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He's Back: Michael Hinojosa Is Dallas ISD's Superintendent Finalist

Bill Zeeble
A happy Michael Hinojosa just after the Dallas school board selected him as the lone finalist to become the district's next superintendent.

It’s official. Interim Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa is 21 days away from becoming the district’s permanent leader again. The state requires that waiting period. Trustees voted 8 to 1 to make him the lone candidate for the job. 

Board members were relieved their experienced superintendent who left four years ago is back to run the district. Hinojosa says he was humbled to hear nice words from every trustee, even Joyce Foreman, who voted against him.

His top priorities? Taking the reforms launched by former Superintendent Mike Miles and making them work.

“Now the hard part begins of implementing this deeply and being held accountable over the next few years as to how we move the needle for students,” Hinojosa said. “A lot of people were pleased with the ‘what’ but not necessarily the ‘how’ it was done. Now my job is to get it done.”

Teachers say Hinojosa can help them improve student outcomes by listening to them. Getting his ear is their top priority, according to Rena Honea. She leads the district’s largest teacher group, the Alliance/AFT.

“With no one else around, give them the opportunity to be open and honest and for him to truly listen to what they’re saying,” Honea said. “I believe that his willingness to do that adds a lot of value to the leadership he can provide.”  

Hinojosa began meeting with teachers in late June, but plans more of what he calls "dialogue with the superintendent" for all teachers. Similar meetings will be scheduled for parents across the district.

Board President Eric Cowan’s laid out a clear path for the new superintendent.

“Evaluating the teacher evaluation system we just implemented,” Cowan says, as he begins his short list. “We are working on early childhood education and expanding schools of choice for Dallas ISD. So really we have three major projects we’ve been working on and we’re looking to Dr. Hinojosa to carry on and move forward.”  

Foreman’s top priority is tied to schools and students in her district, especially African-American kids. She says they routinely underperform in state and national tests.

While her vote against Hinojosa reflects her constituents’ views, she’s optimistic.

“I want to make sure we have quality teachers, not just young teachers in those classes,” Foreman says. “There has to be a comfortable mix of teachers there. I want to make sure we have great principals in those schools.”   

A priority Hinojosa must also take on was mentioned by several trustees, including Edwin Flores: Passing the $1.6 billion bond package that’ll be on the fall ballot.

“That is something he has experience with, having passed a bond in 2008,” Flores said. “I very much look forward to him and this board working with our community and our supporters to work toward that.”  

There are other priorities, like adding depth to school and administrative leadership teams, but trustees and even teachers say one ongoing problem has already improved -- morale.

Hinojosa officially starts the superintendent job Oct. 6.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.