The TEA reviewed the district’s financial management practices including management of the district’s 2005 bond issue, the district’s handling of proceeds from the 2015 Tax Ratification Election and issues related to governance and academic performance.
The TEA’s intent, given the outcome of the investigation and subsequent findings, include the recommendation of a district conservator.
DESOTO– I know that our community has a number of questions about the recent publication of the TEA report.
In my short time as superintendent in DeSoto ISD, we have been through a lot together.
- …mourning the tragic loss of student lives
- …working to overcome past decisions and missteps to address district finances,
- …implementing a Reduction in Force,
- …closing a neighborhood school,
…improving academic performance,
- …improving conditions that have led to the historical decline in enrollment,
- …establishing a system of guidelines and accountability,
- …facing, and addressing, the culture of distrust and disrespect that’s present at every level,
- …and even a global pandemic.
And each time, we have risen and faced each moment—together.
As a result of our collective efforts, we have made some progress.
- What was once a negative fund balance in 2018 is now $7 million
- We went from being overstaffed and under-enrolled in 2018 to appropriately staffed consistent with our enrollment and staffing guidelines today.
- Because we took action and made some difficult decisions during the 2018-2019 school year, our financial rating has improved from an F to a C.
- It is also important to note that our accountability rating improved from a D in 2018 to a 79, or C in 2019–one point shy of a B rating for academic achievement.
- Most recently, our virtual learning framework, designed out of our crisis response to remote learning needs during Covid-19, has garnered local and national recognition for how we’re reimagining learning and was one of four plans from districts across the state recognized as an exemplar by the TEA for re-entry design planning and implementation.
- And perhaps, most importantly, for the first time ever — DeSoto ISD, the cities of DeSoto and Glenn Heights, a higher education institution and a medical system have united for a Joint Strategic Plan that is really going to catapult our community on a path of sincere, sustainable progress.
But it’s no secret that there’s more work to do.
As superintendent, I have been intentional about operating with transparency, integrity, respect and accountability so that our team can be a part of the change and effort to help rebuild trust and confidence.
During the past year, we have collaborated with a number of external agencies, including the Texas Education Agency, to be responsive to an investigation related to a number of concerns involving actions which primarily occurred in the district prior to 2018.
TEA has released its final report, and, as result of their investigation, the agency is scheduled to appoint a conservator to DeSoto ISD to oversee the Board of Trustees and the District. In addition to this decision, more actions may follow.
It’s important to note that many of the financial missteps that led to the findings in the TEA report have been rectified under my leadership. I extend a heartfelt “thank you” to Deb Cabrera and the people in our finance department who have greatly assisted with this undertaking–specifically over the last 18 months.
As a community, we’ve talked about righting the wrongs of the past, turning the page to move forward and all of those phrases people say when something truly terrible has happened, yet we need to persist.
…and here we are again…faced with what looks like yet another setback.
But what if this is truly our opportunity for a comeback?
You know, there’s a tendency to oppose reform rather than to be a part of it. However, the way DeSoto ISD has operated has not worked. And honestly, I’m not sure if we needed an outside agency to confirm this. It’s a fact that systems are perfectly designed to achieve the results that they receive. Therefore, we must change how we work in DeSoto to prevent the constant cycle of corruption, disappointment and mismanagement. Together, we must resist and not reproduce the negative behaviors, actions and mindset that robbed this community of its rightful place as an innovative, academic powerhouse.
My team and I have been doing this work and welcome any legitimate outside help that will help us clear long-standing barriers, reform ourselves and our harmful practices so that every student and every family in DeSoto ISD can get the educational and life-preparing experience they deserve.
So, as superintendent, I welcome the opportunity to work with the TEA-appointed conservator and see it as a chance to tell and then rewrite our story–because I refuse for DeSoto ISD and the amazing dedicated people who show up for children, and each other, every day to be remembered for poor financial management, poor Board governance and poor academic performance.
We are MORE than the sum of every low. And I encourage everyone in our system to turn our anger into action, our disappointments into drive and our hurt into hope.
And, together, we will prevail.