DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa Talks About The Very "Painful" Cuts to Come

michaelhinojosaportrait.jpg
Last night, WFAA reported that some 300 Dallas Independent School District employees will not return next year -- not because of the state's $25-billion shortfall, but because the $104 million in federal stimulus money that funded their positions beginning in 2009 has gone away. As DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander tells Unfair Park this afternoon: DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa "was very clear from the outset that those positions were temporary, and, hopefully, when those individuals accepted those positions they were given that understanding by the person who hired them." Dahlander says he's checking with human resources to find out what kind of positions are being eliminated.

But the district always knew that money would dry up. What it didn't know till only last week, Hinojosa tells Unfair Park today, is that it could have to excise as much as $260 million from its budget for the 2011-'12 school year -- a "worst-case scenario," as the super puts it. He says he only discovered that staggering figure last week during a meeting in Austin with other state superintendents and the consultants they pay to keep tabs on the Legislature's ever-shifting numbers.

"I was blown over," says Hinojosa when asked for his reaction to the figure. At the time, he says, he had been preparing to cut closer to $130 million out of the district's budget.

After the jump, Hinojosa discusses publicly some of the conversations that have been taking place privately as 3700 Ross Ave. The board of trustees, he says, hasn't even been made fully aware of the cuts to come. That will not happen till the February 10 briefing session.

The super had but a few minutes to spare today, but he has agreed to talk again tomorrow. Feel free to raise any further questions in the comments, once you've read what he had to say today. Like I need to tell you.

The first thing Hinojosa says before we begin our conversation is, "I've seen better days, but oh, well." And then he begins explaining how that $260 million figure came up last week.

"This is the worst-case scenario," he says. "But we have some consultants in Austin, and they said, 'Education's never been hit before, and now we project it'll be [cut by] $5 billion. Then, lo and behold, the House meets, and that number of the worst-case scenario is doubled to $9.8 billion, and they looked three different scenarios and projected how much everyone would lose. And even they were surprised. And as I've been reading newspaper accounts around the state, from El Paso to Austin to Houston, every CFO has the same situation, because we rely on the same consultants."

He says he found out while in Austin last week, when he was down there for a conference with other superintendents and state Sen. Florence Shapiro.

"The consultants brought out a new spreadsheet and said, 'The budget just laid out double our liability," HInojosa says. "I was blown over. In my mind, I'd been preparing for the worst-case scenario under the original project that was closer to $100 million. We'd come up with a plan that was painful, but at least it was something we could handle. There were things I'd never considered reducing before that were now on the table. Now, there are no sacred cows."

What kind of things had he looked initially?

"Secondary school principals begged me never to touch common planning time," he says. "There are seven periods in secondary school. We have a planning period where all of our teachers plan together. That costs us $25 million a year, and we bought that with the four pennies we received from the tax increase several years ago. That's how teachers can plan together -- veterans can help younger teachers. But that's on the table now."

Dahlander, who's sitting in the super's office, chimes in: "That was put in place five years ago, so that's relatively new."

I tell the Hinojosa that yesterday, Dahlander said there was a chance they'd ask for shorter school years -- perhaps as few as 175 days. But, I ask, isn't that number set by the Legislature? The super says yes, and that lawmakers are indeed looking at introducing bills that would "allow us to have shortened years and furlough days." That way, he says, "we wouldn't have to cut as many positions. But that's necessary just to get to the numbers" that were originally projected.

But a tax hike, which Dahlander has also mentioned, isn't likely.

"Of course, we can't go for a tax hike during this budget process without voter authorization," he says. "What we did ask was, Is there was any way they vould give the local board any kind of discretion to ask for a few more pennies, and they said it wouldn't go anywhere."

Layoffs, Hinojosa says, are inevitable. He reminds: During the $64-million budget shortfall of 2008, that was "because we were overstaffed in campus personnel. But, yes, we would have to reduce our payroll significantly. At some point, reducing payroll will involve having less employees, absolutely. I've asked my CFO to give us a breakdown of what we spend. As in: If about 57 percent our of money goes to teachers, what's the X percent spent on principals and the X amount spent on counselors and the X amount on central office. I want to have that chart."

I tell him: Time after time, people want to know one thing -- will there be significant cuts in the DISD administration? He says yes: "Central office will have to be reduced." That, he says, will lead to a wholesale change in the way the district goes about the business of education.

