Joe Palazzolo, former Arlington Heights High School assistant principal turned whistle blower, is back on the payroll of the Fort Worth school district — plus he will be given a check for the back pay and benefits that he lost after being officially fired in March. Palazzolo’s attorney, Jason Smith was informed via a letter dated July 20 from the district’s outside law firm Walsh Anderson, that Palazzolo has been reinstated and “his salary will be resumed.” The decision is based, WA attorney Sandi Tarski wrote, on the June 29 order of the Commissioner of Education Robert Scott who ruled that a decision by Rick Rickman, a Texas Education Hearing examiner who heard the Palazzolo appeal in February and upheld the firing, had been tainted by the district’s payment of a $26,000 fee to the examinerwho, under state law, could not be paid more than $8,000. Scott ruled that Palazzolo’s appeal was “upheld” and ordered the district to reinstate him, with back pay and benefits, and set up a new hearing.
Yet as late as July 19, the board voted 6-2 to appeal the decision of the commissioner to a state district court. (See Blotch “Gambling with Taxpayers’ Money, July 21.) Smith said that while the law allows such an appeal, it also states that the district is bound to enforce the order of the commissioner until the appeal is heard and a decision reached.
“We are grateful that the commissioner of education put his foot down when a hearing examiner received three times the payment allowed by law from the Fort Worth ISD. The fact that he received such an extra payment upon issuing his ruling [favorable to the district] looks really bad and the district should be embarrassed.
“I hope this administration and the board will now forge ahead to work on the problems at Arlington Heights High School and put this sad episode behind us,” he said.
For readers who may have been in a coma for the past year, Palazzolo was fired following his revelations in early 2010 of serious and illegal wrongdoings at the venerable high school that were found to be true. The principal, an assistant principal, an associate superintendent and a girls’ athletic director, were forced to resign following findings by the district’s Office of Professional Standards that attendance fraud had occurred, sexual harassment was rampant and minority students were discriminated against. An investigation of the fraud and discrimination charges is currently underway by the U. S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division. Additionally, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office is investigating charges of misuse of the school’s booster club funds.
To be continued, I’m sure.