After recently announcing their new pick for superintendent, Highland Park Independent School District has purchased a $1.8 million home for Mike Rockwood to live in—rent-free.

Rockwood began working for the district in April 2023, with his contract running through June 2026 unless HPISD extends his term.

HPISD hired Rockwood after their previous superintendent, Tom Trigg, announced that he would leave the district at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. Trigg’s exit came amid dissatisfaction from parents over concerns that HPISD was increasingly focusing on critical race theory, radical gender theory, and other leftist ideologies.

Highland Park parents who want the 7,000-student district to focus on classical education and core academics objected to district trustees hiring the “woke” search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, which has a record of controversial recommendations.

Following Trigg’s resignation, HPISD signed a voluntary exit agreement with the outgoing superintendent that committed taxpayers to forgiving at least $655,000 of the remaining $750,000 on a real estate loan made to Trigg.

The district now appears to be using more taxpayer dollars to fund the superintendent’s housing costs.

On top of his annual salary totaling $310,000, Rockwood’s contract stipulates that he will be allowed to live in a Highland Park home owned by the school district without paying rental charges. The Dallas Central Appraisal District estimates the house is worth around $1.8 million.

Highland Park is one of Texas’ most expensive enclaves, with the average home costing around $7.3 million.

Although Rockwood is responsible for regular maintenance costs and utilities, the district will reimburse him for up to $50,000 for expenses incurred from making improvements on the home. HPISD will also compensate Rockwood for the federal income and employment taxes he will pay for residing in the house.

Whenever his contract ends, Rockwood will have 30 days to vacate the home—when it will then turn over to the next superintendent.

HPISD School Board President Maryjane Bonfield called the newly purchased house “modest” and said the district has historically paid for superintendents to relocate to Highland Park.

“Within the Highland Park ISD real estate market, the home is a very modest, moderately priced, well-priced home that was a financially prudent investment to accomplish the purposes of the board and the long-standing practices of Highland Park ISD, which is to have our superintendent live in our community,” said Bonfield.

Bonfield also claimed that the $1.8 million home with four bedrooms and four bathrooms was provided to Rockwall for his services to the district.

“I wouldn’t say it’s free,” said Bonfield. “He’s got a job, and this is part of how we’re compensating him for the services he provides to the district.”

The Texas Association of School Boards did not return a request for comment before publication.

Katy Marshall

Katy graduated from Tarleton State University in 2021 after majoring in history and minoring in political science.