Lapsley should resign – now.
Brad Lapsley should resign as president of the Dallas school board. In his place, the board should recruit and elect a citizen with three qualifications: first, a record of personal achievement in his chosen field; second, a reputation for integrity and leadership in the community; and third, no connection whatsoever with the administration of former superintendent Nolan Estes.
An individual with those qualifications can give Supt. Linus Wright the backing he needs to clean up the district’s administration and chart a course of educational excellence for the city’s public schools.
The district’s problems aren’t extraterrestrial, and they aren’t insurmountable. They are the natural result of bad decisions and bad management. The blame for those problems, and the school board’s incredible incapacity to confront them, lies squarely with the school board president.
Lapsley, whose sole qualification to lead a school district with a $280-million budget is that he once ran a missionary school in Africa, was appointed to the board in 1976. He was known as a sure vote for anything then-superintendent Nolan Estes wanted. Over the last three months, as evidence has mounted of incompetence and corruption in the district’s administration during Estes’ 10-year regime, Lapsley has done everything in his power to put a lid on the controversies.
The lid won’t stay on. And neither should Lapsley.
If for no other reason, Lapsley should resign in the face of public outrage over his now infamous statement to the board in July. While the board was deliberating on how to proceed with allegations of administrative corruption, Lapsley said a prominent Dallas businessman had assured him the night before that stealing, cheating, and kickbacks were normal in any business. Other members of the board sputtered in amazement. Lapsley, who may not have meant to condone those practices, had given a very clear signal that he didn’t mean to do anything about them. School employees who have engaged in a little private enterprise at the public’s expense must have heaved a sigh of relief at Lapsley’s naiveté.
But the best was yet to come. A few days after Lapsley’s statement made headlines, a reporter revealed that the “prominent Dallas businessman” who had fed Lapsley such silliness was Nolan Estes.
Lapsley is still depending for advice and counsel on the very man who got the school district in this mess to begin with. And look at the advice and counsel he’s getting!
It’s understandable that Nolan Estes would like Lapsley to believe there’s nothing unusual about the revelations that have rocked the school district. Estes, who still believes he has a future in the national educational establishment, would like nothing more than to have these examples of his mismanagement and failure swept under the rug. It is less understandable that a man in Lapsley’s position would so willingly oblige. On every issue – whether disputed contracts or accusations of bribery or misuse of public funds by a private foundation – Lapsley has been an unwilling investigator, hesitant to probe and seemingly afraid to ask questions. Is he, the public must wonder, afraid of the answers?
Brad Lapsley has a duty, and it is not to Nolan Estes. It is to the people of Dallas, to the schoolchildren who are taught that public officials should be decisive and forthright in protecting public institutions from corruption and malfeasance. In that duty Brad Lapsley has failed.
The school district desperately needs to regain public support. But public support must be earned. A new president can lead the board in making a clean sweep and restoring probity and honor to the conduct of school officials.
●County government will creak along like the outmoded and rusty piece of machinery it is until some way is found to abolish many of the 76 elected positions that currently fill up the courthouse and to centralize management control under one authority.
Tarrant County took a step in that direction recently by obtaining legislative approval to abolish the post of county treasurer – at the insistence of treasurer Howard Green, who says he frankly has nothing to do. Now state treasurer Warren Harding has asked the Attorney General to rule the legislative action unconstitutional. Harding wants to protect his cronies in county government, who feel a little threatened by the move, under the theory that they will remember him at election time. The rest of us ought to remember him too.
●We may have given up on the school board, but that’s no reason to give up on our public schools. The Dallas Chamber of Commerce has mounted an aggressive campaign enlisting companies to help individual schools with their problems. Volunteers from those companies, which now number 160, are working to improve reading skills, obtain extra supplies, and locate and buy needed equipment. On the next two pages, D Magazine joins with the Chamber in recognizing a few of the companies that have done an exceptionally good job. With school about to start, more firms are needed. For more information, call 651-1020 and ask about the Adopt-A-School program.
Our newest executive
Successful people make successful magazines. Our latest success is Luann Hicks, named last month as advertising director of D Magazine. Luann, who is 28, has worked for us for two years. She replaces Bernie Kraft, who has taken on responsibility for our corporate operations. He says his age is irrelevant.