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Sutherland for Schools blog

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",

Agenda and Board Book for Aug 11 meeting available

by Ann Sutherland on 08/07/15

The packet is on the "information" tab.  Included are AVID support for first-generation college goers,state waivers for ADA for pregnancy-related education and services; two grievances.

At the last meeting, issues were raised regarding our social studies textbooks.  The complaints related to sections of the 8th and 11th grade U.S. History texts; speakers complained that (a) the argument that the civil war was caused by "sectionalism, states' rights and slavery" in that order understates the overarching role of slavery in the war and (b) that Jim Crow laws do not properly convey the level of discrimination visited on newly freed African Americans.

Staff and board members Tobi Jackson, T.A. Sims and Christene Moss met with those who presented at the last board meeting.  Supplementary material will be prepared for our classes to address the issues properly, in time for the subjects' normal presentation in our classes.  Thanks to them for addressing the issue quickly.  We will update when staff completes this preparation.  

Want to make a great contribution to a child? It's easy.

by Ann Sutherland on 08/06/15

Trinity Episcopal Church started a mentoring program for McLean 6th students who are behind.  It's been a huge success.  Now they are asking their church members to volunteer for the 3rd year.  Here's their write-up if you are interested. 

FWISD spends  a lot of money on extra projects to help kids who are struggling.  I believe that it's the people who share their lives with children who make a difference rather than another "innovation".  A strong leader can start this program at any school.

Angela DeSalvo, the reading specialist at McLean 6th, coordinates their program.  The McLean phone # is 817-814-5700.  

If you want to make a difference and have 45 minutes a week to listen to a child, you will.

HCM, Supt. search

by Ann Sutherland on 08/02/15

Readers, I haven't changed my mind re HCM; I have talked to the board in exec session and privately to President Ramos Dr. Linares about it.  The problem is that board members have little control over staff aside from approving appointments above the principal level.  You will remember that I have voted against all raises and the recent appointments.  I believe the vote on these was 6-3, which shows that there is concern about staffing at the board level.

You may know that the board's role is restricted to hiring the superintendent, passing the budget (and all outside contracts over $50,000), and voting for policy.  Moreover when staff doesn't follow policy, there is no recourse unless a majority of the board wants to take action.

RE the superintendent search:  we have begun interviews.  They are going well.  I hope we have news for all of you within a couple of weeks.  (BTW no previous superintendents and interim superintendents have applied.)

Slavery and our new social studies texts

by Ann Sutherland on 07/23/15

Much public comment at our Tuesday board meeting involved concerns about the handling of the causes of the civil war.  Specifically, the TEKS list slavery third among the causes of the civil war even though most observers would list it as first.  

Our board will require review of texts and other materials to ensure students have adequate exposure to the causes of the civil war.  This review will begin immediately and will be completed in time for inclusion in 8th grade US History this coming year.

I talked to Pat Hardy, District Six's State Board of Ed representative and a social studies expert about this.  She had some helpful comments:
--TEKS require what must be included, not what else can be included
--Textbooks are no longer required to be approved by the SBOE.  Rather, as long as textbooks include the TEKS they are acceptable in Texas.  For this reason, publishers are no longer held to Texas-approved texts.
--Eighth grade US History in Texas only goes through the civil war (thus nothing about Jim Crow, which arose after Plessy v Ferguson (1896), the US Supreme Court case which led to segregation in schools and public facilities.  Eleventh grade US History goes from the civil war to the present.

Jobs for our new superintendent

by Ann Sutherland on 07/22/15

Every institution the size of FWISD has situations where staff do not live up to prescribed standards.  When this happens, the health of  the institution depends upon leadership addressing the substandard action.  Otherwise, the quality of the whole instution suffers as does its reputation.

This spring a proposal was brought forth to consolidate the operations of our two credit recovery programs.  The board adopted the recommendation even though several citizens had indicated problems with the decision.  After the adoption, investigation revealed serious problems with the procedures followed.  Most troubling was that software for an unsuitable version of one of the software programs had been substituted for the version which had been in use.  Thus the evaluation of applicant programs could not have been completed fairly.

After the board's decision there were several other complaints from parents about the decision and about the management of the program.

A second major problem with the board's selection, I was told, relates to records of student progress in our credit recovery system.  Without this record, student grades can be changed without any record of who is making the change or what changes had been made.

To my knowledge, no actions have been taken to rectify either the bad choice or to sanction the individuals involved.  

Our new superintendent will need to take a stronger stance.

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