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Sutherland for Schools blog

Trading football for a fancy new downtown office?

by Ann Sutherland on 10/29/18

I don't know if it's worse that the board voted 6-1 for giving attorneys nearly $1 million in general fund dollars to "sell" a bunch of "underused properties" or whether the money would buy fifteen sorely needed teachers, mostly I believe should be for our middle schools.  I plan to post the list of "underutilized properties" at the information page of this blog shortly.  

The board is hearing about plans to use this money to acquire a fancy new downtown headquarters for the school district, although I don't recall this being mentioned during the presentation at the last board meeting nor discussed publicly prior to the vote.  The fact that it has not been discussed publicly at the board level is highly regrettable. 

As one member of the audience asked, "Where would we park?"

Some schools not reporting crimes to police as required by law

by Ann Sutherland on 10/26/18

We had a particularly ugly scene at Wedgwood Middle School last week, reportedly only the latest of a fairly large number of student disturbances.  Two students got into a fight and in the middle of it, one hit the principal.  

DID YOU KNOW?  State law requires a police report when a crime is committed.  

Four board members asked the Superintendent to tighten things up.  Please leave me a comment if you have kids committing crimes (like hitting) without police reports.

Class size DOES matter

by Ann Sutherland on 10/14/18

I'm getting tired of having administrators assert that class size doesn't matter.  I received this from a teacher this weekend: 

Palazzolo update

by Ann Sutherland on 10/13/18

Sorry for the delay in responding.  Our liability insurance (since cancelled) says we are on the hook for the first $100K in attorneys fees, and TASB pays the first $1 million in damages.   The issue on interest paid to Mr. Palazzolo for the delay in paying him, if there is such a decision, was waived earlier in the process.

I believe FWISD has appealed the latest order.  I don't know what is happening.  I'm not sure anyone outside the attorneys and Mr. Palazzolo knows.  I also don't know whether we actually paid over $100K in attorney fees.  

Budget produced huge shortfalls in secondary staffing. It must change. UPDATE

by Ann Sutherland on 10/12/18

School by school and teacher by teacher data are now on the Information tab.  Including core and elective courses,  these cuts involve an overwhelming number of secondary students at some point during their day. The added work plus mid-year staffing shifts destabilizes the quality of school life for staff and students.

Last year the budget reduced staffing in secondary core classes by 100 teachers . . .  this year by another 150. They also increased the number of assigned teaching periods in some schools by requiring all to offer eight classes.  As a result, this year 151 of our core teachers and 102 elective teachers are staffed beyond the plans.  (Some of these have extra teachers (like Band and some P.E. classes), and many of the classes are over by just a few.)  

Staff is adding 29 slots (see the top item on the information page for the schools and courses).  Five are filled as of today.

Please note that we are reducing secondary staffing where enrollment has increased by 434 students while retaining almost all elementary staffing even though we have lost almost 2000 students (that is almost 100 teachers . . . .).

I believe this overcrowding in our secondary schools delivers a crushing blow to our school climate,one that will not be easily alleviated.  We already have trouble filling our open teacher positions, which is part of the reason we are eight weeks into the school year with these vacancies.  At any time we have a number of long term substitutes filling in because we cannot find teachers in a timely fashion.

These reductions are part of a five-year plan to increase class size.  At the present time, Dr. Scribner and staff are refusing to say will stop this  have plans  to continue reducing the number of teachers into the new three or four years is profoundly regrettable.  

Principals are not to re-direct Special Ed teachers away from their assignments

by Ann Sutherland on 10/10/18

Have an anonymous person call Dr. Sheffield, head of Special Ed, at 817-814-2833 and she will call the principal and tell her to stop.  This is not in the job requirements of the special ed staff.

