Following a flood of complaints from the community, a newly hired school administrator who parents say was not properly vetted resigned on Monday, less than two weeks after he was hired—making him the second Texas educrat this week to step down after citizens voiced concerns.
Victoria Independent School District’s board of trustees voted to hire Michael Kuhrt as deputy superintendent on June 30, at the recommendation of Superintendent Quintin Shepherd.
On July 11, Kuhrt submitted his resignation, citing “overwhelming negative and defamatory social media unrest.”
“Kuhrt may have resigned, but the fight’s not over,” said Jaycob Garcia, a local resident and conservative activist. “The fact he was hired in the first place is indicative of the problems plaguing VISD.”
Kuhrt’s History Concerns the Community
In a Facebook post on July 2, Garcia highlighted portions of Kuhrt’s past job performances that raised concerns within the VISD community.
Garcia said Kuhrt had “a history of accruing large budget deficits throughout his tenure, has faced accusations of mismanagement of school funds as recently as June, and has a history of betraying the taxpayer” while serving as superintendent of school districts in Dayton and then Wichita Falls.
In early June, the Times Record News reported Wichita Falls ISD School Board President Mike Rucker—who had given Kuhrt a glowing recommendation following his resignation from WFISD—blamed Kuhrt for keeping the board in the dark about budget shortfalls that left the district with an even larger deficit than first projected:
If we’re not told everything—which we were not told everything by the previous administration—there’s nothing I can do about that. We’re trying fix a mess we got into. And we didn’t even know about it.
Yet Kuhrt continued to receive his base salary of $226,000 through June 30, plus more than $100,000 in additional benefits and bonuses, as documented by local news station KAUZ.
Before Wichita Falls, Kuhrt served as superintendent of Dayton Independent School District until 2013. Garcia noted the district had a $4.9 million budget deficit that year.
Garcia concluded, “The good ol’ boys club is alive and thriving in Victoria. Our parents, students, and hardworking teachers and staff deserve better.”
Parents Question How Kuhrt Was Vetted
“As much time as the VISD school board and superintendent spend trying to shut down parents and the community, they could have instead performed their duties to research Kuhrt and his background before rubber-stamping the recommendation made by Superintendent Shepherd to hire him,” Victoria mom Tracy Hanes told Texas Scorecard.
Shepherd told the Victoria Advocate he had done “everything required by policy” before recommending Kuhrt to the board.
Hanes says the district’s hiring policies may be part of the problem, adding there are “still plenty of unanswered questions this superintendent and school board owe our community.”
Did the board do their due diligence in researching Kuhrt before moving forward with Shepherd’s recommendation to hire him? How did Shepherd search for and find Kuhrt as the one and only candidate presented for this position? Shouldn’t there have been other candidates presented to the board or review committee for this position? What was the approved salary and benefits package for Kuhrt?
The details of Kuhrt’s contract were not made public, but his predecessor’s salary was about $175,000. Superintendent Shepherd’s salary for the 2021-22 school year was $295,000, according to the Texas Education Agency.
No Answers at School Board Meeting
In a statement issued Monday, the district said the board and superintendent had received Kuhrt’s letter of resignation and would discuss it at a special called meeting on Tuesday:
I’d like to begin by thanking you and the Board of Trustees for giving me the opportunity to work in Victoria ISD. I was looking forward to working for you and helping you accomplish the mission of VISD. I wish you and the district nothing but the best in the years to come. However, based on the overwhelming negative and defamatory social media unrest, however false that it may be, I feel that it is in the best interest of the VISD that I resign my position effective July 11, 2022.
The statement said Kuhrt’s resignation will not include additional severance pay.
Four people spoke during public comments. Three specifically addressed Kuhrt’s resignation.
“We are trying our best as a community to educate our children,” said Victoria resident Dale Zuck. “A lot of things are going right, but we have serious troubles.”
“We don’t trust the board,” he said, noting that Wichita Falls residents are now saying the same thing about their school board.
“You cannot trust the administration totally,” he added. “We elect y’all to have your own mind. … Double-check what Quintin tells you is absolutely true.”
Former VISD educator Diana Hawes told the board the public uproar over Kuhrt’s hiring was “so unnecessary and embarrassing to our community and our district.”
This Kuhrt debacle ended up being a correction, not a win. Many have lost patience with this superintendent and this board of trustees. Anyone from VISD who recommended or voted for Mr. Kuhrt’s hire must resign.
What’s Next for Victoria ISD
Following public comments, board members met in closed session to discuss Kuhrt’s resignation as well as “the employment of personnel.”
The board then voted 6-1 to “employ personnel as recommended by administration” in closed session.
“This is exactly the thing that got us into this embarrassing mess with Kuhrt’s hiring,” Hanes told Texas Scorecard. “The six who voted for this are basically ignoring their sworn duty to the community of being the checks and balances of the superintendent.”
Trustee Bret Baldwin, who cast the lone “no” vote, acknowledged “the difficulty of finding personnel” but added, “The process still I think we need to look at, and for that I’m concerned.”
The district also signaled Monday it may not replace Kuhrt and could instead remove a layer from its organizational structure:
Victoria ISD will conduct a reassessment of its administrative structure which will occur after the start of the 2022-23 school year before taking any next steps regarding a search for a Deputy Superintendent.
Victoria residents can contact their elected school board members with questions and comments.
Kuhrt’s is just the latest in a string of resignations by top Texas educrats. On Monday, Clear Creek Independent School District Superintendent Eric Williams stepped down amid parents’ complaints he was subjecting their students to liberal critical race theory ideologies brought from his former job as superintendent of public schools in Loudoun County, Virginia.