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.

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“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.


  1. Betty, Once again thank you for your excellent and timely reporting of this latest wrinkle in the saga of FWISD. Finally some good news for Mr. Palazzolo, his family and the other “whistleblowers” at FWISD. With that said, it is sad that the management style of Melody Johnson’s reign of terror was allowed to be perpetuated by internal staff (Whatley, Dawson, Reyna, Menchaca Griffin and board members (Dickerson, Needham, et al). What is perplexing is why the Walsh Anderson attorneys had not advised board members of the requirement to reinstate Mr. Palazzolo in the interim. This begs the question, did FWISD staff attorneys and Walsh Anderson attorneys advise Mr. Dickerson but once again this knowledge was not shared with the board as a whole? Someone should be held accountable for this glaring error.

    Can we (taxpayers) rely on the district hiring an impartial Hearing Officer to resolve Mr. Palazzolo’s next appearance before the Hearing Officer and the board? or will this result in another boondoggle of wasted taxpayer dollars?

    There is no doubt Mr. Palazzolo brought actionalble offenses to the attention of the Johnson administration. The Department of Education does not pursue “wild goose chases”. Therefore why spend more time and taxpayer dollars pursuing litigation when this matter could and should be settled.

    Let’s agree and move on to resolve the educational issues facing our children.

  2. Hallelujah!!! Can I hear an Amen? Finally, the district is moving in the right direction to heal not only itself, but also the lives of people, like Mr. Palazzolo and Ms. Chavez! This recent announcement to put Mr. Palazzolo back on the payroll and move toward mediation with Ms. Chavez is a clear indication that Mr. Dansby and the board want to do the right thing! I was relieved to read Mr. Dansby’s remarks on the previous article “Gambling with Taxpayer Money”, where he stated he had “Serious concerns about how the district handled this…”, referring to the Palazzolo firing. I was also pleased to see he suggested “Coming to the table…”, which means a peaceful solution could be in sight, in order to avoid any more spending of precious taxpayer dollars! In my opinion, Mr. Dansby is getting “IT”, regardless of whether he is a new interim; he proves you can catch up quickly, especially when people’s lives are at stake.

    I believe in peaceful resolutions, something our district has thought of as taboo! The school culture doesn’t have to be vicious and maligning; it can be a place where people come together for a common purpose…to educate our children for their future, as well as ours! Mr. Dansby, I urge you and the board to continue on this path of healing. There are so many others out there who have, or still are, enduring backlash from MJ’s vindictive demeanor. The members of her cabinet are now yours. I know you will do the right thing and give most of these people their walking papers, for being part of the corruption and deception that has come to light since the AHHS scandal broke. So far, I can see the light shining at the end of the tunnel and it’s being shone by Mr. Dansby!

    p.s. Thank you again Betty, for your exemplary articles! I hope you receive many accolades from your peers and the community!

  3. One more thing…I have noticed in the last 3 articles that most of the usual bloggers are in absentia, except for Linda LeBeau and me. I know it has been a long year of stories and comments; however, I feel it is imperative to keep letting the public hear what we know and how we feel, in regards to FWISD’s scandalous behaviors. This is not about slandering an organization and its people; it’s about holding them accountable for their actions, and letting them know we the taxpayers, are watching! Maybe it’s just me, who believes that we need to get involved if we want to see change, not just sit on the sidelines and hope someone else does it for us. Perhaps it’s about getting older, having school aged kids, desire for peace and justice, or working for the very same entity that is under fire! Who knows which of the above reasons motivate me to keep blogging, maybe it’s all of the above! I do know one thing for certain, my comments in defense of Mr. Palazzolo, who incidentally I have never met, and others like him, are nothing in comparison to what they have tolerated first hand. I would have physical, emotional, mental and spiritual difficulties enduring what they have endured in the last couple of years. Mr. Palazzolo and others, who the district settles with, should be awarded more than a monetary compensation; they should also be given a written formal apology from FWISD and the board members for putting them in a life altering predicament.

    I find it considerably honorable that these individuals would want to get fully reinstated. What this means, in my opinion, is they still believe in their jobs and what they did for our district; they obviously made a positive impact within the realm of their expertise. How else can you explain why they want their jobs back? Others would likely take the money and run the other way, to avoid backlash and impending retaliation (even though it is said the district would never retaliate….it happened then and it’s still happening now among some administrators!). This proves one thing to me; Mr. Palozzolo and others like Ms. Chavez have stellar characters to want to bypass the negative and refocus on what is most important…a student’s success and/or the welfare of our district! This should say something loud and clear to the board members who voted for the firings; you can knock people down many times, but you can’t break their spirit! Let the healing begin!

  4. Twice the Board defied the Commissioner. It took the filing of a Motion of Enforcement to obtain partial compliance. What is needed is for the Attorney General to prosecute the six Board Members who have maintained this charade from the beginning and who continue to defy the Commissioner. There needs to be an investigation by the FBI into violations of Palazzolo’s civil rights, official oppression, fraud, falsification of official documents, withholding evidence from TEA and DOE (not to mention slander and libel) by Reyna, Dickerson, Needham and the Board. Why are you going along with these crooks? End this now Mr. Dansby!

