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Sutherland for Schools blog

Revised:Board to consider raise for superintendent at Tuesday Workshop

by Ann Sutherland on 12/01/16

Superintendent's contract is at

Board agenda is at:

How can teachers secure special education assessmsent?

by Ann Sutherland on 11/29/16

Brian Rosenthal of the Houston Chronicle is working on an analysis of the reasons Texas is underidentifying children for special education.  While the national average of identified children is 12%, Texas is identifying at 8.5% and Fort Worth is a full percentage point below this.  

If we are "average", there are 4,000 children who haven't been identified.

I have heard that FWISD identifies proportionately few children before third grade.  Have you experienced this?*

If you have an anecdote to share, please let me know or write Mr. Rosenthal at

Maybe we can get the 3rd grade reading scores to rise beyond the current 30%

Substitute availability??? Leading a horse to water . . .

by Ann Sutherland on 11/22/16

You can lead a school district to find money for substitutes, but you can't make them fill our classes.

Last year, at my insistence, the board put $800,000 into the budget to fund substitutes for all our 100,000 days of teacher absences with no substitutes to take over the classes.  I promised to monitor the improvement each month.

This year, there were few absences through September. 

October was much different:  teachers missed an average of two days in the classroom, but no substitute was hired for one in six of these absences.  It appears that there is no interest in taking care of this problem, even with standards going so far down that some people are being hired as substitutes who have not finished their B.A.s

Update on Mr. Palazzolo's situation

by Ann Sutherland on 11/16/16

There will be a conference the middle of December to set the date for the re-trial in Decatur.  The issue(s) with the Texas Supreme Court have not been responded to.

Agenda and board book published on "information" page

by Ann Sutherland on 11/11/16

Tuesday's meeting features:

--forward movement on the District of Innovation Committee formation (#13-I);

--very troubling amendment of FWISD local policy DFBB(1) which appears us to permit nonrenewal of a term contract for teachers, APs and principals based solely on deficiencies noted by an evaluator (eliminating the formerly required opportunity to correct the deficiencies); and, on a positive note, 

--a memorandum of understanding enabling FWISD to partner with Texas Tech to offer a 3-year teaching credential following completion of an AA degree at community college and one year of student teaching.

Also included are the proposed campus turnaround plans required by TEA and the source of our required training by TEA/

Blame it on the principal: Dr. Scribner responds to the Achieve 3000 comments

by Ann Sutherland on 11/07/16

Here is the respose from our superintendent:

Achieve 3000? What nonsense

by Ann Sutherland on 11/06/16

I received the following post from a teacher.  Hard to believe that we would do this after the $1.6 million debacle of DII (is it working yet?).

After trainings with Achieve 3000, I am skeptical of its value. There is not technology on campus to do the whole group lessons.The lessons where everyone in grade 3-5 read the same story, but at their lexile level. Then they stop, the teacher does a reading lesson, and then they reflect and write on the computer to questions and answer a few multiple choice. Teachers now being told they will print the lexile stories, read/discuss in class,a nd break into small groups for the instruction. How is this different from just pulling nonfiction stories from the leveled library we already have and doing small group? We are spending millions to do what we can already do. Then there is the issue of 3-5 graders that are so low there is not a lexile at their level, referred to as BR. Achieve 3000 personnel could not address this. They said, "Your district is deciding if those students will use the 2nd grade Smarty Ants program." I thought Mr. Scribner had used this program effectively before and it was going to change, improve, rescue the district. It does not seem to be the case.

I sent this post to the district and Dr. Scribner, asking them to comment on the next board meeting.

Compliance subs

by Ann Sutherland on 11/01/16

A teacher sent me this comment, which is troubling.  Teachers in Pk-4 with over 22 students per class are given a compliance sub, uncredentialed, and they don't even have any say in who they have.

This is crazy, to have a person not lo necessaily loyal to you in your classroom all day long.

I just wanted to say something about a comment you made at the last meeting.    
You mentioned how you do no support teachers receiving extra money for being    
out of compliance. You should understand that all help is not good help. We do  
not get a choice in who our compliance sub will be. In many cases they are more 
of a hinderance than a help. These subs are not certified teachers and in many  
cases may not have adequate experience working with children in urban schools.

Board and Supt must sit thru two 12-hour meetings because of poor test scores

by Ann Sutherland on 10/26/16

Yes, the omniscient staff at TEA are going to lecture us about how to run our school district in order not to have four unacceptable schools with records of repeated failure to pass the mark.  Then they will check to see if we have done what they have told us to do.

You couldn't have known this from reading the agenda or listening to the presentation (item 20-D).  

We will see what they will propose.  If the board fails, TEA plans to (1) provide management over the whole district, (2) turn the running of the schools over to a charter, or (3) close the school.

