2 named overseers in W-H; Business leader, former DISD chief can overrule board, officials

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

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A prominent business leader and a former interim Dallas superintendent will be the state overseers in Wilmer-Hutchins.

The Texas Education Agency announced Friday that the district’s two-person management team will be Albert C. Black Jr., a former chairman of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, and Robert Payton, who ran the Dallas Independent School District in the months between the terms of Bill Rojas and Mike Moses.

“I don’t think the job is one that we’re going to find insurmountable,” Mr. Black said. “I feel like there’s a calling of some kind for me to make some degree of contributions to Wilmer-Hutchins.”

TEA announced the appointment of a management team Tuesday. Wilmer-Hutchins’ many problems range from the indictment of Superintendent Charles Matthews last month to its troubled financial state. According to district officials, Wilmer-Hutchins will not be able to meet payroll on time this month, the second time this fall teachers will have gone without their regular pay.

Under state law, Mr. Black, 45, and Mr. Payton, 63, will have the power to overrule any decision made by the school board, the superintendent or campus principals. In addition, they can order district officials to follow their instructions in all but a few limited areas. Both men will be paid $60 an hour, up to a maximum of $480 a day.

Mr. Payton spent nearly 40 years working in DISD including stints as a teacher, principal and administrator.

“I’ve known Robert Payton for years and I think very highly of him,” Wilmer-Hutchins Interim Superintendent James Damm said. “He’ll help us a lot.”

Mr. Black said he does not have significant experience in K-12 education, but he said he can provide business advice to the district. He is the president and chief executive of Oak Cliff-based On-Target Supplies & Logistics.

Mr. Black and Mr. Payton will be introduced to the district’s residents at Monday’s board meeting.

Meanwhile, TEA has upgraded its inquiry into possible cheating on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills at Wilmer-Hutchins. The state is launching a full investigation, and a team of test-security investigators will arrive in the district Monday.

According to a letter sent to the district Friday, the investigators will be interviewing principals, teachers and other campus personnel. If necessary, students may be interviewed, officials said.

In addition to the TEA personnel, two representatives from the State Board for Educator Certification will also be present. Teachers found cheating can have their teaching licenses revoked.

Questions about possible cheating on TAKS exams have been raised at two Wilmer-Hutchins elementary schools. At Wilmer Elementary, third-graders were the top performers in the state last year despite the school’s history of underachievement.