Sutherland for Schools blog
The board agenda is at http://bit.ly/2cyILDk . It is quite short.
Those of us who attend board meetings know that the public input is greatly curtailed by warnings issued early in the meeting. Those who wish to speak are told that Texas law prevents our answering questions during public comment. Not true; simple factual answers are allowed by this law.
As I posted incompletely a couple of weeks ago, FWISD staff has sent out schedule of tests, by grade, with the change in time required from last year's requirements. For the elementary grades, they project a savings of up to 10 hours per year.
Mr. Carroll was kind enough to distribute this information, as well as the changes in the testing regimen, which is on the "information" tab.
Many thanks to Dr. Scribner for these clarifications:
1.) Regarding the DII program, I nor any of our Chiefs are aware of any direction to “halt” this work. I am unaware of the origin of this report. On the contrary, we must reinforce our commitment to a systematic Fort Worth ISD instructional model. Our Chiefs of Elementary and Secondary worked with principals to clarify the lesson plan template, but never was there any direction to halt this work. We are committed to working with our teachers to ensure this instructional design has an efficient lesson planning process that results in positive outcomes for FWISD students.
2.) On September 1, I asked Ms. Carrillo to provide Trustees with an update regarding the Palazzolo matter. That update is the latest information that has been shared with me. As Ms. Carrillo stated, following the appellate court decision the District had the options to discuss settlement with opposing counsel, go to mediation, or have a new trial. We do have an appeal option to file a petition for review with the Texas Supreme Court, which our litigation counsel advises we do. We will continue to keep this Board updated at our next Executive Session or as new considerations emerge in this matter.
I am still unable to post the record of the $423,000 costs to FWISD of the Palazzolo trial on the Information tab of this website. These expenditures are for the period 2010 through October 15, 2015. I do not know why the district excluded the expenditure after that, but they amount to an additional several thousand dollars.
I received this great question from a reader this a.m.
I received this great question from a reader this a.m.
Here is a response on a question sent yesterday. Yes, it is legal, but it is poor management. I'm responding to a new teacher who was told downtown ordered principals to require certain people to attend reading PD after school. Very bad.
A post below wonders if the problem with settling the Palazzolo case might because of fear of its encouraging others to also file.
My name is Xxxxx Xxxx. I was a Fwisd teacher from April 2000 until 12/31/15. My departure was by agreed resignation after a medical leave, but was done in protest. I'm writing this at the urging of Sharon Herrera with ATPE, Linda Labeau, and a gentleman at the TEA in Austin. It will be long, but hopefully a helpful story. Be prepared because I'm reciting a bit of history here.
First, it should be known, to be totally up front with everything, I recently completed a TWC complaint against the district with a closure with right to sue. The conclusion basically said it did not find FWISD "innocent," but at the same time the investigator said there was not enough presented by my former attorney to pursue on their part. At the urging of not one, but three other attorneys in the DFW area to pursue through appeal to the EEOC, I started to, but decided against. At this point I'm just tired of the entire experience. I have a lot of "cheerleaders" though urging me on. After seeing 18 teachers leave the school I'd been at, being told of the high turnover rate in the district, this email, letter to you is not just for myself, but for others, some I myself have seen forced out, others that may be resigning because of work conditions and stress. Two years ago when a new principal, no longer in the district, tried to make teachers do individual reports, breakdowns of every student based on demographics, objectives missed on assessments, individually by going through each student, by hand, she was told she could not without a site-based committee approval as it was in violation of the Paperwork Reduction Act. Then one afternoon I received an email telling me to be at a meeting of the site based committee at 4:30pm. The problem was, there had been no election of a new committee for the then current year. She simply appointed one, passed a form around for us to sign, trying to get approval. I brought up the fact we were not an elected committee, suggested she bring up her reasoning for wanting the report at the next faculty meeting, discuss it with the faculty, and inquire as to the possibility of a computer driven report so teachers did not have to spend hours each six weeks doing it by hand. The response was she wanted it to be personal. Other suggestions were ignored as in haste the form was passed around the table. I did not sign. One senior English teacher told me she only did as she felt intimidated, and had complained to the UEA. After the UEA got involved it was all apparently dropped, but it was pursued wrongly to start with. I say this as it may, but I don't know, relevant in relation to future experiences which I first thought could be retaliation. All I do know is things did change.
