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Sutherland for Schools blog

Agenda and board book for Tuesday Apr 28 meeting available

by Ann Sutherland on 04/24/15

At the "information" tab, which is still technically "data".  

Included this week are
--final approval of turf contract
--revision of FNCA (Local) re Student Conduct:  Dress Code;
--new sign-on bonuses to new bilingual education teachers
--more school buses (huh?)
--AND--support of SB 106 which our staff testified against recently.  
      (another example of the board stepping up).

Fort Worth should support reducing fines and jail time for truancy

by Ann Sutherland on 04/16/15

Last week the FWISD staff opposed a bill designed to reduce the fines associated with truancy.  They did this without board review or support.

I oppose the staff position because I support Sen. Whitmire's bill as do trustees Ramos, Needham and Moss.

SB 106, a bill by Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, would  decriminalize unexcused absences and lessen the long-time burden on students who carry misdemeanor convictions through their lives for truancy.  This effort is part of ending the school-to-prison pipeline for which Texas is notorious.

Whitmire is carrying this bill after a great amount of research and consultation because he thinks the penalties--fines up to $500--affecting 115,000 children--over twice as many as any other state-can have a negative effect for kids' whole lives.  "Don't make a 14-year-old a criminal because he or she can't get to school because of a hardship," Whitman told his colleagues.  "This is tough, very serious.   . . . But let's just quit criminalizing young people.  This is long overdue."  The bill is supported by major players in Austin, including the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Association for Business, according to the Star-Telegram..

Jerry Moore, who is in charge of our legislative work, reported to me, 

"This is the administrative stance of Fort Worth ISD as it relates to Truancy.  Truancy is a major factor in our average daily attendance which as you know has huge impact on our funding.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to call Dr. Linares."

We should think twice before opposing a bill like this, which has major support in Austin.  And policy decisions are the prerogative of the board, not of staff.

Here is the article:   

And here is the bill itself, for those who are interested: 

Proposal to merge Metro and Middle Level draws many "NO!s"

by Ann Sutherland on 04/15/15

Board and community came together last night to halt progress toward merging our two alternative schools. The public testimony against putting the two schools together was exemplary, I thought--different citizens with different perspectives all agreed that it was a BAD proposal. Thanks to each of you who testified and to Trustee Ramos who led from the board. He met with heads of our university training programs to learn of their opposition to this proposal.  

Substitute availability

by Ann Sutherland on 04/13/15

Sutherland for Schools has pushed for sufficient teacher substitutes since the 2012-13 year, when it became evident that the district's shortage indefensible.  Last year, in response to continued problems, District staff reduced requirements for substitutes, raised salaries some, and increased the number of pyramid substitutes.  They stated they believed these measures would enable us to reduce the percentage of unavailable substitues to less than 5 percent of the requests.  

However, our experience has not borne this out.  One recent Monday there were 141 unfilled classes, an unacceptable number.  Mr. Monge told me there was an average of about 20 classrooms per day.

Numbers are most worrisome for our middle schools. Here are the statistics for March.  February's and December's were worse:

March    Elementary 439 unfilled (13.1%)
              Middle School  290 unfilled (17.8%)
             High School   189 unfilled (8.9%0
     Alternative programs  25 unfilled (1.7%)
             TOTAL                   943 unfilled (13.0%)


Agenda and board book now available

by Ann Sutherland on 04/09/15

They are at the "data" tab on this website.

Problems with substitute system continue UPDATE

by Ann Sutherland on 04/06/15

On Monday morning I received an email from one of our substitutes that there were many unfilled substitute requests from absent teachers that were not being fillled.  She said the sub caller had not notified her.

I spoke with Chief Monge about this.  He told me they run about 20 unfilled slots per day but when he provided a list of unfilled spots there were 141!!  

Mr. Monge was unable to tell me why the substitute caller did not call all available substitutes.  

Parents discuss raising teenagers

by Ann Sutherland on 04/05/15

From today's New York Times:

In an online forum discussing how to parent teens, one parent asks, "Couldn't we develop some sort of growth pod" where teenagers "could be kept in a sedated state from 12 to 18?"

"We have that," another answered.  "It's called school." 

FYI: Closed emergency audit committee meeting Friday

by Ann Sutherland on 03/31/15

Held at 12:00 p.m. in the Board Library.  Closed.

