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Sutherland for Schools blog

CORRECTION: Board meeting includes new HCM chief, more

by Ann Sutherland on 08/19/16

The agenda is at

A workshop at 4:30 features the superintendent's evaluation, which Trustee Paz has been working hard on. I'm skeptical, since the blueprint was produced by the Council of Chief State School Officers, part of whose interest is in protecting superintendents.  

The new HCM head will be adopted.  I am planning to ask (1) if we can have a written procedure manual for hiring, and for promoting staff, (2) when a REAL staffing ratio will be adopted.  Without dates and a firm commitment from Superintendent Scribner, I will not vote for anyone.

We will be passing the usual tax rate required by law.  No change.  

Responding to the recent CIA complaints, I requested that staff be required to answer the questions posed by board members--and succinctly.  Also (as happened at the Vendor Protest hearing), that the heads of departments be required to report on the situation "rather than hiding behind their staff to avoid responsibility for their poor answers".  Dr. Scribner agreed.    We will see.

Finally, President Ramos has scheduled THREE 3-hour workshops for board members.  This will be FIVE WORKSHOPS since Dr. Scribner arrived.  I am not planning to attend the next three either.  The next three are run by a former fiscal officer who is clueless about educational policy and knows nothing about research findings.  Also there are no decisions made and the subject matter stinks.  The one last fall featured two guys going back and forth with statistics about the Metroplex, plus those hideous table discussions.  There was an excellent closure where each of us wrote our background on those wall sheets.  I managed to stick it out but only barely, and at least one other board member left at lunch.

Lice are allowed, but . . .

by Ann Sutherland on 08/17/16

A reader asked if we allow students to attend school with lice.  

Yes, but parents must be notified via phone and written notice:

FFAD (Regulation) states, in part:
Any student identified with live lice will be sent home at the end of the school day after the school contacts the parent/guardian by phone.  The student should not be excluded from school. 

The parent/guardian will be advised to treat the child for head lice.  Educational materials about treatment and prevention will be given and explained to the parent/guardian.
The parent/guardian should notify close contacts of this diagnosis.
Based on the AAP (2015) recommendations, the school will send alert letters only to parents of students in a classroom if at least 50 

Is the bilingual program causing schools to fail?

by Ann Sutherland on 08/16/16

Here is a huge policy problem.

 Eleven of our 22 failing schools are 6th Grade Centers or Middle Schools.  They enroll only about 1/4 of our students but have 50% of our failing schools, 

 Many of the kids who are failing have been enrolled in bilingual programs for five or six years.  These classes are almost completely segregated by language.  The kids are usually tested in Spanish.

The bilingual program ends after the fifth grade, after which the kids have to be tested in English.  According to this year's report, these are the schools that are failing.  

Most of these schools are heavily ELL schools.  Although a growing number of our kids are ELLs with other home languages, most are Spanish-speaking. 

Is our policy of teaching these kids in Spanish making it harder for them to succeed?  FWISD staunchly maintains that the kids do better in Spanish but as they are not tested in English during these years,  it is impossible for the community to know. Are we making it hard for these kids to succeed by teaching them to read and write in Spanish?

Here are the schools:

Glencrest Sixth Grade Center
Rosemont Sixth Grade Center
Wedgwood Sixth Grade Center
Daggett Middle School
Forest Oak Middle School
Handley Middle School
Jacquet Middle School
Leonard Middle School
McClung Middle School
Morningside Middle School
Riverside Middle School

Total FWISD funding

by Ann Sutherland on 08/10/16

The total funds we control are about $1.5 billion, of which about $490 million is in the CIP program.  The CIP funds are spent over several years.  Still, it would be reasonable to say that the operating funds of the district are in the neighborhood of $1 billion.

Thanks to Lori Boswell for this information.  I erred last night in thinking I had not received it.


by Ann Sutherland on 08/09/16

One Eastside teacher reports that rats are leaving droppings all over, that there are rat holes (which teachers are told to cover up with Duct Tape), and that there are rat urine stains on the ceiling tiles.

