Moonlighting Scrutinized in Texas

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Earning a little something on the side has caused some big headaches for superintendents in Texas, after a newspaper there revealed how district leaders often moonlight.

In an ongoing series of articles titled "Extracurricular Income," The Dallas Morning News has shown how many district chiefs are paid fees and travel expenses to meet with officials of companies that do business in education.

The series also has described cases in which superintendents did outside work with vendors hired by their districts. A review by the newspaper of employment contracts between Texas superintendents and their districts showed that many allow them to work as consultants.

Yvonne Katz, the superintendent of the Spring Branch Independent School District, got a verbal lashing early last month from her school board after the paper noted that she worked for an energy-conservation company hired by the 33,000-student system. She later announced her retirement.

Paul D. Houston, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, a 13,000-member group mostly made up of superintendents, argued that it is "appropriate" for education companies to hire superintendents as advisers. "Vendors need guidance and clarity about their products so they know what they're producing and selling makes sense in terms of the marketplace," he said.

Prompted by the Dallas coverage, the Texas Association of School Administrators will consider offering guidelines for members on working as consultants, said Michael Hinojosa, the group's president and the superintendent of the 28,000-student Spring Independent School District. He resigned last month from a nonpaid advisory panel for the Princeton Review, the New York City-based company best known for its test-preparation courses.

State Rep. Scott Hochberg has another answer. The Texas Democrat plans to introduce legislation that would force greater public disclosure of outside work by district chiefs.

Said the lawmaker: "We don't make public education look any better by doing this."

Vol. 24, Issue 02, Page 6

Published in Print: September 8, 2004, as Moonlighting Scrutinized in Texas

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