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Sutherland for Schools blog

District plans to teach Art at Metro via video using canned program

by Ann Sutherland on 07/01/19

I'm not sure just what to say to add to the title, except that we are receiving over $60 million in new funds this year,which have not been budgeted.  This per this moning's FW Star-Telegram, which I can't seem to bring up online despite having been a print subscriber since 2004.  

Add that to the $69 million in available spending per the ERS efficiency audit and it certainly can't be to save money.

Teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians to get big slice of new school finance bill

by Ann Sutherland on 05/27/19

Thanks to the Texas AFT for this presentation.

Dr Scribner, put the money in the classrooms, not in the bank.

by Ann Sutherland on 05/23/19

Put the money in the classrooms, not in the bank!

A year ago I presented data showing that the percentage of funding controlled at the school site was decreasing, resulting in a shift of $24 million out of our schools in the budget year..

A lot of the money that is coming out of the schools is going into the bank:  according to the summary presented last night by Steven Poole of UEA, reserves have grown by $50 million.  Last year we had $71 million more left over than projected when the board approved the budget in June of 2017 (though $23 million was unspent funds from the bond which passed mid-year).

It's not just wasted money.  Some is being used to "train" teachers in day-long 6-week sessions for many purposes, taking them away from the children taxpayers want them to teach.  

Then we end up with insufficient substitutes.  One-fourth of all substitute requests are for this "training".  

Horrible math presentation mars evening of welcoming new board trustees

by Ann Sutherland on 05/15/19

Board president Tobi Jackson was sworn in for a third term and a likely continuation of her presidency, accompanied by new board members Anne Daar, Quinton Phillips and C. J. Evans.  Though this was a pretty dirty election, the good guys won big.  Thanks to the many many hands that contributed time and money.  It will be worth it.

But the celebration was delayed until the board and very large audience sat through a deliberately misleading presentation of our supposedly rapidly improving math scores. 

Staff actually refused to answer the question, "Did you really think student performance was going to improve when you cut class time by 20%?"  after which it went downhill.

 By sheer chance, just yesterday a teacher sent me the district-wide profile of scores in one secondary grade:  only 13 percent of FWISD students are on grade level or above as of the second testing (final scores are not yet released).  

And, although the district has publicly said the 45-minute class times will continue next year, a number of math and possibly English classes will actually be allocated two class periods.  

Dr. Scribner, these presentations MUST be improved.  Here are the guidelines for effective presentation to decision-makers:

1.  Results only.  If things are just for information, we can read them.

2.  Conclusions first, then the data, then sources.  Quit confusing board members with a lot of ancillary data.  

3.  If you can't say it in 5 minutes, you shouldn't be presenting.

What was wrong with this presentation?
1.  No results:  not tied to Goal #2
2.  Use of arbitrary benchmarks
3.  Refusal to present spring-to-spring or fall-to-fall data.  Within -year comparisons exclude summer loss.
4.  Way too much data up front.  

This doesn't even touch the crippling emphasis on "training" imposed on teachers--many math teachers were subjected to full-day sessions, taking them out of classes, for weeks.  People, these sessions don't work.  That is why the management audit said we are spending $11 million too much in curriculum development, data analysis and travel.  Best practice recommends 150 minutes of consecutive collaborative planning time for tested core teaching teams weekly.  

Goodbye and the blog's continuation

by Ann Sutherland on 05/09/19

"The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things . . ." *

Next Tuesday, Anne Darr will be taking my place and I will be retiring.  I made this choice for two reasons:  (1) my health and (2) a growing fear that improvements in the district are beyond the ability of board and management.   It's time for others to try. 

Words cannot convey how much I appreciate very much the support and approval you have given me through these nine years; it was a perfect captstone to my life in education.  

I will continue to post on the blog at least through June, and possibly longer, depending on the availability of information.  

I wish you all well.  Carry on.  It matters.
*Apologies to Lewis Carroll

District plans more major cuts in secondary core classes UPDATE 5/6/19

by Ann Sutherland on 05/03/19

As of today, the board has not received data showing the portion of the projected 2,000 student reduction is in total district enrollment.  But we do have some data on staffing cuts  

Hard to believe after the disastrous reductions the last two years in our secondary schools, but the district plans  to reduce staffing in secondary core classes by another 30 teachers (data is incomplete for the remaining secondary school staffing) .  Especially hard hit are:

  Arlington Heights HS -5.5 teachers
Eastern Hills HS -6.25 teachers
Trimble Tech -7.5 teachers
Western Hills HS 7.5 teachers
YMLA -.5 teachers

Enrollment data for our secondary schools (grades 7-12) is unavailable at that time, although--get this--according to the March 26 budget workshop we are losing 2000 students.  In the past the enrollment reductions are at the PK-6 level and secondary school enrollments have increased; however, this data was not supplied.  

Preliminary review of elementary staffing shows minor reductions in the number of teachers also.

Meanwhile, according to the March 26 presentation, expenditures for education are projected to increase by $13 million and a deficit is projected of $61 million, although these are projected to change depending on budget decisions in Austin.  (UPDATE:  the April budget presentation shows more revenue and a reduced deficit but no changes in the number of staffing cuts or projected enrollment.)

Remember that the efficiency audit says we are spending too much in the central office, especially in the curriculum area.

Management audit reveals up to $69 million in cost savings

by Ann Sutherland on 04/23/19

Tuesday's board presentation featured a set of major cost-saving actions which would would afford up to $69 million that could be better spent. Here are the highlights:

--$11 million, ($2.9 million too much in curriculum development; $5.1 million too much in data analysis, $2.9 million too much in travel)  Recommends 90 consecutive minutes of collaborative planning time for tested core teaching teams weekly.

--$22 million extra expenditures on schools of choice, too many curriculum choices in non-core secondary courses.  Special criticism of YMLA, YWLA and WLI which are funded $4 million above comprehensive high-school levels.  Leadership Academies funded at $8.8 million extra; IR s and Dual Enrollment funded higher.  Possible utilization through high schools.  These three programs are seeing significant student growth.

--$12 million: Community outreach  three different counseling initiatiaves; two departments for parent engagement, too many contracts sfor software.

--$18 million:  Streamline Central Resources provided to schools.

--$6.3 million:  Central office: curriculum development, parent & community relations and career and academic counseling.

This evaluation of our operations is on the "information" page.  Now it's time for the new board to set some deadlines.  Otherwise there will be no action.

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

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