Dallas Independent School District (DISD) students, dedicated teachers, and staff assigned to Thomas Jefferson High School set foot in a new building on Monday, returning to the site of a devastating 2019 tornado that destroyed the old school and some houses in the neighborhood.
“The first thing that was going through my mind was … it’s a new beginning,” student Noe Murillo told WFAA, speaking with the news outlet at a mini-tour of the new building last week.
Students assigned to Thomas Jefferson High, many of whom were never inside the old building, have been attending school for the last three years at the formerly shuttered Thomas Edison Middle School building.
During the mini-tour, Principal Benjamin Jones described some of the cosmetic upgrades made to the new building, stating, “We’ve worked really hard on the selections of some of the finishes and even the furniture, to make it not only feel like a high school. But to make it feel more collegiate.”
Hard-working educator Cathleen Cadigan also admired the new building, telling WFAA, “Our school community changed so much. We were so grateful to have a place to go together. But we’re so grateful to come back. It’s so beautiful here.”
Still, despite the well-deserved new building for students and teachers, DISD reportedly ran into numerous construction-related problems rebuilding Thomas Jefferson High, including significant cost overruns, snafus with insurance coverage, and irregularities with the use of certain minority-owned subcontractors.
As previously reported in The Dallas Express, the district has been mired in scandal in recent years following multiple accusations from whistleblowers who claim to have found evidence of district employees purposefully manipulating construction job order contracts so that they would not be subject to competitive bidding, in violation of Texas law.
Whistleblowers claim that a past director of DISD’s Capital Improvement Department broke up singular construction projects into component parts so that each component fell under the $500,000 threshold for competitive bidding, allegedly committing fraud and perjury and wasting as much as $67 million of taxpayer money.
With earnest and dedicated educators and administrators doing all they can to provide the district’s student body with a quality education, such allegations, bureaucratic mismanagement, and negligence by elected leadership risk directly undermining their efforts.
The Dallas Express reached out to DISD and asked whether, in light of the district’s unseemly history managing taxpayer money and construction contracts, any job order contracts associated with the Thomas Jefferson High rebuilding effort were valued at $500,000 or below, and if so, how many.
A district spokesperson directed The Dallas Express to file an open-records-request, which The People’s Paper did promptly.