"Within this decade, the entire education system will change," he says. "We can no longer afford this model. We cannot be so labor-intensive. There will be whole lot of pain. There are things that were sacred cows in the past, and this makes you deal with them in a very painful and public way. You can say, 'ain't it awful' all day long, but whining gets you nowhere.

"I remember going to one superintendents meeting two months ago, and for the first three hours, everyone's whining, and finally I got up and said something, and the new Irving superintendent said, 'Let's look at solutions. We can't waste four hours complaining. I am an an advocate for public education, and I will do everything we can, but in the end we'll have school in August."

But the process is only beginning; the board, he says, still hasn't been fully briefed on discussions taking place within the confines of 3700 Ross. He says he's been meeting with trustees individually, but the bloodshed will become quite evident at the February 10 briefing.

"As I tell people, I have this acronym I use: DAGA," the super says. "It's: a little denial, followed by anger, then grief, then acceptance. I'm in acceptance mode and solution mode. I've only told them half the bad news, and, sure, they see it in the media, and I sent out that note last week, but the first time they hear everything, there will be denial, then anger. February will not be very productive. March, maybe more, but we have to have a budget by June."

As our time grows short, we discuss the growing anger among teachers, parents and public education advocates who insist there's so much waste in the district -- that much can be lopped off the top in order to streamline what's become a bulky operation. Will he listen to those who would suggest profoundly deep cuts at the top?

"I will listen to anybody," he says. "When you get to this level, I'll have to make the decisions, but I will talk to anybody who thnks they have something to share. But nobody knows the district like we know it. They don't understrand our politics. Things they can do in the suburbs we can't do, and in the suburbs, their worldview is narrow. Same with the principals, to some extent. We're the only ones, those of us on the chief level, who have the whole district in mind. And we'll put in the best plan we can."

Tomorrow, maybe, Part II?
My Voice Nation Help
21 comments
Guest
Guest

Wasn't he in talks to go to Nevada some time ago? And now he wants to go to Georgia? I don't know... this all sounds very dubious to me. For some reason a it has an aftertaste to me like "the rats are leaving the sinking ship".

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

I guess that "narrow world view" in the suburban districts would be focusing on graduating kids who are reasonably well educated instead of building fiefdoms for cronies.

Rapierwits
Rapierwits

My goodness, there certainly are some clever ways to destroy programs or stab someone for their stipend in this thread!Why don't we start with what we can all agree is waste?I whole heartedly solicit the contributions of any stories of anyone lucky enough to have been in a DISD school over the last 10 years while bond construction was afoot. I'll start:-The social studies hallway in Bryan Adams had the HVAC halfway done a few years ago. they left the old system down half the hallway bc they "ran out of money"-I finished installing a door in the hallway because the contract laborer had not put in the last screw from the hinge to the frame just last week-There are currently more than 100 lockers sitting in the hallways of the school while hundreds more have been mounted but not secured into the walls.

I won't bore but there is sooooo much more, I'm sure.

StopDISD.org
StopDISD.org

Mr. Wilonsky please ask DISD why are our Teachers are being given pink slips while DISD continues to waste our tax dollars!

In 2008, DISD spent millions of our tax dollars to remodel the historical O.M. Roberts Elementary. Now they want to spend another $22 million to demolish homes and the school to rebuild a new school, all the while destroying a neighborhood to put in parking lots in-between homes! A Neighborhood consists of Homes not Parking lots!

There IS another solution an alternate plan was presented to DISD by but, so far DISD refuses to consider it! Read the rest of the story here: http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...

DISD's current plan for O.M. Roberts is wasting our tax dollars! Again!! It must not continue!

Our children deserve a better education! ~ Our teachers deserve better compensation! ~ Our schools and neighborhoods deserve consideration for preservation not destruction!

Please help be a part of the solution by contacting your elected DISD Board Member at 972-925-3700. Tell them you want their focus on improving the quality of education for our students and working on increasing the compensation for our teachers, NOT on land development and wasteful spending.

Thank you

Learn more at www.StopDISD.org

Click on the link below to view Satire Video on DISD's Land Grab

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Citizen Alan
Citizen Alan

How many of Hinojosa's personal servants will have ther positions elminated?

Atrsyfartsy
Atrsyfartsy

We could save money by eliminating the $4000-5000 stipends paid to bilingual teachers. So what if they cry about it? They can just go to another district willing to waste money on bilingual stipends. Good luck there. Do the math.

FlyAwayButterfly
FlyAwayButterfly

Ask about getting rid of adult education department. GED services for adults? We can barely educate kids...

trashtalk
trashtalk

Hope you got a free bl--job with this interview to make it worth your time.

