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Sutherland for Schools blog

Principal returned to South Hills HS

by Ann Sutherland on 03/25/17

Just after a teacher was written up for celebrating "A Day without a Woman", SHHS principal Dorothy Gomez was returned to her post last week.  I cannot comment on the propriety of this as she has been dedicated to her students without fail and very helpful to me, but when the accusations include, among other issues, attendance fraud, bullying of teachers, student cheating on Odyssey with the open support of the teacher, and massive teacher resignations or transfers last summer, one has to wonder about balance and equity.  

"A Day without a Woman" wrap-up

by Ann Sutherland on 03/25/17

Celebration of this day was marred by FWISD when Michael Menchaca ordered the principal of a young woman to write her a letter of reprimand for placing a poster of the event on her facebook page, saying that she would be working but would be doing as little as possible, with three hashtags.


In an email, Mr. Monge informed board members, "As a role model for the District's students, each employee is responsible for his or her public conduct even when he or she is not acting as a District employee.  An employee will be held to the same professional standards in his or her public use of electronic media as any other public conduct."

I checked with counsel and was informed that any electronic communication by an employee that could hurt the reputation of an agency is actionable.

With all the more important things going on, I still say it is shameful to waste time on such a small thing,  A short private conference might have been appropriate.  As I told the superintendent, this is bullying when it concerns such a small thing.  



Scribner shelves Dr. Sharon Meng

by Ann Sutherland on 03/22/17

The sole remaining administrator who did not live within the FWISD boundaries.


This takedown was engineered by Sammy Monge who managed to keep the identity of the targeted administrator secret until last night.  

The sole target of this vote was Dr. Sharon Meng.  Meng, one of most highly respected administrators in our district, who founded the Gold Seal Programs of Choice.   Prior to this, she was the first principal of our new South Hills High School. She later was principal of  Paschal High School, where the Programs of Choice began.  Meng was universally beloved by the Paschal community and by many others who saw her work.

Prior to his recent death, Dr. Meng and her husband lived for a number of years in a home outside the boundaries of our district and was never told that living within the district was a requirement of the Advanced Academics position when it was established and she was hired.   Placing her in this position was one of the best things that former superintendent Melody Johnson ever did for us.

The targeting of Dr. Meng follows on the heels of Mr. Monge's previous action to write up a young teacher who gave the national A Day Without a Woman a shoutout.  In addition, he prepares the agenda for the board meetings.

It makes you wonder who is running the district.

Revised: Temporarily withdrawing Day of the Woman

by Ann Sutherland on 03/14/17

In this district, no adverse personnel action should ever be taken without legal review.


It appears to me this particular action was generated by an email to all board members from jmr3805@gmail.com (anyone know who this is?) calling our attention to a Facebook post containing a picture of the public poster for Day of the Woman as well as three hashtags supporting women's issues.  A public post lauding women.  A board member may have sent this email to a staff member asking for an investigation.  (The Rat Patrol in action.)

I saw the email when it arrived and looked at the picture but decided it was some nut. I didn't think of the Rat Patrol until I received an "apology"  from the poster who, unbeknown to me, teaches in District Six.

Why would anyone apologize for a perfectly legal and mild post of a national event?  Oh yeah.  It's the Rat Patrol that infects this whole district.  One of the Downtown Rats called her principal and ordered the principal to interview her.  

Then the Downtown Rats reported to Dr. Scribner that she said "the kids can teach themselves."  Yet this teacher didn't even call in sick.  She went to work on the Day of the Teacher.

This last-minute action on the Friday before Spring Break was done without proper vetting.  It will be reviewed when staff returns next week.  

  

Staff on the 2017-18 budget: I can't give you anything but love, baby

by Ann Sutherland on 03/10/17

Not one penny for teacher raises.  The "love" isn't so hot either.


Staff is making significant improvement on budgeting, but there is significant work to be done on staffing.  The questions which I asked during the 20-minute presentation were not answered.  Instead all the time was spent on presentation.

