After less than three years on the job, Hinojosa is headed back to Dallas, Texas, from whence he cometh, and says he will become an educational consultant. That is a straight line awaiting a punch line.
Hinojosa came roaring in like a lion and is leaving like Bobby Petrino. Petrino, you may recall, was the Atlanta Falcons head coach who quit in mid-season and informed his team via a memo in their lockers the next day.
In Petrino-like fashion, Hinojosa surprised the school board by announcing he was resigning shortly after he had bailed out on kids, parents, school teachers, bus drivers and CCSD staff stranded during the Jan. 28 ice storm that gridlocked the county. He went home that afternoon. Nice.
In my previous life in the telephone business, the repair and maintenance people were expected to be on the job in bad weather to serve our customers so the suits had damned well better be there, too; everybody from the chairman of the board to semi-irrelevant souls like me. No excuses accepted. Evidently, Dr. Hinojosa has a different view of managing crisis situations.
My initial contact with the man was a strange one. I was a featured speaker at the Georgia School Superintendents Association in the fall of 2011 in Athens and was looking forward to meeting the new Cobb school superintendent there. At a reception after the speech — one of my better rip-roaring defenses of public education — I spotted Hinojosa seated at a table by himself.
Having read glowing reports about the man on these pages, I figured he would come over, introduce himself and talk about looking forward to working with someone who is a strong advocate for public education and, oh, who happens to write on the subject with some frequency and much passion in the superintendent’s newly-adopted hometown newspaper. I figured wrong.
Seeing that he wasn’t going to make the effort, as I was leaving I went over and introduced myself to him and had a short, unmemorable conversation with assurances that we would get together soon which, of course, we never did. I left that day with an uneasy feeling that what I had read in the paper and what I saw in Athens didn’t gibe.
Michael Hinojosa leaves one of the finest school systems in the state in a precarious financial situation. Current estimates are that the Cobb will come up $79 million short this year.
His bobbles have been many. I note a few: In 2012, Hinojosa attempted to hire 50 newbie teachers under the “Teach for America” program which is a great program, except he made that effort while the school system was preparing to lay off 350 teachers. He also applied for “Race for the Top” money from the feds without telling the school board.
Four Cobb educators are currently under investigation by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission involving accusations of failure to report allegations of student abuse as well as suspected student marijuana use.
The person responsible for the enthusiastic enforcement of the school system’s hardline policy on such matters, chief investigator Mary Finlayson, was later fired, she claims, after she tried to look into what she believed were questionable practices by two of Hinojosa’s top deputies for allegedly using a classroom teacher to help them prepare their doctoral dissertations. This could be Keystone Kops material, except we are talking about people’s reputations here.
And then there are the raises Hinojosa gave his executive staff upon his arrival while teachers were enduring furlough days and his recent attempt to get contracts approved for his cabinet months before teachers know whether or not they will have contracts. The hits just keep on coming.
My colleague, MDJ columnist Don McKee, opined this week that the school board should start looking for Hinojosa’s successor within the district. McKee says, “It’s hard to believe there are not well-qualified educators in this district more than capable of doing the job,” and adds, “If the school board can’t find a qualified superintendent within the ranks of Cobb educators, that’s a sad and alarming commentary on the state of the educational system in this county.”
I don’t disagree, but if the school board doesn’t give the next superintendent — from inside the system or out — any better direction than it gave Hinojosa, or if the next superintendent is as tone-deaf as this one was, we will be dealing with more of the same educational pratfalls, no matter who is selected.
The Cobb County School System deserves better than this bumpy ride.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb