Decision to Pause '08 Bond-Funded Redos At Some DISD Schools Was Anything But Quiet

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Billy Earl Dade Middle School is one of the schools where construction has been halted.
Front page of the morning's paper has a pay-walled story about the Dallas Independent School District's decision to "quietly" halt construction on a handful of schools due to receive '08-bond money redos -- quietly, as in, "During budget talks this spring, school leaders quietly decided to halt renovations and repairs at eight schools, most of which are far from full." Not sure how quiet it was: If memory serves, and it does, at the May 12 board of trustees briefing, there erupted quite the back-and-forth between trustees Carla Ranger and Bernadette Nutall over the decision to hit "pause" on the projects, with then-Superintendent Michael Hinojosa having to break it up.

Colin Graidage, chairman of the Bond Advisory Committee, had just finished giving the Annual Report of the 2008 Bond Program. Mike Morath, who'd just been elected to the board, asked something about projects being broken out by individual trustees' districts; Nancy Bingham had to 'splain a few things. And then Carla Ranger piped up:

"A few weeks ago, we received notice that construction on maybe about four schools was being halted, and that these are not new schools. These are renovations to schools," she said in an even tone of voice. "How does the bond committee fit into that? I thought I read where trustees and members of the Citizens Budget Review Committee made the request, so there are probably two or three questions: What's the connection which the bond committee and that action, which trustees made the request to halt construction, which members of the Citizens Budget Review Committee made that request?"

Bernadette Nutall jumped right in: "I can answer for it, because it's a majority of my district. I requested H.S. Thompson ... We have a South Dallas committee that we formed. H.S. Thompson is underpopulated. So that's one of the schools. Frazier Elementary is underpopulated. That's another school. What's the third? I don't have my list with me ..."

At which point, Hinojosa's mustache began to move: "Was the third one, but it was so far under construction ..."

Nutall remembered: "Paul Dunbar."

"Yeah, but it was so far under ..." Nutall wouldn't let Hinojosa finish.

"In our committee meeting, Dunbar, we put them back on the list, 'cause its 69 percent capacity," she said. " But H.S. Thompson is 39 percent capacity, Frazier is about 50 percent capacity. And then Billy Earl Dade, we're building the new Billy Earl Dade, so we put that on hold. Five of the schools that are being requested are in my elected district. I requested ... We have formed a committee -- Dr. Juanita Wallace is chair of that committee -- to look at the future of the South Dallas schools. So I'm the trustee that requested putting that on hold right now."

Hinojosa then spoke again: "Ms. Nutall, thanks for owning that, but if I could have a broader context to that. Before this crisis escalated from the statewide level, like it did in January, we were proceeding as planned,. But a lot of questions startled being raised about what is the future of these small enrollment schools. So that's when the commission started talking about it, Ms. Nutall brought up the point, and Mr. [Phil] Jimerson [he's the district's deputy chief of staff for construction services] and his team through Alan King talked to me about it. So it was a collaborative discussion amongst all three of those parties that said, 'Why don't we take a pause on those and not spend any more money until we see what the future's going to be?'

"I keep reminding people: There's been no decision to close any of those schools. But I did say that we weren't going to close any of those schools in the spring, but we were going to have a substantive discussion about that in the fall because they're significantly low enrolled. But that's the genesis where the whole context of it arose, but thanks, Ms. Nutall, for owning up to that."

Ranger said all of this was news to her.

"As we've talked about all of the schools being all of our schools, the bond program is a  program of Dallas ISD, and the trustees, the board as a whole, would be in charge of that," she said. "For individual trustees to say, 'This should be done with this project or this school,' as it related to the bond [program], that has to come before the board of trustees."

Far as Ranger was concerned, the board and only the board should have made that call -- after it had received reports explaining the rationale behind the break in the construction action.

"I don't see that individual trustees nor the individuals of the Citizens Review Commission nor the bond construction people, that any one of them would have the authority to make that decision without that coming before the board," she said. "If that's the case, then any one of us at any time could look at any one of the schools and, I would think, have the right to come and say, 'Stop this, do that, continue that.' ... It is inappropriate for us to receive information about an action like that, which is very important and significant and has to do with our total bond program, to receive this information after the fact, after a decision has been made, when the board has the authority to make that decision and no one else."

"I had my committee meeting and my meeting with the community, and the community questioned us on construction on schools that are underpopulated after we talked about the future of South Dallas schools," Nutall said, "And that's one of the things ... they questioned. I brought that forth to Dr. Hinojosa." At which point, Nutall said, a "a committee of community people from District 9" was formed, and at a meeting in early May they decided "it was appropriate we put it on hold for six months."

"Certainly requests can be made," Ranger said, addressing Hinojosa, but halting construction, far as she was concerned, is "not an individual trustee's decision." She reiterated: "Any decision that affects halting construction should come before the board."

To which Hinojosa responded: "Ms. Ranger you bring up some good points. The only clarification: This was not a cancellation but a postponement. But I understand what you're saying, and I don't disagree with you."

Then Morath spoke up, wanting to address the "philosophy" of the board -- which, far as he's concerned, exists to "set policy, approve the budget [and] hire senior management." Maybe, he suggested, things like pausing school construction didn't need to come before the board, lest the board risk getting "bogged down very quickly in making these kinds of decisions."

