By Ashley Moss
Several days before the start of a new school year, and in an unexpected move over the weekend, Superintendent Dr. D’Andre J. Weaver stepped down. The ISD Board of Trustees accepted Weaver’s resignation at an emergency board meeting on Sunday. The former superintendent has been in the role since 2018. His contract had been previously evaluated in an executive session called in July but no action was taken. Dr. Don Hooper will serve as the district’s acting superintendent, effective immediately.
“As a Board, we recognize the concern that today’s actions may cause for our school community. We appreciate Dr. Weaver’s service and leadership and wish him the best in the next chapter of his professional career,” Board President Karen Daniel said. “While this news may be disconcerting for some in our community, please note that we are deeply focused on supporting teachers and students in DeSoto ISD to a successful start to the school year and a seamless transition as we continue to work to move the district forward.”
The three-time graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign spoke openly about issues of social justice and systematic racism in education, and had been previously praised for his commitment to learning by former peers and employees. Under his leadership the school district aimed to make a series of achievement-related improvements with the Board of Trustees, including establishing school leadership oversight and support structures to provide coaching, training and professional development to principals and campus instructional leaders, a teacher-focused support structure, a more effective professional development program for instructional staff and leadership, and most recently, the execution of the district’s Anytime, Anywhere Learning system, a virtual learning framework that was created as a crisis response to remote learning needs during COVID-19.
The Anytime, Anywhere learning system was one of four plans from districts across the state recognized as an exemplar by the Texas Education Agency. In a statement of support, DeSoto mayor Curtistene Smith McCowan expressed her shock and sadness at the news.
“I respect the Superintendent’s decision to resign and would like to thank him for giving so much of himself over the past two years while trying to make DeSoto’s schools a better place for our children to learn and to be all that they can be,” said McCowan. “Dr. Weaver inherited a mess, and I believe he gave his all to try and clean it up. In his efforts to enlist support from all stakeholders in the community, he passionately emphasized that if our children don’t get the quality education they deserve, they won’t have the chance to develop their full potential, thereby risking the loss of our next generation of leaders. As I’ve stated in the past, even though DeSoto ISD is independent from the City of DeSoto, we realize that the future of our great city is closely tied to the success of that school system,” she added.
“As Mayor, and on behalf of (the) City government, I pledge that we will work closely with the new DeSoto ISD leadership and do everything that we can to make our school system one that ALL will trust and respect.”
DeSoto ISD had been in the news recently for issues related to financial management dating back to the tenure of the previous superintendent, David Harris, who served from 2012-18. Earlier this year, the Board of Trustees alongside district administrators were made aware of the Texas Education Agency’s investigation to review several concerns that had happened in the district prior to 2018, including a review of the district’s financial management practices.
The result was an 18-page report published by the Texas Education Agency in August, and findings in the document highlighted misappropriation funds, abuse of the district’s credit card program, and other decisions made by past DeSoto ISD leadership that may have contributed to the district’s poor financial health. In the report, the TEA suggested sanctions, including a recommendation to appoint a state-appointed guardian to help identify the the issues that led to the district’s non-compliance, and help identify a solution to help correct the issues.
Beginning September 8, all DeSoto ISD students will begin the first four weeks of school via home-supervised learning through the Anytime, Anywhere Learning system through October 2, 2020.
Visit DeSotoISD.org/Reconnect for more information regarding DeSoto ISD’s plans for school reopening.