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People Ask, Hinojosa Answers

Dr. Michael Hinojosa, Cobb schools superintendent finalist, answered questions from residents and school faculty at Sprayberry High School Wednesday.

The  sole finalist for superintendent, , met the media and public with answers and handshakes at Sprayberry High School on Wednesday afternoon.

School board Chairwoman Alison Bartlett read submitted questions that Hinojosa answered.

Hinojosa answered every question thrown at him except a couple about Cobb curriculum which he candidly admitted that he couldn't answer because he hadn't yet completed the research.

The audience peppered him with questions regarding his Dallas academic policies and how they conflict with some of Cobb’s, and what plans he has to ensure that budget over-expenditures don't happen in Cobb like they did in Dallas.

"That was a very painful lesson learned. I accept responsibly for that (Dallas over-expenditures). 90 percent of the money in Cobb is from people. In Dallas, it is 82 percent. You need checks and balances in place, human resources working with your payroll office, and you adequate controls over your staffing - that is 90 percent of the issue right there. I have learned much," Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa said that part of being the school district CEO, although he did not reconcile the bank or do those things himself, is that you are responsible for everything that happens, good or bad. Part of the responsibility is having the ability to respond.

"We found the problem. We fixed it. It was painful, and it was the low point of my career. But those were big, important lessons learned," he said.

Hinojosa said that the board didn't discover the problem until the fiscal year was over. The second half of the fiscal year they ended up with a surplus of $10 million. The next year they ended up with a surplus of $64 million. This year Dallas will end up with a surplus of $25 million.

"The Cobb budget will be adequately handled. I can help manage it and make sure it is taken care of," he said. He praised Cobb County School District Chief Financial Officer Mike Addison and the board's work on the budget so far.

Concerning the Cobb school calendar issue, Hinojosa said, "It's important to move forward, not backward. I'm not going to second-guess anyone because I wasn't here. It's happened. We need to understand the issues within it."

He said that in Texas the school boards have little flexibility with the calendar because the state legislature dictates the calendar.

"I plan to make recommendations. The board votes it up or down. I work for an elected body. That's my job. I may not like every decision the board makes, but it's my responsibility to implement the policy. I will make recommendations," he said.

When asked about Cobb student academics, Hinojosa stressed the fact students aren't just competing with kids from Florida or the nation, but with kids from across the world. He said that we need to think about competition from talented students in India and China.

"If our kids are competing against them, then they need the tools to be competitive," he said.

An audience member asked if school faculty will be required to learn and speak Spanish. Hinojosa chuckled and said no. He explained that in Dallas there was a large Spanish-speaking student population, so Spanish-speaking teachers were necessary.

The parents shook hands with, and talked to, Hinojosa after the meeting.

If hired, Hinojosa's base salary will be about $237,000, or $29,000 more than retiring Superintendent Fred Sanderson’s base salary of $208,000, and he won’t have any performance-based incentives.

In addition to his Cobb salary, Hinojosa said he will receive a pension “north of” $200,000 from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

The board is expected to hold a special meeting Sunday at 3 p.m. to hire him officially.

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