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Sutherland for Schools blog

2% wage proposal is a lot more for the 1% at the top.

by Ann Sutherland on 04/29/16

The 2% raise proposed by FWISD may sound good at first blush, but there are extra sweets for those at the top.  Following the $2.03 million in annual raises given to  everyone but teachers via the notorious TASB wage "study", FWISD staff has proposed the same sweetener by adding extra money to all staff whose salaries fall below their salary classification's midpoint. 
This was sufficient to confuse me in 2013 but no more.  UEA's Steven Poole took the time to examine how well each of us whose salary lies below the midpoint would fare under this proposal.  The resulting salary increases won't surprise you:
Deputy Superintendent $4,000
Asst. Superintendent     $3,400
Chiefs                            $2,800
Teachers                        $1300
Teacher aides                $  400
This is how FWISD proposes to distribute our district's income among our 11,000 individuals, mirroring the national trend over the last 30 years.
This has the effect of making the richest richer, as we have witnessed happening nationally over the last thirty years.
  (income quintiles removed)

A cry from the heart

by Ann Sutherland on 04/26/16

This is the saddest comment I have ever read in my life.  We have definitely gone over to the "dark side."  Charter schools, anyone?
What is a teacher to do when managing the behavior of a child with diagnosed    
mental illness?  After months of requests with no suggestions to be told this   
late in the year that it is my fault the child misbehaves....and that I need to 
build "rapport".  If I had "rapport" this would not be      
occurring.  This recommendation came MONTHS after he was observed.  Then I am   
told by the counseling staff they do NOT want behavioral updates and would NOT  
be assisting him anymore. All the teachers that have this child want to         
cry....for him because he is so unhappy....for the other kids because he        
impedes their learning.

April 26 Agenda is posted

by Ann Sutherland on 04/23/16

Tuesday's agenda will include
--the first draft of a proposal to establish a committee to provide wrap-around health and wellness cities in coordination with several local agencies;
--a proposal to include transgender children in the group of protected classes, including their right to use bathrooms and athletic facilities; and
--several major allocations to maintain and expand our existing IT services.  (Readers might remember that we've been having trouble lately because our capacity is often overloaded.)
Not included is the first look at the budget,  The current draft includes a raise, increase in class size at the secondary level and no support for better substitute services.  Also, we are anticipating a presentation on improved discipline oversight.  

Psst! Teach for America is failing despite massive federal dollars.

by Ann Sutherland on 04/23/16

This from a senior national TFA staffer via Diane Ravitch's blog:

March 17, 2016

Turmoil at Teach For America: Rounds of layoffs, leadership exodus imminent

Teach For America (TFA) is laying off employees from its national and regional staff.

CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard announced on February 29 that 250 TFA staff positions will be eliminated, calling the cuts “painful” in an internal TFA employee webcast. She said 100 new positions will also be created, leaving the net job loss at 150.

Despite the flashy celebration at TFA’s 25th Anniversary Summit held in Washington D.C. last month, TFA did not meet its recruiting target for the second year in a row.


2015 was the first time in its history that TFA laid off employees, and now it’s happening again.


But something appears to be different this time around. It’s not just the rank and file staff employees who are getting the ax, like they did in Spring 2015. This year it goes all the way up to the C-suite.


Sources say several senior leaders are “voluntarily” resigning amid alleged rumors of mismanagement and questionable business practices by the nonprofit organization.

Notifications went out two weeks ago to the first round of laid-off employees.


Unlike last year’s layoffs, when impacted employees were given notice several months in advance, this year TFA accelerated the termination process by breaking it into two separate rounds of layoffs. Employees who were given notice this week will be released on a memorable date, April 15 (Tax Day).


A second round of layoff looms, and survivors of the first round may still have cause for concern. The first round is supposed to be “mostly” national staff while the second round is “mostly” regional staff.


Employees who are part of the second round of layoffs will be released at the end of the fiscal year 2016, on May 27.


