In a small meeting room at Dallas Independent School District headquarters this afternoon, Ron Price addressed reporters and a half-dozen cameras to explain why -- on the eve of the deadline to file for re-election as District 9 trustee -- he's ending his 12-year run on the school board.
"I want to spend time with my family," he said. "As you know, my son's been a little sick, and I've neglected them for a long time." While he said he made the decision last fall, minutes later, when asked why he waited until the last minute to make the announcement, Price suggested the choice wasn't his preference and that if left to his own devices he would have fought to continue at his post.
"I was trying to negotiate with my family," he said. But since they and his wife "ruled," he added, "I'll abide by what she says."
From the dust-up over his failed measure to rename two DISD schools after Sonia Sotomayor and Barack Obama to the embarrassing cheating scandal at Lang Middle School, Price has appeared in controversial headlines recently. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa -- who'd been sitting in the front row while Price gave his adieu -- took the microphone during the press conference and addressed the situation at Lang, which is in Price's district.
"We've concluded our investigation," Hinojosa said gravely about the incident that led to hundreds of students having to retake the TAKS tests and some being held back after they were led to believe they'd passed. "The report shows the students were not involved whatsoever in the cheating incident that occurred on campus."
The multiple erasures on stacks of standardized tests were made after the tests had been administered and were the result of the school's principal and testing coordinator, who both later resigned, failing to properly secure the room where the tests were kept. Both individuals have also failed to return calls from the district's Office for Professional Responsibility, according to the district.
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That may have something to do with the fact that the investigation, which was turned over to the Texas Education Agency, failed to produce evidence of who actually altered the tests. "We don't have enough evidence, and we don't even know who did it," Hinojosa said. As to any criminal charges or further action, Hinojosa said such decisions would be up left to the District Attorney's Office and the state. [Anyone with tips can anonymously call OPR at 972-925-8850.]
Price called for criminal charges and called the cheating "academic child abuse." "If you mislead a child and lead him to believe he got an A when he really got a D, you've just crippled that child," he said.
Before leaving DISD headquarters, Price reaffirmed his controversial support of corporal punishment ("It's just a tool in the principal's tool box," he said. "I'd rather see a kid get three pops than three days on the streets to be recruited by a gang."), charged that some of his would-be challengers in the District 9 election are "running for the wrong reasons" and are more interested in political gain than helping children (he neglected to name which ones he was accusing and declined to endorse anyone) and ran through a list of his accomplishments since his election in 1997, from increasing minority participation in bond programs and helping to get the the new Booker T. Washington High School built to the mentoring of young African American boys and passage of the school uniform policy.
When asked what he would do next, Price said he would continue to focus on his family and businesses, as well as work on improving the education of black youths on a national level. In terms of DISD's future, he gave Hinojosa a nod. "In order for us to move forward," he said, "We'll have to have some sort of stability around the board and superintendent. We've been blessed to have our superintendent for four years, when the national average is 2.5 years for urban schools in the U.S."