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Videos set the mood at Woodway Elementary

by Ann Sutherland on 01/24/19

I don't think I've ever give a shout-out to a single school but I will now.

 Principal Bryan Johnson's tenure at Woodway Elementary several years ago began with his asking for large-screen TVs to place within sight of the front doors.  Each month, he changes the videos which are of Woodway students, and now Woodway classroom teachers have access to software enabling them to take photos of the children and activities in their classrooms, at which point they are available to the students and their parents via a link online.

I hadn't thought of the power of video to inspire the staff and students at Woodway but they (plus a lot of other hard work!) have changed the atmosphere at the school for the better.

And their scores have risen for 3 of the last 5 years, according to Dr. Roger's presentation last night.

Woodway had been a somewhat challenging school.  It is wonderful to see the change wrought via all the staff's video and  interest in our students.  Thank you, Woodway Wildcats.

Nearly one-quarter of our teachers feel unsafe at work; 2/3 say restorative discipline isn't working

by Ann Sutherland on 01/10/19

Thanks to UEA for keeping at the climate survey.  Here are some of the results:

Q20. Discipline is enforced consistently and effectively at my campus. 
   Strongly agree 10.38% 135 
   Agree 25.44% 331 
   Disagree 31.36% 408 
   Strongly disagree 32.82% 427 
   Answered 1301 
Q21. Unruly students are not permitted to disrupt the learning environment.  
   Strongly agree 8.53% 111 
   Agree 24.96% 325 
   Disagree 30.49% 397 
   Strongly disagree 36.02% 469 
   Answered 1302 

Q22. Additional behavioral supports are available from our school system for students who need them. 
   Strongly agree 10.90% 140 
   Agree 40.26% 517 
   Disagree 29.75% 382 Strongly disagree 19.08% 245 
   Answered 1284 

Q23. Restorative Discipline practices have improved discipline at my school. Strongly agree 7.75% 87 
Agree 25.73% 289 
Disagree 32.95% 370 
Strongly disagree 33.57% 377 
Answered 1123 

Q24. I feel safe at work. 
Strongly agree 22.21% 293 
Agree 54.06% 713 
Disagree 16.45% 217
Strongly Disagree 7.28% 

2018-19 Staffing Ratios

by Ann Sutherland on 12/19/18

The 2018-10 staffing ratios are on the information page now.  They are the top item.

The data for each school is listed #6 on the page.  This was put out last spring.  Following this, 168 of the secondary core positions and 32 of the secondary electives were returned, minus 46.5 taken back (again), leaving a total of 153.5 positions reduced from the staffing levels listed in #6.  this data is not presented here.  

On October 10th, the district decided to return some core and elective positions.  They are #4 on the list.

Staffing data for each school is retained centrally on the Focus software.  However, it is hard to extract in a meaninful way because in many cases teachers are teaching more than one class in the same hour.

If you have complaints they should be based on the staffing ratios, #1 at the top of this blog.

Palazzolo is up again on Jan 15.

by Ann Sutherland on 12/18/18

 Palazzolo's effort to quash net another of FWISD's appeals goes to court on Jan 15. (if I am reading this correctly)  The CIA blog posted it again before the board heard it. 

THIS is education's most serious problem. Can you guess what it is?

by Ann Sutherland on 12/16/18

Do not miss this story.  I most remember our loss of Mr. SM, told to resign after he was beaten up TWICE by students at his school.  Of course a neighboring district grabbed him up because he is such a great teacher and cares so much for our schools.

THIS should be the #1 issue in the next FWISD board election.

The reaction to Dr. Scribner's evaluation

by Ann Sutherland on 12/13/18

There were parents at the board meeting . . . and after . . . who are upset at the district.  Here is what one wrote about our $15K bonus and 5-year contract:

We got a C from the state. Worse than Dallas ISD. But yet again, the Board voted to give Dr. Scribner a raise, this time to the tune of $15,000.

I guess the only way to get a decent raise in this district is to be mediocre at your job.

I need the Board to stop blaming the state for the lack of sufficient raises and results in this district. The state ain’t changing. It’s time we did. Cut the fat downtown. Take a hatchet to the bureaucracy. Outsource what needs to be outsourced (such as our miserably inefficient payroll department). And stop giving everything to students for free. Put that money in our classrooms and our pockets. You’ll attract better teachers and see better results.

And stop rewarding mediocrity. Especially among the top brass.

Palazzolo legal fees

by Ann Sutherland on 12/08/18

One of you challenged my $100,000 cost of Palazzolo legal fees, so I checked.  Yes, reader, you are correct.  they are $422,557 . . . as of July 1 2012.  

The board has never been informed of these expenses.

I asked for the fees through November of this year.  So I don't know whether we paid any after that, but this doesn't make a lot of sense to me because there have been appeals and responses . . . on and on . . . well into this year.  

