Hinojosa Looks On As DISD Trustees Discuss What to Do About Interim Superintendent

Outgoing Superintendent Michael Hinojosa tries to pretend he doesn't know who Carla Ranger is talking about.
Outgoing Superintendent Michael Hinojosa tries to pretend he doesn't know who Carla Ranger is talking about.
Photos by Patrick Michels

Whoever set the table before last night's DISD board meeting had to be kicking themselves once the trustees got started, with dead-serious Carla Ranger yet again calling for soon-to-be-ex-Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's immediate removal, saying an interim replacement would be a waste of money, and wondering in veiled terms about other employees' plans to remain with the district, while the usually easygoing Hinojosa sat stone-faced next to her, trying to find his happy place.

The purpose of last night's meeting, of course, was to start talking about naming an interim superintendent to step in after Hinojosa heads to Georgia in June, and the board came away with plans to simply keep talking it over next Tuesday, with a list of internal candidates and a little more legal advice.

It was Ranger's proposal, though, to scrap the interim superintendent search and wait out the gap between superintendents with a council of DISD officials that got most of the talk. Other trustees worried the district would screech to a halt the instant such a council disagreed on something, but Ranger said a small group of leaders already in the district -- their head legal counsel, chief of staff and chief financial officer, for starters -- would be a quick, cheap way to move ahead.

"These are the people we know," Ranger said. "They are in the district. And as far as we know, they will be here." Over the year or so a superintendent search could last, she said the board should look for interim leadership that won't need time to learn how the district works.

"We're in a severe budget crisis right now and any dollar we save is money we can put toward saving teachers and saving our schools."

Flores argues against revolution, while Morath prepares to dig into his book of Shakespeare references.
Flores argues against revolution, while Morath prepares to dig into his book of Shakespeare references.

Edwin Flores was among the skeptical majority, worrying about what he called, "this 'revolutionary council idea' -- I forget what the folks in Iran call it," and that Ranger's proposal grind the district to a halt without a single leader to hold accountable. "You'd have nine superintendents up here," Flores said. "I am telling you that in a year, this is what we'd digress to, and we'd have board meetings every two days."

The district's lawyers told Ranger they'd let the board know if an "administrative council" would be technically legal, speculating it ought to be fine as long as trustees named one of the administrators interim superintendent.

"It's sort of, 'A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet," Mike Morath pointed out -- whatever the board decides, they'd have to pick someone to replace Hinojosa on paper. It was one of a few moments last night when Morath sought common ground in Shakespeare. Earlier, he wondered aloud whether "to interim or not to interim" when choosing a new superintendent.

Ranger's proposal didn't get much traction with other trustees, but all seemed to agree they should choose a temporary replacement for Hinojosa who knew Texas law and DISD policies -- either someone from within the district or a recently retired superintendent from nearby.

Finally, Ranger tried to make good on a suggestion she made on her blog last week -- that Hinojosa get out now. She tried to make a motion to place him on administrative leave, "so that we can move forward in a more healthy way. She was quickly hollered down by trustees -- it wasn't a motion-making kind of meeting, they reminded. Instead, she made her point: "I'm very concerned that we have the superintendent still on duty at a time when we are making some very critical decisions," she said.

Since Hinojosa announced his coming departure, folks like the Dallas Morning News and mayoral candidate Mike Rawlings have suggested it's an opportunity to hire a bold, visionary, strong new leader.

For now, though, it sounds as though trustees are looking for an interim superintendent who just won't screw things up any worse -- a manager, not a visionary, Eric Cowan suggested, someone who'll work with district staff who already know what they're doing. "We have four very professional chiefs who are not going to let this ship go down sinking."

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