Sutherland for Schools blog
My family

Fort Worth ISD Trustee District 6 

Contact 817-504-3360 

Sutherland for Schools blog

June 27 Agenda: Some people are more equal than others.

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.

Board workshop Tues June 6th 5 PM

by Ann Sutherland on 06/02/17

Budget presentation (no questions?) plus more work on the operation of the school district. 

The open meetings law says that in order to ask and answer any questions, it has to be a MEETING, which also means public comment.  However, staff refuses to acknowledge this.

A Tale of Two Principals

by Ann Sutherland on 06/01/17

This news is almost happy enough to be a bedtime story.

When new Southwest principal John Engel arrived, his goal was to improve the Algebra I scores.  Last week the students' passing rate increased by 21 percentage points!  How did this happen?  

Mr. Engel wanted to know what was the best FWISD high school for Algebra I passing scores.  The answer was Western Hills. Then he and the SHS teachers visited the school and talked with the staff.  This is what they learned:
--Some improvement in math staff, including one highly accomplished teacher
--Delegation of the program to the Algebra I teachers abandoning the district curriculum and adapting the lessons to the level of the students.  No more SCAs, and each class moved at its own speed 
--Teachers used a different Algebra textbook
--Same conference periods with time for collaboration and common tests
--Smaller classes (afforded by using Title I funds for one teacher)
--Sponsored out-of-class tutoring

This was implemented by Western Hills principal James Wellman, who was allowed by his director to have a free hand.  Principal Wellman, still in his forties, tragically passed away this year.  But what a gift he left his school, and ours.

Links to 5/24 Tanglewood meeting

by Ann Sutherland on 05/27/17

Dr. Scribner clarified the issues regarding the Tanglewood overcrowding at an overflow meeting on Wed., 5/24. The powerpoint is particularly hepful:

Here is the video of the meeting:

It's all in the staffing. Not in the workshops.

by Ann Sutherland on 05/27/17

Complaints about cronyism on staffing decisions should not fall on deaf ears because hiring the right staff is central to improved success.  Not to "brag" about one school among many that deserve note, but Southwest HS has been working on the staffing of their Algebra teachers hard, and with help from those above them they were able to raise their STAAR test scores by 22% this year.  The key?  Hard work and caring by the leadership.  Principal Engel is also respectful of his teachers.

This is part of the reason that I get so upset about these phony staff development programs.  Hiring the right staff takes work and time.  Decisions made because a director or someone else "knows" a candidate will not necessarily lead to success.  

November bond election?

by Ann Sutherland on 05/27/17

I will not support a bond election until:

--the curriculum operation is cleansed of the worthless programs and workshops that cripple the operation of our classes AND
-- a commitment to clean up our current discipline practices.

PS: no board approval

by Ann Sutherland on 05/24/17

Remember the workshop I attended last week?  I asked yesterday if the board had approved it.  The answer?

"We just spent $5000 per session so it didn't have to go to the board."

Where the curriculum workshops came from

by Ann Sutherland on 05/24/17

This is the real truth.

Back in 1979 and 1980, when property taxes were capped in California, the state government ran out of money.  Education is very strong in Sacramento and we had lots of lobbyists whose job was to bring $$$ to the schools and colleges.

The K-12 lobbyists were terrified that if they didn't bring any increased $$ to their schools, their jobs were jeopardized.  I remember the Los Angeles teacher lobbyist telling one of the finance committee staffers that "he couldn't go home without something".  The Legislature responded by providing a small amount of money for--you guessed it--staff development.

And now we are spending $146 million on the curriculum office.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Time to call out our curriculum department

by Ann Sutherland on 05/23/17

 Like most readers, I have been hugely frustrated over the many workshops and lectures by non-teachers over how we should manage our classrooms.  Last week I attended another one of those, run by attractive women gaily reading still another powerpoint.  This one is builds from the Common Core framework (yes, the CC) and hopes by training young teachers in "social emotional competency", after which the young teachers will train other young teachers through summer workshops.  The workshop was held in the heart of downtown in an expensive venue (with valet parking paid).

Did you hear that Mr. Carroll is going to be re-writing curriculum?  This is too much.  The curriculum already matches the TEKS and it is stuffed with those worthless Short Cycle Assessments (which are still illegal).  This garbage is a huge contributor to our failing urban schools.  It's time to declare independence from the stranglehold of the central office curriculum department.  


If these people are such great teachers, let's put them in classrooms and watch them where they can do some good.

Agenda and Board Book for Tuesday CORRECTED

by Ann Sutherland on 05/19/17

Sorry about the bad link.

The agenda features the election of  and the naming of new principals.  I am getting a lot of new principals; don't know about other trustees'.  

Also the community meeting on the bond is at 6 PM PM 24th in the Paschal Auditorium.

 Welcome to the Sutherland for Schools blog!  I will be posting items here which are of interest to the Fort Worth Independent School District community..  You will find recommended news items on my Twitter feed 
@DrAnnSutherland, and books and longer articles at the "articles" link above.   
You can get new posts automatically by accessing a link on your browser.