Michael Hinojosa: Hombre de Visión!
In April of 2005, Michael Hinojosa was named General Superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District. This would allow Hinojosa to come full cycle. He grew up and lived in Oak Cliff, attended DISD as a student, then taught as a teacher and coach at Stockard and Adamson. Now he finds himself at the helm of a school district that is the 12th largest in the nation, responsible for the education of 160,000 students and over 12,000 employees. This is a long way from the young boy who attended school in Oak Cliff and lived with his 10 brothers and sisters in the community, as his father pastured his own church off Fort Worth Avenue while founding other Spanish churches in the southwestern part of the city.
Hinojosa attended Reagan and Greiner Middle Schools, and graduated from Sunset High School. He went to movies at the Texas Theatre, and made the drag down Jefferson Avenue on Saturday night. “Oak Cliff was a very special place for me growing up as a kid,” said Hinojosa. “Meeting my friends at the Bronco Bowl to bowl or use the batting cage was really special. But I have always felt most appreciative to the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department. I lived across the road from Kidd Springs Park, and went over there nearly every day after school to hang with my buddies and to play baseball. I have always loved baseball,” he concludes with a boyish smile. And he obliviously loved Oak Cliff, because after getting his doctorate and leaving Spring ISD, he came right back to Oak Cliff.
For a man who has weathered several crises during his tenure, Hinojosa has managed to keep that smile, along with a developed air of confidence. Problems that would have caused lesser folks to fade away have allowed him to position himself to overcome these situations and set even higher standards for himself and his staff. Average or better are not standards subscribed to by Hinojosa. Only words like the “very best” are acceptable to him.
“By the year 2010 we are going to be Best Urban School District in the Nation,” states Hinojosa. He says this not in a state of arrogance, but rather in a way of set determination. It appears that the district may be on its way, having Townview Center recently named the best high school in the nation. Test scores are up across the district, with all grades improving as well as most high schools showing marked improvement.
Although Hinojosa’s success is not guaranteed, he has managed to do something that his predecessors were unable to accomplish. First, he was hired by a unanimous vote of the school board. The board appears to be working together in an atmosphere of unity. “I think Dr. Hinojosa is the perfect leader to take the district from good to great,” states DISD Board of Trustees President Jack Lowe.
When asked what he felt was the reason for much of his success, he didn’t waver as he indicated that his spirituality was the vanguard of how he patterned his life. Meditation and prayer are the watchwords for how he handles the stresses of the job.
Hinojosa embraces the abundance mentality. All problems can be solved, and people that can’t solve problems get interrupted by people who are solving them. He expects all schools in the district to become high performing regardless of demographics, race or location in the city. Hinojosa looks for the positive in everything, yet strives to improve in all things. He sees his job and that of his staff as helping school employees to accomplish these goals.
Hinojosa believes in the people he works with, realizing that people make mistakes, but can be corrected in order to make them more productive. Those people that break the law or disobey school policy will have to answer for their misdeeds, but those that are creative in their educational approaches and love their students, wanting what is best for them, are the employees that will grow and feel welcome in the district.
This superintendent knows that there are going to be tough issues. But he also realizes that they must first be recognized and then dealt with in a fast and judicious manner. Hinojosa will not accept the premise that his job is too tough and may be filled with pitfalls and discouragements.
“I love my job and enjoy coming to work everyday. Don’t feel sorry for me. Rather feel sorry for the guy who has not been blessed with the opportunity to serve the children of this district as I have,” he says with clarity and with the ring of determination in his voice.
Despite his demanding job, Hinojosa’s personal goal is to spend more time with his family. He coaches both of his sons’ baseball teams. Parents taught him the importance of family and the closeness that comes with that. Weekends find him at home or out with his wife and boys, enjoying all those blessings that this great country allows him to possess. Although his job is tremendously important, his church and family command most of his thoughts and are the driving force behind his desire for educational improvement on the job. His boys, Michael and Taylor, along with wife Kitty, are truly the apples of the superintendent’s eye.
Over his career as Superintendent of Hays Consolidated School District, and Spring Independent School District, Hinojosa has always flirted with a sense of greatness. Board member Nancy Bingham says, “There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Michael Hinojosa will someday be recognized as one of Dallas I.S.D.’s greatest superintendents.” Bingham goes on to say that Hinojosa is a champion for the educating of every child in the district. He has developed a mission for the district to be the best urban district in the nation by 2010.
Hinojosa want each child to have a well-rounded education. That is why there is a music and art teacher in each of the district’s schools. He stresses that children need to grow academically as well as socially if they are going to be positive additions to society. Hinojosa has a vision for the district, a dream with a deadline. And that deadline is 2010.
Toward the end of the interview, Hinojosa leaned back in his chair and shared something personal with the writer. He said most of what he learned about life was when he was coaching baseball. Since everybody wants to be a part of a team, he saw his job as the coach to be taking those individuals, with all their different beliefs and talents, and turn them into a team with the same belief and interest in a common goal. He has the job of motivating, yet realizing that each player is different. Therefore he has to be strategic, while energizing and inspiring the team.
One of the main goals of the superintendent should be becoming familiar with his board. Retreats away from the formal boardroom are encouraged. In his 15 months on the job, the board has had 7 retreats. These offer a place where they can get away, become better acquainted, and go about the business of providing for the needs of the students.
Leaving the interview, I felt better about D.I.S.D. and the students. I was impressed that Hinojosa appeared to have a calling–a calling that would make this district a great district. The philosopher Manly once said, “No man is born great. But greatness can be created by providential time. And if one can overcome the challenges presented.” No one can say that Superintendent Michael Hinojosa of the D.I.S.D. has a job that will not be filled with challenges. Only time will tell if he leaves his mark as one of history’s greatest.