This must be corrected, as it may be a violation of the health code.  Are there rat problem at your school?  Please let me know.

Strong support for Mr. Palazzolo from central office staff

by Ann Sutherland on 08/08/16

This is from the CIAFWISD website.  I am posting it for your edification:

Ann, I work in Central Administration and have intimate knowledge of the Palazzolo case and many other employees who are selected for termination. A fellow worker has already commented that we witnessed Needham instruct Robert Ray to take action against Palazzolo. We also witnessed Reyna remove Palazzolo's personnel file from the record vault and keep it unsecured on her desk for over a year. Larry Shaw was made aware of this and it was he who sounded the alarm to Palazzolo. Documents were removed and attempts to alter his application failed. THAT is why his original application no longer exists. I write you now to tell you and readers here that you have been lied to about the amount of money spent and incurred on legal fees and expenses in the name of FWISD on the Palazzolo matter. The real figure is over three times the amount you have been told. I will also tell you that the broadcast of the Board meeting by Dansby was no accident. You should remember and find it odd that Sims of all people on the Board, played a major speaking role that night. It was all part of a plan to humiliate Palazzolo into accepting a cash settlement instead of reinstatement as had been agreed to between Dansby. Brandt, Carrillo and Palazzolo's attorney. Why? Money. The answer may in part be owing to who represented Sims when he was indicted. It is our intent to go to Joe's attorneys with this information for inclusion in the new trial. Scribner is also aware that the figures they are giving you are false as are Needham, Ramos, Jackson, and Robbins. I also posted this comment in the previous story yesterday.

Agenda and board book for Tuesday, August 10

by Ann Sutherland on 08/05/16

Hot August Nights may be upon us but this agenda is relatively tame, aside from the resignation list. 

--as in the July 19th list, 100 teachers have resigned.  Some of them--34--resigned as of Jan 8, 2016.  I will ask if these slots were filled by substitutes for the second semester (!).  Also some of the resignations were for the 2017 and 2018 school years (???).  There will also be another principal appointment.
--There is a proposal to change the teacher and principal assessment systems from PDAS to something called T-TESS.
--I am told there will be revisions to the Student Code of Conduct but they are not included here.

Also there is an ominous looking report from our new Equity Committee.  It looks to me as if our solution to the problem of classroom discipline will be to recommend more programs to fix a few kids.

As most of you know, the agenda and board book are available at 

Palazzolo fees were $423,653.58 through 10/15/2015

by Ann Sutherland on 08/05/16

Responding to my open records request, the district reports this level of expenditures through 10/15 of last year.  I don't know why the last 10 months was left off but have asked for an explanation.

If you want to see the list, email me at

Supreme Court blocks transgender ruling

by Ann Sutherland on 08/04/16

In case you missed this, the US supreme court blocked implementation of the appellate court's ruling in favor of the student who wants to use boys' bathroom and locker facilities pending the school district's appeal.

It remains unclear whether the US Office of Civil Rights will try to implement the requirement, as its guideline was issued prior to the appellate court's ruling enforcing the student's right to use the opposite sex bathroom and locker facilities.

Remand of Palazzolo decision

by Ann Sutherland on 07/30/16

It doesn't take a violation of the legal requirements for privacy to cite the likely options FWISD has in this case:

reinstate Mr. Palazzolo
retry the case
negotiate an out-of-court set.lement.
No decision has been reached by the board.
There is a period of time in which we can re-file; I have no idea.

Regarding the FWISD exposure, this case is covered by the insurance policy we had with TASB, which pays everything above $100,000.  If there were a settlement, this amount might change.

FWISD has been less than evenhanded in our treatment of employees in this situation.

Yes, Virginia, it's true. There is no hope.

by Ann Sutherland on 07/21/16

There is no Santa Claus, and there's no hope for this district either.  Neither for our purchasing nor for our educational support.