Strong leadership and staff work hard at a challenging middle school

by Ann Sutherland on 12/01/18

It isn't easy managing a 1000-student middle school with a 96% minority enrollment, especially when the district mandates an 8-period day, which means kids are in the halls 9 times, and "grades" the administration based on keeping office referrals and suspensions as low as possible.

Wedgwood Middle School staff member Robert Burrell managed a major attempt to provide special help to the 90 most challenging students in 2016-17.  The regular teachers loved their more manageable classrooms even though they were larger, but having even 15 challenging students in a classrooms was too hard on their teachers and a new plan was needed.

Burrell's promotion to principal for the 17-18 year was supported by Wedgwood people as well as the central office.  His support of the student body is unassailable, but he is not afraid to suspend students.  Staffing changes have also produced stronger classroom management and fewer referrals.

But it's hard to avoid the problems caused by the switch to an 8-period day and the proposed loss of 6.5 teachers (while racking up a surplus of $23 million.

I taught thirty years ago at C. M. Goethe, Sacramento, California's toughest middle school.  But its 450-student enrollment posed challenges which were child's play compared to Wedgwood MS's thirty years later with 1000 students.


Reason #2: Why your classes are so crowded and hard to manage

by Ann Sutherland on 11/23/18

Regular readers of this column will remember that the superintendent and cabinet took $30 million in services and staff away from the principals and have moved control over it into the central office.  Part of this involved in stripping our secondary schools of nearly 250 teachers over the last two years.*  Please note that existing plans involve taking another 100 core teachers over each of  the next 3 years.

You also remember that President Jackson, First VP Sims and I voted against the budget because of this and because last year's budget was posted to have a $53 million deficit (per June 5, 2018 board presentation).

You saw at the last meeting that the 2017-18 audit was approved without a single comment from either staff or board members (I missed this meeting).

NOW WE LEARN from this silently-approved audit of the 2017-18 budget that there was actually a substantial surplus for 2017-18.  Basically there is plenty for the 18-19 budget to operate with no reductions in secondary core staffing.   In other words, the district's estimate of the 2017-18 fiscal year expenditures, showing a deficit,  was off by $76 million, although the staff cut that to $53 million after they transferred $23+ million in bond funds.**

FWISD and other major districts' estimates of the necessary reserves dictate a reserve of two months' expenditures, which is $127 million.  Ha ha.  We now have $86 million extra in reserves.  

Our budget office has been hiding money from the board at least from 2010, as I commented repeatedly even during my first campaign for the board.  We have actually ended the year with surpluses, not deficits as the board has been told.

It's getting worse.  

Think of that, parents and school site staff.  They aren't even spending the money.  Just keeping it.
*Teachers are budgeted at $65,000 per teacher; 65,000 X 250 = $16 million.
**Yes, bond funds.  Think of this as you bemoan the extra money going to schools in your 2018 property taxes which you will be paying very soon.  

Stay tuned for the FWISD Black Friday special tomorrow

by Ann Sutherland on 11/22/18

It will be worth your wait.

More fighting at Wedgwood MS this a.m.

by Ann Sutherland on 11/15/18

Parents and teachers often wonder what to do about assaults at our schools.  It helps when a video is sent forward    This morning I received a video of boys fighting in the restroom. I have asked for action on these matters but I have not received any specific feedback.  

Huge losses in teaching time in middle school core classes

by Ann Sutherland on 11/12/18

We already know that this year, the district instituted an 8-period day, reducing class time from 55 to 45 minutes.  In middle schools, after discounting 5 minutes for the class to settle in and take roll, this already amounts to a reduction of 20% of last year's time (10/50).

Now we learn that many schools are having ELA teachers out one day per week and math teachers out one day every other week for Engage to Learn, FWISD's $2.06 million effort to improve student attitudes, funded mostly via federal money*  This reduces class time another 20% for ELA students and 10% for math students.  All core classes are designated to participate.  Put differently, ELA students are losing 36 days of instruction per year and math students 18.  
This despite staff having no evidence that the program will increase student learning.

Time lost in middle school ELA classes = 40%
Time lost in middle school math classes = 30%

Staff has not responded to a request for the number of schools participating in this program nor whether the reductions are year-long or not.
*According to federal law, decisions about Title I funds at school sites must be approved by SBDM groups.

In praise of FWISD's Student Voter registration drive!

by Ann Sutherland on 11/06/18

Thanks to the Dr. Washington and her staff and the high school personnel--all of them--who carefully went one by one  through the list of students eligible to vote and registered so many of them.  We have 1,518 students of voting age and 878, 58%, have registered to vote.  When one considers that an unknown number of  the remaining 42% are not citizens, the percentage rises.  

This is an important achievement.

Leaders were YWLA (100%), YMLA (100%), Success HS (98%), Dunbar (94%),  and Benbrook MSHS (90%)

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.

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