Truth is, the superintendent's unpopularity crosses racial lines. In the aftermath of the layoffs, the leaders of the district's two main teacher associations say that Hinojosa has strained his relationship with their members. "We did a survey of folks on whether they have confidence in his ability," says Dale Kaiser of NEA-Dallas. "Ninety-six percent said they have no confidence. It's hard to lead people when they don't believe you, when they don't trust you, when they don't have confidence in you."

Hinojosa, somehow, remains convinced that he has strong support among teachers and principals. Recalling his tour of three Dallas elementary schools, where he was warmly greeted, he says, "There was no passive-aggressive behavior, people were friendly, nobody turned their back on us. They were excited about what they were doing."

Even if the superintendent is fooling himself and his failure to watch the district's finances has hurt him among teachers, it has yet to cost him support on the board. Right now, he has the backing of at least five trustees, maybe six. The black trustees, Carla Ranger, Blackburn and Price have called for a no-confidence vote against Hinojosa. Lowe, meanwhile, has used his position as board chair to table their request.

The super: Fending off calls that he quit his job, Michael Hinojosa points to improvements in the classroom.
Mark Graham
The super: Fending off calls that he quit his job, Michael Hinojosa points to improvements in the classroom.
Check your work: Teacher rep Aimee Bolender says Hinojosa should have made sure DISD didn't blow its budget.
Mark Graham
Check your work: Teacher rep Aimee Bolender says Hinojosa should have made sure DISD didn't blow its budget.

And with the trustees' decision last month to suspend elections and extend their terms of office for an extra year, the superintendent doesn't have to worry anytime soon about candidates running on an anti-Hinojosa platform.

But that doesn't mean Hinojosa is in the clear. As hard as they've tried, the trustees can't ignore public sentiment forever. One more dramatic misstep—one more highly public example of the superintendent failing to keep tabs on the unwieldy, doddering district's operations—and the protesters who gathered outside DISD headquarters on a cold Thursday evening may turn into a conquering army.

Hinojosa is certainly aware of his precarious position, but that doesn't temper his resolve to stay on the job or his optimism for it. "It's a tough job. I love my job; I still love coming to work despite the huge challenges I have," he says.

And yet all the conflict engulfing him has exacted a high toll—at least that's the way his sister sees it. "He's a private person. He doesn't say much, but I've certainly seen him age," Martha says. "I can only imagine the level of stress he's under."

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