DISD: How we’re going to Cure this Mess
By: Durhl Caussey-
El Lider USA
Flanked by four board members, DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa today at a news conference outlined his strategy for untangling the P-card/credit cards. “I accept full responsibility in this matter in dealing with the Procurement Cards. We are responsible for our actions. Accountability will be the tools employed to resolve this matter and restore the public confidence for the pupils of the DISD,” said Hinojosa.
He went on to say that this needs to be resolved quickly so we can go back to doing what we do best, and that’s educating our children. This incident, he indicated, has helped the public to lose the trust they once had in the district. This is his plan of action.
#1: The district will immediately stop the use of Procurement/Credit Cards completely.
#2: School employees will be expected to follow all procurement requirements and purchasing procedures.
#3: If a need arises in which a purchase must be made quickly, employees will use their own credit cards. First they must have approval to purchase the product, and then they must present documentation for the purchase.
#4: An external investigator will be appointed to help identify other similar problems that might crop up in the future. An external investigator will make the investigation more credible. The DISD is going to set up a series of hotlines. The first hotline will be concerning bond issues. Another hotline will be set up for anyone to report any activity within the district that they feel is suspicious. There will also be a webpage set up for people to view and see the procedure for reporting violations of school employees and the breaking of school policies. These hotlines should be set up and running by the start of school or around September 1. The school district currently has around 20,000 employees, of which 1,000 had a Procurement Card. Of those 1,000, there may be several 100 that may have been used for questionable purposes. An independent firm will be employed by the district to look into the matter of credit card misuse.
The most egregious purchases, which number over 100, will be looked at first. Those employees who have violated board policy will be dealt with internally. Those purchases which have broken the law will be dealt with by outside authorities. There will be suspensions, and some of those are expected as early as next week for those breaking board policy. Some employees may be reassigned or terminated. Emplyees who have broken the law will be punished to the furtherest extent of that law. There will be no respector of an individual’s tenure, position, or ethnicity. The district will operate with the full authority of its jurisdiction. Hinojosa said,
“The goal of this district is to educate children. Our further goal is by the year 2010 to have the best urban school district in the nation concerning student performance.” First Vice President Garza indicated that our first, second and third priorities must be our children. “We fully support our superintendent in the methods that he has employed to resolve this matter. It will be investigated thoroughly so that parents, teachers, taxpayers, support staff, and all others in the community understand that DISD is not going to have any sacred cows when it comes to ferretting out culpable employees.”
Every individual will be held accountable for their actions, he said. Employees that use the cards irresponsibly will be expected to repay the district for any losses incurred. Dr. Edmond Flores, a former assistant district attorney and board member of the DISD, stated that the district now has an opportunity to put away the past old practices and to now focus on reforming the district.
“We’re not going to look back nor excuse those employees that have violated the public’s trust,” he said. “We’re going to take the district back and focus on the children, our most precious commodity.” Dr. Flores went on to say that the culture of entitlement that allowed fraud and theft is over with. The days of “don’t ask, don’t tell, and don’t prosecute” have been laid to rest. “We are going to prosecute those responsible.”
“Every evildoer will be prosecuted and punished,” he added, “for the horrors they have caused. We are shocked and disgusted by the acts of the few, but look with great hope to the future for the Dallas Independent School District.” It was easy for this writer to understand how grave the situation once was in the school district. Hinojosa could have stalled, placed blame and ignored the problems in the district, but he didn’t. This is refreshing considering the district’s past history. I personally believe that he will take care of this problem, punish those involved, develop a format where these things will not happen again, and will expect the very best of his staff as he does of his teachers.