Hinojosa’s stock with the public (and likely, the board) had been skidding downhill for a week, ever since the MDJ reported he had gone home for the day at mid-afternoon during the prior Tuesday’s ice storm, which left roads gridlocked, saw many school buses get stuck on the ice and caused many students and teachers to be stranded in their schools late, late into the night.
Many thought he used flawed judgment by choosing to manage his team from the locker room rather than the dugout, so to speak. Many felt he should have remained on duty at Central HQ with his command staff, as his counterpart in the Marietta School District did that night.
But Hinojosa’s surprise resignation pre-empted those calls for him to be fired. And there are signs that he already had had one foot out the door. On a personal level, he is not believed to have ever bought a home here since his hiring from Dallas in June 2011, and his wife is not believed to have ever moved to Cobb.
And some now see in a new light his recent attempt to have the board approve the contracts of his “cabinet” months earlier than usual and months before teachers would learn the fate of their own contracts. It’s possible he knew he would be departing soon and wanted to make sure his executive staff was well taken care of even after he was gone — even though it would amount to saddling his successor with a high-paid cabinet not of his or her own choosing.
Hinojosa says he plans to move back to his native Texas and work for a national educational consulting firm. We wish him well. As a former Cobb politico once said, “If you don’t want to like him, you’d better not spend much time around him.” In a profession full of drab, colorless Ph.D’ed educrats, the charming and down-to-earth Hinojosa remains a breath of fresh air.
BUT HINOJOSA was brought here to help elevate the Cobb School System, and it’s hard to find much evidence that things have changed significantly for the better.
The system is wracked by the latest in its series of annual budget crises it has suffered since the onset of the Recession in 1987. Expectations are that the county will come up $79 million short this year.
Hinojosa rankled many educators and much of the public with his push in 2012 to hire 50 rookie teachers under the “Teach for the America” program at the same time the system was laying off 350 teachers for budget reasons. He then irked the board by applying for federal “Race to the Top” funding without the board’s knowledge or approval.
His relations with the board took another unwelcome turn last summer when high-ranking Central Office personnel sent blast emails to system staffers — apparently with Hinojosa’s tacit approval — that were sharply critical of a school board vote not to buy math textbooks that comply with the controversial Common Core Standards. The email also urged recipients to attend the next school board meeting and speak out.
That stunt went over like a lead balloon with the board, which told Hinojosa to issue what amounted to a “cease-and-desist” order to his underlings.
Even so, the board voted 5-2 last March (with Kathy Angelucci and David Banks opposed) to extend Hinojosa’s contract 18 months to Dec. 31 of this year.
IT BECAME CLEAR during the past year or so that this school board was finally beginning to take to heart the requirement in the state Constitution that “Each school system shall be under the management and control of a Board of Education.” Too many of their predecessors seemed to think the board was there to meekly rubber stamp the superintendent’s every desire.
We hope the board, having finally found its footing, will maintain it in coming months as it searches for a successor to Dr. Hinojosa. Too many superintendents are accustomed to running their systems without transparency or accountability even to their board members, much less the public. That finally has begun changing in Cobb at the insistence of the public and others. We hope the board keeps that in mind as it searches for its next superintendent.