I had begun to experience some medical issues the year before which were getting worse. It involved being able some days to take breaks, access restroom facilities other than just at lunch and during our planning time, which usually was taken up by meetings. What I find is that at the beginning of the next year I am moved outside in back of the school into a portable classroom. Then the back doors are locked for , I was told, security reasons. I had no problem with any of that, until I asked for a key since to get in the building you either had to run around to the front, or other side. This was not just a problem for myself, but students between classes trying to pass to the next class. My request was denied. However, I later found out our JCC commander, who also was in an outside portable, was given a key. So I wondered, did this making getting inside, running around to the front of the school, being able to get to a restroom in a four minute passing period and back to class, have anything to do with the knowledge I needed to be able to do such. Maybe coincidence, but the knowledge was there and there could not have been a more inaccessible situation. At this point, our new principal, the 2nd the school would experience of four in four years, seemed to take in no account of tenure, experience, and primarily, record of achievement.
When I first came in April of 2000 it was after being recruited from Abilene High School, my hometown. I had taught first through third year Latin and Sect. II U.S. History. I had left there to help family in Houston, interviewing there as well when Terri Buckner called and said, "You don't want to teach down there, come up here." Very nice lady, and funny. I was given several schools to interview at, they needed teachers pretty bad. I'd never taught middle school, but after talking with Cindy Walker at Leonard who needed their 8th grade Sect. I U.S. History scores turned around, I agreed to take a position there. I was supposed to start that next fall, but Cindy called me while in Houston and asked if I could come early, In fact as soon as possible. Apparently a first year teacher had walked out on her saying he couldn't take it anymore, the kids were out of hand. So I came and finished out the year teaching his classes. Come fall I started with another gentleman who was a retired administrator, Phd from OU, who had done consulting with California, Boston schools, was retired from being an administrator, high school, principal in both New Orleans and Oklahoma City. One of the most intelligent men I've met, he was only wanting to teach in Texas, his daughter wanting to go to UT, and not ready to retire. The first year he and I turned the scores around to a recognized status. Every year after they went up more, for 9 years until we were to the point Dr. Linares once asked how we did it as other core areas were still struggling to meet standard. DrLee. Morgan was an asset to the district with his resume and could have been used in many areas with his knowledge. Instead, in 2008, when they passed a new law on TRS beneficiaries, he had to resign at mid-term, come back a month later to protect his for his daughter. I don't know all the details as to why, but he'd worked it out with our principal who saw his value. However, the district would not give him a continuing contract as we both had, but only would renew until May. At that time they refused to renew it, forcing his retirement. He was another great asset never used to potential, and let go.
I found myself replaced the next year by a 2nd year teacher I'd help mentor. The reason I was given was " he could relate to the kids better since he taught them as 7th graders." It made no sense, but I said nothing, I was a team player and senior in the department. I'll spare you the politics of the next several years, but I did everything I could to incorporate 8th objectives into the 7th curriculum, something Dr. Morgan and I had done for years,years before they came up with the idea downtown. Dr. Morgan saw this long before younger minds downtown did. It was the reason for part of our success, as well as other ideas, such as breaking down objectives covered versus those not each year, knowing each had to be every few, concentrating, anticipating which may be next, and again long before they recognized it as an idea downtown. Following the same procedures, scores continued to be recognized, but as changes took place on the 8th level , they began to struggle. New principals never asked me to go back to 8th, instead placed first year teachers there, although faculty did ask me why I didn't. I just said I wasn't asked. Last year I was there they'd dropped into the 40's, our work/efforts destroyed by changing administation. My students though still were at least at the district standard/average on CBA's (often badly written with mistakes, sometimes questions where more than one answer could apply, later cut and pastes from past years rather than new ones) and my students still always had the top scores in the school. What I taught them just wasn't taken advantage of when they got to 8th, but I said nothing. I simply did as asked. When we became an IB school, not only did I go through levels I & II training, but requested and went through level III, the only teacher who did. In fact when the people from New York came for the certification site visit, asking questions of faculty, more than one commented they were glad I knew the answers to their questions because many did not and I had to speak up because that extra year had prepared me to understand what it was they were wanting to hear. The only problem was I could not play the game of politics that many pursued to enhance their careers, all now who have gone into administration and left FWISD for other districts. I tell this because one thing that could never be questioned was my success and loyalty. One of my last years the asst. superintendent over special ed. sat in on a class observing the inclusion teacher and later stopped me outside the front office, shook hands, and said that what he saw was one of the best lessons he ever witnessed, saying "you should be teaching at a college level with lessons like that."