On the purchasing front, the board just approved another half-million dollar purchase of pianos and accessories, the third of five of the $2.5 million voted for two years ago. They voted despite a clear presentation that:
--the needs analysis was done by a Dallas piano company under the "leadership" of the former director of music and came out to exactly $2.5 million;
--the RFP was constructed according to their needs analysis;
--the "evaluation" said they were best qualified;
--no principals were consulted about their needs;
--no evaluation of whether the pianos would repairable was conducted ("it would cost too much") according to our staff;
--my own mini-evaluation of the last two years indicated that, except for one piano which,  in nearly every case the pianos just needed tuning ("some of them can't keep a tune." "Do you know which ones?" "No it would cost too much to find out so we're just going to replace them" (this last is a paraphrase).
When, prior to the board meeting I notified the board and Dr. Scribner that I thought it was a mistake, Dr.. Scribner actually called me and asked what I would like to do with the item.  I replied that it should be pulled for further analysis.  But after conferring with the board president, he backed down.
If you saw the board meeting, you would know that Trustee Christene Moss actually said the proposal to remove it violated our equity policy, and she is the chair of the equity committee!  (The schools were to have been refreshed based on the level of need as determined by the piano company.)
I was the only vote for this review.  

The other item was the "presentation" on the notorious Dii proposal, which contained no information regarding its value to the classroom.  I was embarrassed for the presenters, who have to know better.

As one reader wrote after the meeting, "Ann, I don't know how you can remain so calm with this stuff."  

I can remain (pretty) calm.  We have many dedicated and talented teachers and school site staff, whom I have been privileged to get to know.  But I am telling you, I have studied this situation for 6+ years and there is no hope for any real change in this or any other major public school district.

I may write more later, but for now this is it.

Scribner manages a "save" on the transgender issue

by Ann Sutherland on 07/20/16

After getting us in a huge hole over an issue affecting a handful of people, I have to admit it:  Dr. Scribner has produced a fine, balanced regulation which should satisfy anyone who wants a solution, aided by attorney Brian Newby ans his staff.

The regulation provides that parents of transgender students notify administrators of the student's needs.  This follows the formation of a committee, as in a 504 situation (which it really is) to develop a program which meets the students' needs 

The use of opposite-sex bathrooms and locker rooms may be part of the solution, but is not required.  

Where did the "singleness of purpose" motto come from?

by Ann Sutherland on 07/17/16

An alert reader of this blog relates it to the Alcohics Anonymous motto.

Agenda for July 19 meeting

by Ann Sutherland on 07/16/16

Tuesday's meeting includes two new curriculum appointments one, an Asst. Supt. and the other an Exec. Director.  BOTH are from out of district!  Yay!

Also nearly 100 Chapter 21 resignations (almost all teachers) from school sites.

The Executive Session agenda includes an item added after the agenda had been reviewed on Wed:  "Legal Advice on Freedom from Discrimination Policy" which presumably tells the board we don't have to vote on the new transgender policy.

Also nearly $500,000 for more new pianos.

No $12K raise for reassigned principal

by Ann Sutherland on 07/14/16

We had a recent controversial reassignment of one of our principals, and it is reported elsewhere that it involved a raise.  I have checked the settlement agreement and there is no raise.

This reassignment is following written district policy and will involve no sleight-of-hand.  When a staff member is reassigned to a position which pays less than the existing position, the practice is to leave the existing salary in place for one year and then reduce it to the defined level the next year.  In this case the policy is being followed correctly.

The controversial raises happen during the reclassification of existing positions which was heavily practiced during the previous to superintendencies.  One cost us an annual $2.4 million for central office raises and was done secretly.   It figured prominently in the departure of that superintendent.

It will be hard for the board to stop all job reclassifications, but I do not think there will be the same level of actions as happened during the last few years.

For one thing, I expect the audit committee to review reclassifications for the entire district in an upcoming audit.  I intend for readiers to receive the results of this audit just as you have received a summary of the previous massive reclassifications.

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