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.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
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