One of the most disturbing things I witnessed was our third principal in three years, coming in as a first year principal, very young, I was told 28-30 years old. Talking one day he sad his objective was to spend 1 to 2 years there, then move up to high school , get his certification to be a superintendent, eventually land a job as one, then later do consulting work as "that's where the real money is." I wondered what happened to education being about the kids, because this was about career, more like what I saw from years in business. One year he was there, moving to a principal job at a high school the next, he must have had friends downtown was all one could say. And did. Just as in business though, this type of turnover is not good for faculty, nor students. I've seen too much of it, even recall when Dr. Linares asked that one time if there was anything they could do to assist, I told her stop moving administrators around if possible. It takes three years for one to impact a school. Even the TEA saw this, but it continued. In 15 years I saw 7.
When the 2014-15 school year came around, demoted to a grade level never trained to teach because I'd used intermittent FMLA, I was basically intimidated into taking a full 180 day medical leave by our next new principal. The one who brought in many first year teachers, even making one a grade level chair. Senior teachers were being pushed aside it appeared. After meeting with employee relations who immediately approved a full leave, and twice being asked if I'd considered retirement, I was told FMLA was not possible, even though the Dept. of Labor in Dallas disagreed. I was told I had not met the 1250 rule, but when asking for the figures was denied, and told by the DOL, " No. It applies to teachers differently. They can't simply figure 7.5 hours a day for each contract day. Teachers are presumed to be salaried, work longer hours and at home. They must prove you dd not work 1250, the burden of proof rests with them to show you did not and on record." This was true, I researched it, but never could get Employee Relations to answer questions when asked. So when it was suggested I take the medical leave, I figured I'd better do so. I was not being given other options, but was being asked about retirement. Before taking it starting that November, my students still scored the highest of the three content teachers at school on each fall assessment, my kids were at 70 % with a school average in the mid 60's, prompting the new principal to call me "Mr. 70." Yet it meant little. They made my start date of leave effective 11/14, although I continued to do plans and grads through the end of the month, without pay. I reality it started more like Dec. 1st. I came home to see different doctors my family knew since the ones I'd used in Fort Worth couldn't agree on approaches and were not resolving issues. Two had actually retired that year. After seeing two I went back to campus right before Christmas break, talked to the principal, updated him. He said he might "pool " me which was a surprise. He said it was no big deal, even saying with a laugh, "All you do is sign in every day and go home. It's really pretty neat." I knew better though and asked him not to do such without talking to me first. He said he would. But didn't. I basically had been on leave three weeks. I could name at least two teachers, younger, who had been out a year, one with West Nile, one with H1N1, and jobs held. Now he was wanting to pool me three weeks into leave. Being the end of the semester, mid-term, the holiday break, this was a good time to take the leave and I hope issues would be taken care of. I had been pretty clear with doctors I needed things resolved asap. They began doing every test you can imagine which takes time on an outpatient basis, getting results from one, doing another. I was not getting paid for this time away, paying my own benefits, and at one point the ATPE rep suggested I apply for sick leave bank time. I did request 10 days. Yet it was denied, saying it was not a catastrophic illness. Actually they didn't know if it was or not, but the policy does have a clause where it does not have to be which was met. The ATPE assigned an attorney to look into the denial, and he filed a grievance. He was told it could not be appealed though. He told them it could, I was just frustrated and let him handle it. I had too much to resolve medically to deal with it, but took his advice when told. It's a shame, but I felt I needed the help dealing with the district. Regardless of my record, loyalty, they were not being helpful at all. When told to reapplly I did. This time it was approved. However when it came time to pay, I got nothing. Payroll had intercepted it saying I owed them money. I was shocked. How could I owe them money. After changing explanations twice, they basically were using wrong and changing figures. I even had the UEA look at it and review the math. They said no, it was wrong, the district owed me. They had, however, deducted all sick and state leave days awarded at the start of the year, but This was not proper as I had worked through November. According to the TEA state leave does not need to be accrued anyway under state rules. It was a mess, but they continued to say I owed them, and finally it came down to $275 even after they kept the award. My figures, the UEA figures showed they owed me around $1300. This was never resolved, but after I resigned last 12/31 I received a check for "overcharging of benefits. " I just laughed. Was their effort intentional? Yes, I