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Sutherland for Schools blog

The budget dance

by Ann Sutherland on 04/17/19

So it's the day after Income Tax and we're having another budget workshop.  That's workshop, not hearing.  In the back room, with no cameras.  It appears that public comment will not be possible until well into May.

In the 2017-18 year, there was a huge discrepancy between the adopted budget, which predicted a $48 million deficit, and the audit of the year, which showed a $23.3 million surplus.  Approved for expenditure, but not spent, was $26 million in instructional staff and supplies.  Essentially, these funds went into the bank, not the classroom.

Schools are getting a smaller slice of the pie.  Over the past five years the percentage of dollars directed by the central office has increased from 22.5 to 25.1%.  And our district standing among major Texas districts hasn't changed.

Board members must insist on a balanced budget with real, verifiable numbers.  And Dr. Scribner needs to stand behind reasonable requests for information.

Showdown at the FWISD grievance hearing

by Ann Sutherland on 04/12/19

There's been a lot of angst about an unusual complaint against a former AP at Daggett Montessori School by a parent who is also a teacher in the district.  The issue appeared to be whether the AP threatened to harm the career of the parent/teacher.  Unfortunately, when one of the board members (me) asked staff whether they agreed this was the issue, Mary Ellen Hicks, the grievant's representative, lashed into an egregiously abusive take-down over the silliness of the question, amplified by Cinto Ramos' helpful assertion that the question was improper.  

Ahh.  The truth comes out.  The reason for the grievance wasn't to get justice for grievant Brandy Pace.  Rather, it was an excuse for Paz/Ramos to push through a resolution stating that the district acknowledges that it, like other urban districts, has a lot to do to provide justice for minority populations, whether racial or cultural. 

UEA files grievance against the Food Service RFP

by Ann Sutherland on 04/12/19

"UEA has filed a Level 3 Grievance Appeal regarding the Food Service RFP.  I respectfully request the grievance be heard by the board before decisions are made on the possible outsourcing of the Food Service program.  The appeal was filed with Employee Relations this Monday.  Thank you for your consideration."

Good for them.

Racism at the Bus barn

by Ann Sutherland on 04/11/19

The Texas State Teachers Assn. rep has formally complained to FWISD about disparate treatment of African American bus drivers at the Clark bus lot.  He has received a number of complaints about harassment.

It doesn't sound like restorative justice is working out there, boys and girls.

Racial issues aside, we cannot afford to lose bus drivers . . . we're short already.  Mr. Cavazos has promised to investigate.  Let's hope he puts a stop to it.

Coach shifted for poor performance

by Ann Sutherland on 04/09/19

Someone sent me a complaint three weeks ago about a coach who, though remaining otherwise employed at the school, was stripped of his coaching duties.

I promised to check.

The complaint queried whether the following were considered:

overall win/loss record
overall district win/loss record
number of playoff appearance
number of student-athletes receiving athletic or academic scholarships

In response, the principal  has affirmed that these were the reasons, plus others

Secondary core teachers will teach only 6 classes in 2019-20

by Ann Sutherland on 04/06/19

I am posting this because I was informed at Anne Darr's fundraiser last week that some teachers are being assigned seven.  If you are asked to teach seven, you should call your employee representative.

I'm still checking about whether there will be more cuts for secondary teachers.  That was the plan announced during past budget deliberations.  This is very worrisome as the student loads for teachers are have been increased the last two years.  (I've also asked for proof that loads correspond to other urban districts.)

Restorative Discipline and other reforms found to worsen school climate

by Ann Sutherland on 03/28/19

Major study of NY city public schools:  Climate "deteriorated rapidly" when schools were prevented from suspending students without central office approval.

Interruptions to middle-school math classes

by Ann Sutherland on 03/28/19

Interruptions to Instructional Days in Math 2018-2019

Total Student Days = 176

Non-Instructional Days

            First week of school (First 5)                                      5 days

            MAP Testing   BOY                                                   4 days

                                    MOY                                                   3 days

                                    EOY                                                    3 days

Interim Assessments (4)                                                         8 days

Benchmark Testing                                                                 4 days

TELPAS Writing (class samples)                                           2 days

College and Career Readiness Curriculum                             3 days

Play Days (fundraisers)                                                           2 days

Suicide Awareness                                                                  1 day

Math Pullouts for 7th grade (wonderful by the way)              5 days

Social Media safety                                                                1 day

STAAR                                                                                   3 days minimum

Finals (Fall and Spring)                                                          10 days

2 Teacher tests/6 weeks (required by district)                        12 days

2 Teacher quizzes/6 weeks (required by district)                   12 days

Total full non-instructional days                                         78 days/176 possible days = 44%

            Not included in this accounting are the interruptions that only affect some students, and interrupted class time that is not a full day.  Examples include: district requirements for Band, Choir, and Orchestra that impact other classes (which total at least 24 days, mostly during Feb/Mar), absences (students and teachers), field trips, assemblies, course selections, online testing for TELPAS, and many other minor disruptions that add up to even less real instructional time, especially as we try to prepare students for STAAR.


44% of student days, which is the equivalent of nearly three 6 week periods, are non-instructional, which conversely means that only 56% of student school days are potentially instructional. This issue is compounded by reduced instructional time per class each year for the past 3 years (4 years ago classes were 71 minutes in length), and a gap in math skills as evidenced by incoming STAAR data. Core classes determine our academic rating and school funding. We are required to teach our scope and sequence, and more, with less time each year, and the expectation of better results. This is not reasonable given the time reductions to core academic is not reasonable given the time reductions to core academic classe

Meet Anne Darr Thurs 5-6:30

by Ann Sutherland on 03/26/19

Anne is inviting you to her "snacks & a margarita o Thursday, March 28 "Come and go" at Rio Mambo, 6125 SW Loop 820.  I'll be there and I hope to meet you also!

