Dallas ISD Trustee Ellis Defends Superintendent Hinojosa. Kinda.

Last month, while reporting last week's cover story on Dallas Independent Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, I had two long interviews with school board trustee Leigh Ann Ellis, pictured at right. Most people consider the soft-spoken Ellis one of Hinojosa's most reliable supporters on the board, but I found her more ambivalent about his capabilities and future with the district.

It's not that Ellis thinks he should lose his job, but she's far less gushing about the supe than board president Jack Lowe, as evidenced by yesterday's outtakes. After the jump, some highlights -- all but two quotes are heretofore unpublished -- from our interview.

On Hinojosa's personality

"A lot of times we're at conferences and we'll see superintendents with dynamic personalities who work the room. Mike is very quiet and shy. He's more comfortable watching from the side than demanding the most attention."

"I've seen him behave too smug and arrogant. He needs to reach out and make people feel comfortable."

On his management style

"I expect more direct communication. I've been more vocal than the other trustees as far as communication; I think he finally understands how important it is."

"I've seen him jest and have fun with his staff, and I've seen them be very demanding and stern with them. I think he's probably pretty direct with everybody. I don't think he takes a lot of B.S."

"If you get him going, he's very passionate about teaching, about students achieving more and about public education in general. I think Michael understands what needs to be done as far as raising the bar for student achievement, giving principals more autonomy, going through less

On the public perception of Hinojosa

"He grew up in the projects. He grew up poor. He knows what so many of our kids -- blacks and Hispanics -- are up against. He's really fighting for them, but he hasn't been able to convey that to the public."

Recalling how former chief operating officer Eric Anderson told the board last spring that the district didn't have to worry about a $52 million payroll shortfall

"During the board briefings this summer and spring, we were assured by Eric that everything was OK, that the money was there. My concern was that Eric's body language during the board briefings made it seem like he wasn't telling us everything."

"When he was talking to the board, I just felt like he wasn't disclosing everything. It was just my gut reaction."

On how much blame Hinojosa deserves for the district's financial crisis

"From my perspective as a trustee, we hold him accountable. We have to hold Michael accountable; it's a big concern."

"I don't believe he neglected the finances; I don't think the information was presented to him as accurately as it should have been."

On whether Hinojosa should remain superintendent

"At this point, yes. We've all struggled with, Does he stay or does he go? To fire him would entail so much. We've had seven superintendents in 10 years. To make that eight would just pull us down so low."

"Michael is aware that he has to change and he has to change fast."

"But I'm not saying by any means that Michael has been given a free pass; we've been very forthright and direct on what we expect and what we don't expect."

"To fire Michael, is that the best for DISD? I'm not sure." --Matt Pulle

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