DCS Superintendent Steps Down

The man in charge of the largest school bus operation in North Texas is out of a job Wednesday night.

After months of questions about safety and financial problems at Dallas County Schools, the agency's board approved a plan that allows Superintendent Rick Sorrells to retire. Sorrells did not take questions as he left the building following the board's decision.

Last week, Texas Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) called for Sorrells to resign after a series of NBC5 reports highlighted serious concerns at the agency.

Assistant Superintendent Leatha Mullins is now temporarily in charge at DCS – an agency still facing serious questions about financial mismanagement.

Records distributed at Wednesday's DCS board meeting showed the agency will run out of money to operate by May without immediate steps to raise cash. Board members approved a new plan that gives the agency five additional years to pay off some of its debt. But the bailout plan will cost Dallas County taxpayers at least an additional $14 million in interest payments over the next nine years.

Aspects of the plan left some board members concerned.

"More money that we are spending that we don't have, and that makes me very uncomfortable," said DCS board member Gloria Levario.

Others complained staff at DCS has not been upfront about the depth of the problems and has not acted fast enough to fix it.

"At this point in time right now the crisis that we're in, it's got to be 24/7, not 9-to-5 like it's been. That's what got us into trouble in the first place. And we've got to have answers," said DCS board member Omar Narvaez.

DCS is also trying to broker a deal to sell its controversial bus camera business back to the company with which it partnered on the deal, in exchange for cash.

DCS spent $75 million on the program, and some board members balked at a plan Wednesday that would only recover about $12 million dollars.

Some board members also expressed concerns that the bailout plan on the table still may not provide enough money to keep DCS running through the end of the year.

But the agency's new leader is pledging to do all that she can to help.

"My priority in the morning is to pull the team together and say, 'OK, how can we make this work?'" Mullins said.

She also assured taxpayers she would help with efforts to get to the bottom of what happened with the finances at DCS.

"As much as I possibly can, I can promise you that. Without a doubt. We have a great team here that wants to do the right thing," she said.

DCS has hired an outside investigative agency to examine how the agency ended up in such dire condition and whether any transactions involved fraud.

Mullins will run DCS only while the board searches for a permanent replacement for the superintendent.

And one thing became clear Wednesday: taxpayers will be paying for the financial crisis for a long time. DCS has options to raise money to survive in the short term, but many of those options will cost taxpayers more money in the long term.

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