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Dr. Michael Hinojosa: A Legacy of Hope, Change, and Innovation

When Dr. Hinojosa was hired as a Superintendent for Dallas Independent School, he’d already spent decades in the Dallas school system – as a student, Dallas ISD parent, educator, and coach. Originally from Mexico but raised in Oak Cliff for most of his childhood, it was a teacher at Sunset High School, where he was a student, who first piqued his interest in pursuing a career in education. “It’s very interesting – It was 1975, I was a senior, just walking the halls aimlessly, I had a ‘fro,’” he chuckled, “not knowing what I was going to do once I graduated. This teacher then asked me to apply for a teaching scholarship….’I think you’d be a great teacher’, she said. So, I thought about it, I applied for the scholarship and even though it was only $500 that didn’t buy me much, it bought me a dream, it showed me I could have a future. It all clicked from there, teaching is what I wanted to do.”

As it turns out, education was his calling. His career flourished, starting in 1979 as a teacher at Stockard Middle School, before moving to Adamson High School where he taught and coached for seven years. Dr. Hinojosa then joined the administrative side of education – going from an Assistant Principal to Assistant Superintendent within four years. He then served his first term as Dallas ISD Superintendent from 2005 to 2011, and a second (and current)
term starting in 2015.

Dr. Hinojosa’s track record for improving student achievements in several, different public-school districts precede him and cannot be overlooked. He’s been named Superintendent of the Year by the Texas Association of School
Boards and the University of Texas at Austin. Texas Tech University honored him as Distinguished Alumnus and has been named Outstanding Latino Educator by the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. He was also one of two Superintendents recognized as the 2021 EmpowerED Digital Superintendents of the Year by the School Superintendents Association. These are only a few among his well-deserved awards and recognitions.

As Superintendent of Dallas ISD, many efforts and initiatives have been implemented under his watch so that students can be successful in the classroom. One of these initiatives is the Dallas ISD Residency Program, which aims to increase the presence of Black and Latino males in the classroom. “We do better than almost everyone about having a diverse workforce – we’re almost 1/3 Latinx, 1/3 African America and 1/3 White. Where we have gaps is Latino and African American males, especially in elementary. A lot of our students don’t have a father or male figure at home, so with an African American or Latino male as their teacher, they now have a good role model,” states Dr. Hinojosa. “This project has been very effective; we’ve been able to hire some outstanding people that had degrees but hadn’t thought about teaching. So, what we do is, we help them get certified, and we give them a scholarship to go through the training program. The program is very young, but it’s been very successful and even other districts throughout the country have started copying us and started similar initiatives.”

With so much achieved at Dallas ISD during his tenure, it’s hard to pinpoint what his best accomplishments are, but not for Dr. Hinojosa. When asked what he’s most proud of when it comes to his 30+ years in Education, he immediately responded, without hesitation. “There are three that I can think of right off the top of my head. One, 40 people who have worked with me have become Superintendents, and over 30 of them are people of color. What
I’ve tried to do is teach everyone what I know, so they can have the life I’ve had. The second thing I’m very proud of is our Dual Language program. When I got hired in ’05 we had 1300 classrooms that didn’t have a bilingual teacher, and we had to go all over the world – Puerto Rico, Mexico, and all the way to Spain to hire teachers.

Now, all we have to do is go to Oak Cliff!” Dr. Hinojosa says with a laugh. “We’re getting our own kids to become teachers, and we now have a tremendous Dual Language Program. We have 2 types of Dual Language – one is for Monolingual Spanish speakers, who become biliterate where you can read and write in two languages. And then we have two-way Dual Language for African Americans, whites, second or third generation Latinxs, or anyone that didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. It’s been so successful now it’s moved to secondary schools, at Sunset High School, you take your Math class in Spanish, because you’re biliterate! The third one is also very exciting. I’m so proud of our P-tech and career institutes, where our high school students can graduate with an associate degree. In 2009, only 7% of students had post-secondary credentials 6 years after graduating, this year, post-pandemic, 10% got their associates degree. American Airlines hired 11 students out of Adamson High school. These are 18-year-olds making $58,000 a year; they have a 401k, flight credits all over the world, they’re solving problems for American Airlines in places such as the Dominican Republic, because they’re trilingual – they know English, Spanish, and Coding. For those kids that graduated from career institutes, they’re teaching students how to be pilots, cybersecurity, and mechatronics. A lot of these are young girls too! These kids are getting these jobs and it gives me such pride that we’re going to have this kind of workforce in Dallas, made up of students that were previously underserved,” states Dr. Hinojosa happily.

After having dedicated much of his life to student success, it’s obvious Dr. Hinojosa is passionate about children, especially ensuring they’re prepared for college and their future in the workforce. However, with his departure
from Dallas ISD in December 2022, some concerned parents have been left wondering what the future holds for their kids once he’s no longer leading the school district. To that, Dr. Hinojosa reminds parents, especially those in Latinx households – education starts at home, and there are things they can do to help their children do well at school. “They need to be supportive of their kids…. some want to send their kids to work, I know for some Latinxs, that’s just the way it is. But my parents, for example, with only a 3rd grade education, knew how important it was to be in school. When they brought us 10 kids here from Mexico, my two older sisters went to the Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso (a college-prep school) and the rest of us graduated high school, 3 of us went to college, 22 out of their 20 grandchildren have attended college, with 16 of them graduating, including my sons who went to Harvard
and Princeton Universities. One generation removed and most of my family are high school and college graduates,” states Dr. Hinojosa. “If they’re hard-working, hungry, smart and humble, they can provide a better life for their kids. Don’t chase the money, don’t go for instant gratification, go for the long game, and education gives you the long game.”

For our Latinx youth and future leaders, he also had some words of advice. “¡No se dejen!” exclaims Dr. Hinojosa. “Don’t let people put you down, […] Nowadays, students have many options, there are many great ways to have a career, the opportunities are out there, there’s no reason to sit around; be assertive, be firm about what you want.”

“Like I said earlier,” continued Dr. Hinojosa, “if you work hard, and you’re hungry, humble and smart, people will see that, and you’ll have a chance to make it. Don’t let people put you in a box, you know what you’re good at and that’s what you must focus on, and education will get you there.”

As his 13-year stint as Dallas ISD Superintendent comes to an end, Dr. Hinojosa reflects on all the support he’s received from the community, which helped pass groundbreaking policies and programs, historic bonds, and construction projects, such as the one coming up for Sunset High School. “It’s getting a facelift. In 2025 it’ll be 100 years old, so it’s time to hit the refresh button, along with other schools.” states Dr. Hinojosa.

“Thank you for allowing me to serve you for these 13 years as Superintendent of Dallas Independent School District.”

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