DISD lays out its plan to rebuild community trust, keep Hinojosa on the job

I would have bet $20 a few months ago that DISD Supt. Michael Hinojosa would have been fired or quit by Super Bowl time. But here we are on the cusp of the big game, and Hinojosa not only remains employed, he’s devising plans to communicate DISD’s story more effectively. This effort was mentioned in a DMN story recently and is outlined in a multi-pronged effort to rebuild confidence in DISD by more effectively telling the public what’s happening with the district.
The plan outlines a fairly nuts-and-bolts effort to get the word out, presumably about positive things happening in DISD as opposed to the primarily negative stories that dominate local media stories. Hinojosa is assigned a number of tasks, among them meeting with "major local broadcast stations/news outlets as appropriate" (no surprise there, although good luck getting those media outlets to tell much more than bad news). Hinojosa also is tasked with "participat(ing) in regular meetings with community organizations such as civic, business and religious organizations," something I’m pretty sure he already spends a good deal of time doing.

Other people are tasked with assisting the effort: The names Arnold Viramontes, DISD’s chief transformation officer, and Jon Dahlander, the district’s chief spokesman, appear most frequently. They’re assigned tasks involving establishing agenda, sourcing information and keeping DISD’s plan on-task. I don’t know Viramontes, but Dahlander is a DISD grad, longtime district resident, and probably the best person in town to tell the district’s story the right way.

An easily overlooked but possibly important strategy is to "conduct monthly media sessions", probably allowing the media to ask questions about the negative stuff in a press-conference-like format (something the big-time media will have a hard time resisting), while at the same time pumping out many of the positive stories the big-time media generally passes over. Think about it: If DISD calls a press conference to announce that a neighborhood high school was awarded a big prize, it’s pretty likely the media won’t be kicking in the door to set up cameras, yet if the media thinks it might get a free shot at Hinojosa, they’ll all be afraid not to be there (for competitive reasons) — and thereby they’ll all be exposed to the good news, too. Pretty shrewd thinking on DISD’s part, I would say. The media still might not devote lots of coverage to non-scandal-related news, but they’ll be exposed to it monthly, and eventually more of it will see the light of day than currently does.

Whether this plan eventually reconnects Hinojosa with district teachers, many of whom were highly critical of him during last year’s surprise layoffs due to the budget crisis, and with district parents, many of whom also have called for Hinojosa to step down or be fired, remains to be seen. But the fact Hinojosa has lasted this long in the highly charged political atmosphere that always engulfs DISD says something about the guy — he doesn’t give up easily, and he has more staying power than many (including me) thought.

Here’s hoping that people will give Hinojosa and DISD a chance to regain their trust, since financial issues aside, the district appears head in the right direction academically.


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