By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
But instead of sharing the letter with the alums as he had promised, Phil Jimerson, executive director of construction services for DISD, told the alums over a period of months that the report hadn't come in yet. Frustrated, the alumni finally resorted to a Public Information Act demand and forced DISD to produce the report.
When they did get a copy, they saw it was dated May 5, 2008. Straus told alumni in a newsletter, "This means that while we were meeting with [Superintendent Michael] Hinojosa three weeks earlier and during all the calls to Jimerson, DISD already had the report in hand."
Jimerson refused to talk to me, but district spokesman Jon Dahlander conceded that the engineering report had been received and was in district hands for some period of time while Jimerson was telling the alums that the engineer had not yet finished his work. Dahlander told me that Jimerson, who is in the construction department, didn't know the report was complete for a long time because it was delivered to another department. "Basically the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing," Dahlander said.
The problem with that story is that Jimerson was making repeated promises to produce the report and even told the alumni other stories about why it hadn't come in yet. Straus told me Jimerson said at one point that the engineer working on the report had flown the coop with all of his working papers.
I can guess, and you can guess, why Jimerson didn't want to get pinned down on any of this in an interview with me. You can also guess how much integrity the alumni felt they were dealing with at school district headquarters.
This comes down to a fairly unbelievable bottom line today. Even though the district's own reports show the Adamson building is safe, and even though the district just spent $5 million repairing the building and another $5 million on a brand-new addition, DISD still insists it's going to erect an entire new school and move the students to it within the next three years.
I guess that's what happens when you have a school board president who's in the school construction business and whose company does business with his own school district.
It's not that a case can't be made for building a new school. I spoke with Sonia Cabrales, a 1994 Adamson graduate, now an executive with Bank of America, who went to UT on an Adamson Foundation scholarship. She's a member of the scholarship committee now. She told me that when she went back to the school recently to interview scholarship candidates, she was shocked by the conditions she saw:
"I thought, 'Are they really having classes in this classroom as it is now?' The air conditioner was not running. The ceiling had spots where it looked like there had been leaks. The desks were not in good shape at all."
She wants to see the old school preserved if at all possible. "I'm for the preservation of the building," she said. "I really am. If they would do the renovation on the inside, I would love for them to keep the facade of the building."
But she would take a new building too. Anything but the deplorable conditions DISD has allowed to occur in the current building.
I'm not sure where I stand on the issue of historic preservation, pure and simple. I'm more worried about the people. If you ask me, those Adamson alums have a lot more heart and soul in this school district than Jimerson or the rest of them will ever have. I hate to see them treated so dishonorably, because I don't want them to give up and go away.
Straus told me not to worry. "We're not going to take our marbles and go home over this. If there's a new building built, we will stay active."
If I were the Adamson alumni I wouldn't take my marbles and go home, either. I would take my marbles down to DISD headquarters on Ross Avenue, along with my slingshot, and I would break some glass. But that's the difference between them and me.
They're good people. Somehow in their involvement with the school, they have learned to see from heart to heart, beyond all the barriers that keep us apart. They believe the old building itself is the chalice in which that bond may be passed from generation to generation. At the very least, they deserve honorable treatment.