A.  Seek the Advice of its Attorneys Concerning Pending or Contemplated Litigation or other Matters that are Exempt from Public Disclosure Under Article X, Section 9 of the Texas State Bar Rules and as Authorized by Section 551.071 of the Texas Government Code.
B.  Personnel Matters (Section 551.074)
1.  Discussion regarding the Employment, Evaluation, Discipline and/or Dutie of Chief Internal Auditor.

Do all our teachers have valid credentials?

by Ann Sutherland on 03/28/15

An issue has arisen regarding the process HCM uses to ensure that our staff all possess valid teaching credentials.  This is because a recent audit revealed that 21 coaches were teaching without valid credentials.  The Texas Education Code prohibits paying anyone who teaches in a position requiring a valid credential who does not have a valid credential.  So FWISD was in violation of the Code.

Rather than checking himself to ensure that valid credentials had bee obtained, the auditor asked HCM to please check this issue and HCM responded that they have checked and all coaches now have valid credentials.  However they have not demonstrated that they are employing a procedure to ensure that all staff are properly credentialed.  Neither the audit commitee nor the board has reviewed the audit findings; in fact Judy Needham, the audit chair, refused my request to place the item on the agenda.

The auditor has refused to release the names of the 21 individuals to me.  I have submitted an open records request for the names.

If 4% of our entire credentialed workforce have expired credentials (that is the percent of the coaches involved), my rough estimate is that we have 240 staff involved.  That would be a major financial issue if TEA required repayment.

We are especially vulnerable because we have refused to examine our procedures.

Installation of safety equipment at elementary schools

by Ann Sutherland on 03/22/15

Several days ago, a reader of this blog asked whether there was a delay in installing the surveillance equipment at our elementary schools.  FWISD promised to complete the first few schools in Feb.  Here is Mr. Cavazos' response:

"Most of the surveillance, cameras and intercom systems are operational.  If there are any specific schools with particular concerns... please direct them to my office...  or security office and we will address immediately.

"As of last week there were some schools whose system needed fine tuning due to older doors, delivering photo ID for staff access, making sure campus communication was sent to parents so they know of the changes on accessing the school, and a few needed warranty work on the equipment.  I have scheduled a meeting for Monday morning so I can get a new report.  

"The implementation of elementary schools started February 1.  Our strategic plan calls for completion of all elementary schools by the end of this school year.    The process is mostly complete at all elementary schools and we are ahead of schedule."

I hope this fully answers the question.

Revised: March 24 Agenda and Board book available

by Ann Sutherland on 03/20/15

The agenda and board book are online and available on the "data" tab.  

Included are a request for a waiver on the  3rd of our 3 snow days so we don't have to make it up, another amendment to the election paperwork, and a lot of purchases.  

At the end, the board will discuss progress toward hiring a superintendent; however, no action will be taken on this item.  

Join me after school Thurs 4-6

by Ann Sutherland on 03/17/15

Please come by Blue Mesa, 1700 University at University Village, 4-6 p.m.Thursday for the (belated) campaign kickoff.  $25 donations accepted.  Yard signs available free, plus beer, soft drinks and some eats.  

The time change was necessary so that we could fit into Blue Mesa's previous schedule after we had to re-do because of the ice and snow.  Sorry for the confusion.

We already have a strong roll-out but are looking to see you.  

Requesting data on student disturbances at Paschal

by Ann Sutherland on 03/09/15

I have sent the following request for information to Dr. Linares:

I am reading many comments regarding fights and other disturbances at Paschal and other high schools.  I want to review them.

Please send me copies of all  office referrals involving student behavior at Paschal High School between the August 2014 start of school and March 6, together with the report(s)  of action taken in each case.

Because the names will be redacted, I would like the data to be numbered for reference.

I need this information prior to the March 24 board meeting.


Thank you for your assistance.

Let's take a real break this coming week

by Ann Sutherland on 03/08/15

Readers, we've got a really busy three months coming up, with elections, decisions about our superintendent search, and the budget.  I'll be asking for changes in the budget which reflect classroom needs.

This week, however, the blog will be silent absent any real news.  See you next week.

Campaign kick-off postponed to Thurs Mar 19th

by Ann Sutherland on 03/05/15

The snow and FWISD's cancellation means we need to postpone.  The new date, for your calendars, is Thurs Mar 19th 4:30-6:30 at Blue Mesa.

Dennis, Blue Mesa manager, has been very nice about the postponement; I appreciate their flexibility.

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