And once again, they are making plans for budget, which is the board's responsibility, before asking us for our goals.Bad. 


Chief Rincon offers assistance on substitute issues

by Ann Sutherland on 03/07/17

I received this email from HCM Chief Cynthia Rincon:


Senior staff stiff substitutes

by Ann Sutherland on 03/04/17

I will ask HCM to respond to this powerful letter:

"I am responding to your concern about the lack of substitutes for FWISD. In addition to pay, it is also respect. As a retired FWISD teacher, I have seen how substitutes are treated on some campuses by principals. They are treated like you are nobody. There is no respect on some campuses.  Principals treat substitutes with disrespect like providing no lunch break, no planning period while they cover other classes with no substitutes. On one campus they were not allow to partake of treats and lunch left for teachers in the lounge. “No, that’s for teachers!” was the comment by one principal.

The students don’t respect the substitutes and will tell you “You are not my teacher so I don’t have to listen to you!” and will walk out of class to the office and complain. The principal will side with the student leaving the substitute with no recourse. Students who do this are not much different than the principal at the school. May be that is why these schools are low preforming.

There is no union for substitutes to go to for help. One particular substitute tried reaching out to Mr. Monge then to Mr. Mendoza and lastly to Dr. Scribner but to no avail. The superintendent would not even bother with an appointment with her. She was referred back to the executive director of Human Capital Management. Needless to say she left the district.

The mission for the HCM department is to support the learning environment by recruiting, hiring, and retaining the best employees and provide exceptional service to all of customers.

As you can see Ms. Sutherland, substitutes are treated with disrespect with no rights at FWISD.  Just ask a substitute who has or is working for FWISD.

 In conclusion, I send you my one letter to stand up for the many substitutes who do not have a voice and respect at FWISD."

Where's the beef, Dr. Scribner?

by Ann Sutherland on 02/28/17

Last night at their dinner, our superintendent lauded our 21 Academic Teachers of Excellence for their heart and commitment to FWISD's children.  Yeah, they have it, that's for sure.


But his words ring hollow in my ears because he stands in the way of this very teaching by stuffing our classrooms with tests, curriculm mandates that do not match the children's level, and hopelessly misbehaving children.  He needs to recognize that only he has the power to address these acknowledged barriers to our success.

Agenda and board book available online

by Ann Sutherland on 02/24/17

The Feb 28 agenda features a lot of purchases plus another vote on the Equity project.  Exec session will include a review of the open meetings rules as I complained bitterly last time at being cut off and not allowed to ask questions.  It is likely that I will comment at the end of the meeting on the changes which will be made to our meeting rules.


The board book and agenda are available at http://bit.ly/2lSbatz 

Or, go to the FWISD.org board page, the right-hand side, and notice the link to agenda and backup material.

Tanglewood's base funding

by Ann Sutherland on 02/20/17

Again, there have been some allegations that FWISD is under funding our most needy schools.  Generally, the data shows this not to be the case.


One way of assessing equity it to ensure that the basic funding is determined on the school's size, as is maintained in the FWISD official staffing ratios.  But obviously this document isn't being followed:  as I pointed out in a previous post, Paschal receives $800 more per student in base funding than South Hills, despite their being of a similar size.

And then there is this:  A Tanglewood parent used one of the charts our auditor and I have been working on.  It shows that considering only base funding, Tanglewood is the MOST underfunded school in the district at $4328.

Here is the superintendent's 2017 pay package

by Ann Sutherland on 02/20/17

See information page.  

Update on school x school funding differentials

by Ann Sutherland on 02/17/17

I believe the key to credible school management begins with fair budgeting of school allocations.  My earlier post regarding significant variances on school by school budgets was questioned by some readers who pointed out that the TEA report has different data.  The data posted on the "information" page is budgeted data.  A better yardstick uses actual expenditures, as the TEA uses (though their data is always an extra year old).  


Yesterday, CFO Schiro and I had a lengthy discussion of the need to improve equity in funding our schools. 

