The beleaguered DeSoto Independent School District is being taken over by a state-appointed conservator amid new questions about who will be sitting in the superintendent's seat.
The Texas Education Agency sent a letter Wednesday to DeSoto ISD Board President Karen Daniel and acting Superintendent Don Hooper that AJ Crabill had been named conservator to oversee the troubled district. (See the letter at the bottom of this page.)
The move comes three days after Superintendent D'Andre Weaver abruptly resigned on Sunday during an emergency meeting and on the same day, acting Superintendent Don Hooper issued an apology for memes he shared on social media. Then today, Weaver apparently told The Dallas Morning News that he never signed his resignation letter and intends to carry on as the superintendent after all.
"My question to him was, 'Did he plan to continue as Desoto ISD superintendent', and his response via text was, 'Absolutely. In my mind, I've never stopped'," said DMN Senior Staff Writer Corbett Smith.
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Just who that leaves as the head of the district remains to be seen.
"It’s just a lot of information as a parent to try to digest and try to understand how does all of this relate to me and my children," said De Shun Hearn, a parent of two children in the district.
What is confirmed is that the TEA is sending Crabill to work with the board to identify issues that led to a non-compliance report and will report to the TEA the development of a corrective action plan to address the issues in the district. He'll also work with the board on personnel actions for district employees and will ensure the board conducts a public hearing to notify the public of the district's insufficient performance and the improvement expected to be made by the TEA as well as the sanctions that will come if the improvements aren't realized.
Crabill currently serves as the Texas Education Agency's Deputy Commissioner for Governance and has a long history working with troubled public school districts in Missouri.
The TEA's report comes from an investigation that found severe instances of financial mismanagement at the district from 2012 to 2018 when the district was led by Weaver's predecessor, where $21 million had been misspent on everything from contracts to travel.
In the time since the board hired Superintendent D'Andre Weaver, they have been working together to turn the district around.
In 2019, the district’s financial management rating was an F according to its last FIRST Financial Rating. After making some changes, the district said its latest rating was raised to a C. The district's academic accreditation was a D in 2018 and improved to a C in 2019 -- a grade of 79 and one point shy of being a B.
Then, on Sunday, during an emergency board meeting, Weaver abruptly resigned as superintendent a little more than a week before the school year was set to begin. The district said the board approved of Weaver's voluntary resignation and voted to rescind an earlier decision to place Dr. Don Hooper as the board-appointed conservator and instead named him as the district’s acting superintendent effective immediately.
According to the TEA letter, on Tuesday, Sept. 1, two days after their superintendent suddenly resigned, the district was notified by the TEA they intended to install a conservator to monitor the district. On Sept. 2, the district was notified that Crabill had been named conservator.
At the same time, another controversy was brewing with interim superintendent Hooper who issued a public apology after being criticized for sharing memes on social media that disparaged Black activist and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick as well as another that targeted Democrats and the release of the Mueller report saying they “haven’t been this mad at Republicans since we freed their slaves.”
Then, on Thursday, The Dallas Morning News reported Weaver, the superintendent who reportedly resigned on Sunday, "that he did not sign a board-approved voluntary resignation agreement and plans to continue as the DeSoto schools’ leader."
"It's an interesting time as it is in education right now, and this adds a layer of complexity in DeSoto that very few districts across the state have ever faced," Smith said.
It is not yet clear if Hooper will remain the acting superintendent and how Weaver's decision Thursday may impact that position.
DeSoto ISD is scheduled to begin the school year next Tuesday, Sept. 8, with at-home learning. Students who planned to return to campus will be able to do so on Oct. 2.