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Posts published in “Day: March 11, 2003

Rep. Kevin Bailey conducts hearing on HPD crime lab

Representative Kevin Bailey, Chairman and members of the Texas House of Representatives General Investigating Committee, held a public hearing to take testimony from invited witnesses to ascertain the extent of the problems with the Houston Police Department (HPD) Crime Lab. The hearing took place in Austin on Thursday, March 6.

Chairman Kevin Bailey opened the hearing with a statement outlining the goals of the committee in conducting the investigation. The goals included making certain that a fair, accurate and independent review of all convictions based on analysis by the HPD Crime Lab was being conducted; that a reasonable plan for correcting the deficiencies was being undertaken by the City of Houston and to determine if statewide legislation or oversight is necessary to ensure the accreditation of all crime labs in Texas.

Invited witnesses giving testimony included members of the Texas Department of Public Safety
(DPS) Crime Lab that conducted an audit of the HPD Crime Lab in December and Chief C.O. Bradford of the Houston Police Department.

Irene Rios of the DPS Crime Lab defined the purpose of a crime lab as “finding the truth in the evidence.” She reported that the audit team found that the staff at the crime lab lacked adequate training, were unable to appropriately interpret findings, and that a tremendous amount of documentation for policy and procedure was lacking. She stated that under those conditions “true justice is compromised.”

In response to a question from Chairman Bailey regarding statistical analysis by the HPD Crime Lab staff, Ms. Rios responded, “We could not determine whether they knew that this was incorrect procedure to be doing or if they did not have sufficient training to realize that this is a problem.”

Also appearing before the committee on Thursday morning was Cassie Carradine who was a member of the DPS audit team that visited the HPD Crime Lab in December. She explained that a computer program is used to do statistical analysis of DNA testing results. She went on to say. “There are different ways to enter data into the program. The problem is they (HPD) do not have formal guidelines in place to regulate what numbers they enter into the program to get the most appropriate (statistical) number.”

Chief C.O. Bradford testified on behalf of the Houston Police Department. He stated that although he knew there were problems with a leaky roof, he was unaware that his staff lacked sufficient training to be doing DNA analysis. He went on to say, “A process has begun to examine all eases in which DNA was analyzed by the HPD Crime Lab dating back to 1992 when the HPD Crime Lab first commenced DNA work. As a result by March 3, 2003, the Houston Police Department identified and provided 525 cases in which some form of DNA analysis was performed to the District Attorney’s Office for review.”

He went on to explain that his department has only completed the process of review through about 1997 so additional cases will be referred to the District Attorney as the review continues.

The committee is expected to take additional
action at a future date.

Aldine ISD honors former Superintendent Donaldson

Aldine ISD superintendents from the past and present, along with numerous friends and family members gathered to honor former Aldine ISD Superintendent M.B. “Sonny” Donaldson at a dedication ceremony held in his honor on Sunday, March 2 at the M.O. Campbell Educational Center.

Aldine ISD honored Donaldson, who served as the district’s superintendent from 1986 until his retirement in June of 2001, by naming four administration buildings in the district after him. Those buildings are the Central Office, the Human Resources/Special Education Building, the Resource Center (all located on Aldine Westfield Road) and the Aldine Annex (located on Lauder Road). A.W. Jones, assistant secretary of the Board of Education, added that all future administration buildings would also be named after the long-time superintendent.

In addition to members of the board who attended the ceremony, former Superintendents W.W. Thorne and M.O. Campbell, along with current Superintendent Nadine Kujawa, were also in attendance, as well as numerous friends, former co-workers and community members.

During Donaldson’s tenure, the district grew from 37,800 students to 52,500. Under Donaldson’s leadership, Aldine ISD earned a Recognized rating from the Texas Education Agency for five consecutive years and for two of those years it was the largest school district in the state to earn that distinction. Additionally, the visionary educator established intermediate campuses for fifth and sixth graders, ninth grade campuses for high school freshman and Aldine was the first school district in the Houston area to create a student financial aid specialist to assist students and parents with finding funding for a college education. Also during his tenure, Donaldson reorganized the district in 1994 adding four area superintendents (a fifth was added in 1999) and in 1995, he oversaw the implementation of Magnet schools in the district.

As a result of Donaldson’s leadership, innovation and pursuit of academic excellence, he was named Administrator of the Year by the Texas Educational Secretaries Association and in the summer of 1994 and 1995 he was named Superintendent of the Year for Region IV, which serves 57 school districts in the greater Houston area. He was also a two-time finalist (1994 and 1995) for Texas Superintendent of the Year. In 1998, he was named Educator of the Month by Texas School Business magazine.

Board President Emmett W. Hill said Donaldson’s vision and tireless work ethic were key factors in seeing to it that all children in Aldine received a quality education. The two first met in 1977 when Donaldson was named principal at Aldine Senior High School and Hill served on his staff as an assistant principal.

“He developed the principle that all children can learn, no matter where they came from,” said Hill. “He brought about some ideas that had not been tried in the Houston area. We have seen the results of his dedicated push for academic excellence with our children. Sonny has done a great and tremendous job for Aldine and he will be remembered for many, many years.”

Jones, who made the formal dedication, said Donaldson was the right man to lead the district as it underwent numerous changes in the 1990s.

“It was a remarkable course that Sonny navigated during his 34 years in this school district,” Jones said. “He took on the job as superintendent when only a small percentage of students in Aldine were economically disadvantaged. By the time Sonny retired, however, 73 percent of our students were economically disadvantaged.

“As the district changed, Sonny was determined to make sure that the change was for the better. He insisted that every student would receive a quality education and that Aldine would become a school district known for its academic achievement. During his time as superintendent, Sonny made sure that his team of superintendents, directors, principals, teachers, bus drivers and custodians were all on the same page, and that they understood clearly that the main thing was to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Donaldson said he was flattered and honored to have the four buildings named after him, but he was quick to point out the success he enjoyed in Aldine was a team effort.

“Without the work of a whole lot of people, we would not have been able to do all that we did,” he said. “So many things have been accomplished in Aldine over the year, not by one person, but because of a group of people who were committed to our goals. It’s been a great ride.”

Donaldson spent his entire 34 years in education in Aldine ISD. His career began in 1967 as a teacher and coach at Aldine Senior High School. He also served the district as an assistant principal, principal, director of athletics and assistant superintendent of administration before being named superintendent of schools in 1986.

Kujawa also thanked Donaldson for his years of service to the district, and former superintendents Thorne and Campbell for their leadership.

“I’ve been very fortunate to work with the three former superintendents who are with us today,” she said. “Just look at the imprint they have made on this school district. Mr. Donaldson pointed the way toward academic achievement. Many of the benefits our employees have today are due to Sonny Donaldson. He has left his mark on this school district and we will never forget him and what he did for Aldine ISD.”