believe it was simply harassment. Maybe for filing the grievance over the first SLB denial, but their math was smoke and mirrors and kept changing. In May I gave my intent to return. The leave was up May 15th, and with only 2-3 weeks left in the year Employee Relations suggested I just use regular leave for the remainder so they did not have to place me with 2-3 weeks left. I agreed. I had not been able to get responses to emails from our principal since he pooled me. , but was told he had filled my position back at the end of Jan. with a hired teacher, instead of keeping a long term sub in place as he said he'd do. For that reason I was told I'd be reassigned come fall, but was placed on an active status. Even though colleagues were telling me there was an opening at Leonard, the district kept saying there was not. The UEA rep predicted, " They'll move you to a difficult school in a position you don't like so watch where they send you." They were right. On August 4th we had a meeting with one FWISD attorney of staff, Ramona Soto, Max Ates from payroll. myself, and the ATPE attorney over the pay grievance, yet resolved. ( Their numbers changed again just to note.) Also at the meeting was Kimberley Waiters from Employee Relations which puzzled me. She was the one I'd not been able to get straight answers from before, and had asked if I was considering retirement. At the end of the meeting she spoke up and told me I'd been reassigned, with a smirk, she said to Dunbar MS, teaching secondary English. I wasn't even certified in secondary English. So all summer there apparently had been not one opening, with all the turnover, in secondary history anywhere in FWISD. To note, our now former principal at Leonard, the one who pooled me and broke his word, wouldn't answer emails, after one year at Leonard was moved to Dunbar HS as its new principal. So I'd be in his pyramid of influence. That same morning, August 4th, upon leaving the meeting in dismay, I stopped by the Cashier's window to pay my benefits as I'd been doing every month. So they'd be paid for August. Little did I know, until Sept., and was not told, the district had cancelled my insurance July 31st, even though active. They did not tell me, did not tell AETNA, told no one, and took the payment August 4th for August. Don't stop reading as it gets better.
The ATPE attorney was going to protest the Dunbar assignment, but I told him I still had to get a physician's release and the appt. was with a specialist the week before we reported back. I anticipated no problems, but knew he was concerned, not just about my medical situation, but he also noted many issues were compounded by job stress. He had not been happy with the building lock out, and said he would not release without accommodations. The medical issues were a concern, and when he asked how things were and I told him about the reassignment, other things, he said he would not release at that time. Privately he said get the job issues resolved because you don't need more stress than they've already caused. My internist agreed when I saw him. So I told the ATPE attorney and he told Ramona Soto , and sent letters from both doctors. At that point I was advised by the UEA, and DOL to invoke the ADA has I had a certified disability. I had developed IBS, possible colitis, and was diagnosed with diabetic autonomic neuropathy. Not common, easy to diagnose, and one reason it was taking doctors so long to figure out. Basically though minor accommodations were all that was needed. They must have really wanted me out because when the ATPE attorney said the release was coming, with accommodations under the ADA, the district said I was not eligible for ADA because I had not requested it the previous spring. Yet the ADA can be invoked anytime, and even used to extend a medical leave. I knew that from the previous career. The response from the district when receiving the physician letters and being told accommodations were to be requested was "return to the classroom immediately, retire, resign," or they would begin proceedings to terminate my contract. Being told I was ADA eligible, requesting accommodations met deaf ears. They wanted my resignation and gave me until Sept. 18th to deliver it. Or retire. They left me that option which is why I assume they gave until Sept. 18th to decide. The medical situation was real though. It's nature was not an easy one to diagnose. The accommodations were simply, have access to restroom facilities, be able to take breaks for such if needed, and be able to sit down at times during the day if needed. The policy of not sitting while in class had created some circulation issues in the lower legs over the years, not uncommon to teachers who are on their feet all day I was told. Yet that was not the main concern. The knowledge of having been locked out of the building , unable to take breaks except at lunch, when a planning/meeting period is first or the last period, with hours between in class, concerned both doctors. Yet the accommodations were simple. The specialist asked if there were other things I could do. I told him yes, with experience, but told him they were pushing me to retire. He noted some things in his letter we discussed, but ADA allows any position. As one person noted, they could have "made you a library aide to get your last two years in. " They had instructional support people younger than my daughter who I only saw once, the beginning of the year, and never returned. Requests for supplies, ancillary materials, were never answered. Once I had