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THIS is education's most serious problem. Can you guess what it is?

by Ann Sutherland on 12/16/18

Do not miss this story.  I most remember our loss of Mr. SM, told to resign after he was beaten up TWICE by students at his school.  Of course a neighboring district grabbed him up because he is such a great teacher and cares so much for our schools.

THIS should be the #1 issue in the next FWISD board election.

The reaction to Dr. Scribner's evaluation

by Ann Sutherland on 12/13/18

There were parents at the board meeting . . . and after . . . who are upset at the district.  Here is what one wrote about our $15K bonus and 5-year contract:

We got a C from the state. Worse than Dallas ISD. But yet again, the Board voted to give Dr. Scribner a raise, this time to the tune of $15,000.

I guess the only way to get a decent raise in this district is to be mediocre at your job.

I need the Board to stop blaming the state for the lack of sufficient raises and results in this district. The state ain’t changing. It’s time we did. Cut the fat downtown. Take a hatchet to the bureaucracy. Outsource what needs to be outsourced (such as our miserably inefficient payroll department). And stop giving everything to students for free. Put that money in our classrooms and our pockets. You’ll attract better teachers and see better results.

And stop rewarding mediocrity. Especially among the top brass.

Palazzolo legal fees

by Ann Sutherland on 12/08/18

One of you challenged my $100,000 cost of Palazzolo legal fees, so I checked.  Yes, reader, you are correct.  they are $422,557 . . . as of July 1 2012.  

The board has never been informed of these expenses.

I asked for the fees through November of this year.  So I don't know whether we paid any after that, but this doesn't make a lot of sense to me because there have been appeals and responses . . . on and on . . . well into this year.  

Strong leadership and staff work hard at a challenging middle school

by Ann Sutherland on 12/01/18

It isn't easy managing a 1000-student middle school with a 96% minority enrollment, especially when the district mandates an 8-period day, which means kids are in the halls 9 times, and "grades" the administration based on keeping office referrals and suspensions as low as possible.

Wedgwood Middle School staff member Robert Burrell managed a major attempt to provide special help to the 90 most challenging students in 2016-17.  The regular teachers loved their more manageable classrooms even though they were larger, but having even 15 challenging students in a classrooms was too hard on their teachers and a new plan was needed.

Burrell's promotion to principal for the 17-18 year was supported by Wedgwood people as well as the central office.  His support of the student body is unassailable, but he is not afraid to suspend students.  Staffing changes have also produced stronger classroom management and fewer referrals.

But it's hard to avoid the problems caused by the switch to an 8-period day and the proposed loss of 6.5 teachers (while racking up a surplus of $23 million.

I taught thirty years ago at C. M. Goethe, Sacramento, California's toughest middle school.  But its 450-student enrollment posed challenges which were child's play compared to Wedgwood MS's thirty years later with 1000 students.


Reason #2: Why your classes are so crowded and hard to manage

by Ann Sutherland on 11/23/18

Regular readers of this column will remember that the superintendent and cabinet took $30 million in services and staff away from the principals and have moved control over it into the central office.  Part of this involved in stripping our secondary schools of nearly 250 teachers over the last two years.*  Please note that existing plans involve taking another 100 core teachers over each of  the next 3 years.

You also remember that President Jackson, First VP Sims and I voted against the budget because of this and because last year's budget was posted to have a $53 million deficit (per June 5, 2018 board presentation).

You saw at the last meeting that the 2017-18 audit was approved without a single comment from either staff or board members (I missed this meeting).

NOW WE LEARN from this silently-approved audit of the 2017-18 budget that there was actually a substantial surplus for 2017-18.  Basically there is plenty for the 18-19 budget to operate with no reductions in secondary core staffing.   In other words, the district's estimate of the 2017-18 fiscal year expenditures, showing a deficit,  was off by $76 million, although the staff cut that to $53 million after they transferred $23+ million in bond funds.**

FWISD and other major districts' estimates of the necessary reserves dictate a reserve of two months' expenditures, which is $127 million.  Ha ha.  We now have $86 million extra in reserves.  

Our budget office has been hiding money from the board at least from 2010, as I commented repeatedly even during my first campaign for the board.  We have actually ended the year with surpluses, not deficits as the board has been told.

It's getting worse.  

Think of that, parents and school site staff.  They aren't even spending the money.  Just keeping it.
*Teachers are budgeted at $65,000 per teacher; 65,000 X 250 = $16 million.
**Yes, bond funds.  Think of this as you bemoan the extra money going to schools in your 2018 property taxes which you will be paying very soon.  

Stay tuned for the FWISD Black Friday special tomorrow

by Ann Sutherland on 11/22/18

It will be worth your wait.

More fighting at Wedgwood MS this a.m.

by Ann Sutherland on 11/15/18

Parents and teachers often wonder what to do about assaults at our schools.  It helps when a video is sent forward    This morning I received a video of boys fighting in the restroom. I have asked for action on these matters but I have not received any specific feedback.  

Huge losses in teaching time in middle school core classes

by Ann Sutherland on 11/12/18

We already know that this year, the district instituted an 8-period day, reducing class time from 55 to 45 minutes.  In middle schools, after discounting 5 minutes for the class to settle in and take roll, this already amounts to a reduction of 20% of last year's time (10/50).

