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Sutherland for Schools blog

Agenda and board book for Sept 23 meeting

by Ann Sutherland on 09/18/15

See the information tab for the agenda.

Included on the consent calendar is an item for $500,000 in new pianos for the orchestras and accompanists.  This is part of a $2 million contract awarded to a Dallas piano company.  I will oppose it.

Also under "personnel" in executive session I will question the failure to prosecute students and others for assaults on our teachers.  This is not on the agenda.

This is your school's money. Your decision also.

by Ann Sutherland on 09/17/15

Schools receive a lot of federal Title I money and also some state  funds to address the needs of low-achieving students.  The total for our schools is 22 million.  The data is on the information tab of this website  

The chart is not easy to read but it is worth the effort.  It is the money your school site is given to spend at its own discretion.  I am hearing that some schools are not following the law.

The campuses are sorted by computer number (very irritating to us mortals) which is in the second column.  Then there are a series of numbers and the right-hand number is the important one.

For example #001 Carter Riverside has $447,134 in Site Based Decision Making funds.  These funds are to be spent as decided by the SBDM team.  

DO NOT LET ANYONE TELL YOU OTHERWISE.  If you don't have an SBDM team let me know; it's required by state law. 

Time to take action regarding bad student behavior

by Ann Sutherland on 09/14/15

We need to take action where student behavior is persistently unacceptable.  One period "suspensions" and office referrals are sometimes not enough.  As a consequence, student conduct is continuing to deteriorate.

Last year's survey of school climate indicated an increasing percentage of teachers who did not feel safe in the classroom.  The major problem was students' "mouthing off" rather than actual violence.

This must be addressed.  Staff is attempting to employ "positive discipline" and a graduated approach in dealing with unruly students.  This meets with different levels of success.

One middle school had over three referrals per student  last year.  At the other end, a high school had less than one referral per student over the year.

Some schools are making progress.  A high school in my district has reduced the number of office referrals by 20% per year.  

This data seems encouraging, but still, the percentage of teachers who feel unsafe in their classrooms is increasing.

At one high school, during the first 2/3 of the school year, 25% of the students had office referrals,  Most were for abusive language.  Two-thirds of the students  had three or fewer.  The other thirds had most of the referrals.  Sixteen had ten or more referrals.  Yet NO STUDENT was sent to Metro from this school, despite students having as many as 30 referrals.  

Blaming teachers for persistent misbehavior must stop.  Yes, some teachers are more skilled than others in controlling classes.  However, the burden is on the student to behave.  When APs just blow off office referrals, it sends the wrong message to the students.

And my view is that more students need to be sent to DAEP.  

Welcome Dr. Scribner

by Ann Sutherland on 09/09/15

Readers, I am actually very excited about our new superintendent.  Not only is he obviously strong in several vital areas but the board is working together.  This is a very big deal.

He will be on his listening tour for awhile.  Please feel free to let him know your views.

Personally I am eager to learn just how strong we can make our school district.  It will be my last professional project.  I look forward to the work.  

is departmentalization a problem?

by Ann Sutherland on 09/09/15

I received this thought-provoking post from a reader.  Teachers, what do you think of this?  The idea that we should all work together is an extension of the "wrap around" services current today.

Is anyone looking at the reasons given by those leaving the district on the     
resignation form? If there was only one problem you could vocalize my vote      
would be the separation of departments. No one talks or they are so busy        
justifying their positions/departments that they refuse to work together.       
Reading and Social studies or even science could easily be put together in      
thematic units or even arranged to support one another in the curriculum. We    
all complain about not having enough teaching time and this is one simple way   
to make better use of our limited time. Bilingual education is completely on    
its own as are special education and advanced academics. These groups should    
work together to develop a cohesive curriculum instead of competing against one 
another. They often contradict each other and it undermines the integrity of    
those leading the various departments. 

Agenda and board book for Sep 9 meeting posted

by Ann Sutherland on 09/04/15

The board book and agenda are on the "information" tab.  It will be a short meeting--finalizing the contract with Dr. Scribner is there, plus a short Pre-K presentation and awarding the CMAR contract (that's the management of the project) for the STEM and VAPAC projects.

A $500,000 general fund item for more pianos was removed after two of us questioned the need.  

The board has done some clumsy things--I was part of some of them--but I think that Dr. Scribner's quality will begin to "turn the ship" in a better direction.  I hope the community will be as solidly behind him as we are.

Fewer resignations last year; not many first-day absences

by Ann Sutherland on 09/02/15

I was wrong about the number of teacher retirements in an earlier post; it was just 583 this year.  We hired 800 new teachers because of the new Pre-K classes.

Thanks to Chief Monge for this information.

Listed below you will find information about the number of resignations/retirements that were needed to be filled by 8/24:


·         Teachers                                                              583

·         Other Professionals                                        114

·         Auxiliary Staff                                                    203


In addition to the above we added 139 teachers and 26 auxiliary staff due to Universal PK, program growth and projected enrollment.  We ended up needing over 800 teachers when you add in teachers moving internally due to promotions.


Listed below you will find the number of teacher substitutes that were needed for the past three days:


·         8/24                      110 teacher substitutes needed  (58 teacher absences)

·         8/25                      130 teacher substitutes needed (72 teacher absences)

·         8/26                      139 teacher substitutes needed (80 teacher absences)

 The above total number includes teacher absences, vacancies and extra help request from principals.  Many schools call in substitutes as extra help during the opening of the school year.



