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Sutherland for Schools blog

Agenda and Board Book for Tuesday August 15 2017

by Ann Sutherland on 08/13/17

The agenda will feature approval of a November election (no effective change in total tax rate), approval of a projected $685 million in bond expenditures, more Lonestar Governance training, and a lot of curricular purchases.

Bond workshop Monday 8/14 @ 3 p.m.

by Ann Sutherland on 08/11/17

This workshop is to do more work on the bond.  Staff is hoping for a vote on the TRE at the regular meeting on August 15th.  The agenda proposes a vote on both the TRE and the bond proposals.

A summary of the improvements proposed by staff is on the information page of this website.

Central Office keeps 75% of the $4.5 million voted for helping 4 IR schools.

by Ann Sutherland on 08/05/17

Readers will recall that TEA notified the district in October 2016 that four of our IR schools were unable to submit satisfactory turn-around plans to TEA.  As a consequence, FWISD was in danger of having the government of the district taken over by a board of mangers, having alternative management inserted to these four schoolsl, or closing of the campus.

In response, the board has been required to undergo extensive training.  We also allocated $4.5 million to beef up these schools.

Based on 2016-17 budget data, only $1 million of the $4.5 million has actually been budgeted for this purpose; the remainder, it appears from the increases in the central office, is being spent by the Asst. Supt for Elementary Administration.  

FWISD central office gets even more while schools suffer.

by Ann Sutherland on 08/05/17

Not only is the old curriculum budget not decreasing, as staff promised us, but it continues to grow.  A lot:

School Site budgets, controlled by the principal:
15-16 actuals $465.8 million
17-18 budget $489.7million
increase:  5.1%

Central office 
15-16 Actuals $166.9 million
17-18 Budget $221.1 million
Increase:  32% over 2 years

If schools get 2% while Charles Carroll, Dr. Washington and Ms. Molinar get 32%, there is something very wrong.

Dr. Washington and Ms. Molinar (part of the above)
Dr. Washington:  $20.1-23.0 over the same interval (1% increase)
Ms. Molinar:  $33.0 -$55.9 million, a 69% increase.

How much of this 69% increase do you think is going to improve student well-being and student performance?  Just askin'.

Aug 8 agenda features bond presentation, another TASB workshop corrected

by Ann Sutherland on 08/04/17


There are a bunch more principal and AP appointments plus a possible termination of a Chapter 21 employee.  No advance information on the proposed termination is available, even to board members.

This will be the only board presentation on the bond prior to the vote on August 15th or August 21st.  So far no information has been made available to the public.  Board members have been given access to fragments of the plan but no overall picture has been made available.

There is no advance powerpoint on the bond as of Friday morning.

The agenda is at 

Do we actually need a billion-dollar bond?

by Ann Sutherland on 07/29/17

Some months ago, the board voted to hire a planning firm to put together a bond proposal.  Progress has been slow as word leaked out that our Facilities Committee (then chaired by Matt Avila, our trustee who runs a construction company) was assembling a $1.9 billion collection of expenditures, including unneeded classrooms and such amenities as dance theaters and black-box theaters.  Additional classrooms were proposed for a number of high schools, including Western Hills and Southwest, both of which have significant vacant space already

The progress of the planning has been kept secret.  At our last meeting the board was handed a glossy, full-colored leaflet, containing skektchy information about proposals for a few schools.  No data was available about other schools, much of the information given was incorrect, and no fiscal data whatsoever was included.  Since then the board has been given nothing even after requests by board members and no amplification has been available.  No information has been available to the public despite a looming decision by the board on whether to proceed slated to take place later this month.

But word has leaked out that the proposed bond will be for 10 years at $950 million, we are told, still with no data.  Staff is excusing this huge proposal by rearranging our property tax rates with no increase in the RATE.  

Meanwhile, for those below age 65, our property tax rate has been INCREASING due to the increase in our assessed value.  

FWISD's enrollment growth has slowed since the 2013 projections (currently 1000 below projections for the 2017-18 school year).  Indeed, while our secondary enrollment is projected to grow some in the coming year, our elementary enrollment is actually projected to decline.  The long-term outlook is cloudy with the increasing pressure from charter and private schools.

We need additional funds for the growth we are experiencing at a few schools.  This can be accomplished with a modest bond of $200-300 million over a much shorter time period.

And with it, a decreased tax rate.

Posts will be less frequent during July

by Ann Sutherland on 06/30/17

I will be taking some time off in July but will be back in August full force.  