two girls start to fight in class, broke them up, called for security to remove them, and no one ever came. According to our secretary she told administrators, they just apparently ignored it. That is not support. When accommodations were asked for, the district said nothing more after their ultimatum. Finally when the ATPE attorney asked about the ADA request/accommodations, he basically got a flat "no." They just wanted to know my decision on retiring or resigning. I lacked 2 years to meet the 80 mark. That was my goal. I had told them that the previous fall. As one attorney said, I was forced to resign because they refused the right to ADA, were making life as hard as possible, created the money issue, canceling insurance, refusing to answer emails, breaking promises, discriminating over health issues (even though other younger teachers were allowed much longer to resolve theirs), so likely age was a factor at 57, and one attorney said "one, two, three issues right off the top, go through the formal TWC, get the standard right to sue they typically issue, do it." I started to fight it all. What really upset me was the way the TWC was lied to. The district claimed I had "taken numerous leaves throughout my career." Untrue. A meeting over the pay issue/grievance with Max Ates for Oct. 4th , between just he and I, was cancelled as there was no point as I was going to drop the grievance after the ultimatum. The district told the TWC there was a meeting scheduled for Oct. 4th to "discuss my employment situation " and I canceled it. There was no such meeting. They never wanted to discuss anything. I have the emails to prove all these things true. The only meeting for Oct. 4th was the one with Ates, just him and myself over the pay grievance. The insurance cancelling, they lied about as well. They did not even authorize Cobra with Aetna so I couldn't get on it. The ATPE attorney had to get on to them about that problem. Why was nothing ever said, why do I discover it in September on my own, and why when I'm supposed to be "active" as of the past May was it canceled. It showed my status active online since the past May. They said it was in some notation in paperwork given the past November that after 180 days you'd be placed on Cobra, but the 180 days was up in May, my intent to return was given, I was listed as active, and above all I was still paying it. What happened to my August payment they took after I paid August on August 4th after the meeting where I was told I was being sent to Dunbar? Why was I placed teaching English? They can make all the excuses they want, but in truth.....it was just to make things difficult as they had been doing all along is all I can say...and they sure lie a lot.
Worn out, I finally, after talking with the ATPE attorney who noted "they'll find a way," decided not to fight, send it to the board, have the TEA get involved. The only thing that really bothers me is the years of service, good ones they cannot contest, and seeing there comes a point where, no matter how loyal, one of the longest tenured at Leonard, staying on board while others left every year, and no matter how well your students do, it means so little. FWISD needs no more board fights, no more lawsuits, no more bad management, scandals. I walk away, even though urged to not drop the blatant denial of ADA, being told they will just keep doing the same to others, and knowing I am not the first. I had one long time FWISD employee, not a teacher, tell me, and told the TWC after they closed the investigation, they could have easily accommodated , used my knowledge, experience. I had taught both her sons I guess was why she spoke up. Two letters are attached that may speak a bit for themselves. It was a second career after a business one in Dallas. If I had a supervisor let a good, tenured employee go, I would have asked why. It is in education as in business, your people make or break you as a company, or school district, and turnover is not good. I tried to be there for the kids, hope I was. When they come back to visit as far gone as college, that means a lot. So I'll just cherish those memories.
Just in closing, as I leave it all behind, please continue to be the respected "good guy," make them accountable. They lose too many good people every year. The kids do not deserve that. It has to be about them. Always.
Basically, the appellate court said, "no weaseling out on a new trial, FWISD"
Signed August 30
One of my kitchen cabinet members sends me items from the AFT. Here's this month's news:
The NYTimes had a great opinion piece on the causes of infant mortality. As many of us know, Tarrant County has a special contribution to this: our refusal to serve undocumented residents in our county health system (which all of us pay for) as required in the state constitution. Here is my response to the post:
The infant mortality rate in Texas is a scandal in itself. The refusal of our state to include supplemental Medicaid coverage is bad enough. Even worse is the refusal of our county to include some residents in the eligibility pool for our county health care, a service provided by all other urban counties in Texas. This is why our county is a heavy contributor to the state's already miserable infant mortality rate.
Health care is vital to the ability of parents to adequately prepare their children for education, and it is well known that the family is the major contributor to student performance.
What a waste!
Here is the link to the NYT piece: http://nyti.ms/2bxQSNb
The agenda is at http://bit.ly/2bOWnN1