"They don't understand our politics. Things they can do in the suburbs we can't do, and in the suburbs, their worldview is narrow."

Believe me, all of us "understand" his politics. His cronies, his buddies will be first in the lifeboats and the rest of the district can sink.

Hand him an elementary book of Greek tragedies. Tell him the next test will be on the meaning of hubris.

DISD Teacher and Taxpayer
DISD Teacher and Taxpayer

Please ask him if he's willing to ask to roll back the tens-of-thousands-of-dollars worth of raises that were granted to a few administrators in December.

Ask him if he's willing to explain to the public that every time a TFA teacher is hired, taxpayers must also pay a fee to TFA in addition to the teacher's salary. And that fee is in the thousands of dollars--for teachers that are not even certified, much less shown to be effective.

Ask him if he's willing to explain to the public that the fee must be re-paid every 2 years, since TFA teachers serve for 2 years; almost none stay in teaching as a long-term career. This is good for TFA; not so good for taxpayers. The "lower salary" of these new teachers is an illusion bc the extra fee is never revealed to the public.

Ask him why he wants to pay a consultant ONE MILLION DOLLARS to explain the very broken CEI system that no one in the district can explain. Ask him why we're even using an accountability system no one in the district can explain--especially those district admins making more than $200K of taxpayer dollars.

Ask him why the district pays NON TEACHERS to write curriculum and ACPs and provide training to other teachers after years worth of results proving that paying all these "coaches" isn't working. Why doesn't the district simply pay the teachers with the best results a little extra to train teachers on the curriculum the state already provides (aka the TEKS)?

Ask him why, as a "public servant" he is taking well over $300,000 a year from taxpayers and giving them a corrupt, ineffective district in return.

I'd ask him myself, but I'll be busy down in the trenches working with over 120 kids I care about deeply, while also getting 30 minutes for lunch and maybe a quick bathroom break.

Rapierwits
Rapierwits

you raise a great point! how much $$$ is being spent on consultants scouting teachers for pink slips on these "campus improvement teams"

Luv2Teach
Luv2Teach

It's 4000, and yes, not all Bilingual Teachers may be fluent on both languages, but consider this, I am, and so are many more. Do you even know what are all the requirements a bilingual teacher need to follow in addition to a regular teacher? Needless to say, it's a well earned stipend.

Hello
Hello

They should get rid of General Education teachers when biligual teachers can teach both. That would save the district money.

Tu_ratona
Tu_ratona

I am willing to give up my stipend if it help to save a job, but is him willig to give up the last increment on his paycheck when he was going to Vegas ?, do the math.

Wool54
Wool54

Take away atrsyfartsy, Take away the stipend and let me teach only English then it would be fine with me.

teacher123
teacher123

But when principal jobs are open, does he hire from within? No, he hires from those suburbs. As he says people with that narrow worldview, not from within the district with people who understands the urban mentality. Fire him, that will save some money.

Luv2 teach
Luv2 teach

The first thing Hinojosa says before we begin our conversation is, "I've seen better days, but oh, well." Oh well...I guess that's a great attitude especially when you make $300+ AND have your insurance, car, phone, flunkies paid for. How about we furlough YOU for say a month and save a couple of teacher who are actually working. Oh, and get rid of the stipends for bilingual teachers. The elementary ones teach one language like the rest of us - it was given as an incentive to teach. They won't leave, there aren't any jobs around for them anyway. Get rid of CILT and save some more money. It's a big waste of time and money.

guest
guest

In the real world, most biligual teachers only teach spanish. They rarely speak english, even in the halls in passing, and when they do speak english, depending on where they are from, you might not undertand what they are saying. If you haven't completed your documentation process, they should go, before a legal resident is let go.

Luv2teach
Luv2teach

"is him willig to give up the last increment". Teaching English to ESL kids??? I rest my case.

Wool54
Wool54

Atrsyfartsy must be a graduate of Universidad de Tornillo!

Panama_girl01
Panama_girl01

Bilingual teachers would not have a need to be here if Americans learned to speak Spanish or other languages. Its time this unilingual country opened their minds and made themselves more marketable. Keep complaining about the bilingual stipend but guess what, it will be gone next year and the bilingual teachers will be lucky to even have a job. You should stop looking at the bilingual teachers as enemies and focus on all the waste that goes on in the district. Im sure the superintendent is not accepting a paycut and extra workload.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...