DISD news roundup: No election, new CFO and another investigation

Lots of DISD action this week … here’s a brief summary of some of what went down, along with (of course) a little commentary:

• After its embarrassing financial crisis, DISD is spending $258,000 annually to hire a new chief financial officer. Larry Throm comes via Austin and Lubbock, where he is credited with being a tough watchdog on district finances there. "Dallas is absolutely fixable," Throm told the DMN. "I would not have taken the job if I didn’t think I could be successful. They need to install some internal controls, generally accepted accounting principals and some safeguards."
Throm reports to Hinojosa, and he took the DISD job on the condition that DISD’s human resources department reports to him. "If I’m going to be in charge of expenditures, I need to be in charge of that 85 percent," Throm said about the percentage of its budget DISD spends on human resources. Throm seems capable and comes highly recommended. But as I recommended earlier, I think DISD needs to make this position report directly to the board, as opposed to the superintendent, in order to provide more stability the next time a superintendent bites the dust. Guess no one liked my idea …

• Barring a successful legal challenge, three DISD board members scheduled to face re-election in May 2009 have had their terms extended an additional year, as the board voted 7-2 on that change (Carla Ranger and Adam Medrano voted against the extension), as reported in the DMN. In one sense, the move makes sense: An additional year gives each board member additional time to learn a tough, volunteer job. In another sense, though, the extension comes at a horrible time for the board and DISD in terms of public relations: A number of people are hopping mad about what’s happening on Ross Avenue, and extending their terms without an election just doesn’t look good. After all that has happened this year, I would still vote for two of three newly extended trustees — Leigh Ann Ellis, Edwin Flores and Ron Price — if each was running for office in May, as originally scheduled. But as I wrote before Thursday night’s board vote, I think they made a mistake taking that vote out of our hands and exercising it on their own.

• Finally, the fake Social Security number scandal will cost us all additional money as DISD decided to hire former U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins of Fish & Richardson to investigate the matter. Coggins — who also oversaw DISD’s recent investigation into credit card abuse among employees — is charged with determing "how it started, who decided to do it, and if any federal statutes were violated. Coggins is expected to complete his work prior to the end of December," according to the DMN report on the matter.


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