Dr. Scribner, secondary principals to revise 8-period day --in 20-21

by Ann Sutherland on 03/22/19

Well, we will have to stick it out one more year, but then there will be these plans as Dr. Scribner shared with the board this morning:  He writes to the principals:  

"Here is what I heard you say:

·       We are already well into a planning timeline for the 2019-20 school year.  The Master Scheduling Process began back in January.  Students have already selected courses and schedules are already established. Our school calendar and “start & end” times have also already been established. A shift to a block schedule at this late date would impact both of these.

·       Budgets are already allocated to campuses for next year and you are in the process of assigning those dollars based on student course selection.

·       We are four months away from the start of school, and a change to a block schedule requires more detailed planning.

I heard your concerns and will support your collective voice that the answer to changing schedules is not “No” – rather, it is “Not yet.” 

 Starting now, we are making plans to develop and implement a revised schedule in 2020-21. 

Here is what I heard you say that we will collectively address in those plans: 

·       We will design and deliver additional training for teachers to effectively teach in a 90-minute instructional block. 

·       We will adjust the curriculum to provide teachers with plans for 90-minutes of instruction. 

·       We will evaluate the impact of block scheduling on specialized programs (Athletics, Fine Arts, CTE) and will work out a plan to ensure these programs are not short-changed. 

Additionally, I will direct our Leadership Team to facilitate a high school bell schedule committee and a separate middle school bell schedule committee. 

Here is the bottom line – the most important part of this letter. With the agreed-upon year of planning comes high expectations:

 ·       It is your responsibility to work out a plan to effectively implement the schedule changes in 2020-21 for your individual campuses.  

·       The plan should include a consistent message for our teachers, students, and students’ families. 

·       It is also your responsibility to tell us what resources we need to provide you in the planning period leading up to the implementation year. 

3/19: will tonight's board meeting involve a shift in secondary scheduling?

by Ann Sutherland on 03/19/19

Tonight's meeting includes a presentation titled "Instructional Planning and Development Update".   I'm hoping there will be a change in the 8-period day.

Also included is a budget change, including a $750,000 shift OUT of instruction and into Campus needs/repair.  I'm hoping this will relate to our heating systems in some schools.  South Hills HS and Southwest HS get rather cold during some winter days.  I asked for this.  

Next week, March 26, is a workshop on the budget roll-out.  My objectives:
raise for teachers, fair pay for cafeteria workers, no more cuts in secondary staffing, a working budget that reflects actual projected spending.  

Corrected data on Per-student cost of small schools: almost 40% more.

by Ann Sutherland on 03/19/19

President Jackson mentioned at the last board meeting that some board members have concerns about the differential cost of our choice schools.  Here is the General Fund data projected last spring for some smaller choice schools for the 2018-19 year.  Note that this excludes expenditures that are budgeted outside of the school sites.*                                    
School                        Enrollment    Total cost   Cost per student (site only)
Como Montessori             318           $2.738,000            $ 8,610
Daggett Montessori          491             3,300,000               6,720
YWLA                              394             3,462,000               8,787
TABS                                398             2,578,000               6,477
YMLA                              386             4,118,000              10,668
World Languages             390             4,047,000              10,377
STEM/VPA                      200             4,123,000              20,615
    TOTAL                      2,577        $24,366,000            $  9,455  
The data for the entire district budged for school sites (including admin and supporting services) is:
                                     85,838      $584,500,000            $ 6,808
We are budgeted to spend almost 40% more on the special schools. 

Between the 16-17 actual and the 18-19 budget years, school site spending went up $16 million while central office spending increased $31 million*

Thanks to the two readers who alerted me to the issue. I also added the cost of Daggett Middle School.
(a) Enrollment from district school-by-school planning documents.  These are presented on the "information" page of this website at positions 7, 8 and 9..  
(b) The total district enrollment number (85,838) is from the June 5, 2018 budget presentation..

Tell her your views for our district

by Ann Sutherland on 03/11/19

Anne Darr, running for District 6, wants to know your views on major current issues.  She will publish the results.  Here is the link: 

Thanks for thinking about these issues.  

Legislature hears about the STAAR misalignment. Some are upset.

by Ann Sutherland on 03/08/19

Readers will remember my earlier post on the national story that our STAAR tessts are not normed on national standards.  To the extent they actually measure the level, the norms are TWO YEARS above a given student's grade level.  The AFT reports on a hearing last week:

"On Tuesday a thorough hearing was held on the misalignment of STAAR tests to curriculum standards and STAAR's impact on students and districts. The extensive testimony ranged from substantive discussions on the difference in performance of students on national tests, to the emotional stories of parents and teachers who have been frustrated by a less-than-fair test of grade-level skills. While there was no resolution in the committee, several members seemed shocked by the degree to which STAAR is intended not to measure current grade level aptitude, but rather to be predictive of future post-secondary and career success."

And my hunch is that assertion of its predictive ability is a little exaggerated; norm referenced tests do not do this particularly well.

No new legal actions from FWISD on Palazzolo case

by Ann Sutherland on 03/04/19

The earlier comment re spending on the Palazzolo case is mis-directed.  The ORR requestor asked for all expenditures from the Brandt firm, but did not single out requests on this old lawsuit.  Any payments to Brandt's firm were for other purposes.

Counsel did return the call on the same day but from a 512 area code number which I did not answer.

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