When Daniel P. King took the helm of the 32,000-student school district he leads in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley in 2007, its three high schools had just been singled out as “dropout factories” in a seminal national report.
Three school board members and the outgoing superintendent had recently been indicted in a federal bribery case for accepting cash and other gifts in exchange for awarding contracts. All four were later convicted; two board members served time in federal prison.
Gang-related tensions were running high in the district’s secondary schools, causing violent incidents to flare and attendance to plummet. And 23 high school science teachers had resigned because of a mismanaged school redesign process that had bungled the master schedule.