That said, he acknowledged, putting a hold on bond construction could be classified as one of those "fairly important decisions that need to rise to public discussion. But I do not expect notification on all these issues."

"It's a matter of decisions," Ranger said. "We are a corporate body, and when decisions are made we act as a board, so that would be my expectation."
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10 comments
CHOWUR
CHOWUR

Projects go to the lowest bidders of the work that needs to get done. The company that got the bid does half the work... gets paid for the whole project being done...then goes out of business so they don't have to be held accountable.  I'm sure they open up another business another name.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Oh, and let's see.... the contracting companies--owned and money going to North Dallas, and the president of the NAACP is on the committee. This place is like an old-fashioned soap opera on CBS, where there seem to be only a botu two dozen people int he whole town.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

The next discussion needs to be on the shoddy construction work done, the pressure to have principals signing off on same and the "buddy system" between the contractors and the City of Dallas Code people.... How do you sing off on portables NOT being anchored into the ground, and the paperwork says they are? How do you install doors without locks or glass in their windows? How do you.... well, you get the way it is. Cash Cow, it is.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

We need drastic re-drawing of attendance lines.Kids are waiting in line for lunch so long in some schools that they just skip lunch bc the attendance lines are so off.

Theories as to why this hasn't been done by now include the fact that it could affect HS feeder patterns and sports. 

Also, we have driven the white middle class out (we want their taxes, not their kids) bc our trapped-in-the-60s "leaders" fear the mere possibility of a  majority-white school* more than they fear an FBI audit.

*the entire district is less than 5% white.

StopDISD.org
StopDISD.org

DISD could save LOTS of our tax dollars if they would only listen to the voters and taxpayers! DISD MUST STOP wasting our tax dollars on renovating schools that will be demolished. Like the newly renovated O.M. Roberts. Millions were spent to renovate the school now DISD moves forward to demolish it and spend another 22 million to reconstruct a new one. Why not finish the renovations instead of wasting more tax dollars. Bond monies will be used for this project, but if the citizens, voters and taxpayers had a choice they would revote to keep our teachers, revote for better education and revote for preservation.The contractors doing these renovations and building new schools are not suffering through any budget crisis.And...in addition to the reckless demolition of the O. M. Roberts school DISD also seized homes residing behind the school only to destroy them to put in parking lots / playgrounds in-between the remaining homes. Does that make sense?**NOTE In November DISD sent the residents letters informing them that their property was no longer needed, but DISD moves forward on spending millions to pave in a concrete wasteland in-between homes. Also, over 1,600 signatures were submitted to DISD for DISD to consider an alternate solution that IS available by the BC Workshop, but they refuse to consider it.Take a listen to Prolific MC's new song about the issue:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... on the link below to view Satire Video on DISD's Land Grabhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v...Learn more at www.StopDISD.org

Mike
Mike

Why wasn't this subject part of the update given by Mr. Graidage?  If I reported on 2008 Bond, I'd expect to say something about plans to spend 2008 Bond funds. 

Everything about DISD smacks of procedures just thrown together with no overall theme,  Mr. Hinjosa was and likely still is an incredibly inept manager.  I don't know if that disqualifies him from being the supe if he has a very very strong detail person cleanining up the messes.  Detail, shaping an organization to efficiently handle problems, and internal communications are not his forte. 

He is almost like a super salesperson selected to lead a large, troubled firm because he was a revenue generator, in spite of poor execution skills.  I hope Cobb County knows what it's getting and have erected suitable nets beneath him.  He is their problem now.

rsfred
rsfred

Perhaps there would not be so many portables if the attendance lines were changed.

StopDISD.org
StopDISD.org

Ms. Birdwell, That is exactly what happened at O.M. Roberts Elementary.  DISD spent 2.6 million yes million to renovate the school...now DISD claims that the school still leaks and that the A/C is still not working properly...and that is why they proceed in demolishing it only to spend another 22 million to rebuild a brand new one.  According to the staff at O.M. Roberts there is nothing wrong with the school.  But, if there are leaks and the A/C is not working why can't the contractors be held accountable..a brand new A/C unit was installed a few short years ago... now that 2.6 million will only become dust in the wind with only memories of the school left behind.

 We the taxpayers and voters must demand justice!  DISD STOP wasting our tax dollars!  Focus on better education, better compensation for our teachers and preservation for our schools and neighborhoods!

 Contact your DISD Board member and tell them you are outraged and demand a solution to the senseless spending! 

rsfred
rsfred

Lakewood Elementary is a majority white school and it is thriving. Lots of white kids at Stonewall Jackson if not the majority. White people putting their kids in Lee, Lipscomb, Long and Woodrow.  A problem I have seen is that the traditionally black schools are under capacity yet there is resistance to relieving adjacent overcrowded schools, which would bring hispanics into S. Dallas and SOC schools.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

DeGolyer is another elem with a high white pop, but "majority" status for whites at any DISD school depends on year-to-year enrollments bc the white pop is so low.

There is a lot of animosity between black administrators and Hispanic administrators.  Not between the kids or campus staffs, but higher up.  It's ridiculous, but it, too, as you state, affects attendance boundaries.

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