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I'm thankful for teachers this Thanksgiving

by Ann Sutherland on 11/27/14

It is amazing what our teachers are teaching about these days.  Last night my 3 grandchildren shared stories of their joy at different things they are learning--music, business, science.  So much is new since I was in high school (beginning with DNA--the 5th grader talked about the way a virus enters a cell . . .) 

I am thankful for all you teachers who take charge of the education of our children. So often we forget how much studying was involved. 

Trustee elections May 9th 2015. I'm running!

by Ann Sutherland on 11/24/14

It is incredibly important that the board have someone who keeps their eyes on our tax dollars and who is not afraid to speak uncomfortable truths when necessary.  This, and issues with our curriculum, is why I will run again.

Powerful interests with agendas different from ours will be working to replace me.  The only question is whether we will be able to let them.  I've planned a vigorous campaign and you will be able to lend a hand if you wish.

Candidates file in early February.  

Substitute availability is better but still below target

by Ann Sutherland on 11/23/14

Readers may recall that the district responded to our request to improve the availability of subs.  They increased the salary by a small amount and also established pyramid substitutes, who work every day, get paid better, and can get health benefits.  The goal was to reduce the lack of availability to 5% of the teacher requests. 

Thanks to Sammy Monge for the quick turn-around.

The data for September and October is below.  We do have better coverage (last year was  5.6% for Sept. and 11.9% in Oct.).  It gets heavier later in the year. But we aren't hitting 5% yet, and the holidays and winter are approaching.  

     September        October
High school 62 3.50% 126 4.80%
Middle School 120 7.80% 210 9.50%
Elementary school 191 5.20% 379 7.40%
Other schools 5 2.40% 27 10.10%

REVISED: They don't live in the district

by Ann Sutherland on 11/20/14

In response to at least one request, here are five senior staff who, according to Dr. Linares, do not live in the district.  This is required by policy which was adopted by our board.  Because it has not been followed in recent years, I believe staff should be given a period of time in which to re-locate.

1.  Counsel Valerie Carrillo (Counsel Carrillo was told by Superintendent Dansbby that she did not have to live in the district.  She also contends that, strictly speaking, she is not covered by this policy.)
2.  Dr. Sharon Meng
3.  Barbara Griffith (Ms. Griffith was 'guaranteed' there would be no problem with her residence when she came on board under Dr. Johnson.)
4.  Board auditor Steve Shepherd
5.  Acting CFO Elsie Schiro (who lives across the street from the district and will be moving into the district) 
I understand one of these individuals has issued a strong complaint to President Robbins about having this situation publicized here.  However, neither Dr. Linares nor President Robbins is in charge of this website, and while I am sympathetic to the needs of children (that's partly why I won't publish complaints about other board members), they should address the responsible party.   

BTW, we specifically allowed Mr. Johnson to move out of his apartment and return home for valid personal reasons.  He asked for this vote.  Nobody else has done this.  

Comments on other board members

by Ann Sutherland on 11/19/14

Dear readers,

We are entering another election season, with trustee elections next May.  The seats of trustees Moss, Needham, Jackson and mine are up for re-election.
I am not going to publish comments about these other trustees during this season.  

Artificial turf / Technology Refresh schedules / bond contingency list

by Ann Sutherland on 11/19/14

The Nov 17 Bond Citizens Oversight Committee meeting featured a lively discussion about the need for artificial turf. Parent and COC member Jennifer Frank and I spoke on the need for local option on the turf which I believe the board approved subject to campus wishes.  Thanks to chairman Isaac Manning for permitting this conversation.

We also received the schedule of laptop and other refresh schedules which is at the "data" tab.  Included are schools and dates re:
Distance learning centers (p. 1)
Promethean projectors (pp. 2 & 3)
Laptop refresh (pp. 4, 5)
Desktop refresh (pp. 6, 7)
IT infrastructure activities (p. 8)
Upgrades for kids' individual computers (p. 9)
On p. 10 is the list of $49 million in projects to be deferred in case there is not enough money, due either to (a) increases in local costs (which seems real) or to (b) some misses in projected project cost.  These are in p. 10 Some of (b) is inescapable in a project this size.  I have issues with the $6 million in deferred maintenance.  Our schools need to show kids that they are important and these funds are needed now.

One set of scores from the last SCA

by Ann Sutherland on 11/14/14

In today's post, asks where the scores are.  Here is one, at the "data" tab.  Sorry, I can't get it to be the right way.

This reading administration indicates that fewer than 2% of the students got all the questions right; based on the different classifications of students, most got fewer than 60% correct.

The board will vote on whether to continue this at the Dec meeting.

Agenda for Citizens Oversight Committee meeting Monday

by Ann Sutherland on 11/14/14

The agenda for the COC meeting at Monday at 6 p.m. in the board conference room is posted on the FWISD website on the left-hand side under "board committees".

It will include not only the Visual and Performing Arts school (which was remanded to staff for review) but the STEM academy, which will be at the old Leonard campus.

There may be a discussion of the $1 million  allocation for athletic facilities which the board voted on Sept. 9th.

Artificial Turf:  I will also be holding a  community meeting on the 4th of December, 6:30 p.m, at Unity Church, 5051 Trail Lake just south of I-20, to discuss the use of the $1 million allocation for artificial turf.  All are invited.

They will have to live in the district.

by Ann Sutherland on 11/12/14

The proposal on Tuesday's board meeting to eliminate the requirement that senior staff reside in the district was sent back to staff (effectively killed).

This is because y'all sent letters, emails and blog posts to your members.

