Joe Palazzolo

It seems like 2010 was an eternity ago. A devastating earthquake rocked Haiti. The Hurt Locker won an Oscar. The controversial “don’t ask / don’t tell” law was repealed. And Joe Palazzolo blew the whistle on various wrongdoings at Arlington Heights High School.

Palazzolo has been fighting the Fort Worth school district in and out of court ever since. Before he was awarded $2.4 million by a Wise County jury last year, the district offered to settle. The former assistant principal turned down the deal because part of the settlement was to stick him in a warehouse job instead of on a school campus.

But last month, it was Palazzolo who offered a settlement and the school board that refused it.


Palazzolo has two additional lawsuits pending against his former employer. Last March he filed a defamation/slander suit against former Superintendent Walter Dansby, stemming from the board’s closed-door discussion of his case that was surreptitiously recorded and then uploaded onto the district’s website. In September he filed suit alleging that the board violated the open-meetings act when trustees made the decision to appeal the Wise County verdict without either public discussion or a public vote.

Fort Worth Weekly obtained parts of the document outlining Palazzolo’s offer to the district but never learned the dollar figure proposed by Palazzolo’s attorney. The offer would have settled all three lawsuits and cost the district significantly less than the $4 million to $5 million the district might have to cough up, counting the whistleblower award, the two other suits, and the roughly $500,000 in attorneys’ fees the district was ordered to pay to Palazzolo’s various legal representatives. He offered an alternative: He would walk away from all the money if the district would reinstate him as an assistant principal. In both cases, he was willing to sign a mutual non-disparagement agreement.

Before the board rejected the offers, attorneys for the district tried to remove embattled trustee Ann Sutherland from the room, because she testified on behalf of Palazzolo at trial. She refused to leave, and the board ended the discussion.

The board says legal fees they’ve incurred in fighting Palazzolo are covered by insurance. Linda LaBeau, who is running against longtime board member Judy Needham, believes the district has maxed out its insurance policy and will have to pay the settlement and fees out of its general fund if the verdict is upheld.

A school district spokesperson said the district couldn’t answer the Weekly’s questions because the staff is on spring break.


  1. Nice article. I hope that the Weekly keeps up the pressure on the board so that the public will know what’s a completely irresponsible group they are. The only change that we can hope for is will be made at the ballot box. Those 8 members, Ann’s excluded, that have continued this debacle have got to go. Unfortunate that Moss’s opponent dropped out or we could make it a clean sweep this election. The newer members have turned out to be just as bad as the old and when it’s their turn, they need to be replaced as well. Kudos to Joe for once again taking the high ground.

    • Be very careful what you wish for. The opponents in this election carry a ton of warts. If you think things are dysfunctional now you haven’t seen anything yet if those opponents get elected. Ann has already admitted her complicity in other issues other than Joe P., so by no means does she get a free pass.

  2. No Ann does not get a complete pass however, who else on this board has tried to do what she has been able to do. She’s outnumbered 8 to 1 and marginalized as much as possible. Can you imagine this board trying to keep Needham out of a meeting yet that’s what the tried to do with Ann. It’s not the first time and thank goodness she stood up to them. If she hadn’t the 8 would have tried to keep the settlement offer out of the public’s knowledge. Ann is fighting for us while the others are looking out for themselves.

  3. FWISD has now spent almost 2 million trying to terminate Joe P. That does not include millions more persecuting other whistleblowers – Chavez, Duran, and more. Failing schools and endless litigation. That is the FWISD of Judy Needham, Norm Robbins, Tobi Jackson and Cecelia Speer. How ANYONE could have recruited a known womanizer like Ramos is yet another story. I don’t have all of the answers but surely we can do better. This litigation needs to end and end NOW. Then we need to clean house, reorganize and begin teaching children again. In my opinion, Judy Needham has to go. Mayor Price, time to ask Judy to step aside.

  4. It’s no secret the past five years have lacked a “student-centered focus”. Here is a sample of just how bad it is. In District 2 only one school carries a “C-” the rest are “D” or “F”.
    Check out latest School Report Cards for District 2:

  5. How do you place a value on a person’s life? Five years of their life? On the lives of their family and friends? On the lives of the children they could have helped? Twelve jurors removed from politics heard the evidence and decided. And the Board – without public discourse or disclosure decided behind closed doors that for a FOURTH time, you are going to appeal to save your political careers? Outrageous. This is shameful.

  6. Joe Palazzolo was my teacher in 2005 an he was the best teacher an my favorite teacher so the things I’ve read online about him being a bully to kids is bs he was always very sweet to all the kids in my class an treated us with respect I hope all this ends soon an he gets to work back at a school witch is obviously all he wants or he woudnt of turned down there offer