Things haven’t quite worked out that way.
Dr. Hinojosa has now been here roughly eight months and regrettably has little to show for his efforts aside from a shuffling of his top brass and responsibilities in order to allow him more time to visit schools each Wednesday.
And it has come to light in the past several weeks that Hinojosa was quietly expending a great deal of effort on a pair of initiatives that the board turned out not to want — his proposed hiring of 50 Teach For America teachers for underperforming schools in south Cobb; and his support for a start-up charter school in south Cobb being pushed hard by board Vice Chairman David Morgan and his wife, state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell).
As it turned out, the majority of the board was against hiring the Teach For America rookie teachers in a budget climate in which the board would simultaneously be losing 350 experienced teachers through attrition. That outcome should have been a no-brainer for Hinojosa to predict before he filled out the two applications for $400,000 in federal Race to the Top funds for the program. And let’s not forget that the board had never publicly discussed whether to apply for Race to the Top funds.
And the board was blindsided by the news that Hinojosa and system staff had been working with Morgan on the proposed charter school start-up. State law allows school systems to assist “conversion” charters, but not start-ups. Hinojosa had not apprised the board of the system’s efforts on behalf of Morgan. And Morgan had cast the deciding vote last year against what would have been a competing charter school serving the same area — a vote that essentially doomed the other school, and a vote that represented a staggering, but ignored, conflict of interest for Morgan.
Now both the TFA and Morgan’s charter school plans are down the tubes. But that’s what happens when a superintendent keeps his board and the public in the dark about what he’s up to.
Yes, there were, but he never learned them because he continued to keep important information from his board and the public.
And his board never learned its lesson because it continued to let Sanderson lead it by the nose and keep hiding key information.
The board should be discussing the matter at tonight’s meeting, but is prohibited from doing so by its arcane rules about how items are added to the agenda. But it will be interesting to see if the current school board at its meeting next month discusses Hinojosa’s “hide the ball” tactics, or whether members swallow their pride and decide to let him have his way with them.
In corporate America such a chief executive would be quickly brought to heel by his board for such actions. But if history holds, the Cobb board will meekly put up with it, not saying a word.
And if that happens, who can blame Hinojosa if he takes that as a green light to keep on keeping his board and the public in the dark?
But Hinojosa and the board bring to mind a man starving to death while sitting on a ham sandwich. That is, this community is begging for a strong leader to take charge of the system and turn its focus to improving student achievement. The soil is right for moving this system ahead dramatically, especially after a “lost decade” spent fighting political battles and eight months of the Hinojosa regime with nothing to show for it.
Are Hinojosa and the board finally ready to step up to the plate? Is he ready to carry out the pledges he made during the hiring process? And is the majority of the board that ran as “reformers” finally going to start voting that way? This system cannot afford another lost decade, or even another lost eight months.