Let's get serious about bullying

by Ann Sutherland on 06/30/17

Yesterday I attended the district's celebration event for our substitutes.  Here is one place where staff has made progress.  The substitutes I talked with say the situation is getting worse.  Maybe we need to have a teacher/substitute sick-out day.

The solution is fairly simple:  get rid of 5-10 kids who not only chronically misbehave but are intentionally subversive.  

I will try to get some action from the board.  The principal turnover rate this year is really disturbing.  Over half of the schools in the district I represent are new.

The Five big central office raises

by Ann Sutherland on 06/27/17

These five individuals, and their increased salaries, are;

Clint Bond, PR staff, $107,524.80
McDeny Mojica, IT, $99,988
Tracy Marshall, Grants, $130,00
Jerry Moore, Executive office, $130,000
Ramono Soto, General Counsel, $149,000

I am not aware that these positions were advertised.

They are approved without board vote because the board gave away this right back in the Melody Johnson era.

June 27 Agenda: Budget features 2% raise, more central office expenditures

by Ann Sutherland on 06/23/17

This meeting will be all about money for our operating budget.  The discussion regarding the pending $900 million bond proposal will be postponed until the Facilities Committee decides where they want to spend it.

Per the 2017-18 operating budget, everyone in the district will receive a 2% raise, and no one will have any salary cuts.  However, there are the usual "exceptions", ALL in the central office.  There are a whole flock of reclassifications (up) but five stick out:  $80,000 in raises to five leaders.  My favorite is one who shall unnamed, but I remember when he was raised from $75,000 to $85,000 3 or 4 years ago for doing nothing more.  This individual will now be earning nearly $10000, still for doing the same thing.  This is part of the reason our PR department's budget is increasing 30%

Dr. Scribner has refused to release data regarding the increase in the curriculum/asst. superintendents for elementary and secondary schools funding.  Last year, although we were told the funding would be decreased, it actually went up by $12 million (to $146 million) 

We anticipate enrolling an additional 1000 secondary students but 400 fewer elementary students next year than this year.  Somehow the budget translates this into 41 more ADA (maybe that's why they are usually way under budget at the end of the year).  

The projected general fund budget is $746 million, an increase of $21 million or 2.8%.  Fund balance (that's our savings account) will be reduced by $33 million.

The 2017-18 budget proposes a $20 million increase in expenditures

Psst! More central office activities

by Ann Sutherland on 06/21/17

Someone posted on the CIA blog that there would be two more staff in communications so I thought I would check.

Yep.  29-30% increase (final % is not decided). up about $800,000.

Also, staff is proposing some rearrangement of central office, some raises, and some reclassifications (as from Coord IV to Coord III).  Those whose classification is being reduced will be in jeopardy of losing their positions after one year.  Bad!

Irregularities in sick leave implementation

by Ann Sutherland on 06/21/17

I received the disturbing comment re mishandling of sick leave.  I will post staff's response when they send it (typically about 10 working days--sometimes less).

I have been told by a FWISD employee that we can only use 10 days of sick leave 
in a row, then our pay is stopped until we return to work. EVEN if they have    
more sick days.  This happened to someone I know. Once they returned to work,   
they checked used her sick days and then paid her up to date.  She went a few   
months with no check. She was told there are too many people having babies,     
using their sick leave up, then quitting and the district has overpaid them and 
they can't get their money back.  She told the policy changed two years ago. I  
called HR and tried to verify the policy and was not given a clear              
answer...which likely means this is true.  Can you clarify?

Kudos to staff for the substitute initiative!

by Ann Sutherland on 06/21/17

Our huge list of unfilled absences is improving, thanks to some serious publicity and hiring from Chief of HCM Cynthia Rincon and staff Rosabel Jimenez. While in previous years the number of unfilled slots was increasing dangerously, this year was a dramatic turn-around--AND--we awarded $300,000 in bonus pay to responsive substitutes.  The improvement is clear based on historical April data:

Year      # unfilled absences
2014     1567
2015     2129
2016     2440
2017     1209

Staff plans an expansion of the program next year.

How to contact me

by Ann Sutherland on 06/21/17

I attempt to read and respond to all posts.  If you don't hear in a couple of days, email me again.

Special board meeting 5 pm. June 20

by Ann Sutherland on 06/16/17

There will be public comment (FINALLY getting this straight and also properly listing our get-togethers as "Meetings" wherever there is discussion on any topic.  

The agenda has an exec session involving personnel matters and real property.

In addition, President Jackson has asked for reports in regular session on the following:
--Analysis of the District's Programs of Choice foir 2017-18
--Retire/Rehire surcharge report
--List of employees reassigned to lower pay grades; and
--Employee salary report

As of Friday there is no backup material.

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