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Keep Dallas Observer Free
4

No Love Here

Lew Blackburn, at right, doesn't seem to quite know the meaning of the word "impressive."

If you want to know why the Dallas Independent School District seems to have a spending scandal more often than the Dallas Mavericks lose a game, well, maybe part of the answer lies with trustees like Lew Blackburn.

Here's what recently came across our desk: In August 2005, Blackburn, then human resources director at the late Wilmer-Hutchins School District, gave a generous recommendation for Cheryl Hackett, who had served as the principal of Kennedy-Curry Middle School. Writing to Dallas CAN! Academy, the charter school that ultimately hired her, Blackburn told them that her "performance was very impressive" and that she proved to be a "great asset to the school, district, and community."

In reality, it was the other way around.

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A month after Blackburn penned his recommendation, state auditors concluded that under Hackett's leadership, Kennedy-Curry improperly spent $54,000 in federal funds. That included a $422 chair and pillow combination, a $1,094 book case, a $509 love seat -- all for Hackett's office.

"I don't care if they have to sell a kidney, they need to pay this money back" former board member Joan Bonner told The Dallas Morning News, which reported the audit's findings. "We know they don't have a brain or a heart but a kidney may be useful."

So might a conscience. It's a stretch to say that DISD is enduring a credit card scandal in which district employees were recently found to have charged hundreds of thousands of dollars on undocumented purchases because Blackburn endorsed someone like Hackett for a job. But it doesn't exactly inspire confidence in DISD's leadership that Blackburn either didn't know that Hackett was spending federal funds to buy a love seat or, even worse, didn't care. --Matt Pulle

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