Thanks to the reader who posted this question:

Is it legal for a Special Ed teacher to be pulled out for an ARD meeting during school hours when the teacher is supposed to be providing minutes of   
instruction for a child specified in their IEP?  If all of the other students   
are receiving instruction why are the special ed students with IEPs not         
recieving instruction because the SPECIAL ed tecaher is in an ARD? Also, the    
Speech specialist is in on these ARD meetings during school and she is not      
providing her services specified legally in the paperwork for her students. She 
is supposed to provide services but she is not during ARD meetings or speech    
meetings. Should these meetings need to happen after school to not violate the  

Here are the Special Ed positions, as requested.

by Ann Sutherland on 10/09/18

Dr. Sheffield responds to the request on the number of classroom teachers:

Sixty (60) % of the positions are classroom Teachers and Teacher Assistants’ positions, assigned  mostly  to self-contained Special Education classrooms on regular campuses  across the district.  The remaining forty (40) % of the positions are positions for specialized staff (Evaluators, therapists, vocational and behavioral specialists) who provide services directly to Special Education students as written in their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). As you are well aware, many Special Education students need more than just Teachers and Teacher Assistants; they also need specialized personnel to meet their various needs.

Thanks to Dr. Sheffield for providing this iformation.  

As of Sep 19, about 1/4 of the positions were unfillled. 

Reader asks for more information on special ed

by Ann Sutherland on 10/07/18

It's beginning to look like this year will focus on special education.  I will ask for this information:

Thank you for this information.  However, it would be more helpful to know how  
the positions were allocated to begin with.  Of the "47 slots," how   
many were for certified Special Ed inclusion teachers, how many for Special Ed  
self-contained classes, then teacher assistants, etc.  How many of each type of 
slot are allocated for elementary, how many for middle, and how many for the    
neighborhood high schools versus the specialized programs of choice?  Also note 
that dyslexia teachers are not available to the Special Ed students.  They      
serve students under 504 plans.  It would help to know the campuses to which    
these additional teachers have been assigned.  Your campus charts under the     
Information tab showed where cuts were planned.  How is the $3 million in new   
staffing offsetting the cuts?

Budget planning once again stiffs school sites

by Ann Sutherland on 10/05/18

It's happening again.

Despite the negative 3 votes on last year's budget, staff is starting out again on the same "wrong foot", excluding from consideration the voices of school parents, teachers and administrators.

President Jackson, First VP Sims and I hosted a meeting with an award-winning budget team last September, who explained that to have a useful budget it is necessary to start with the CONSUMERS of school services.  But FWISD never does it.  Once again, they are starting with the board and district leadership.

They should start with testimony from the schools and families.  Dr. Scribner and staff would get an ear full.

Special ed funding remains unspent

by Ann Sutherland on 10/04/18

I received several complaints earlier this year from individuals who told me the school site special education teachers were being redirected to substitute for missing classroom teachers.  I asked for data on this.  According to response W002260-0918, the district does not track the data I requested.

They did respond to my request for the expenditures on the $3 million augmentation for special education services.  According to their response, there are 8 vacant Teacher Assistants and three vacant dyslexia teachers of the 47 slots.  Almost 1/4 of the budget has been unallocated as of September 19, the date of my request.

I appreciate receiving requests like this.  Hope the response help.

Some schools shine in voter registration--Oct 9 is deadline! / REVISED

by Ann Sutherland on 09/25/18

State law requires every public school enrolling students who will be 18 by election day to do at least two voter registration sign-ups per year.  This year, three FWISD high schools did very well--Arlington Heights 70% of all eligible voters are registered; Benbrook, 61%; and Success 98.18.

Yet some schools did not sign up a single one.  This is obviously a burdensome law and yet it can yield important results.  Paschal, South Hills, Dunbar and other schools had major events leading to increased sign-ups--rather than the 15% on the report (which was as of September 19), there are at least 23% of the 1860 potetial registrants.  

Let's hope a lot more sign up by Oct 9.  I'll wait for the final numbers and re-post later in October.  

More issues with special education

by Ann Sutherland on 09/16/18

A reader writes this very important blog post.  I have submitted a request for the names, hire dates and salary of this $3 million budget item for special education.  Will post the answer on this blog on 10/1 or 10/2 minus the names (I need the names to make sure the hires are new)

I am also submitting a request asking for the dates that all SPED staff are taken from their assignments to fill other school needs.  This should also be available on 10/1 and 10/2.

