This afternoon, the Dallas school board is expected to name interim superintendent Michael Hinojosa the lone finalist to be the permanent school leader. He already had the job for six years before he left in 2011. Trustees who served when he was here offer their take on Michael Hinojosa 2.0.
Hinojosa left Dallas in 2011 with a mixed record after six years.
Academic achievement improved, even though a lot more work was still needed. The district also struggled with a budget deficit of at least $64 million because Hinojosa’s administration basically hired too many people without knowing it. He had to fire hundreds of teachers to help erase the red. He called the episode his biggest disappointment.
It did not, however, kill his passion for the job. Something he still has.
“I love this city and I love this district,” Hinojosa said the other day. “My parents came as immigrants to this community and made a great difference. So it’s personal. I know a lot of people here. This is home. I’ve been a superintendent in other places but it wasn’t home. And I know it comes with some peril as well. If you make a mistake it’s very public.”
Former trustee Ron Price, who was in office during Hinojosa’s tenure, sees Dallas’ last three turbulent years under Mike Miles as the mistake that needed fixing.
“You need a healer more than a superintendent,” Price said. “They don’t need a yo-yo or what I used to call it, the Gunsmoke saloon policy -- the revolving door: someone always coming in and out, coming in and out.”
Price says Hinojosa will bring needed stability. Former trustee Jerome Garza says he’ll also bring good people skills.
“Michael is an excellent communicator and an excellent listener,” Garza said. “People found that he was very open, and then would take action to streamline operations.”
Last week, Hinojosa already announced some streamlining, eliminating three of five assistant superintendents. He said it would improve efficiency and communication.
Leigh Ann Ellis, another former school board member, welcomes good and fair communication. She warns Hinojosa must work equally with all trustees to be effective -- playing favorites won’t work, she said.
“Everybody’s on the same level,” Ellis said. “And there were a few times when I worked with Hinojosa that I felt like I wasn’t treated as equal as some of the other board members.”
Support for Hinojosa’s coronation seems overwhelming.
Former Dallas school board President Ken Zornes isn’t surprised, considering the alternatives.
“If the interim right now is a candidate for the job, and is one that the board is happy with, hell, they’re not going to get any candidates," Zornes said. "It would simply be a waste of time and money to do a national search.”
Zornes points out a $ 1.6 billion bond package will be on the ballot this fall and the board needs an experienced leader to sell it to voters. Hinojosa did just that in 2008.