--She is preparing a chart like the one on the information page of this website which gives data on school enrollment and actual spending, knot just budget.  She will add a column for base spending per enrolled pupil which is not included in the current chart.  I will post it 
--Inequities in school x school funding have existed for years and will take time to rectify.  But "we've always done it this way" is no longer a reason to continue them indefinitely.
--The staffing ratios need to be amplified to include consideration of special needs children (as some of you pointed out).  She will work on this with the Chief of Human Capital Management Rincon.
--Finally, an evaluation is needed of the impact of some programs of choice with very low enrollment.  I am going to consult with the audit committee about this.

While equity in our funding of schools will take time, it is clear to me that there is commitment from senior staff to do this.  Cleaning up an urban school budget is sort of like turning a big ship: it takes time.  But, whether the speed is sufficient or not, we are moving in the right direction.

Dr. Scribner attacks substitute shortage

by Ann Sutherland on 02/16/17

Finally!  Last week the district hired and trained 50 more substitute teachers at its hiring fair.


Now we are going to provide an incentive for our substitutes to work more often.  Between the rollout next week and the end of school substitutes who teach nearly every day will receive additional pay per day as follows:

95% of days  $20 per day
90% of days  $15 per day
85% of days $10 per day

The rewards are significant.  $1300-$1360 extra for 95%, $915-960 for 90% and $580-$600 for those teaching 85% of the days.  The total cost of this proposal would be $330-$660,000, which is available partly because of the additional $800,000 placed in the district substitute budget by the board last June.

At the end of this period, the district will evaluate the proposal as follows:
--did the incentive result in fewer unfilled substitute assignments
--did it result in additional substitutes being hired
--should such an incentive be offered in 2017-18.

The district is still trying to figure out how to have fewer teacher absences, which will reduce the demand for subs.  (How about instituting better district support of out-of-control children?

Bouquets to Dr. Scribner and senior staff for this much-needed move.

My gripe about the Equity project

by Ann Sutherland on 02/15/17

Last night the FWISD board voted 8-0 to provide $1.4 million over five years to improve staff prejudice toward our minority students, which are 90% of our student body.  I voted for it, despite huge reservations.  

Yes, schools make a big difference.  They educate children and also convey a world view which lights a path for struggling children.  In many cases, teachers are the most influential socialization force our children have.

But the Equity project is predicated on the view that the cause of the disparity in the performance of non-Anglo children lies primarily on the attitude and actions of teachers and other staff.  The Equity committee bases this recommendation on data showing a disparity in both student performance and student behavior between racial groups.  (Actually the data on behavior shows that Hispanics have significantly fewer referrals than both Anglos and African-Americans and, in addition, that they perform academically only slightly behind Anglos through elementary school.)

Yet rather than examine global causes of this poor performance, the success of the project will be measured via the reduction of the differences in student behavior and academic performance between racial groups.

As I have written elsewhere, the major causes of this disparity lie in the family and community.*  When the board and community affix the major share of the blame for poor student behavior and academic achievement on staff attitudes, it encourages the community to ignore other, more major causes (i.e., home and community).  In fact, they have the major responsibility.

Programs like My Brother's Keeper and UMOJA deal directly with children and make a big difference.  A global approach as in the Equity project is too diluted to be effective.
The failure to address the real causes leads to classrooms with significant turmoil in our schools.

So clamor grows for charter and voucher schools. 
_____
See, for example, "The Depressing Data on Early Childhood Investment", an interview with Jerome Kagan, at http://to.pbs.org/1m6f3T3 



ACHIEVE 3000 showing major gains

by Ann Sutherland on 02/15/17

NOTE:  Presentation is now available at the "information" page of this website.


Last night's presentation on student performance as seen by TEA also included a major presentation on our new reading program.  Many kids are working at home --even on Christmas day!--even though many households have no internet access.

The improvement is significant, well over month-to-month progress as measured by Lexiles.  The powerpoint wasn't handed out in advance as the board requested but I will get a copy and post it on our information page.  The data should also be available at your school site.