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EduLege Tracker 5-14-18

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EduLege Update Volume VI, Number 30
May 14, 2018
By Andy Welch
A Service of the Texas School Public Relations Association

What two months in Hell is like…

Katy superintendent Lance Hindt will resign—and will be paid three-quarters of a million dollars—at the end of this calendar year amidst a relentless string of personal attacks, including allegations that he was a teenage bully, and later, a plagiarizer.

Superintendent Hindt announced at a Katy school board meeting last week that he will step-down, effective Jan. 1, but the terms of his departure weren’t fully made public until late Friday afternoon.

His voice trembling, Superintendent Hindt told residents that the relentless personal attacks were affecting his family and the Katy school district, and that he would leave his post midway through the 2018-2019 school year.

“I love Katy, but there is a vicious ugliness in the ruthless attacks that I and others have endured," the 53-year old superintendent said, reading from a prepared statement. “With this smear campaign against me, I cannot fulfill my duties as superintendent.”

Local businessman Greg Gay made the initial accusation against Superintendent Hindt at a Katy school board work session back in March.  

That was followed by an accusation that Mr. Hindt plagiarized his doctoral dissertation at the University of Houston.

The allegations drew unwanted national and international attention to Superintendent Hindt and the Katy school district, largely through a website controlled by long-time school district critic Sean Dolan.

Mr. Gay said he was stunned by Superintendent Hindt’s decision to quit.

Mr. Gay said he never sought Superintendent Hindt’s firing. All he ever wanted was a simple “I’m sorry” for the bullying allegation that he said occurred in a boy’s bathroom at West Memorial Junior High some 30 years ago.

Superintendent Hindt never admitted to the incident with Mr. Gay, going so far as to say in an official statement that the allegation, “It simply is not true.” However, he did later acknowledge that he was not a “perfect person.”

“When I was young and dumb, I did dumb things,” Superintendent Hindt acknowledged.

The amended contract between Mr. Hindt and the Katy school district says that on his last day of work, the superintendent will receive $750,000, an amount equal to two years of his base salary.

In addition, the Katy school board has agreed to retain the Houston law firm of Feldman and Feldman to pursue a possible defamation case because of various allegations made against the superintendent and the district in recent months.

Attorney Jonathan Kotler, a constitutional law expert at the University of Southern California, says that it is highly unusual for a government body to “bankroll” a personal injury action—such as a defamation case—on behalf of an employee for actions that happened before he or she was hired.

As a public official, Superintendent Hindt will face more difficulty proving that he had been defamed than if he were a private citizen, Mr. Kotler said.

“Because he’s a public official, he’s got to prove actual malice,” Mr. Kotler said.  

However, Katy school board members appeared united in support of Superintendent Hindt and his desire to bring legal action against his harshest critics.

“It makes me sick to my stomach that we’re losing this man,” Katy trustee George Scott said. “The viciousness, the meanness, of what has happened to his family is despicable.”

Many residents seem to agree.

“We all did things that we are probably not proud of when we were kids and didn't know better, so I don't think it's fair,” said Katy resident Olu Okusanya.

Early voting begins…

Early voting for the Texas primary runoffs begins today (Monday, May 14), and ends on Friday, May 18—with Election Day being next Tuesday, May 22.

In more than 30 races across the state, no candidate drew more than 50 percent of the vote, sparking runoffs between the candidates who came in first and second.

While there are runoff races for several congressional and legislative seats, and one position on the State Board of Education, the key runoff race is clearly between Democrats Lupe Valdez of Dallas and Andrew White of Houston to see which candidate will face Republican governor Greg Abbott in November.

If you voted in either the Democratic or Republican primary election back in March, then you can only vote in the same party's runoff. But if you didn't vote in the March primary—and you are registered to vote—then you can vote in either the Democratic or Republican runoff. But not both!

Click here to see a list of all of the runoff races.

No term limits…

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says local school districts do not have the authority to establish term limits for trustees.

The question was posed by State Representative Jodie Laudenberg, R-Parker, the Chairman of the House Elections Committee. Chairman Laudenberg asked whether schools could impose term limits as part of their local governance policies.

Attorney General Paxton advised Chairman Laudenberg that a court would likely conclude that school boards do not have the ability to adopt term limits for their trustees.

Click here to read the Attorney General’s full opinion.

All traditions come to an end…

The Alvord school district in north Texas has ended its unusual tradition of administering ceremonial birthday spankings of its elementary students.

For the past eight years, students have been called to Principal Bridget Williams' office at Alvord Elementary School, on their birthdays to receive a spanking. They also received candy and a special pencil.

But after two recent complaints, Principal Williams sent a letter home to parents saying that they could opt their children out of the spankings by sending a handwritten note to the school.

The letter noted that students at the Wise County school always had the option of receiving a hug or a high five instead, but that only a handful made that choice.

Several parents say that they support the birthday spankings.

“I think it's a fun tradition,” said parent Lana Simmons. “My kids love it. They always look forward to it.”

“If it was a big deal to the kids, they would've brought it up way before now,” parent Jessica Meador said.

Despite the support, Alvord superintendent Randy Brown says the elementary school is ending the celebratory spankings because there were more important issues upon which to focus.

One-of-a-kind…

One of Arizona’s high-profile charter school operators has found a way to subsidize teachers’ income—by pushing parents to pay to boost their salaries.

Basis Charter Schools Inc., which operates 20 public charter schools in Arizona, with more than 900 teachers, asks parents to make donations to benefit its teachers.

Basis Charter receives per-student funding from the state and cannot charge tuition as a public charter school, but it is not illegal for the schools to request donations from parents.

The nonprofit company's school in Scottsdale requests at least $1,500 per child each year. A pledge card from the school notes that the donated money “represents a fraction of the annual cost of a top private school education.”

Basis schools received about $84 million in funding from the Arizona Legislature last year. The charter company also received about $5 million in donations, according to its records.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education said he did not know of any other public charter school in the nation that makes such donations requests.

Worth noting…

Ronald A. Wolk, a steelworker’s son who almost skipped college but continued with his education to become a national spokesman for school reform—and a founder of two leading academic weekly newspapers—died on April 28, 2018, in East Sandwich, Massachusetts. He was 86.

A report written by Mr. Wolk in the early 1960s urging better communications among college and university administrators led to the founding in 1966 of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

In 1981, Mr. Wolk established a pre-college version of the publication, Education Week, and was its first publisher and editor-in-chief.

Mr. Wolk had no college plans until his last day at a Pennsylvania high school, when an English teacher pulled him aside, handed him an application to her alma mater, Westminster College, and paid the $5 application fee.

He graduated from Westminster, in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English in 1954. He received a master’s in journalism from Syracuse University.

Education Week, which covers school news below the college level, scored an exclusive in its first issue with details of President Reagan’s plans to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education—an objective that he later abandoned. 


EduLege is provided by the Texas School Public Relations Association as a service to its members.

Long-time TSPRA member Andy Welch, the retired Communication Director for the Austin School District, compiles and writes EduLege.  Questions or comments may be directed to him at andywelch1@gmail.com.

For more updates on education news from throughout the state, visit the TSPRA website.