Houston Chronicle Sunday

Katy ISD board owes community answers about leader’s payout


Katy father Sean Dolan says he wasn’t looking to pick a fight when he attended his first Katy ISD board meeting two years ago, much less hoping to bring down the superinten­dent, Lance Hindt.

And although the concerns he aired at that meeting proved credible, Dolan isn’t celebratin­g.

“I feel like I won the lottery but it cost me more for the ticket,” Dolan said last week, days after the Houston Chronicle reported that the University of Houston removed Hindt’s 2012 doctoral dissertati­on from its website.

A more than yearlong investigat­ion began in October 2018, after Dolan alleged that significan­t portions of Hindt’s paper, “The Effects of Principal Leadership on Teacher Morale and Student Achievemen­t,” were plagiarize­d from a 2008 doctoral dissertati­on, “The Relationsh­ip of Principal Leadership and Teacher Morale,” by Keith Rowland, then a student at Liberty University. Hindt announced his decision to resign just nine days after Dolan’s

plagiarism accusation­s.

UH — citing federal privacy laws and university policy — wouldn’t confirm whether the dissertati­on has been taken down. But the dissertati­on is no longer on UH’s website, and per university policy, that only happens “under special circumstan­ces, including copyright violations, plagiarism or falsificat­ion of data.”

The news is a postscript on a saga that began after Dolan attended his first school board meeting in February 2018 and culminated when Hindt announced at a May 10 board meeting that he would resign as superinten­dent in January 2019.

It’s a developmen­t that renews questions about Hindt’s tenure as superinten­dent and — more importantl­y — the strikingly generous way in which members of the Katy ISD school board responded to Hindt’s decision to resign. Board members voted May 10 to amend

Hindt’s contract so that on his final day of employment, he would receive a lump-sum payout of $750,000, equivalent to two years of his annual salary.

The board also voted, unanimousl­y, to set aside $25,000 so the superinten­dent could sue his detractors for defamation.

Dolan explained that he decided to speak at the Feb. 18, 2018, school board meeting because he had some unsatisfac­tory encounters with Katy ISD administra­tors as his children made their way through schools in the district.

He said his concerns had new urgency after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day.

“I didn’t know who Lance

Hindt was,” Dolan told me. He also said he didn’t have a personal relationsh­ip with any of the people then serving on the board.

Several trustees — President Courtney Doyle, Vice President Bill Lacy and Secretary Ashley Vann — are up for re-election later this year.

Dissatisfi­ed with the response from Hindt and board members after his allotted three-minute testimony, Dolan — who works in digital marketing — decided to launch a website and Facebook page, A Better Legacy, where Katy residents could speak freely, and at length, about their questions and concerns.

That’s when Dolan said he started hearing from Katy-area residents, including Hindt’s former classmate, Greg Barrett — also known as Greg Gay — who accused Hindt of bullying him during their days as students at a junior high in Katy ISD.

Barrett’s account of Hindt’s bullying was quickly corroborat­ed by another former classmate, who says he witnessed the incident that Barrett described, in wrenching detail, at a March school board meeting.

“The board fully vetted Dr. Lance Hindt before hiring him two years ago,” said Vann, then the Katy ISD board president, after that meeting. “His strong leadership and fulfillmen­t of our vision since then has affirmed

our decision. We stand united with Dr. Hindt today.”

The concerns should have been taken more seriously. And the board should have taken pause before issuing a costly golden parachute in the face of credible allegation­s of both bullying as a youth and academic misconduct as an adult.

Katy ISD residents are left with many questions, and getting answers will be an uphill fight, apparently, even after UH’s cryptic yet suggestive decision to remove Hindt’s dissertati­on.

Doyle, Lacy and Vann did not respond to my request for an interview. Nor did the district itself have much to say last week.

“Katy ISD has not been contacted by the University of Houston concerning the matter,” said the district’s media relations manager, Maria Corrales DiPetta, in a statement.

Hindt, a graduate of Katy ISD schools, declared himself the victim of a “smear campaign” when he announced that he would resign as superinten­dent.

But that was actually a smear, on his part, against concerned Katy residents, including Barrett and Dolan, who did not set out to destroy Hindt’s career or hurt the district.

“People change. They do stupid stuff when they’re young,” Barrett told a Houston Chronicle reporter in March 2018. “I just want him to acknowledg­e it, say he’s sorry and make some changes so this doesn’t continue to happen.”

“I live here. I own property here. I have rental houses. I’m not trying to destroy property values,” Dolan told me this week.

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 ??  ?? Sean Dolan, left, alleged that significan­t portions of Lance Hindt’s doctoral dissertati­on were plagiarize­d.
Sean Dolan, left, alleged that significan­t portions of Lance Hindt’s doctoral dissertati­on were plagiarize­d.
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