  5. @ Clarity: Since you know a lot about the legalities of the case, would you shed some light as to what can happen (if anything) to Melody, along with the board members you mentioned? I believe that Melody should be the first one the feds go after, since she was the one who allowed this corruption to continue…it was under her watch! When I read the stories about the ISD in Atlanta, shivers went down my spine, to think that it sounded a lot like FWISD! You are so right, the board members need to be removed, if not by the feds, then Dansby needs to shake things up now, especially before school starts back up. If they can fire Palazzolo and others on a whim, why can’t they do the same with the guilty administrators and crooked board members? Let them sit at home and ponder incessantly, like they have done to Palazzolo!.

  6. It is unfortunate that Melody quit, she was at the center of both whistleblower lawsuits. Melody should have been fired along with Reyna and Menchaca. Reyna needs to slither back to San Antonio. Mr Dansby is surrounded by snakes like her who keep wasting our taxpayer money. How dare she engage LULAC idiots who know nothing of the state of education in Fort Worth. If LULAC concentrated on why Hispanic students are treated differently than their Anglo counterparts at schools like Arlington Heights, then you would realized that you are barking up the wrong tree with Reyna! Reyna might have her superintendent certficate, but her ongoing whitch hunt of Mr Pallazolo has taken wasted money that could have been used for teachers and students. The board needs to continue to make positive strides and help improve employee moral by getting rid of fools like Reyna. Mr Pallazolo is not only entitled to his job and back pay but also damages! Way to go Mr Dansby!

  7. Thanks Frustrated. I am no expert and am best described as a frustrated taxpayer; frightened parent; and disgusted educator. Anyone interested in what can/should happen to Johnson: “No one was coming anyway” Dickerson; “Best superintendent (referring to Melody), in the country” Needham: “I don’t pay my bills” Jackson: mindless follower Norm Robbins; and we are only Black when we have to be Christene Moss (remember: it was her motion to extend Melody’s contract FOR THREE YEARS) and T.A. Sims aka: “Sleepy” – just google “Atlanta Public Schools”.

  8. All of the previous having been said, the true EVIL with FWISD resides within the character of the person who lied to the Board repeatedly; has lied to the public at every Board meeting; lied to and withheld evidence from both TEA and DOE; falsified evidence; demanded Reverend Kyev Tatum be arrested at Palazzolo’s hearing and threatened countless teachers with their jobs for speaking out. She is a ruthless self-promoter: Sylvia Reyna.

  9. Better than a drone sleepwalker such as yourself. We have lived the hell of FWISD. Reyna should be fired. Palazzolo brought back NOW!

  10. It has become obvious that some in the central office circle the waggons to protect those whom they with to protect and throw the rest to the wolves.

    One of the FWISD middle schools had an administrator who was the target of more grievances than the rest of the district administrators had against them combined. He was publically booed at the May graduation when he was introduced at a neighboring high school. You’d think that would have drawn attention to a campus/district issue that needed attention.

    No, it resulted in a promotion. Some in the district officially promote an anti-bullying program but tolerate and reward administrators who bully their staff, faculty, and students. And, they will go to long lengths to insulate that person from being investigated or reported to the board of education.

  11. This is why someone like Robert Ray should NEVER have been allowed to rescind his retirement. Not only has the $10,000.00 “gift” to an OPS staff member during their “investigation” of Palazzolo never been addressed; he was the person who stopped the investigation at the request of Judy Needham and allowed almost two dozen students graduate who did not have sufficient credits to do so. He also knew as many as 11 African American students were kept from taking TAKS that year as well. The list goes on and on – not to mention plummeting achievement. He needs to go with Reyna, Sorum and Davie.

  12. Why was Valerie King, the Heights counselor who with the TAKS Coordinator Walli Vick, ran the “cleaning for credits” scam at Heights allowed to move to Western Hills? Apparently since AHHS is now low performing, Reyna, Ray and others thought a little cheating would go a long way. We don’t want her. She should be fired with the rest from AHHS. I don’t care who her husband is.

  13. Please tell me you are kidding…crap. I hope the parents protest. She should never be allowed to be a secondary counselor again. My child better not get her.

  14. While we are at it…someone please clarify Rober Ray rescinding his retirement. The teachers I spoke to said that only people with a medical need could rescind their decision.

  15. I want to thank all of you who have written reponses to this story and to all of the other stories I have written about the Palazzolo case. The case and your comments have opened up new avenues of investigation into the FWISD and I am mighty grateful. I want to ask any of you who have information about the subjects you have brought up or have knowledge of any other issues that need to be investigated, please contact me at Again, thank you for reading us and for taking the time to write. You are the lifeblood of a newspaper such as ours and we are grateful.