April 23, 2019 Media Update


Recently, a report was published by an independent journalist citing concerns related to the appointment of the district’s Chief of Research, Evaluation and Design. The coverage alleges unethical hiring practices, concerns regarding the salary of the appointed employee and the relationship between district leadership and an area educational non-profit organization. All aforementioned allegations are false and are addressed in the information below:

How the Position was Budgeted and Created:

The position of Chief of Research, Evaluation and Design was one of six appointments to the district’s Executive Cabinet team. It was created as a means to deeply assess and analyze data to support decisions related to our service to students. 

As Chief of Research, Evaluation and Design, Mackey will be responsible for creating and overseeing the district’s local accountability system and organizational infrastructure while leading a portfolio of innovation that includes school redesign, micro innovation, and rigorous research. Mackey will also oversee student assessment, compliance and evaluation; research and strategic planning; and grant management.

Of the six new hires, the Chief of Research, Evaluation & Design role was newly created; two were already in existence, redefined and accounted for in the current year's budget (The Chief of Staff and Chief of Schools). Funding for the remaining positions was already included in this year’s budget.

We can understand how simply adding positions leads one to believe that there’s been an increase to our bottom line. However, we were able to identify a number of central office and campus positions that we closed prior to the recent reduction in force, thus creating cost savings for the district. Of the positions closed, none of the position closures negatively affected student learning.

Upon new DeSoto ISD Superintendent Dr. D’Andre Weaver’s arrival, he has been clear that the district needs top educational talent to support the deep work necessary to improve the state of the district. Intent on bringing the best talent possible to DeSoto ISD, Weaver has researched and enlisted the expertise of his educational network which includes colleagues, mentors and peers to identify and recruit leaders.

In order to recruit and hire top talent, the district, like any organization, must offer competitive compensation.
 
How the Position was Filled:

In reviewing top high schools across the country, Weaver discovered Ben Mackey and reviewed his work and impact to the Talented and Gifted Magnet at Dallas Independent School District which has been named the top high school in the country multiple years according to US News and World Report.
 
Weaver independently initiated contact with Mackey in November of 2018 and discussed his vision for DeSoto ISD. Following a more in-depth conversation, Mackey was invited to apply for a posted position within the district.
 
Following the district’s guidelines for the review, interview and selection of prospective candidates for employment, all candidates were provided the same format for their interest in this position. The interview process included an interview with members of Executive Cabinet in addition to a review of candidates’ work history, impact to their respective organizations and a review of references. As is the case in many hiring decisions, resumes, letters of recommendation, portfolios and such documentation/resources are considered as well.
 
Salary Concerns:

Upon appointing Mackey as the Chief of Research, Evaluation and Design, the DeSoto ISD Human Resources Department worked to finalize a salary offer. Given Dallas ISD’s pay-for-performance structure and Mackey’s results-oriented leadership and success at TAG Magnet, his salary offer in DeSoto ISD was only $3,000 more than his compensation in Dallas ISD. Understanding that there was a limited salary available to offer in this role, both parties entered into the employment agreement. As stated above, this position created no additional expense to the district’s budget.
 
Dr. Weaver and DeSoto ISD are excited for Mackey to begin his tenure with the district on May 6, 2019.
 
Perceived Conflict of Interest with roles in Dallas ISD and DeSoto ISD

The reports related to this appointment included information regarding Mackey’s campaign for a Dallas ISD Board seat. In discussing the CRED position, Mackey disclosed his intent to run for the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees with members of DeSoto ISD leadership. DeSoto ISD does not wish to be involved in the politics of other independent school districts or school systems and has no concerns related to Mackey’s ability to serve both districts in his respective capacity.
 
The Texas Association of School Boards offers the following as based on Texas Attorney General Opinion Number DM-55 (1991) found here: https://www.tasb.org/services/legal-services/tasb-school-law-esource/governance/documents/trustees-as-sch-employees.pdf
 
“An employee of a neighboring school district may work in another district because the board on which the trustee serves cannot impose its will on employees in the other district.”
 
At this time, the district has no concerns related to Mackey’s ability to balance his duties as a Dallas ISD trustee, if elected, and his duties as Chief of Research, Evaluation and Design.
 
Three current members of the DeSoto ISD Board of Trustees serve as employees in other school districts or school systems. Their employment is separate from their duties as trustees in DeSoto ISD.
 
 
DeSoto ISD’s Relationships with Educational Non-Profit Organizations:

The report related to this matter included concerns regarding DeSoto ISD’s relationship with educational non-profit Commit. Commit is an organization that leads, commissions and supports data and research-based studies designed to improve the quality of education for underserved communities and students. The district has had a relationship with Commit for more than four years as a means to support the accessibility and expansion of early childhood education and other educational programs. 
 
In December of 2018, as a continuation of the relationship between Commit and DeSoto ISD, leaders of both organizations met to discuss parameters and obligations associated with the partnership to continue the work of the agreement as set forth in the existing Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations.
 
What has been misconstrued as a recommendation for hire from a leader at Commit, was merely an introduction unassociated with a vacancy or position within the district. Such introductions are not atypical for a new leader to receive in his or her entry to an organization. 
 
No illegal, unethical or concealed actions took place in creating, hiring or appointing the position in question.
 
Commit did not make a recommendation for this or any other hire appointed to the DeSoto ISD executive cabinet team.

The false narrative coverage debunked above is the result of unhealthy dynamics associated with competitive political campaigns for vacancies in the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees race and an effort to discredit candidates running for positions within that board. DeSoto ISD does not desire to be associated with or participate in these matters and, instead, will continue to focus on the work of the district and the students, staff, families and communities it serves.