They Walk by Night

Join us for a chilling tale of the (highly paid) un-dead at DISD headquarters

We have legal aces Joe Symkowick and Emily Den, for example, recruited with great fanfare to straighten out the district legally. Both have been knocked down several pegs from their original posts, but both are hanging in there at their original salaries of $173,090 plus $3,288 in car allowance for Symkowick and $150,000 plus $3,288 for Den.

Tomas Roman is the guy Rojas brought from San Francisco to be his public relations man. Do I have to say another word?

But is he gone? Nah. He's here, amassing $151,330 plus $3,288 a year as a public relations man for the district's environmental center in Seagoville.

I kid you not. Tomas Roman is in the house.

Then we have Mr. and Mrs. Never-left-never-gonna, the Coleman/Bodricks, whom Rojas hired from San Francisco as a two-fer. William Coleman, busted down a few levels since Rojas departed, continues to make the $175,000 plus $3,288 a year Rojas originally paid him. His wife, Deborah Bodrick, is collecting her $121,330 plus $3,288 a year as "early childhood executive director." Total annual household take: $302,906.

Would you leave?

Everybody works for DISD. City council member Leo Chaney makes $58,447 a year as a "communications specialist III," which means, "city council member." Rene Martinez, the former restaurateur and park board member, is socking away $55,443 a year as a "leadership and operations specialist IV." I used to eat in his restaurant all the time. I wonder if I could at least be a leadership and operations specialist II?

But, I know: You want to know what difference any of this makes. So what if the place has more cronies and politicos in it than a stocked farm pond has fat bass? How does that affect the new superintendent's job? Well, let's revisit the sterling performance of Doctor Apodaca.

The TEA special monitor sent here last February had orders to look specifically at the way DISD deals with special-needs students ages 22 or younger who live in "residential care facilities" (RCFs), which can be anything from group foster homes to jail. Last February, the monitor asked the special ed department for a list of all the RCFs in Dallas.

No can do. No list. DISD doesn't have one.

Every month or so since then, the monitor, Cindy Michaels, has met with the top special ed brass at DISD and asked for the list. In April, DISD gave the monitor a list of 147 RCFs. But Michaels investigated the list and found that 25 percent of the facilities on the list actually were the same facility being listed twice or even three times under different names. Of the 118 remaining, some were not in the school district, several were closed, some were not RCFs, and many were listed by name only without address or phone.

When Michaels confronted them, the DISD special ed staff objected that they did not believe it was within her authority to investigate what they had told her. A higher-ranking TEA official who was at the meeting assured the DISD people that the monitor was authorized to verify what they told her and that, in fact, "verification of information is a TEA expectation."

To which you and I might want to add, "Verification of information, interestingly enough, also happens to be an expectation in the real world."

(I try never to get inside their heads, because I'm afraid I might not get out.)

By the way, a complete list has yet to be produced. All those people who think it would be a great idea to get the TEA to assign a monitor to the school board should look closely at this situation. Talk about ineffectual. Every month she tells them, "I still need a list of RCFs, and you still need to hire diagnosticians, and you still need to locate the students' files so that you can meet legal requirements for monitoring each student's care and progress."

Yup.

The reports provide clear evidence that the special ed department has been doing virtually nothing to find and serve these intensely needy kids while it thumbs its nose at state and federal requirements and at the monitor.

This is one department. Take this situation, multiply it by every year of chaos and totally wacko non-management that the school district has suffered, apply that quotient to the whole place, and you have a decent picture of what the new superintendent is looking at when he or she comes out of the cannon.

OK, let's go back under the bleachers. Anybody asks me what my position is on the school district, I'm telling them "fetal."

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