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Sutherland for Schools blog

Yuck! More raises for outside-the-classroom people

by Ann Sutherland on 01/25/15

There is even a principal in here . . . but most are central office.  The excuse is this was "mistakes" made when they gave out the $2.4 million in raises last June.  I will update this with the total annual cost when I get it.

It's at the "Data" point and I will post it by 1 p.m. Sunday.

Here are board policies and all official rules

by Ann Sutherland on 01/22/15

After some effort, Valerie Carrillo, our chief counsel, has submitted a list of all rules.  They aren't very easy to search but are posted on the "Data" tab.  They are current as of 1/15/2015.

Our bullying policy

by Ann Sutherland on 01/21/15

Here is what a nationally recognized expert on workplace bullying thinks about FWISD's policy and its implementation:

I had spoken to Mr. Dansby a while ago about this same issue so I am 
> aware of the conflict within your district regarding bullying and as I 
> told him your measures to deal with this problem are inadequate and 
> cannot me handled by inexperienced individuals and cannot be fairly 
> managed internally at this point. Honestly, you need a complete 
> program and not a fragmented process that will only create additional 
> issues for you. 

I will follow up.

Update on superintendent search

by Ann Sutherland on 01/19/15

A couple of meeting times have been changed, but we are moving along on the schedule I posted earlier.  It looks like an announcement should be made around the first of February.  The name of the finalist (or finalists) must be circulated for 3 weeks before she/he is hired.

The Star-Telegram indicated that the new superintendent would not be in office until after the school year is over.  This was never discussed by the board.

Gresham's law of urban education

by Ann Sutherland on 01/15/15

In economics, Gresham's Law describes a situation where, when a country debases the currency by creating, say, silver that isn't pure, the pure silver gradually gets taken out of circulation because it is worth more later.

I suggest that Gresham's Law of Education is where bad management or bad teaching is driving out good teachers, who can get more results elsewhere. I posted this as a comment but it needs a higher profile.

The education corollary is playing out with the SCAs.  We have people writing the SCAs who are not true leaders--they do not know enough about test writing and academics to prevail over many better-educated and better trained teachers.

Adam Boyette did us a huge favor by collecting the various sorts of problems with the tests and sending them to me.  The letter he wrote is a cry for help.  It will also appear on the "data tab" shortly.

Teachers are indebted to parents because, unlike teachers, they can speak up without suffering consequences.  They protect the professionals.

I will raise this issue again on January 27.

Some examples of SCA questions

by Ann Sutherland on 01/13/15

Mr. Adam Boyette, parent of a third grader, brought home these examples.  They are at the "data" tab.

I will read a letter from him and hand copies out to some people tonight.

Official list of affected senior FWISD staff

by Ann Sutherland on 01/10/15

Following is the list of staff who are required to live within the district boundaries.  Three (possibly 4) do not reside within the boundaries.  I have asked Dr. Linares to provide us with actions taken regarding these individuals:

Michael Sorum, Sherry Breed, Art Cavazos, Kyle Davie, Sammy Monge, Steve Shepherd, Valerie Carrillo, Sharon Meng, Margaret Balandran, and Mauro Serrano

She indicates that Mr. Shepherd, Ms. Carrillo and Mrs. Meng live outside the district.  I believe that Elsie Schiro should also be included in this list and that she also lives outside the district.  

Revised: Attorney says testing schedule shouldn't be revisited now

by Ann Sutherland on 01/09/15

Our old board attorney, Rhonda Crause, has been working hard to earn her keep.  Dr. Linares asked her for an opinion on stopping the SCA tests.  Guess what her response is???  Basically, that this would not be a good idea since we already adopted the year's plan.  (Nothing about how the plan didn't talk about testing every 3 weeks nor any acknowledgement that this violates state law).  But she didn't say we could't discuss it, yet President Robbins won't put it on the agenda--another violation of board policy.

Superintendent search update / need questions for Mon. Jan 12 workshop

by Ann Sutherland on 01/09/15

Here is the calendar for the superintendent search.  The final interviews are scheduled for January 26.

The first meeting to review applicants for Superintendent will be held at the Board conference room on January 12 at 5:30 p.m.  Candidates will be seen on videotape for our review.

The first round of in-person interviews will be held at 5:30 pm on Tuesday. 1/20 and Wednesday, 1/21 in a location to be determined.

The final interviews will be scheduled all day on Monday, January 26 in a place to be determined. 

It is possible that the final candidate or candidates will be announced on Jan 26.  

Agenda up / "Iarth" bumper stickers??

by Ann Sutherland on 01/09/15

Agenda and board packet are up on the "data" tab of this website.

Once again, staff and FWISD Board President Norman Robbins violate board policy (an extension of state law) by leaving the issue of the SCAs off the agenda.  I reminded him and the entire board earlier this week, in time for the placement via the Board Agenda Review on Wednesday.

