The Insider

Among the summer hires were the offspring of Albert Gunn, UT's associate dean of admissions; Guy Clifton, chairman of the neurosurgery department; Rick Gaines, associate dean of management and administrative services; John Byrne, chairman of the neurobiology and anatomy department; Galen Marshall, assistant professor of internal medicine; and department of surgery professors John Teichgraeber and Charles Van Buren.

While UTHouston promotes the summer program as good community relations for the institution, at least one disgruntled UT employee says many of the jobs went to the children of faculty and staff who need the money the least.

"We were forced to put up with these kids all summer, while most sat around playing on the Net or talking on the phone all day," says the employee. "Most did very little work, and when they did work, it was B.S. we could do much quicker if we didn't have to baby-sit them."

Our correspondent describes a particularly galling scene -- watching one student regularly park his red Mercedes in the UT parking garage for $8 per day. "Imagine my surprise when I see this child who needs this job so he can learn how to be responsible driving out in a car that costs more than my house," the employee says.

Russ Wylie, the vice president of public affairs for UTHouston, sees nothing amiss with highly paid staff members placing their children on the institution's summer payroll.

"I think anyone, regardless of their compensation, would find summer work good for their children," says Wylie. "I don't think there's anything unusual about that. In fact, I think they should be applauded for having their children work."

Yeah, but if the kid's going to work at your place of business, why not make like the Mosbachers and do it on your own dime?

Rice School Redux
HISD administrators have settled on Californian Sharon Valear Robinson as the new principal for the Rice School, that turbulent educational partnership between Rice University and the school district that was the subject of a cover story in the Press last month.

An African-American educational psychologist who has been principal of two schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Robinson was chosen for the job from a final pool of three candidates. Her selection angered at least one member of the task force appointed by HISD to interview candidates for the job, who insists a majority of the group favored reinstating former principal Sharon Koonce. HISD ousted Koonce, along with her two assistant principals, after the spring semester.

Meanwhile, the lingering controversy over the principalship provoked a revelation from Rice University president Malcolm Gillis about his institution's role in the school. In a letter replying to one parent who asked for his assistance in getting Koonce reinstated, Gillis let it be known that he had opposed naming the public elementary/middle school after the nearby private university.

"I pleaded with HISD not to name the school after William Marsh Rice precisely because I was concerned about the impression that would convey," wrote Gillis. "I relented in the end only after the school was formally named."

Gillis also stated that Rice had "no formal relationship with the Rice School that would allow me to intercede on behalf of Ms. Koonce ... even so, I remain willing to do what we can to help Rice School, short of assuming responsibility for hiring and firing its leadership."

HISD seems to be quite willing to take care of the hiring and firing part. Now if Rice University and the school district could only focus on the education part ...

Let's Get Engaged
Cathy Mincberg was among the cabal of HISD trustees who secretly engineered the selection of Rod Paige as district superintendent back in 1994, a move that angered and alienated a large swath of the city's Hispanic community. Mincberg left the board in 1995, when she and her family moved out of the southwest Houston district she represented, but now she's back: Paige has personally selected Mincberg to fill the exalted new position of "director of community engagement," a gig for which she'll be paid $59,000 under a one-year contract.

According to HISD, Paige chose Mincberg from 110 applicants for the job. Her duties will include "developing opportunities for parents and the community to express opinions about their experiences with schools and share their goals for public education ... In addition, Dr. Mincberg will manage the development, distribution and analysis of 'customer' surveys to be completed by employees, students, parents and community members."

No word yet on whether Mincberg will be engaging Hispanics when HISD goes back to voters to again ask them to approve school construction bonds.

Defending Her Virtue
It probably won't rate the national attention given to Sylvester Turner's libel lawsuit, but Channel 13's Wayne Dolcefino is once again the target of litigation, this time by an employee of City Controller Lloyd Kelley.

In a suit she filed last week, Cynthia Everett Randolph accuses Dolcefino of defaming her in his recent series of reports on Kelley's rather unusual work habits. Channel 13's hidden camera caught Kelley during work hours as the controller toiled in his yard, walked his dog and visited the SplashTown amusement park in the company of Randolph and his children.

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