Here's my list of how to improve our students' scores:
1) quit making teachers give lessons which are above the students' level;
2) eliminate all testing not required by TEA  (the latest addition is to require 3 more tests to kids who have volunteers reading with them one-on-one--of course the volunteers have to correct the tests . . .);
3.  Start labeling students in obvious need of intervention (we are 4000 students less than the state average--enough to address the unmet needs of many students, including those that are acting out); and
4.  Create classrooms for children who are obviously unable to profit from the regular classroom.

The cause and repair of the achievement gap

by Ann Sutherland on 10/22/16

This short article, an interview with Jerome Kagan, is one of the most 

I have ever read--and it is short.

This week I received a report from one of you citing a disturbing interaction between Dr. Scribner and students at the Student Advisory Committee meeting.  The issue was whether parents or schools are responsible for the achievement gap.

The article deals with heritability and adds the fact that without nourishment there can be no growth.  It also reports that newly available genetic analyses indicate that no more than 10% of intelligence is heritable; the rest is environment.

The solution?  Change congress and get parents to read.  This highlights the success of our Parent University, which President Ramos has been showcasing.

Agenda, board book for 10/25

by Ann Sutherland on 10/21/16

This is posted on the information page.

There are two critical issues, each of which will have a public hearing and comment:
--Item 20D, and 20E, relating to the acceptance of TEA terms for Campus Turnaround Plan, proposed by Mr. Monge and Mia Hall; and
20F, the first reading of the District of Innovation proposal the board requested last week.  As I indicated prior to the last board meeting, this is basically a blank check for the superintendent to eliminate board approval of items related to parental involvement and parental rights, employment protections, and curricular decisions.

I will oppose 20F and believe it is very dangerous.  As I posted two weeks ago, 

One of the most hazardous pieces of legislation enacted by Texas lawmakers last year bears a harmless-sounding name. We refer to the law authorizing school districts to declare themselves “districts of innovation” and thereby to exempt themselves from many important safeguards of educational quality and employee, student, and parental rights in the Texas Education Code. Some of the core state laws from which “districts of innovation” can exempt themselves include:

·         Education Code Chapter 21–educator contracts, due process, and salary guarantees; teacher certification standards; appraisal rights; planning and preparation periods; duty-free lunch; disability leave.     

Chapter 22–employee immunity from liability; employee personal leave and assault leave; the right to voluntary payroll deduction of professional dues.

·         Chapter 37–the right of classroom teachers to remove disruptive studentsprocedural rights of teachers and other school employees as well as students in discipline cases.

·         Many other safeguards, such as class-size limits in Chapter 25 and the law upholding teachers’ grading authority in Chapter 28 can be set aside as well by a “district of innovation.” The same goes for parental rights in various parts of the Education Code, including all of Chapter 26.*

--From the Texas AFT

Here is the TEA letter re unacceptable campus turnaround plans

by Ann Sutherland on 10/20/16

See the information page for this letter.  Schools are John T White, IM Terrell, Maude Logan and Forest Oak Middle schools.

I would welcome assistance from readers on the implications of this letter, transmitted to the board and superintendent both on Oct. 12th, and never communicated to the board until today, when a reader asked me about it.

While the letter presents several options for the schools, they all require board review and board training.  The district's response was to send us a DRAFT of a revision.  As nearly as I can tell from the letter, sending a second draft is not one of the options.  Rather board training is offered and follow-up from TEA that the changes required must have been implemented.

Here is the IT audit a reader requested

by Ann Sutherland on 10/20/16

Staff prefers we not publicize the results of audits our taxpayers pay over $600,000 for. 

This audit is particularly contentious, as the board voted for its 2014-15 budget to provide $60,000 for an outside audit.  Without informing the board OR the audit committee, the former audit chair, Trustee Needham, ordered our auditor to stop production of this audit.  This was straightened out with the election of President Ramos and my election as chair of the audit committee.

The audit is on the information page.  The leading findings were (a) need for a formal disaster recovery plan, (b) off-site storage, (c) written policies for handling data, and (d) a change in the management process.


Tuesday board meeting: link to agenda and board book

by Ann Sutherland on 10/07/16

Here is the link: 
Thanks to staff for fixing the glitch.

There are two huge items on this agenda:

1.  Exec commitee and then VOTE on the Palazzolo case
2.  A horrible proposal for the board to establish a committee to propose weakening of statutory protections for teachers, curriculum and students.  The board would establish the committee.  No guarantees on who would be on the committee.
You can find the agenda if you look for a long time, but you cannot access the board book, partly because I am having issues with my host.

Explanation of AR delays; all Title I schools are being renewed

by Ann Sutherland on 10/05/16