I spoke with Interim Superintendent Linares earlier this week re this but she did not tell me what her plans are.  I hope staff will announce the cessation of this illegal testing at the meeting on Tuesday.  If it does, it will be you readers that are responsible because the postings on Facebook,, and this site make it clear the practice is indefensible.  

Do we need bumper stickers that say "Save our Iarth??  Maybe that will be the next move . . . 

Elementary campus security update

by Ann Sutherland on 01/09/15

All elementary campuses will have their security upgrades by February 2nd.  The trial of 4 campuses was completed by Oct 15, additional campuses were added on Nov. 3, and now we will be complete.  Thanks to Mr. Cavazos for reminding me of this schedule.

Teachers, are your credentials current?

by Ann Sutherland on 01/04/15

A recent audit revealed that part of one small group of teachers are working with expired credentials.  It may be that HCM is not properly monitoring this.  State law requires that all teachers possess valid credentials.  If you are a teacher, please make sure yours is current--because you may not be able to count on HCM to remind you.

The high cost of whistleblowing

by Ann Sutherland on 12/30/14

I've never posted a newspaper article here but this morning's Star-Telegram article on the treatment given to federal whistleblowers just has to be publicized in our community which is still suffering over the Palazzolo lawsuit.  Here is the link:

(oh wait there is no available link online!)

McClatchy journalist Marisa Taylor has been researching this for several years. She says those who expose high-profile misdeeds are punished for speaking out--8,700 complaints from defense and intelligence employees have been filed since 9-11; assertions that filings have been intentionally altered (this is happening in FW as we speak); supervisors lying at hearings (this too).  

Taylor reports that one organization designed to help stop this advises those with evidence of misdeeds to STAY AWAY FROM ESTABLISHED CHANNELS such as the FWISD grievance procedure.  "In our experience they've been a Trojan Horse, a trap that ends up sucking the whistleblower into a long-term process that predictably ends up with the whistleblower as one target."  (Hello, Joe . . .)

The denial at the federal level goes all the way up to President Obama who defended the impotent system in place for federal whistleblowers.  (Six board members voted to fire Joe.  Two who voted "no" have since been replaced.)

Some class size waiver requests denied

by Ann Sutherland on 12/21/14

Increasing the central office staffing without reducing class size, as we did with the last budget, is having an impact.Of the 300 waiver requests submitted (this goes by grade) the following were denied by TEA on Nov 20:

Christene C Moss K,1,4
Maude I. Logan K
SS Dillow K,1,4
Harlean Beal 2,4
John T. White 1,2,3
Sunrise McMillan 2
Atwood McDonakd  K,1,3,4
I M Terrell K

  If you have 22 students in a grade K-4 classroom and they give you a 23rd, the board is required to apply for a waiver to TEA within 30 days.  Keep track of the # of days after your child is enrolled and let me know.

Education's Big Lie

by Ann Sutherland on 12/18/14

It's come to this.  Earlier this month our board held a workshop on our goals which was excellent; we came together on three major goals which, if followed, will make our district better.  We all agreed, and the list will be presented at the Jan. 13 meeting.

But I have to withdraw my support of one:  that all children can achieve at "grade level".  Here is the email I sent to my colleagues this morning:

I am withdrawing my support of this provision because student performance on tests stems in large part (about half) from student background characteristics, and because in the United States we are such a disparate group of people--statistically very much more diverse than in any other culture I am aware of.  I can give you data if you wish.

You need to know that this is a major reason for state assessments' changing to the criterion referenced tests that the STAAR and other state tests are built on.  It's because it reduces the difference between students.  It also enables states to lower the passing rate. It's why Mississippi, with the highest state passing rate in the nation, has the lowest student performance rate on the NAEP.

I discussed this with Mr. Dansby when he was superintendent.  He believes, as I do, that all children can learn.  Both we and they can do better.  

But I do not believe that all children can perform at grade level, unless "grade level" is made so low as to be of limited utility, as has been done in the past with our state tests.  More recently, state policymakers are raising the passing score in the mistaken notion that all kids can be "made" to pass them. Then, when schools fail to measure up, the principals and teachers are blamed.

Sometimes the principals and teachers should be blamed for failing to work to children's profit.  But just to give you a picture of the imprecision of these measures, California used to do predictions of the adequacy of school performance.  But they never said "pass" or "fail".  Rather, they gave the schools a range of the middle 50% of like schools for the school to measure itself on.  They knew that the comparison measures could not adequately measure the difference between schools.

Make no mistake:  schools make a HUGE difference in our society.  But the tests don't measure the difference between 'school' and 'not school'.  Instead, they measure the difference between one student and others.  Although individual children, and small groups of children, can be moved to parity, no one has figured out how to move large groups children with disparate performance profiles to parity. 

And states' insistence on shifting the conversation from the effect of schools to the effect of teachers, led by people who have little or no classroom experience, is killing our urban schools.

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