KISD penalized more than $500K for Hindt payout

R. HANS MILLER | TIMES SENIOR REPORTER
Posted 3/3/20

The Texas Education Agency reduced funding to the Katy Independent School District by $513,755 for the 2018-19 school year after the district informed the TEA of the payout to former KISD …

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KISD penalized more than $500K for Hindt payout

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The Texas Education Agency reduced funding to the Katy Independent School District by $513,755 for the 2018-19 school year after the district informed the TEA of the payout to former KISD superintendent Lance Hindt upon his resignation which was in excess of the one year of benefits allowed under Texas law.

“The District’s share of the Foundation School Program funds, which provides school districts monies for general operating costs, was reduced by the state due to a TEA rule concerning separations agreements with former superintendents,” KISD spokesperson Maria DiPetta said in a statement issued on the district’s behalf. 

DiPetta said there had been no reduction in the 2019-2020 budget for the district.

 “In 2018 the Katy ISD Board and former superintendent made a decision to separate.  As required by the former Superintendent’s contract, a separation payment was paid,” DiPetta said. “It was expected that the District’s Foundation School Program funds would be reduced for the 2018-2019 budget year due to that agreement.” 

DiPetta said Hindt was hired with a KISD Board of Trustees-negotiated contract that provided for a two-year separation clause. The payment was made as was required by that contract, and Katy ISD had informed the TEA of the payment to Hindt, DiPetta said.

“The district was aware in 2018 and developed a balanced budget,” DiPetta said. “No program lost funding in 2018-19.”

According to Jacob Kobersky, a spokesman for the TEA, the reduction in funding was required under the Texas Education Code Section 11.201 which requires the TEA to remove funding equivalent to the excess payout. Hindt’s annual salary at the time of his resignation was $442,041 but his payout in the severance settlement offered by the district was $955,795 – a difference equal to the funding penalty after rounding. Title 19 of the Texas Administrative Code was also part of the determination for the penalty, according to the letter sent by the TEA to KISD.

While the district said it was able to present a balanced budget and not cut funding, district officials did not say what the $513,755 might have been used for had the budget not been reduced.

While the letter was addressed to current KISD Superintendent Ken Gregorski, KISD Board of Trustees President Courtney Doyle, KISD Chief Financial Officer Christopher Smith and KISD Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Brian Schuss were copied on the communication which was signed by Paul Moreno, TEA’s manager of financial desk reviews.

Doyle did not respond to requests for comment from the board in time for publication. DiPetta spoke on behalf of the district’s administration.

When asked to confirm the amount of the penalty assessed by the TEA, the date the district was notified of the penalty, the total amount paid to the former superintendent upon his resignation and for a copy of the letter issued by the TEA, Katy Times was told those items would need to be requested under the public information request.

The TEA provided a copy of the letter that was sent to KISD.

Hindt resigned from KISD effective Jan. 1, 2019 after continued accusations of violent bullying in junior high and as a young adult, according to district records and previous news reports. When announcing his resignation, Hindt said he and his family had seen intense harassment from some members of the community regarding the allegations of bullying.

“In light of an organized and relentless, dishonest smear campaign against me, I cannot remain as superintendent of Katy ISD while fulfilling those duties and still fulfilling my sacred duties as a husband and father,” Hindt said when announcing his resignation in May 2018.

Katy Times readers can view Hindt's full resignation speech at the May 10, 2018 special board meeting here.

Additional allegations later arose indicating Hindt had plagiarized his doctoral dissertation which was used to obtain his doctoral degree at the University of Houston. The University of Houston has removed Hindt’s thesis from its website after an investigation into the plagiarism accusation.

The University of Houston’s take down policy for academic papers explains that dissertations will only be removed, “under special circumstances, including copyright violations, plagiarism, or falsification of data.”

When asked if the district was considering recovering funds from Hindt to recover the funding or for possible fraud regarding his doctoral qualifications, the district stuck with a statement from Jan. 16 of this year.

“Katy ISD has not been contacted by the University of Houston concerning the matter,” DiPetta said.

Katy ISD is currently considering a bond to fund additional campuses and other initiatives which may help the district address its rapid growth in the northwestern portion of its geographical boundaries. You can read about it here.

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that Hindt's thesis had been removed from the UH website. The story has been updated to reflect that  his dissertation had been removed. A thesis is utilized to obtain a masters degree while a dissertation is used to obtain a doctorate.

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