In addition to the staff layoffs and job restructuring, Villanueva Beard told TFA employees that the Office of The Chief Diversity Officer (OCDO) will be eliminated in September. Despite TFA’s self-professed commitment to diversity (it’s one of the organization’s core values), the decision to eliminate the OCDO comes only months after the new chief diversity officer was announced on

The chief marketing officer, along with the executive vice president of TFA’s Public Affairs Team are also allegedly “voluntarily” resigning, although that wasn’t shared in the webcast two weeks ago.

 The U.S. Department of Education has given TFA hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants since 2008. Government funding comprised 38% of TFA’s budget in 2015, totaling $69.7 million dollars that year alone, according to TFA’s 2015 Annual Report.

Report from the community forum: out-of-control children is the #1 issue.

by Ann Sutherland on 04/21/16

I thought the community forum would feature complaints about principals but it was all about the central office and their unrelenting sabotage of reasonable efforts by principals and teachers to address unacceptable behavior by students, including teacher assaults.  This when, acording to the 2014-15 climate survey, over half of secondary students are "always" or "sometimes" afraid at school.

There was also a complaint about required testing and preparation.  This single comment was supported by the whole room.

Here are comments about discipline, hopefully in the order of importance:
  1. Criminal acts are regularly ignored by school administration and/or police.  I am not sure which.  Teachers and administrators need to be told what the law is and how FWISD plans to enforce it.  (I was told we have no documentation of the number of referrals to campus police officers.)
  2. Teachers are kept in the dark regarding laws and district policies dealing with less serious student behavior and believe they are also often routinely ignored.
  3. Central office staff regularly "call out" schools who issue the most office referrals at principal meetings
  4. A disproportionate number of troublesome students live outside the school's attendance boundary.  But central office staff has instructed principals to ignore this unless the student is "tardy or absent" too much. (Nothing about tearing up the classroom.).  Principals need to be encouraged to use their community liaisons or other staff, to identify students who live outside the school attendance area.  One elementary school told me they have about 50 students who live in the Crowley school district.   
  5. When students are sent home for significant misbehavior, too many parents of troublemaking students routinely call "downtown" to ask that their student's punishment be rescinded.  In turn, principals are pressured to rescind the action.  This is a form of bullying by parents.
My follow-up recommendations:
      1.  Several teachers asked for a meeting with Dr. Scribner.  I agree.
      2. Responsibility for deciding whether an action should be reported to the police is the principal's under last year's SB107.  "The principal is what SB107 calls the 'Campus Behavior Coordinator (CBC)' and they have authority to address any and all discipline issues referred to them.  SB107 also stipulates they must exercise discretion in considering all mitigating factors ( self defense, homeless, pregnant and parenting, mental health issues, etc.) before assigning any type of suspension or expulsion.  This is the language that changed the long standing 'zero tolerance' idea."  
       In other words, you're on your own if the principal won't act.

It's the teachers, dummy.

by Ann Sutherland on 04/21/16

I am sick and tired of our leaders talking about transforming school districts. We read about some allegedly major changes wrought by various districts.  Even worse is the national obsession with evaluating teachers using test scores (this means you too, Texas).  The Houston ISD has gained a lot of attention by using test scores to evaluate teachers.  Their teacher representatives, the AFT finally got so sick of it a couple of years ago that they brought suit.  I understand it will be going to court later this year.

During the last month, I have read two well-known books on educational reform.  The first, about Joe Clark and his work with Eastside High school in the 1980s, was the subject of the well-known movie, "Lean on Me".  Clark's success had some major assistance from the superintendent, who gave him a free hand.  Mr. Clark was an amazing and hard-working man.  Nevertheless, he got rid of every teacher he didn't want and also expelled 400 students one year and 300 the next--nearly 25% of the school's enrollment.  This is an option we are unlikely to follow.

The second study is about the $200 million Newark city-wide project, which also failed despite having a well-known "Chief of Transformation" leading it.

After all these years, I still think teaching school is an awful lot like parenting.  You take the students you are handed and do your best, sometimes getting a little help.  It's basically on you.

That's why I support FWISD's teachers.  

