immediately, knowing that huge cuts in operations are in order here, I'm directing you to cut my salary by 15 percent. If you cannot take it out of my check, I will personally write the district one that returns the money to the General Fund. As a further example, I'm also going to take up a coaching position where it could prove most beneficial in the district and I'm going to spend at least 10 percent of my work week at a school doing such."
I talked to some friends earlier this week about how morale in the district was just in the pits. That was before the Wednesday $64 million news conference. Can you imagine how it is going to be now in the schools, where over the past few months they've gotten an opportunity to put teachers in classrooms where they desperately were needed and to now be looking at a plan on how to send most of them all back onto the streets?
Can you think about all the confusion that's going to cause in classrooms? Sure, leveling is going to be happening in the next couple of weeks and they were going to be moving kids and teachers around to balance out the supply and demand, but Hinojosa is right, this is going to make a lot more people angry that it normally would.
Hinojosa says he's not going anywhere and that it would be bad to have someone else come in and fix the mess from the beginning. I'm just going to let you debate the logic of that statement. Seems like to me it's pretty much as messed up as it can get and that anyone trying to fix it, even himself, can only send it in one direction.
So here is my assessment of what has happened over this entire deal:
1) This is what happens when you bring in people from outside public school finance and they try to run a school district like a business. They don't heed the warnings that a PSF person would know to look for. After presenting warning flags a couple of times and they're ignored, you don't offer them up anymore.
2) Do I think there was a Hillary-style staff-wing conspiracy to play hide the ball? I do not. I think the information was in front of HInojosa et al's faces all the time, but they were too busy looking at Dallas Achieves and how to make it fly, passing a bond issue, and trying to complete a bazillion-dollar audit and having people jump through all the hoops to do all of those things.
3) This is what happens if you bring information forward that's not on message or contrary to the top's goals.
Quite frankly, I'm tired of hearing how ALL long-term staff is incompetent and or sinister. There are many good people working inside 3700. Maybe it's time that someone actually START LISTENING TO THEM.