Transparency alert:  this was put on the agenda because we board members said to do it.  I don't know exactly where it originated but we were the ones that did it.

Central office can't improve schools

by Ann Sutherland on 11/12/14

The literature on school reform shouts that it can't be done from the central office, but central offices across the country, including ours, manage to ignore the facts.

Last night we had a wonderful presentation on teaching reading by Dr. Sorum with support from Sherry Breed and Carolyne Creel.  We have two new knowledgeable reading specialists, Jo Ann Angelini and ___________.   I was pleased and I think other board members were also.

Then I come home, check my email, and read this:

I am a 3rd grade reading teacher at ---------  I attended waiver day at Meecham Middle School yesterday.
My morning presenter seemed unorganized like the information was just given to her.  I did hear that a consultant whose last name is 
Angeline changed what the presenters were originally going to present.  This was done at the end of last week.
The first thing that was given to us was how to read a STAAR passage.  Waste of time. 
Then after break we were given the new way we are to conduct our reading classes weekly.  
Monday we are to present the concepts, genres, vocabulary to the whole group.  
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday we are to conduct small group guided reading.  
Friday we are to STAAR practice stories WITH the students to give them the idea how to read these STAAR Like passages.  We aren’t to take a 
grade on Friday’s passages because we are practicing with them.  Which this time taken to do these readings takes away our weekly test to see if
the students are understanding the concepts we have given them for the week.  I asked, the people at my table asked how are we supposed to get
grades.  The presenter skirted around this question.  I asked where these STAAR Like passages are coming from.  She said they will be available on 
the frameworks.  I again asked who is writing the passages and questions and the presenter would only keep telling us they are available on the frameworks.
Then I asked why we didn’t start this M-F class set up at the beginning of the year.  I was given a response" wouldn’t you want to fix something if it was broken?? “
The presenter in the morning and afternoon acted as if we were supposed to implement this new way of teaching today. 
We asked about testing, we were not given answers.  
Then today I received our SCA for this week.  We taught biographies for the past 3 weeks.  I used STAAR format story and questions from the frameworks on 
David Crockett for part of my biography test.  The SCA is one story on David Crockett.  Different look to the story but basically we front loaded our students without 
knowing that there would be a test over the same topic.  Really???  
I do not understand the direction or lack of direction of FWISD.  I love watching my students learn.  It has becoming increasingly difficult this year.  
Frustration level is very high.  I am encouraging my coworkers to email you.  I hope they do.

Please share my passage but I would prefer my name and school be withheld. 
Thank you for standing up for us.

No More Handouts the public can't see ahead of time!!

by Ann Sutherland on 11/12/14

Last night, I finally "lost my temper" with the last-minute handouts of budget data AND Short Cycle Assessments AND the Truancy court AND the literacy program.  EVEN the reconstitution plans for several schools!  No more!!! If they can't get the docs out on Thursday night I don't want to receive them.

Thanks to Trustee Ramos' bringing it up, we had a little "come to Jesus" session during our executive session, partly because board members want the district to follow board policy.  I mentioned my frustration, (and yours, too, readers!) at never being able to review documents.  We told the board we wanted ALL presentations handed out the previous Thursday when the board gets their agenda and board book.

Now, if we can just get the documents posted where you and I can find them . . .

2015-16 calendar needs comments

by Ann Sutherland on 11/08/14

The FWISD District Advisory Committee (DAC) has asked for community and parent input on the 2015-2016 school calendar.  The issue is whether or not you want the fall semester to end before the winter break, or to have semester final exams after students return in January.  Which is more important to you, Thanksgiving vacation vs Christmas break, vs. teacher workdays, vs. spring break?
>> School must be in session for at least 180 days/year.  The TX legislature has dictated that students may not begin classes prior to August 24, 2015. 
>> For high school one semester courses, like Health or Government, it might be preferable for students to attend the same number of days in each class, (90 days in fall and 90 days in spring) in order for the teacher cover the same amount of subject material.  
>> For 2-semester courses like English or Algebra, the teachers and students will be able to cover the material they need to learn in the 180 days that they must attend school.  They could take the semester exams at any time, without deleting any important material.
>> Elementary teachers tell me that their students are not affected academically by the final date of the semester.  However, this might have an impact for those families planning vacations who have children in both elementary and secondary schools.
>>Please send any comments to the DAC or post them here.  >> 

Nov 11 Agenda features new budget, SCA, approval of STEM and performing arts center

by Ann Sutherland on 11/07/14

The discussion on short cycle assessments will be interesting but there will be no vote.

We will also review and approve the annual audit and certain personnel matters.

The board book is available on the "data" tab for you.

Nov 5 Board workshop on bond issues

by Ann Sutherland on 11/05/14

The board will receive a report Wed @ 5:30 p.m. on the progress of the bond.  This is a workshop; no decisions will be made.  However these workshops often form the basis of a proposal so the deliberations are important.

Where are those classes that exceed state law?

by Ann Sutherland on 10/24/14

Chief Monge provided us with a spreadsheet which I am summarizing below.  If you want the whole spreadsheet, send me an email at

East Side:    District 3 (Jackson)  63 classrooms
                    District 2 (Moss)      44 classrooms
                    District 4 (Sims)      39 classrooms

Three of Mrs. Moss's schools are very impacted:  Bill Elliott (12), West Handley (18) and John T. White (12)  No other trustee has this much impaction.  

"Center"     Northside (Ramos)   23 classrooms
   Downtown, Riverside, Southside (Paz)   51 classrooms

Westside    Needham  39 classrooms
                   Sutherland  20 classrooms
                   Robbins      17 classrooms

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