"NEW READERS-- SOME OF US TRIED REPEATEDLY TO SOUND THE ALARM ABOUT NEGATIVE IMPACTS TO SPECIAL ED STUDENTS MONTHS AGO (SEE BELOW). ANN RESPONDED AT THE TIME THAT $3 MILLION WAS BEING ADDED TO THE SPECIAL ED BUDGET. AS USUAL, NOW THAT THE YEAR HAS STARTED, THE SPECIAL ED STAFF IS BEING TOLD THAT RESOURCES ARE NOT AVAILABLE TO PROVIDE FOR THE NEEDS OF THESE STUDENTS. I WOULD THINK THAT OUR LEGAL DEPARTMENT WOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT THESE REPORTS, SINCE THE SPECIAL ED IEPs ARE LEGAL AGREEMENTS COVERED BY FEDERAL LAW. WHEN WE SPOKE BY PHONE WITH BUD KENNEDY OF THE STAR-TELEGRAM, HE SAID HE WOULD NOT "TAKE SIDES," DISMISSING OUR CONCERNS AS AFFECTING ONLY TEACHERS. 1. Underserving Special Education said on 5/30/18 - 08:52AM Ann, it was disappointing to see the lack of discussion at the last Board meeting regarding the secondary staffing cuts. Did you discuss our Special Ed concern reported below in executive session? I repeat the concern, hoping for a more prominent placement on your blog, and more attention to this area: What is the Board doing to address the years-long denial of Special Education services to students who should have qualified for these? (See Houston Chronicle expose and resulting Federal investigation.) The planned secondary staffing cuts are likely to reduce rather than increase services to this population, since the high-academic schools are not subject to cuts and will maintain small class sizes and preferable teacher to student ratios. The neighborhood schools are the ones that serve Special Education students with the Inclusion model. The neighborhood schools are also the ones subject to cuts in teaching staff in the core subjects. FWISD already does a disservice to these students by short-staffing the Special Ed program with usually only one lead Special Ed certified teacher on the larger campuses, and most services actually provided by non-certified, untrained (dedicated though they may be) Teacher Assistants. When you cut the General Education teachers in the core subjects, you plan to give even less attention to the Special Education students mainstreamed into these classrooms through the FWISD Inclusion model. It’s common knowledge that on the secondary campuses, Special Ed Inclusion teachers or assistants are usually only available for part of the class period for English and Math, not even for Science and Social Studies, much less electives or other graduation requirements. So you are already understaffing the core areas, and this current plan will make it worse. 2. Ann replies said on 6/3/18 - 10:12AM The budget has major increases in special education services: 5 FTE for dyslexia and 49 FTEs for Teachers, teacher assistants and other specialized positions for a total of $3.0 million."

More bad news about high schools

by Ann Sutherland on 09/10/18

Remember that despite the secondary STAAR results showing an increase from 1 to five middle schools on IR and, for the first time in memory, FIVE high schools are IR.  Nevertheless the board approved a reduction of another 150 core teachers in these schools (money generally going to central office).

Now the Youth Risk Behavior Survey has more shocking results from our high schools:  over 1/8 of our students seriously considered attempting suicide, an increase of the number of those planning how to do it increasing to 1/8 of our students, and the percentage of students attempting suicide increasing from 7.8 to 10.6%, OVER 1 IN 10 OF OUR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS.

The percentage of students who DID NOT GO TO SCHOOL BECAUSE THEY FELT UNSAFE EITHER AT SCHOOL OR GOING AND COMING TO SCHOOL at least one day increased from 8.8% (1 in 12!) to 10.1% (1 in 10)  

Survey was a sample of 3000 students, weighted to match our demographics.

Don't you think this deserves a board discussion?

Thanks to FWISD's Georgi Roberts for working to obtain the huge federal Centers for Disease Control grant which provided the horsepower for the surveys.

Don't you think this deserves a board discussion?

Everybody gets the 2%

by Ann Sutherland on 09/08/18

Thanks to the reader who asked.  Yes,everybody gets the 2% . . right on up to the Superintendent.  Last year he got $47,000.  $22,000 is an annual payment for his retirement.

Several schools get "A" grades

by Ann Sutherland on 09/02/18

We do need to voice some balance here.  Looking beyond all the "F" schools mentioned just below, there is some good news:

YWLA, TABS, the WLI, the two collegiate high schools Marine Creek and TCC South, all received "A" grades.  No middle schools though.

Elementary schools North Hi Mount, Tanglewood, Worth Heights, Westpark and Bonnie Brae also earned "A" grades.

45 schools (roughly 1/3 of all of our schools) earned "B" ratings.  

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