Old School

Page 7 of 8

Price was also caught up in the Morning News exposé on Micro System Enterprises, a DISD vendor, and its close relationship with former technology chief Ruben Bohuchot, who helped name and select a 59-foot boat for the company. Based in Houston, the firm was organizing a consortium of vendors to wire Dallas schools for computers. Micro System President Frankie Wong, who negotiated a contract with Bohuchot worth up to $100 million, also gave $25,000 in political contributions to Price, who sat on the committee that reviewed the company's contracts. To put that figure in perspective, that's $8,000 more than Price raised from all contributors when he first ran for school board in 1997--with the backing of the business community, no less.

Price, however, explains that his committee had approved the contract with Micro System years earlier, and the contribution did not influence anyone's decision. An e-mail from DISD outside counsel exonerates him, Price says.

"Likewise the political contribution to Board member Ron Price was made in 2004 and also occurred after all Board action relating to the Consortium took place," read the e-mail from attorney John Martin. The attorney also wrote that the political contribution did not have any impact on the awarding of the contract.

Still, even Price's supporters admit that the contribution does not look good.

"It was all legal; it was reported," says Dale Kaiser with the NEA. "Was it the best thing to accept monetary donations from those gentlemen? Probably not. Some of those things you have to learn."

Price endured other controversies throughout the last 12 months, but perhaps nothing was as damning as his 2005 commencement speech at Woodrow Wilson High School, located at the edge of his district in East Dallas. During an oration in which he boasted about "having the president of the United States, George W. Bush, call me from time to time on my cell phone," Price added that he was 11 years old when he moved from New York City's Spanish Harlem to Garland. But as Gwinn later pointed out on his blog, Price enrolled at the Garland Independent School District at the age of 6, not 11.

"Everything I said in my speech, I stand by," Price says more than a year later. He explains that while he did attend school in Garland as a first-grader--contradicting part of his speech--he didn't learn how to speak proper English until years later. "I failed first grade, second grade, third grade. I flunked English and reading," Price says about his formative years in public education. "I wasn't a very bright student."

Discouraged at the education her son was receiving, Price's mom, Devorah Israel, pulled him out of GISD, and they returned home to New York before coming back to Texas a few years later. In a phone interview arranged by Price, she explained her son's claims. She and her husband raised Price in Spanish Harlem. Although they both spoke English, they were often gone during the day, and her son had Cuban and Puerto Rican friends and baby sitters. He spoke at best broken English, learning from those who were trying to learn the language themselves.

"Have you ever talked to a Puerto Rican speaking English?" she says, trying to describe how her son communicated in his formative years.

It's a rather dizzying story that doesn't quite make sense. Price himself says he is only going on what his mom has told him; he doesn't really remember whether he could speak English when he was a child. But he does take a cheap shot at Gwinn, who, in this instance, merely exposed the befuddling statements in Price's speech: "So for this guy to make a mockery of how we grew up poor and how poor people have a problem with standard English, I have a problem with that. He's a racist."

The frustrating thing about Price is that the true circumstances of his life and work on the board and in South Dallas are plenty inspiring for a group of high school graduates. There's no need to embellish and give his critics more fodder.

"Ron Price would tell a lie when telling the truth is in his best interests," Gwinn says.

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Matt Pulle
Contact: Matt Pulle