A legal review recommended discipline for assistant superintendent Jimmy Dawson, but the board took no action Monday night
GRANBURY, Texas — Granbury ISD’s board of trustees voted to sell its private plane following several WFAA stories that revealed a district leader repeatedly used the plane for personal trips.
On Monday, the board voted unanimously to sell the plane, saying the costs were higher than expected. The sale comes just two months after WFAA began reporting on the plane’s misuse.
A WFAA investigation revealed assistant superintendent Jimmy Dawson used the plane for family trips on several different holidays or breaks and flew twice as much with his family than he did with students. Dawson’s wife is also a district administrator.
The district spent $42,000 to buy the plane in April of 2021 and then another $50,000 to update it, with a goal of teaching students about aviation and train them to be pilots or better understand aircraft mechanics.
An attorney review of the program said just 64 of the plane’s 136 flights were student instructional flights.
“A lesson learned I think through this plane experience is that GISD must create written policies before programs are implemented into service and especially when a program involves high value equipment and creates a high risk for the program,” Karen Lowery, a Granbury ISD trustee, said.
Miles Bradshaw, the attorney who conducted the district’s review of the plane, said Dawson didn’t violate any policy because there wasn’t any policy in place to manage the use of the plane before WFAA’s story.
“They did not violate any particular law or policy,” Bradshaw said when he presented his report in December. “I use the phrase ‘gray area’ because that’s what it is.”
Bradshaw said Dawson’s actions warranted at least a written warning and training or a written reprimand and training, but the district did not take any action on discipline Monday night.
“The attorney firm that was hired to look into the plane circumstance, in my mind, was a clear effort on the part of the school board to provide cover for themselves so that they would not have to hold anybody publicly accountable,” one public speaker said Monday night.
An educational ethics expert WFAA spoke to compared Dawson’s actions to a bus driver using a district school bus for family vacations and said it likely violates the state’s ethics policy.
“To me, we’re very fortunate the plane issue came to our attention before a catastrophic incident occurred and we would have been negatively impacted for years,” Lowery said.
Dawson was never given written permission to fly the plane. The district has since added a new policy for flights even thought the plane is now listed for sale.
Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Glenn declined to answer questions at the board’s December meeting when it received the report on the plane, and on Monday a district spokesperson again said Glenn would not be answering any questions.
Neither Dawson nor another instructor, Mark Kirk, were licensed to teach students how to fly, according to the FAA. In the span of 19 months, Dawson flew with students three times and with his family seven times. Kirk flew with his children even though they were not district students.
Kirk also flew to College Station with students on the day of a Texas A&M home game. The flight is listed as a “college visit” on the district’s log. It’s unclear how many students were allowed to use the district’s plane for campus tours.
In Monday’s meeting, Lowery outlined flaws within Bradshaw’s report and also noted the $100,000 insurance policy wouldn’t begin to cover the true cost and risk of a crash.
“Basically, what this says so our students, families and community is that GISD accepts the risk the plane creates because the most we can lose is $100,000 according to the insurance,” Lowery said. “Every time this plane would take off and land it created a risk of accident and liability to the district.”
Bradshaw’s report and presentation in December suggested the district should review if it wanted to continue owning the plane and that the lack of policies was a problem.
“Should the school district have had tighter controls that if followed, would have prevented the perceived appearance of impropriety?” Bradshaw wrote. “It is reasonable to answer ‘Yes.’”
story by The Texas Tribune Source link