Ousted Fort Worth Superintendent's Parachute Is Really Golden Even by Dallas ISD Standards

Former Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is one of several district employees over the years to leave with large golden parachutes.
There's plenty of money to be made in public education. You just need to be in the right job to make it. And once you're in that job, it helps if you can get fired.

Take Walter Dansby. The former superintendent of the Fort Worth Independent School District, Dansby resigned Monday, leaving with a golden parachute worth more than $900,000, according to The Dallas Morning News.

But when you think of unnecessarily large sums of cash, you think not about Fort Worth ISD but about Dallas ISD, the fertile land where Jennifer Sprague once roamed. So what has Dallas ISD shelled out when some of their supers and other employees have left? Let's take a little tour through Dallas ISD's very golden history of very golden parachutes.

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Texas Lawmakers Decriminalized Bad Behavior in Schools, and Citations Have Plummeted

Two laws implemented last year attempted to basically decriminalize student behavior in schools.
There was a time, not long ago, when police routinely issued tickets to Texas middle and high school students for chewing gum, wearing skirts a little too short and turning their desktops into pillows. Students who swore were ticketed for disorderly conduct. An 11-year-old Galveston boy even faced criminal assault charges for defending himself against a bully, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

It was in response to this two years ago that state lawmakers set out to dismantle the "zero-tolerance" policies that were sending so many kids home from school and into the criminal justice system, for acts as minor as talking back.

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After a Frisco Child's Death, Her Family Wants Answers and Changes from Frisco ISD [Updated]

No one -- not her teacher, not her mom, not the school nurse, not the paramedics -- could initially explain why Meaghan Levy, an otherwise healthy kindergartener at Frisco's Corbell Elementary, suddenly collapsed to the floor as her class walked to the library on the morning of December 12. She had no history of medical problems and no known allergies. The night before was normal -- a trip to the grocery store with her mom and siblings, a dinner of turkey tacos, a run-through of Finding Nemo before bed -- as was the morning. She was in good spirits when she was dropped off at school in her white shirt and jean jacket, and she was typically cheerful as her class set out for the library an hour-and-a-half later. When Fox 4 reported on the death the next week, they could say for certain only that Meaghan "became ill."

The actual cause of death was suggested by X-rays doctors at Children's Medical Center at Legacy as they frantically tried to save Meaghan's life, and confirmed a month later by the Collin County Medical Examiner: asphyxiation by pushpin.

For Meaghan's mother, Nicole Kennedy, and her aunt, Erika Kennedy, the past five months have eroded some of the initial shock of losing a child 11 days before her 6th birthday. But they've done little to ease their despair.

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Ex-Dallas ISD Employee Charged With Stealing $162K in Worker's Comp Funds

If, like us, you've been worried that discussions on substantive policy issues like home-rule and merit pay have distracted from Dallas ISD's long and storied history of stupid penny-ante graft, then you're in luck. Federal prosecutors have just brought charges against a former DISD employee who allegedly stole $162,000 through fake worker's compensation checks.

Maricella Reed was employed by the district's risk management department for seven years, from 2004 to 2011. One of her primary duties there was to keep the list of employees owed worker's compensation. Twice a week, before checks were issued, she would print a list of recipients to be approved by her supervisor. Then, she would send the list to accounts payable, which cut the checks.

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TCU Students in Drug Bust Have Had a Helluva Time Getting Their Cars Back From Police

Most people have more or less forgotten the high-profile TCU drug bust of February 2012. Aside from the presence of four football players among the 18 arrested and the relatively rare chance for TV stations to run a mugshot gallery full of privileged college kids, the revelation that a bunch of young people had been running a small-scale drug ring on campus just wasn't all that shocking.

Kudos to TCU journalism students and the Star-Telegram for sticking with the story. They teamed up on a very solid investigative piece highlighting the rather striking incongruity between the criminal activity and the value of the property seized by police.

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Dallas ISD Is One of the Most Segregated School Districts in the Country

The Supreme Court's landmark school-desegregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education, handed down 60 years ago this week, had little immediate impact on Dallas ISD. Schools remained officially segregated for years and de facto segregated for decades, as district officials slow-walked integration and white families fled to the suburbs. It wasn't until 2003 that U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders declared DISD officially desegregated.

Good feelings all around. But zoom out a tad, fast-forward a decade and the gains that were made in DISD -- and pretty much everywhere else in the country -- are eroding, according to an examination of Brown's legacy released this week by researchers with UCLA's Civil Rights Project.

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Duncanville High School Suspends 170 Kids For Dress Code Violations, Nearly Causes a Riot

martinezmando_, via Instagram
A decade ago, the Duncanville Independent School District kicked off the 2003-04 school year by suspending 700 kids for dress code violations. The crackdown made headlines, but the first didn't appear until late September, more than a month after the district began booting kids from class for infractions as minor as wearing an untucked shirt or failing to wear an ID badge.

When Duncanville High School officials launched a similarly draconian dress-code sweep this morning -- reportedly sending kids home for having chin stubble (per the DHS dress code, "Mustaches are permitted, provided they do not extend beyond or below the edge of the lips and are neatly trimmed") or wearing pants made of an improper material ("Denim, jean, or workout or warm-up material is not permitted") -- the backlash was much more immediate.

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The Story of the Murdered Wilmer-Hutchins Hoops Star Is Getting Stranger by the Newscast

At first glance, the March 23 murder of Wilmer-Hutchins High School basketball standout Troy Causey Jr. was the result of the cruel stupidity of undersupervised teenagers.

According to police, Causey and a crosstown rival, Madison High's Johnathan Turner, started started arguing over a video game. Words turned to punches, and Causey wound up on the street in front of his house with his head kicked in.

But over the past several days, WFAA's Brett Shipp has been building a case that adults -- specifically Dallas ISD athletic officials -- deserve some amount of scrutiny.

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Slowly, UT Dallas Is Turning Itself Into an Actual College Campus

UT Dallas
Next step: a decent mascot.
UT Dallas has always been a university, i.e. an institution of higher learning where one can take classes and learn things and get an accredited degree. But it's never really been a college, in the sense of a vibrant campus-centered community. When I graduated five years ago, the ghetto of crappy student apartments along Waterview was the only thing anchoring students to campus. Most of the rest escaped to the sea of parking lots immediately after class.

Slowly but surely, that's changing. There are actual dorms now and a dining hall (http://www.utdallas.edu/residencehall/) that cater to the skyrocketing undergrad population (it's tripled over the past two decades). Pretty soon, UTD could add another puzzle piece with a mixed-use development just north of campus.

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For DFW's State Board of Education Seat, It's "Pretty Damn Conservative" vs. the Tea Party

Pat Hardy, left, and Eric Mahroum face off in the May 27 Republican primary runoff.
It was a sad day -- for reporters at least -- when North Richland Hills' Lady Theresa Thombs lost her bid for a seat on the State Board of Education. Between her outrageously padded resume (she claims to be an "international ambassador" and carrier of "diplomatic papers"), her seeming inability to throw punches that land above the belt, and the curious fact that our Unfair Park post about her stalled at 666 Facebook shares, she promised to be a rich vein of material for however long as her candidacy gave her a shred of relevance.

Thombs, alas, garnered a mere 7 percent of the vote in the Republican primary, meaning she's back to singing at the Olympics or getting knighted by foreign royalty or whatever it is she does when she's not running for office.

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