Board meeting 9/1 to work on Superintendent's contract

by Ann Sutherland on 08/31/15

The agenda for 9/1 has no regular session, which means there will be no decisions and no public comment.  We meet again on Sept. 8th.

Only juniors and seniors allowed off campus for lunch, unless . . .

by Ann Sutherland on 08/27/15

Thanks to Paschal parent for this question.  Sophomores and freshmen are allowed to leave campus only with written parent permission.  Board policy directs school administrators to punish violators.  Here is board policy FEE (local):

Students in grades 11–12 may be accorded the privilege of leaving campus during the lunch period subject to rules and regulations developed by the principal and management team at each campus and with parental consent.

Students in prekindergarten–grade 10 may go home during the lunch period if they have on file at the principal’s office a signed parental request that they be released for lunch; students must be picked up at the school by the parent or guardian.  A parent or guardian who wishes to pick up a student for the lunch period shall first secure the principal’s approval.  A parent must sign the student out each day and return the student to campus on time.

Students who violate this policy or leave campus at any time without administrative approval shall be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct.

Agenda and board book for Aug 25 posted

by Ann Sutherland on 08/20/15

The agenda and board book are at the "information" tab.  

Included is the compensation book if you want to check your salary range.  Also included is the procedure for DAEP as it relates to Metro, but there is no proposal at this time to continue the truancy court.  Finally, there are a lot of contracts for us to vote on.

Potential new sub changes her mind.

by Ann Sutherland on 08/19/15

I received this comment:

I went to a substitute hiring this week and I thought I was joining a           
concentration camp. Really who runs HR? I wanted to work for your district but  
now I am going elsewhere. The people taking my forms were rude.   Reading these 
comments, I don't want my kids at FWISD.  Hearing about the discipline problems 
at FWISD makes me anxious for my kids.

Student conduct . . . bad behavior with NO DAEP assignments

by Ann Sutherland on 08/14/15

Progressive discipline provides increasingly severe punishment when student behavior does not improve at a satisfactory rate.  

It is clear (a) that too many students are misbehaving and (b) that some are misbehaving way too much without adequate sanctions.

I examined the office referrals of one of our high schools.  During the first 100 days of the 2014-15 school year, this high school had 1441 referrals issued to 634 different students.  About 1/4 of the students received at least one referral and there were an average of 14 per day in that school.

Just as only a fraction of the students at that school received referrals, just a small fraction of these 634 students had a disproportionate number of the referrals.  Sixteen had 10 or more referrals (13 boys and three girls).  The major cause of these referrals was persistent "abusive language" and "failure to follow directions".

One student received 30 referrals during the 100 day period.  This student was referred to DAEP in November 2014 after he had accumulated 10 referrals.  The student had "persistently violated the student code of conduct . . .refuses to follow school rules; most recently was off-campus without permission and returned to campus after running from the police.

DAEP returned him to campus rather than assigning him to Metro.  The student had 20 more referrals by early March.

FWISD lost 1000 teachers last year and 800 this year, way above the 400-600 we lost in previous years.  This indicates that teachers find the situation intolerable, and indeed an unacceptable number indicated they were afraid in their own classrooms, mostly because of aggressive language.  

It must be remembered that these students are not referred to the office for support until teachers have conducted a series of corrective behaviors.  As a result many teachers do not refer students to the office when student behavior is unacceptable.

Progressive discipline is a fine idea, but not when the result is classrooms with massive bad behavior.  In my opinion this is the #1 task facing our new superintendent.


by Ann Sutherland on 08/14/15

We have too many truant students, defined as absent without a legal reason.  Last year, nearly 12,000 students were truant for ten or more days.

HB 2398 (2015) affects our court-handling of truancy.  Basically, truancy is no longer a criminal offense.  

Schools are required to initiate "truancy prevention measures" in cases where a student fails to attend school, w/o excuse, on 3 or more days or parts of days within a four-week period.  If a student fails to attend school on 10 or more days or parts of days w/in a six-month period in the same school year.  FWISD invites parents in for a Student Attendance Review Team meeting prior to reaching 10 absences.

The new state law decriminalizes truancy, but State law permits school districts to handle truancy in-house or to refer cases to truancy court.  Staff is meeting with the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County staff to decide whether to change our arrangements to handle the worst cases.  We currently refer about 1100 students out of the 12,000 to truancy court.  The August 25 agenda will have an item to provide funding to the City for court services at slightly over $300,000.  

The referral to truancy court must occur within 10 days from the student's 10th absence.

Welcome Dr. Scribner

by Ann Sutherland on 08/12/15

I am excited about our superintendent choice; some people told us it would be hard to find a top-notch candidate but they were wrong.  We interviewed seven candidates, all strong, and picked three finalists.  After interviewing two of them (one dropped out), Dr. Scribner was our unanimous choice.

He is ethnically half Anglo and half Hispanic and speaks fluent Spanish.

My goal was to find a seasoned, competent reformer and not a "rock star" (I hate that term!).  However, he has a national reputation among school administrators for his successes in Phoenix.

Dr. Scribner served for some years (I think 6) in a K-8 system  before deciding to tackle the secondary schools in the same area.  He's been there for (again, I think 10) years.  So this guy is a stayer.  

He says he will be able to begin in "weeks or months", depending on how long the preparation takes.  I'm betting weeks, but I could be wrong.  We'll see. 

Amended 8-11 agenda posted

by Ann Sutherland on 08/08/15

The agenda for Tuesday was amended late yesterday.  The first item of the 5:30 meeting is now "Consider and take action to nominate sole finalist for Superintendent of Schools",

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