Dallas ISD's Chief of Staff is Moving to Houston. Will Trustees Move to Kill That Position Now?

The editor of our sister paper in Houston just forwarded along a press release sent out moments ago by the Houston Independent School District: "Arnold Viramontes, the Dallas ISD chief of staff, is coming to HISD to oversee the district's technology operations." The entire release follows, but Viramontes, of course, is DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's right-hand man -- "my go-to person." And now he's gone come April, says the release, which follows in full.

Viramontes, of course, had once been DISD's chief technology officer -- the guy charged with cleaning up the shitstorm left by Ruben Bohuchot. And back when he held that particular gig, Arnold came under intense criticism for having his wife Patricia, then the executive director of instructional technology services, report directly to him -- a wink-wink violation of the district's nepotism policy. That came to an end in December '09, when Patricia was escorted out of the building.

Trustee Edwin Flores says he's disappointed to see Viramontes go: "I am happy for him, but The Dallas ISD Graduate School of Superintendents just graduated another. Good for them, bad for us. You know why he's going? Houston's come up with a new teacher-performance plan, and he gets to build that from the ground up. They're eating our lunch. They're way ahead of us on that. And I'm sure the money's good."

Speaking of: Viramontes makes around $200,000 annually. Will the district use his departure as an excuse to cut the position and save money, considering the possible $260-million shortfall caused by the state's $27-billion hole?

"It's the superintendent's decision at the end of the day," Flores tells Unfair Park, "but if I were a betting man -- and I am not -- I'd say it's an opportunity to cut a position. I'd think that's the right call to make. The question is: What are the trustees going to do? I've proposed cutting our crazy travel budget, we do have a pretty significant salaries, but every time I've brought it up it's fallen on deaf ears. But it'll be painful all the way around. It won't be pretty. But good for Arnie."

A message has been left for DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander.

Update at 3 p.m.: DISD's release concerning Viramontes's departure follows. But to answer the question: Yes, it sounds like the district will indeed use this opportunity to eliminate the chief of staff position. From the announcement, toward the bottom: "Because of the uncertainty with state funding for public education, Hinojosa said that the district will reduce a chief position and begin the complete process of reducing central office positions." Read on.

HISD Names Arnold Viramontes Chief Technology Information Officer; Dallas ISD Chief of Staff will Oversee Technology, Network Security and Research.

February 18, 2011 - Arnold Viramontes, the Dallas ISD chief of staff, is coming to HISD to oversee the district's technology operations.

As Chief Technology Information Officer, Viramontes will report directly to Superintendent Terry Grier and will be tasked with guiding a major upgrade of the Houston Independent School District's network security system. Viramontes will also oversee HISD's Research and Accountability Department, a critical component in the school district's effort to ensure that policy decisions, including those affecting classrooms, are based on reliable data.

"Arnold brings a level of expertise and experience to HISD that will be invaluable as we seek to strengthen and restructure our technology operation," Grier said. "HISD taxpayers should be confident that someone of Arnold's caliber will be overseeing such an important area of this school district's work."

In Dallas, Viramontes lead the creation of an electronic data warehouse that gave administrators and teachers quicker and easier access to information they rely upon to do their jobs. He said he intends to do the same for Houston.

"People need access to information that has integrity so they can make informed decisions in a timely manner," Viramontes said. The data warehouse also enabled Dallas ISD to provide parents and community members detailed student performance information, he said. In HISD, Viramontes will put systems in place to allow the district to begin generating department and school-based data performance scorecards.

In addition to the title of Chief of Staff, Viramontes also held the positions of Chief Technology Officer and Chief Transformation Officer during a Dallas ISD career that began in 2005. Viramontes' work history includes a four-year stint as Executive Director of the Texas Telecommunications Infrastructure Board, a state agency responsible for a $1.5 billion fund to deploy an advanced telecommunications infrastructure for the state's public education, library, and health sectors. Viramontes also served as Executive Director of Technology for the Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso.

Viramontes begins his duties at HISD in April.


Arnold Viramontes to Lead Technology Department

DALLAS--Arnold Viramontes, chief of staff for the Dallas Independent School District since June 2008, announced today that he has accepted a position as Chief Technology Information Officer with the Houston Independent School District.

Viramontes has been part of Dallas ISD since September 2005, serving as the Associate Superintendent for Technology Services and later as Chief Transformation Officer.

"Arny was more than the chief of staff; he was known around the office as the chief of stuff.

His leadership skills particularly shined in helping the district through the financial crisis in the fall of 2008," said Superintendent of Schools Michael Hinojosa.

"In addition, he was successful in establishing the district's Parent Portal, principal dashboards and school scorecards.

He will be greatly missed."

Viramontes secured a $5 million grant from The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation in 2007 to create a data warehouse, an initiative aimed at boosting student achievement through increased visibility to actionable data.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supported the effort by donating an additional $3.8 million.

"This has been a terrific opportunity.

I would hope that people think that I made a difference in the lives of students in Dallas," said Viramontes.

"I sincerely enjoyed working with many dedicated professionals throughout the district.

I am especially proud of putting in place the data warehouse and parent portal.

These tools put timely information into the hands of people to help them make informed decisions."

Because of the uncertainty with state funding for public education, Hinojosa said that the district will reduce a chief position and begin the complete process of reducing central office positions.

Both Dallas ISD and Houston ISD are working together to determine when Mr. Viramontes will begin his new position, but it will likely be in late March or early April.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky