The Fort Worth school district, whose attorney on Tuesday called former assistant principal Joe Palazzolo a liar and a bully, on Wednesday morning agreed to a settlement that gives the whistleblower pretty much everything he asked for.

The settlement, which still has to be approved by the school board, brings Palazzolo back to an administrative job at his old salary, pays him and his attorney $300,000, and will try to make up for credits Palazzolo lost with the state’s teacher retirement system while he was fighting his dismissal.

School district attorney Thomas Brandt said the board was informed of the proposed settlement in executive session on Tuesday. If approved, it will be among the largest settlements ever paid to an employee by the district.

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What did Palazzolo have to give up in the settlement? He agreed to dismiss both the wrongful termination lawsuit that was being heard and another lawsuit in which he sued the district for wrongfully demoting him before he was fired.

“I look forward to returning as an administrator with the district and moving forward with my career,” Palazzolo said.

His new job will be in administration with a two-year contract and full benefits. The specific job has yet to be determined.

In 2010, Palazzolo, fulfilling duties given to him by the district, had passed on to district administrators the reports he gathered from teachers at Arlington Heights High School about wrongdoing — including the potential felony of falsifying attendance reports — going on there. His reports eventually resulted in reforms at the school and removal of several administrators. And yet when the dust settled, it was Palazzolo who was fired, while others were allowed to retire or move elsewhere in the district.

The trial started Tuesday in Decatur, in state district court, with only opening statements by Brandt and Palazzolo attorney Jason Smith.

This morning the attorneys appeared before Judge John Fostel with the settlement before any witnesses took the stand.

Brandt, who told the court on Tuesday that Palazzolo “simply did not live up to the standards we expect in any school district employee,” said Wednesday, “I look forward to getting this matter settled as quickly as possible.”

In his opening statement, Brandt acknowledged what he called “the mess” at Heights, but said it was Assistant Superintendent Robert Ray who blew the whistle on those problems, not Palazzolo. He also named one of the school’s special education teachers, Chad Whitt, as another whistleblower and credited the school district with protecting those who spoke out against what was going on Heights.

However, a Fort Worth Weekly story in 2011 revealed that Whitt told a Texas Education Agency judge that he had been threatened with termination after testifying for Palazzolo. Whitt was expected to be called as a plaintiff’s witness in the Wise County trial.


  1. What I find truly amazing is that Kerwin Cormier, the Assistant Principal who was over attendance, was a one-person Attendance Committee, and who single handedly changed THOUSANDS of unexcused absences to “Present” or “Location” is STILL employed. She openly told anyone who would listen how she lied on her son’s student loan application. Her initials were all over the falsified documents which went to TEA. So Walter, WHY is she still employed? The answer? She was Robert Ray’s “agent” who searched Palazzolo’s computer, desk, files, and office – yet never found anything. And the notion that Robert Ray was anything but a LOWLIFE is outrageous. Robert Ray whistleblower? Are you kidding?
    Parents: Do you realize that this is how your tax dollars are spent?

  2. A sudden settlement–that says it all. Good for Joe. Good for Joe. He was right. FWISD folded cards without a whimper. Taxpayers left to pay out all the mishandling of this situation at AHHS without ever learning the truth. That is regrettable. The extent of the cover-up shrouded.
    Don’t want to hear the apologists saying how this saved the taxpayer money by settling. Don’t wanna hear it. But, we will. Something “this way rotten comes.”

  3. I am very pleased with the outcome of the Palazzolo trial! Let’s get real here. Jason Smith didn’t really do much, except relay the messages to the other side! This was ALL Joe and his supporters; his family and friends, who have demanded the truth be told for the last 3 years! And among the supporters; the late great Betty Brink, who singlehandedly illuminated the wrongdoing in her first article about AHHS and Joe. Betty has been ever present in spirit since her passing, moving the same precipitous mountains she did when she was alive! Smith just wanted this to go away with big bucks, so his take (40%) would be higher. I don’t think he ever believed that Joe would get his job back plus a settlement! This is unheard and historical; it proves just how strong Joe is and not the monster that the district tried to portray him as in opening arguments. Our job is NOT done here. We still have a lot more to clean up, beginning with the board of trustees, the superintendent, and his cabinet. Joe’s victory is just the tip of the iceberg! WE WILL call for Dansby’s resignation on the premise of “no confidence”. Dansby, you had the opportunity to end this when you took over, but you had too much of your “own stake” at risk. You even had the opportunity to make things right and give Herrera her job back as Diversity Trainer, so she could empower more employees to come forward and report wrongdoings of workplace bullying, retaliation, discrimination and so forth in other schools beside AHHS, but once again, you didn’t. You continued to say you cared about getting our district moving forward in transparency, but you failed at that too, considering all the secrets you and Ray have held onto for a long time and continue to do so! If you really cared about our school children and employees and not just your retirement with higher pay; you will do what is right and resign, just like Johnson did. And Ray will also need to do the right thing and retire for real! Lastly, Judy Needham needs to know that she has overstayed her welcome on the board. She needs to pick up her toys, evil money and shady deals and go play somewhere else! And while she is at it, please take Vasquez, Rangel, Sutherland, Jackson, etc. with you! We are taking our district back, and Joe’s victory is just the beginning. Our students and employees are banking on it!