Teachers, community decry violent, unruly behavior at our schools

by Ann Sutherland on 04/20/16

Last night's community meeting was well intended and, except for one complaint about testing,  nearly all discussion was about uncontrolled student misbehavior.

Stories of unreported teacher assaults and student fighting were repeated throughout the room, with multiple reports that administrators were told from "downtown" to lay off kids who were out of control.  One school reported that massive numbers of young children refuse to come in from recess when called.

Teachers who complained were threatened with reprisal, and tales of "lost" office referrals were legion.  I was surprised to hear that principals blame parents from "calling downtown" to get kids released from the consequences of bad behavior.  Last year one District Six lost half its teachers through resignation, and this year a second one threatens to repeat this level of abandonment.  The principal's lack of control is so evident, said one participant, that it is generally believed she is "protected by somebody downtown."

Thanks to Trustee Moss and Board president Jacinto Ramos Jr. for attending, to Southwest principal John Engel and Darlene Todd for their assistance in setting up the meeting and attending.  South Hills principal Dorothy Gomez, her entire administrative team, as well as Westcliff principal Sara Gillaspie and Middle Learning AP Dr. Kim Jenkins.

Teach For America, new pianos: Death by a thousand cuts

by Ann Sutherland on 04/14/16

Even though six members of our board voted to approve the $1 million for TFA, they are beginning to ask the right questions. Meanwhile, staff continued its obfuscation and misuse of statistics Tuesday when staff justified the use of TFA teachers by saying that the Metroplex colleges train only 2600 teachers per year but area schools hire 7000.
That, of course, begs the question of where the other 4400 teachers come from.  Not from TFA!  No, there are many sources.  The answer is (a) already credentialed teachers who live in the community but have not been working, (b) teachers elsewhere who are working for much less money, and (c) alternatively credentialed teachers. 
This misleading use of statistics is a practice of staff when caught mis-managing our taxpayer funds.   After I complained that a teacher was essentially cheating on the software program, earning kudos from the principal for having such good results, the response from staff was that "all teachers change grades" rather than responding to the assertion that secret grade changing was permitted under Odyssey but not on the previous, preferred program Plato.   
It reminds me of the Great Piano Spending Spree of 2014, where we retired a bunch of pianos instead of having them tuned.

April 12 agenda and backup material

by Ann Sutherland on 04/09/16

Tuesday's agenda is available on the "information" tab.
Major items:  approval of directors for Elementary and Secondary Education, approval of $1 million for five more years of Teach for America (watch my comment at the board meeting and read the previous blog post).
As of Saturday morning, we have no information on the candidates for E&S Education despite my insistence that we received them by Friday.   Obviously staff is holding these as they did last time, which prevents us from checking on the quality of the applicants (we were told one was from out of district).  Because of the late information I will again be voting "no".

Staff proposes to spend $1 million to hire 125 teachers

by Ann Sutherland on 04/09/16

Instead of sending letters--or recruiters--to neighboring states which pay starting teachers in the $30,000-$40,000 range, the board faces a proposal from staff which proposes paying $8000 per teacher to let Teach for America to recruit teachers.  Our data shows that two-thirds of these teachers will quit after two years, a higher rate than with teachers hired; national data says almost all are gone after three years.

Also questionable is why TFA has raised their rates from $5000 per teacher to $8000 in the last six years despite an inflation rate hovering around 1% per year.

Tell your board members to vote "no".  Maybe the HCM staff will start doing their jobs.  

My April 19 Community meeting on school climate

by Ann Sutherland on 03/28/16

I am holding a community meeting on Tuesday, April 19th  from 7 to 8 p.m. at Southwest High School, 4100 Alta Mesa Blvd.

This meeting is to receive community input regarding your perceptions of student and staff behavior in our district.  Some are below here on my blog and others from phone calls and emails I have received recently.

 You can respond by making a comment below, by phoning me at 817-504-3360 or by sending an email to  You will have an opportunity to make statements and to ask questions.

President Ramos and Dr. Scribner are planning to implement Restorative Discipline in six of our schools, but it appears that we need to make some adjustments elsewhere as well.