Now we learn that many schools are having ELA teachers out one day per week and math teachers out one day every other week for Engage to Learn, FWISD's $2.06 million effort to improve student attitudes, funded mostly via federal money*  This reduces class time another 20% for ELA students and 10% for math students.  All core classes are designated to participate.  Put differently, ELA students are losing 36 days of instruction per year and math students 18.  
This despite staff having no evidence that the program will increase student learning.

Time lost in middle school ELA classes = 40%
Time lost in middle school math classes = 30%

Staff has not responded to a request for the number of schools participating in this program nor whether the reductions are year-long or not.
*According to federal law, decisions about Title I funds at school sites must be approved by SBDM groups.

In praise of FWISD's Student Voter registration drive!

by Ann Sutherland on 11/06/18

Thanks to the Dr. Washington and her staff and the high school personnel--all of them--who carefully went one by one  through the list of students eligible to vote and registered so many of them.  We have 1,518 students of voting age and 878, 58%, have registered to vote.  When one considers that an unknown number of  the remaining 42% are not citizens, the percentage rises.  

This is an important achievement.

Leaders were YWLA (100%), YMLA (100%), Success HS (98%), Dunbar (94%),  and Benbrook MSHS (90%)

Trading football for a fancy new downtown office?

by Ann Sutherland on 10/29/18

I don't know if it's worse that the board voted 6-1 for giving attorneys nearly $1 million in general fund dollars to "sell" a bunch of "underused properties" or whether the money would buy fifteen sorely needed teachers, mostly I believe should be for our middle schools.  I plan to post the list of "underutilized properties" at the information page of this blog shortly.  

The board is hearing about plans to use this money to acquire a fancy new downtown headquarters for the school district, although I don't recall this being mentioned during the presentation at the last board meeting nor discussed publicly prior to the vote.  The fact that it has not been discussed publicly at the board level is highly regrettable. 

As one member of the audience asked, "Where would we park?"

Some schools not reporting crimes to police as required by law

by Ann Sutherland on 10/26/18

We had a particularly ugly scene at Wedgwood Middle School last week, reportedly only the latest of a fairly large number of student disturbances.  Two students got into a fight and in the middle of it, one hit the principal.  

DID YOU KNOW?  State law requires a police report when a crime is committed.  

Four board members asked the Superintendent to tighten things up.  Please leave me a comment if you have kids committing crimes (like hitting) without police reports.

Class size DOES matter

by Ann Sutherland on 10/14/18

I'm getting tired of having administrators assert that class size doesn't matter.  I received this from a teacher this weekend: 

Palazzolo update

by Ann Sutherland on 10/13/18

Sorry for the delay in responding.  Our liability insurance (since cancelled) says we are on the hook for the first $100K in attorneys fees, and TASB pays the first $1 million in damages.   The issue on interest paid to Mr. Palazzolo for the delay in paying him, if there is such a decision, was waived earlier in the process.

I believe FWISD has appealed the latest order.  I don't know what is happening.  I'm not sure anyone outside the attorneys and Mr. Palazzolo knows.  I also don't know whether we actually paid over $100K in attorney fees.  

Budget produced huge shortfalls in secondary staffing. It must change. UPDATE

by Ann Sutherland on 10/12/18

School by school and teacher by teacher data are now on the Information tab.  Including core and elective courses,  these cuts involve an overwhelming number of secondary students at some point during their day. The added work plus mid-year staffing shifts destabilizes the quality of school life for staff and students.

Last year the budget reduced staffing in secondary core classes by 100 teachers . . .  this year by another 150. They also increased the number of assigned teaching periods in some schools by requiring all to offer eight classes.  As a result, this year 151 of our core teachers and 102 elective teachers are staffed beyond the plans.  (Some of these have extra teachers (like Band and some P.E. classes), and many of the classes are over by just a few.)  

Staff is adding 29 slots (see the top item on the information page for the schools and courses).  Five are filled as of today.

Please note that we are reducing secondary staffing where enrollment has increased by 434 students while retaining almost all elementary staffing even though we have lost almost 2000 students (that is almost 100 teachers . . . .).

I believe this overcrowding in our secondary schools delivers a crushing blow to our school climate,one that will not be easily alleviated.  We already have trouble filling our open teacher positions, which is part of the reason we are eight weeks into the school year with these vacancies.  At any time we have a number of long term substitutes filling in because we cannot find teachers in a timely fashion.

These reductions are part of a five-year plan to increase class size.  At the present time, Dr. Scribner and staff are refusing to say will stop this  have plans  to continue reducing the number of teachers into the new three or four years is profoundly regrettable.  

Principals are not to re-direct Special Ed teachers away from their assignments

by Ann Sutherland on 10/10/18

Have an anonymous person call Dr. Sheffield, head of Special Ed, at 817-814-2833 and she will call the principal and tell her to stop.  This is not in the job requirements of the special ed staff.

Thanks to the reader who posted this question:

Is it legal for a Special Ed teacher to be pulled out for an ARD meeting during school hours when the teacher is supposed to be providing minutes of   
instruction for a child specified in their IEP?  If all of the other students   
are receiving instruction why are the special ed students with IEPs not         
recieving instruction because the SPECIAL ed tecaher is in an ARD? Also, the    
Speech specialist is in on these ARD meetings during school and she is not      
providing her services specified legally in the paperwork for her students. She 
is supposed to provide services but she is not during ARD meetings or speech    
meetings. Should these meetings need to happen after school to not violate the  

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