Monday, June 08, 2009

Schools Across the Nation Are Run by Crooks

Dallas ISD program meant for disadvantaged students aids superintendent's son

Dallas ISD program meant for disadvantaged students aids superintendent's son

Dallas School Superintendent Michael Hinojosa – who lives in Preston Hollow, has a doctorate degree and earns more than $300,000 a year – allowed his son to participate in a federally funded college prep program geared toward disadvantaged students.

His son, who is also named Michael, is valedictorian at Hillcrest High School this year and has been admitted to Harvard University.

During his senior year, the younger Hinojosa participated in a new college assistance program at Hillcrest that's run by a contractor who was paid $1.6 million by DISD. The contract called for the vendor, Academic Success Program, to help students at 12 high school campuses get into Ivy League universities. Only campuses with a significant number of disadvantaged students were eligible to have the college prep classes run by ASP. The district has touted the program as one that "connects first-generation college-bound students with top-tier universities."

District officials said they see nothing wrong with the younger Hinojosa's participation because Hillcrest qualifies for the federal Title 1 funds, which target low-income students. They say ASP met its contractual obligation to provide services to 10 students on each Title 1 campus. They say Hinojosa and other high achievers were added to the program after the threshold for disadvantaged students was met.

"We actually actively recruited Michael Hinojosa because programs like this don't work when they're exclusionary," said Michael Martinez, director of operations for ASP. "It's best when you've got first-generation kids sitting next to the valedictorian."

Martinez could not say, however, whether Hinojosa was allowed to participate at the expense of other students from less-privileged backgrounds.

"All of our students were handpicked," Martinez said. "But at the same time, we got a lot of feedback both from the students in the school and from teachers about their achievements in schools."

As a condition of participation, students and their parents are expected to sign a contract stating that they will attend college preparation workshops after school and on weekends. The program offers help with SATs, college admission forms and financial assistance.

"It is important that you understand that program outlines specific roles for parents, as well as for students, in order to be considered active members," the contract states. "Failing to meet the requirements can result in expulsion from the program."

It appears, however, that the Dallas school superintendent may not have fulfilled the parental requirements. DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander said Dr. Hinojosa's wife "met with" the ASP coordinator at Hillcrest, but he could not say whether she attended the required meetings.

Hinojosa declined to be interviewed but issued this statement: "I have full confidence in the ASP program and its ability to select student participants that the program's leadership believes will help the schools and students achieve their goals."

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