A day after the sudden announcement by Superintendent Yvonne Gonzalez that she had turned in her resignation, the Dallas school board decided last week not to accept it, buying time instead with a 30-day paid suspension.
The 6-3 vote at the Sept. 17 meeting put the board’s one Hispanic and five white members at odds with the three black members, who were ready for Ms. Gonzalez to go.
The superintendent’s suspension almost certainly guarantees more turmoil in the top ranks of the district, which has been shaken in recent months by racial politics, investigations of mismanagement, and indictments on corruption charges. (“7 Dallas Employees Suspended in Suspected Fraud,” June 4, 1997.)
But it also signals the board’s desire to let the corruption investigation Ms. Gonzalez launched in March proceed further.
“Dr. Gonzalez is doing her job as superintendent to get to the bottom of the conflicting information,” said school board member Lois Parrott, who voted for the suspension and expressed confidence in the superintendent. “In the future, we will understand why this situation occurred.”
Ms. Parrott said day-to-day operations would be assumed by Associate Superintendent Robert Payton, the district’s highest-ranking African-American administrator.
Ms. Gonzalez had tearfully offered her resignation the day before the board’s vote, saying she was “extremely concerned” about the effect a lawsuit against her would have on “this fine district and this fine city.”
Sexual Harassment Charged
In the suit, the district’s finance chief, Matthew Harden Jr., accused the superintendent of sexually harassing him and of seeking to bolster her power by ruining the careers of dozens of employees. He made public three suggestive notes she allegedly wrote him and the transcript of a recorded conversation he said showed her spiteful management practices.
Ms. Gonzalez countered that Mr. Harden was trying to derail her continuing investigation into overtime fraud and other corruption in the division he heads. A federal probe spurred by the district’s investigation resulted last month in the indictment of 13 former and current employees.
According to local news accounts, Mr. Harden agreed to drop the lawsuit if Ms. Gonzalez resigned, but instead filed additional allegations in state court because he was unhappy with her resignation announcement. Attempts late last week to reach Mr. Harden and Ms. Gonzalez for comment were unsuccessful.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Ms. Gonzalez filed her own suit against Mr. Harden the day after her resignation, accusing him of breach of contract. She has denied his accusations.
In recent weeks, the two administrators have also been embroiled in a dispute over the cost of renovations to the superintendent’s office suite, which were reportedly several times greater than the $12,000 initially claimed by Ms. Gonzalez.
Last week’s marathon school board meeting at the district’s headquarters drew hundreds of people in support of Ms. Gonzalez, many of them Hispanic. They urged the board to decline her resignation.
But some black leaders renewed a call for Ms. Gonzalez’s departure. They have long argued that her investigations and administrative shake-ups have unfairly targeted African-Americans.
Ms. Gonzalez, formerly the district’s second-in-command, was appointed to the top job eight months ago over the protests of the board’s three black members.