DESOTO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – DeSoto ISD is delaying a decision to eliminate up to 277 jobs in order to give employees more time to decide whether they want to retire or resign, according to a district spokeswoman.

Spokeswoman Tiffanie Blackmon-Jones said the hope is for staffing decisions to be made “through attrition.”

The plan is part of the latest proposal to dig the district out of a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

Of the jobs on the chopping block, roughly 200 of the positions belong to teachers or teachers’ aides.

The DeSoto ISD Board of Trustees voted to temporarily close Northside Elementary last week to help cut costs. The school’s population will be absorbed by Ruby Young Elementary School and The Meadows Elementary School.

For months, The Ones for Justice has reported on the financial woes within DeSoto ISD.

Now the local teacher’s union is speaking out. The Southwest Dallas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers represents education professionals in DeSoto.

“We have reached out to the district to request a meeting to ensure those facing layoffs will be able to land on their feet financially and in their career going forward,” said Sonja Pace, a DeSoto ISD teacher with more than 13 years of experience. “The employees affected by this reduction in force should have the full support of the district in finding another job.”

Union leaders also asked why hundreds of people might lose their jobs when no significant changes were made to top-level administrators.

This year, Superintendent Dr. D’Andre Weaver hired six chiefs to join his executive cabinet. Their salaries begin at $135,000.

Dr. D’Andre Weaver – DeSoto ISD Superintendent (DeSoto ISD)

Five of those positions were vacant or already budgeted, according to Blackmon-Jones.

Dr. Weaver created the sixth position, the Chief of Research, Evaluation and Design, in late 2018.

Ben Mackey, a principal in Dallas ISD, ultimately accepted the job.

His salary will be $155,000, making him the second highest-paid administrator on the cabinet, only behind Dr. Weaver.

Mackey is also running for the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees. He launched his campaign in early February, a month after DeSoto ISD announced his hiring.

Even with the big vote on job reductions postponed until next week, tensions ran high at Monday’s board meeting.

During public comment, three DeSoto residents asked for the resignation of board president Carl Sherman, Jr. 

“I expect you to do better than you have done,” said Versie Murchinson, a DeSoto resident.

Citizens cited a lack of transparency and progress during Sherman, Jr.’s tenure on the board.

“I believe if he steps down as school board president, the message to other school board members is we need to do our job or the community is going to speak out, and the community is going to come and show up and force us to resign and do our jobs,” said Judith Wright, who moved to DeSoto last year.

The Ones For Justice reached out to Sherman, Jr., for comment. He did not respond by deadline. During the meeting, Sherman, Jr. did not respond to requests for him step down but said “there was good, healthy dialogue tonight.”

Sherman said trustees know things have to change.

“We cannot continue to do the same exact thing and expect different results.”

Multiple parents and teachers spoke in defense of the fine arts program, which could be impacted by cuts.

“I’m sick of how you guys can support the football team and put all that money into the football team and you can’t put money into the arts,” said DeAmber Ford, a former DeSoto ISD student.

The proposal would cut theater arts and dance programs from the middle schools. However, middle school dance as a grant-funded option will remain.

A band position at each middle school will also be eliminated, according to documentation released by DeSoto ISD. In addition, orchestra will be cut from McCowan Middle School. 

“Thank about what you’re doing before you do it,” student Kayla Buchanan advised the trustees. “Make the hard right, not the easy wrong.” 

A coalition of ten DeSoto pastors issued a statement Monday, addressing the challenges DeSoto ISD faces.

Here is the full statement:

DeSoto Pastors are uniting across denominational lines to use their prophetic voices to help bring about stability, civility, and accountability to a school board and district that has been maligned in the community and media over the last few years.

Several pastors have met with school board officials and administrators behind the scenes prior to and after the hiring of the new superintendent, Dr. Deandre Weaver, in whom they have a great deal of confidence to lead the school district forward through these turbulent, yet hopeful, times. These pastors have amongst them former school board members, teachers, and other credentials that give them the credibility not only to pray for the district’s meetings, but to provide much needed wisdom to this school board, to the school district and to the city during this pivotal time of transition.  The lives of those who will be impacted further as this district closes a school, lays off employees, and deals with the fears of their next steps are in our congregations. We cannot remain silent at a time like this.

Some of the areas of concern that these faith leaders want to see improvement in and are going to hold the school board and administration accountable to are as follows: (1) Making a visible display of the focus in the media and in daily operations shifting from being school board focused back to being student focused (2) Board Dynamics that allow the Superintendent to do the job that a superintendent is paid to do, and not the board doing the job of a superintendent (3) Holding the board accountable for modeling healthy and mature relationships for our children and citizens instead of the toxic environment displayed in board meetings (4) Better communication from our board with pertinent information including items that should be shared with the district and community before the media is contacted (5) Personal agendas placed aside for the well-being of the students and district you are charged to be good stewards of and for the restoration of confidence from the citizens who placed you in office. This includes an even more inclusive and diverse staff that reflects our city and region. We support the children no matter who is hired in administration or elected into public office. We expect the same of the leaders in our school district. This happened under the majority of the current board’s watch. We as pastors are here to help it improve under ours.

This accountability will come in the form of holding individual meetings with school board members and administration to periodically discuss your performance in the 5 previously stated items, as well as continued attendance at scheduled and called meetings of the district. We will request updates in person more frequently than when you are running for office, but also throughout the school year. As Nathan the prophet of God confronted David the King who represented the government to be a better leader, we stand together for the children and this community with that same spirit of accountability.  We look forward to our time of not just praying together, but working together for this brighter future we will have together in DeSoto ISD.

Our faith is strong in God. We, our children, and this city need it to be stronger in our School District leadership overall. We understand we have much to overcome, but we can overcome it together and not divided. We are here to help with that process and believe these steps along with others will help us patiently rise to our highest levels of excellence and soar as the Eagles we are. We are DeSoto!

Pastor(s)

Ed Johnson III

Christopher Henderson

Bishop Robert Nichols jr

Kevin Strempke

Kelly Wolverton

Jason Neising

Gregory Drake

Joseph Rasheed

Curt Krohn

Marcus D. King (Chair of Coalition of DeSoto Pastors)