  4. We are anxiously awaiting the release of public records that were part of the trial. It is interesting that they settled when they knew every witness for Joe showed up. They could of ended this a long time ago and figured Joe would give up. Another miscalculations as the many they continue to make. Yes the board will be changing soon and it takes all of us to get it done. We have elections this weekend to oust Vasquez and Rangel, we need to support the other candidates. Elections coming up in 2015, we need everyone to help out oust Jackson, Moss, Needham, etc. Hopefully the court documents will unveil all the dirty work and force them to resign early. Dansby did have a chance to change our minds about him but he failed. He is the same arrogant person he has always been and no idea what he is doing for our children. The tide is turning and we will triumph!
    So it looks like a million dollars on the case and when the district needs resources people who dont’ care are making foolish decisions. The tide of change has started.. are you in?

  5. Can I have an AMEN??? Wow, this is the best news I’ve heard since Johnson resigned! J.P., you are the epitome of strength and perseverance. You have accomplished the impossible in the face of adversity. Take notice FWISD, Joe and many of us out here are sending a message loud and clear; we will not let you all continue to bring OUR district down! We are pushing forward and will not stop until we ensure ALL of you corrupt minions are out. It’s time to pay the piper! At Dansby: You can take that “Singleness of Purpose” BS, put it in a juice box and suck it! Get the vote out on Saturday and show the district we mean business! Vote for positive change, for the sake of our kids and employees. Vote Ramos and Paz to replace Vasquez and Rangel. “We’ve only just begun…”

  6. On his way out the door Dansby needs to take Robert “Whistleblower” Ray (what a joke), girlfriend Sherry Breed who should never have escaped the abuse to a child in her care which she failed to report ( and newly minted “DR.” Michael Sorum who like the drool at AHHS Oliver earned his latest degree on the clock at taxpayer expense. Truly a sick organization. I hope there is personal liability for some of the folks involved in this.

  7. Often wonder how someone like that could claw her way to Assistant Superintendent. I mean everyone knew she and Dansby were alleged “items” but they actually filed charges against her for failing to report abuse to CPS when she was a Principal.

  8. Congratulations Joe!!! Your integrity and strength throughout this ordeal is inspirational.

    Now as to the above comments. I hope everyone at FWISD will continue the work Joe started. It would be great if the public would get involved but I suppose parents are too busy these days to take the issue on. Consequently, it will take more from FWISD personnel to come forward. before we see real change. It is clear the administration and board is not capable of producing change for the district so everyone commenting is correct. Someone with fulll understanding of “best practices” will have to come forward with a plan. The entire culture must change at FWISD. No one currently within administration has the vision to handle this.

    It is unfortunate but $300K will not move FWISD administration to improve matters in the district. .Let’s clean house and give our kids the best public education available..

  9. I would have been nice to get the liars under oath and finally gotten the truth from thme but a settlement is good for Joe. I’m not sure any documents from the trial will tell us much but if they do I hope someone will share.

    • Unless he has to sign a non-disclosure agreement, I’m sure every Teacher statement will be made public. Actually shocked that was not part of the agreement already. Also, under the Texas Whistleblower Act, Robert Ray could not possibly be the “whistleblower” as it was Joe’s report to TEA which set this whole thing off. Taxpayers will learn a couple of things: 1. The Office of “Professional” Standards under Menchaca should be abolished and Menchaca thrown in jail. They use District $$$ and resources to dig up dirt on employees like Joe who are targeted. His employees routinely contact ex-spouses; mis-identify themselves as law enforcement officials and fabricate what they cannot find. 2. West-side mothers are going to see just what their “buddies” Izzy Perry and Neta Alexander REALLY thought of them: from their dress to “…she’s as fake as her boobs”. Cleaning house is long overdue in FWISD. Is there a movie offer out there? “The Real School Mothers of Fort Worth” or maybe “How to Give a Child Everything Except an Education at Taxpayer Expense in FWISD”. If I were the Board, I would move Heaven and Earth to get this behind them as soon as possible.

      • Help support new school board candidates. We need people who will truly represent us.

        Elections coming in 2015!! Get involved. is started with 2013.. hopefully two are out Vasquez and Rangel. Then onto the others..

        Be on the lookout for candidates that are truly committed to FWISD and seeing it clean house.

