In state district court last week, an attorney for the Fort Worth school district called former assistant principal Joe Palazzolo a liar, a bully, and a racist. On Monday night, the school board voted 7-0 to ratify a settlement of Palazzolo’s lawsuit, giving the whistleblower pretty much everything he asked for and reinstating him as a school administrator.

As lawsuit settlements go, it was quite the head-spinning turnaround.

It’s been a tough three years for Palazzolo, who was fired after reporting extensive misconduct by administrators and others at Arlington Heights High School. And despite the settlement, it may not quite be over yet.


The board, following a 45-minute executive session, approved an amended version of the settlement. What those amendments are, neither side would say at this point.

One district employee who has followed the case told Fort Worth Weekly that amendments to the settlement are a continuation of the district’s attempts to get Palazzolo to agree not to talk about evidence gathered during his lawsuit.

“I think they want the bodies to stay buried,” said the employee, who asked not to be named.

After the vote, board President Judy Needham issued a statement saying the board had approved “the form of settlement” recommended by its attorneys and that the document needs only the plaintiff’s signature to be binding. (Trustees Carlos Vasquez and Juan Rangel, both of whom lost their re-election bids last week, didn’t show up for the meeting.)

Palazzolo attorney Jason Smith said that trustees asked for the amendments because the district just wanted to “discuss some items” of the settlement.

The trial, in Wise County, of Palazzolo’s suit against the district over his firing lasted only long enough for attorneys to make their opening statements. The next morning, the two sides announced the settlement had been reached.

In his opening statement, school district lawyer Thomas Brandt acknowledged the problems that had plagued Arlington Heights in 2010, saying the school was “run by an incompetent principal” and generally was a mess. Brandt named current Assistant Superintendent Robert Ray as the main whistleblower, not Palazzolo.

Brandt also named Heights special education teacher Chad Whitt as another whistleblower, and credited the district with protecting and promoting those who spoke up to reveal what was going on.

However, in 2011, Whitt told a Texas Education Agency judge that he had been threatened with termination after testifying on behalf of Palazzolo. Whitt had expected to be called as a plaintiff’s witness in the Wise County trial.

After the settlement was reached, Whitt told the Weekly that he didn’t think Palazzolo’s settlement would immediately end the district’s culture of intimidation and retaliation.

The district’s top officials are “going to have to make a lot of decisions as to what kind of a school district we want to have,” he said.


  1. This change in the settlement probably came from Needham. All of this mess came from her district and she has been in the middle of the cover-up from the beginning. Hopefully when she comes up for election again, a strong opponent will challenge her and her poisoness influence will be gone. Wasn’t it childish of Rangel and Vasquez not to show for this meeting, particularly after Vasquez’s participation in this mess.

  2. I too question why V & R weren’t there, but it doesn’t matter, because they’ve always been petty like that. Childish, yes and then some! Why vote on something they both championed? In all honesty, the witch hunt against Joe was ALL Needham, Johnson and Reyna! How Needham has stayed on this board for this long, especially after costing the district hundreds of thousands, is beyond comprehension!!! If Needham is removed, I bet this fiasco would go away and Joe can get back to working with kids like he was meant to do. Can anyone in their right mind see Needham is the main character in this sick and twisted little shop of horrors? But she isn’t the only one that has something to lose if all the evidence goes public! There are many others who stand to lose a lot, in terms of reputation and perhaps even employment ! The district culture will not change unless everything is out in the open and the key players step down or are ousted. Who can we all turn to to make this happen? Obviously no one, because this district is apparently untouchable! End this now and get back to the REAL reason we all have jobs in this district…KIDS EDUCATION!!!

  3. If the Good Ol’ Boy system in Fort Worth ISD is not disbanded, there will not be a change. Tocco might be gone, but his methods are alive and well. First, we need to cut the head off the snake by getting rid of Dansby. I can only imagine the panic that Dansby felt when he heard “his boys” were out of the school board. Second, there needs to be an independent review of all upper level officials, including the Athletic Director Kevin Green. Kevin, a Dansby boy, was moved to a higher level/paying position AFTER it was found out that he was having an affair with his schools secretary. She was moved laterally, but he was promoted. This tends to be the way of FWISD; if a man is caught with his pants down, he is promoted while the female tends to be terminated or transferred. Same goes for the Dunbar principal that thought nipple twisters and taking photos of shirtless boys was appropriate. Both of these guys should have been fired on the spot, but were rewarded for their action by getting promoted. I can go on and on about the transgressions of FWISD, but it doesn’t matter at this point.
    As far as the high praises go for UEA, I can’t back that. UEA for the most part is good, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty they are like a badger; they make a ton of noise, put up a good front but will back down from a fight when really pushed. I have seen many great people leave this district because when it come down to it, UEA (Larry Shaw) backed down and let Dansby have his way.
    FW Weekly, PLEASE do a much broader investigation and let blow the lid off this mess!!

  4. Right on “Silentwatcher”! You hit the “snake” on the head! This district has run on the taxpayer’s dime too long! Dansby has been heard saying, “Tocco was the best Superintendent that FWISD ever had.” I had my doubts when his desperadoes, Vasquez and Rangel pushed him in as permanent Super and I still have my doubts now! His suave “Dress for Success” crap is laden with his ego, so like his mentor Tocco, he is able to be the womanizer he is. Apparently, this seems to be the norm in this district, along with the self-serving agenda! I know for a fact Dansby was NOT happy his supporters were “voted off the island”. He assumes he is next in line…and he is correct! The corrupted giveth and the “purveyors of truth” taketh away. And When Palazzolo is through with this district, they are all going to wish they had settled their differences like good little boy snakes and little girl snakes, instead of re-dragging Joe and his family through the mud. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me a third time…the gloves are off! “May the odds be forever in your favor”, because FWISD, you’re gonna need it!!!

  5. Go to the district website and listen to the stalling of the board and district. They are completely distorting the agreement reported and want him not to work with kids, send a settlement in good faith that puts him in the warehouse. They want him to accept their agreement and bank of quote what they feel is agreed to when it’s not in writing.

    What in the world are they thinking. Very disappointed with new board member Avila for going along with this. I thought he would have better judgement and hear themselves continue to single out an individual, make his working conditions bad to the point that they want to catch him doing something they see wrong and attempt to write him up. I hope the legal experts hear this and see how someone is being evaluated without even being on the job and make it difficult.

    Shame on you FWISD! Justice will prevail

    • Avila probably feels singled out being new. Still its no excuse to go along, all for the sake of being accepted into the “baddies” circle. The recording is classic bullying tactics, by the number one bully in the district…Dansby! Shame on you indeed Avila for playing along and let those bastards make fun of Joe and his impending agreement. This, by definition, makes you a bully too! Good old boys (and girls) are alive and well at FWISD! This oops recording shows how stupid u all on the board, really are, especially that smart assed Dansby! I’m gonna cry with Joy when u and the others go down in board history as the DUMBEST sons of motherless goats!

  6. Palazzolo and Smith made a terrible mistake. They settled for nothing. Palazzolo will be treated as a prisoner in his “created position.” He should be reinstated as an administrator on a campus as an Assistant Principal.

    The corruption is huge. Do not forget that board members are acting like CAPOS. The way they handle business it is similar to the CAPOS style. The worse thing here, they are doing it with the taxpayer money and children funds.

    You will have Vasquez and Rangel as outsiders. Maybe they can open their mouth about the corruption that is going on in the district. They knew how to play the game.