I hope some of you will attend to help me evaluate the situation.


Too many absences from some students

by Ann Sutherland on 03/27/16

I received an email from a teacher last week who is concerned about excessive absences at one of our high schools.  In her six classes  during the first 58 days of the second semester, the average student was out of class for sickness or other family  reason  an AVERAGE of 5.8 days, or 10% of the school days. days, What shocked me was that the average student was out of class for ANOTHER 10 days for campus activity or trip--thus was gone from the instructional environment an average of 17 days, or 3 days every two weeks.

Of course, this is just the average.  So many students were out of class more than this. . . .

The teacher felt it was hard to maintain a sense of continuity in her classroom with so many absences.

I was shocked.  

Follow up on "Reader nails it . . ."

by Ann Sutherland on 03/23/16

This post and the comments which follow indicate the board needs to review our practices regarding the deployment of auxiliary staff and the software we use to track student behavior and performance issues.

I will ask for board review of Focus, RTI and 360 at a forthcoming meeting.

Reader nails it on the need for discipline

by Ann Sutherland on 03/17/16

Thanks to "Enough" for this comprehensive explanation of our bad student behavior:

There is a fundamental problem that infects all of our schools in varying       
degrees.  It actually begins with the youngest students not being properly      
disciplined, just as can be the problem in our own homes.  If you do not        
establish the boundaries of behavior from the beginning and consistently        
enforce them, unacceptable behavior continues to escalate with each passing     
year.  Commenters are correct about the disrespect shown to both the teacher    
and substitutes beginning at the youngest grades.  I have been in schools with  
APs who are very consistent in their discipline with students, including the    
youngest.  What you notice is that when discipline is handled this way you have 
to deal with a lot less serious misbehaviors as students move up in grades      
because they have come to know bad behavior will not be tolerated.  Then the    
principals start getting angry visits from parents who don't want to be held    
accountable for teaching and enforcing appropriate behavior in their children.  
They threaten going to the news, police or downtown.  The principals then cave  
in and ask the APs to go easier on the students.  Pretty soon the               
disciplinarians are moved or transfer.  Children get their sense of security    
from knowing with certainty where the boundary is.  They will continue to bump  
against it until they are convinced the line is not going to move.  Our         
principals need to start getting the message that they are the guardians of the 
boundary lines and it is their job to give students a sense of security by not  
letting them stay outside the boundaries of appropriate behavior and Central    
Admin needs to support them to do this.

Teacher prep time--both parents and teachers should insist on it.

by Ann Sutherland on 03/13/16

Here is the current ed code requirement for 450 minutes out-of-class time, managed by the teacher, and also the duty-free lunch law (it's one time per week max on that lunch rule!)

These rules need to be enforced for the benefit of our children.

Sec. 21.404. PLANNING AND PREPARATION TIME. Each classroom teacher is entitled to at least 450 minutes within each two-week period for instructional preparation, including parent-teacher conferences, evaluating students' work, and planning. A planning and preparation period under this section may not be less than 45 minutes within the instructional day. During a planning and preparation period, a classroom teacher may not be required to participate in any other activity.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 260, Sec. 1, eff. May 30, 1995.

Sec. 21.405. DUTY-FREE LUNCH. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (c), each classroom teacher or full-time librarian is entitled to at least a 30-minute lunch period free from all duties and responsibilities connected with the instruction and supervision of students. Each school district may set flexible or rotating schedules for each classroom teacher or full-time librarian in the district for the implementation of the duty-free lunch period.

(b) The implementation of this section may not result in a lengthened school day.

(c) If necessary because of a personnel shortage, extreme economic conditions, or an unavoidable or unforeseen circumstance, a school district may require a classroom teacher or librarian entitled to a duty-free lunch to supervise students during lunch. A classroom teacher or librarian may not be required to supervise students under this subsection more than one day in any school week. The commissioner by rule shall prescribe guidelines for determining what constitutes a personnel shortage, extreme economic conditions, or an unavoidable or unforeseen circumstance for purposes of this subsection.

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