      • The kind who knows where all the bodies are buried, like his buddy Dansby. It is no coincidence that Dansby begged him to not retire, to stay as his right hand, so they both could manage the BS lies and cover-up they and the board created! Ray has sat silently, until the legal geniuses (with help) devised the “Ray was the original whistleblower” crappy defense. Tell me this Ray, if you knew what was going on, why didn’t you do anything about it, but instead waited for the AHHS mess to escalate? I’ll tell you why, because you’re a self-serving liar and a disgrace for calling yourself a “Christian”, along with your chum Dansby! United you stood…united you will fall! In the spirit of a REAL Christian, Madea: Hallelujer!

  10. Congratulation Mr. J. Palazzolo for your courage, endurance and constancy! I just have a word of caution for you. Yo need to be alert in your new “position.” You are going to be constantly monitored. You are going to become a prisoner on you own will. I hope they do not put you in the same corridor of your other partner, the whistleblower Robert Ray. Also, do not drink coffee and leave your cup unattended. We do not want to see ambulances coming to your office to pick you up.

    You almost made history if you did not settle with the Capos. You almost vindicated the children of Fort Worth. If you would allow the trial to move forward at least until the CAPOS testified, then the taxpayers would learn about the people involved in this mess. I met one of the students who benefited from the attendance manipulation. She is packing bags in one of the supermarkets of the area because her SAT scores were too low. We respect your decision of settling for that.

    Your new job will be up for two years, and then they will pull the rug on you when they close this position, and you have to reapply. (By then, you will not qualify for any other job.) This is the plan.

    The only possibility you have in your career with FWISD is if all of these things happen. All board members are replaced. A new superintendent with a different set of values and believes is hired, and the bunch of minions (Dansby, Robert Ray, Sorum, Breed, Johnson, Rangel, Menchaca, Mendoza, Balandran, Monje…) are gone. They have lied to the board, and the board has believed their lie. By then, you will have a place in FWISD.

    Also, I congratulate the CAPOS on their wonderful plan to subdue you. It did not work. You have at your disposal millions of dollars that can be expended in legal coverups. You are blessed for thousands of taxpayers who are not informed of your malicious strategies in the expenses of their good hearts. You will have a special place in the history of education and our city.

  11. I am reveling in Joe’s victory!!! Joe’s case has been at the epicenter of bad news that continues to plague FWISD! Unfortunately, it will continue, as long as the same players are at the helm of this façade. Let’s not forget about the TRUE actions that are behind all of this muck with the Palazzolo/AHHS debacle. These actions are the cause for this mess in the first place: Bullying and retaliation. These actions were at the forefront, when Joe was demoted and eventually fired for blowing the whistle; when teachers and other witnesses were harassed for testifying on Joe’s behalf, like Sharon Herrera. Her job was “dissolved” and they put her in a department with a known barracuda (Danna Diaz), knowing good and well she fosters a bullying environment, enough to intentionally want Herrera to fail under her malevolent reign. And knowing that being under Diaz; Herrera wouldn’t have a snow ball’s chance in hell to report the bullying to Diaz’ director (Steinart), b/c he has overlooked MANY reports of ongoing bullying in Diaz’ department from current to past employees! FWISD is lucky that Herrera didn’t file a whistleblower suit like Joe; she could have, but like Joe, knew what her ill-fate would be. The bullying, which incidentally this district is so proud to say “we do not tolerate”, even prides itself as such by having an initiative created to guard against it, is being managed by the biggest bully of them all…Walter Dansby! Of course, he is followed by Ray, Needham and the rest of the useless board members. How else do you explain what has transpired these past 3 years with Joe’s case?It is this bullying and retaliation that leads good people to quit, retire or forced to resign, or in Joe’s case, fight a long court battle! This duplicitous district culture HAS to change and it has to change NOW! Too many lives have been negatively impacted for too long. I pray that TEA and or Arne Duncan himself get wind of this soon! Something’s got to give! Taxpayers: Take heed; our money is being spent as if it were monopoly money, and they have literally hoarded ALL the “get out of jail free” cards!

    • Speaking of Danna Diaz, in one of her staff meetings she made the statement “I hate white people!” to her entire staff (all Hispanic and African American). No one filed a complaint because they knew Steinert wouldn’t do anything, and it would just get them on the sh*t list.

  12. 2015.. elections coming up..
    As strongly as you all feel about this.. please get involved. I know I have and will continue to so.

    Look up the response on test scores.. celebrating meeting minimum standards of 50%.. poor kids.. they have no high standards to live by.

  13. Stand by. Just read on the S-T website the headline that the board wants some changes to the settlement. Don’t know what those are yet b/c I couldn’t read the article w/o subscribing to the site. As much as I’m sure Joe wants to be done w/ this, I hope he rejects the changes and it goes back to trial. Vasquez and Rangel didn’t vote. Ironic after what the fat doctor has done to prolong this mess.

  14. I went back to the S-T site to try and read the aricle I mentioned above again and w/in 5 minutes the article was gone. I guess it’s the proper way to report negative news now. In the middle of the night for just a few minutes on a site that you have to pay to read the articles then take it down quickly before many people read it.