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Sutherland for Schools blog

SE cites need for response from Dr. Scribner and from me

by Ann Sutherland on 11/19/15

SE writes:

A month later and still no comment! You do realize that this just further       
frustrates an already poor morale? Perhaps the need for more substitutes would  
be diminished if we considered working on fixing what is REALLY broke around    
here! I remember that Dr. Scribner said, "You must earn the right to       
lead!" Okay, so how long must we wait for clean up? Personally, I think    
our district moves slower than congress! Most of us just want to know when will 
he reach out to teachers? Will he give us an opportunity to speak? If we plan   
on just continuing with the way things are, just say so and we will quit        
anticipating and consequently no longer bother you with requests asking for...  
Please just show us the respect of an answer either way. 

Many problems with testing and calendar are noted

by Ann Sutherland on 11/06/15

Parents are writing about the change in the FWISD calendar and the testing regimen.  See below.

Agenda and Board book for Nov 10 meeting

by Ann Sutherland on 11/06/15

These are available on the "information" tab of this website.

Sub shortages are unnecessary!

by Ann Sutherland on 11/06/15

Based on last year's data, I estimate that 10,000 classrooms will be without substitutes this year.  These classes are either placed in adjacent rooms, or filled with teachers who are having their planning hour.  This happens every day, impacts every child and contributes greatly to teacher burn-out.  Last year we hired 800 new teachers.

The district deliberately hires fewer substitutes than are required in order to save money.  There are plenty of applicants.

How much would it cost to hire teachers for these classes?  I estimate about $800,000 per year.

We spend $2.8 million in federal funds for learning networks people.

Having enough substitutes so that teachers don't have to "double up" or forfeit their planning periods is more important.

Timing of progress reports for this 6-week period questioned

by Ann Sutherland on 11/03/15

Acting on a recommendation from staff, the board approved the 2015-16 calendar with a Fall Semester of 78 days and a Spring calendar of 99 days.  Questions have been raised regarding the adequacy of this grade period to evaluate student work and prepare progress reports, particularly since in some schools an entire week out of the 25 days is devoted to benchmark testing.  (NOTE:  this is a decision of the school site, not the board or district.)

Staff reports the problems with the current 6-week period result from the need to conform to UIL eligibility.  

Because of these criticisms, a reader asked which staff members created this calendar.  Staff provides the following response:
I(Sammy Monge) am in charge of the Calendar Committee.  We try to have at least one representative representing the different major stakeholder groups as part of the Calendar Committee (last year we had representation from: 7 of the 9 Board Members submitted a name to be on the committee, UEA, FWEA, ATPE, FWPSAA, 4 Curriculum Staff members, 3 from School Leadership, 4 DAC members – Community –Business, Teacher & Parent Rep, FWABSE, 3 principals from the Superintendent’s Principals Council, FW Council of PTAs and Communications).  In addition to meeting with the Calendar Committee I also met with and received input from the Superintendent’s Cabinet, the Board of Fort Worth Council of PTAs, the District Advisory Committee and the District Employee Relations Council.  

Parents and teachers who find this unworkable should contact their board members.

Boards, teachers, even President Obama decry excessive testing

by Ann Sutherland on 10/26/15

Finally a strong voice calls for sense.  

The Council of the Great City Schools (FWISD Trustee Paz is on their board) has just released results of a major 2-year study saying that testing has not changed student performance!  Mandated tests take 20- 25 hours per year, not counting school-site developed tests.  

Fort Worth has more requirements than these districts, but our curriculum department asserts that we take less time than this, according to their recent assessment (see "2015-2016 Testing Times" on the information page of this site).  

Our staff's study leaves out a few things, like testing done during senior year and all those Short Cycle Assessments which are now in the curriculum framework (no, they didn't disappear).

Agenda and board book for Oct 27 meeting

by Ann Sutherland on 10/23/15

The agenda and board book are available on the information tab.  Perhaps the most interesting thing is a long presentation from HCM on their improved hiring procedures.

Action coming on unfilled substitute slots? Looks like it!

by Ann Sutherland on 10/22/15

Dr. Scribner has been here a week.  Not very long for change.

Yet yesterday I heard there is a meeting about our substitute situation.  Finally!

Last year's unfilled teacher absences ranged from 5.2% in Sept 2014 upward to nearly 18% in December.  

This year the unfilled rate in September has increased to 8.2%.

Not good.

Revised: Does your secondary school have the right number of teachers?

by Ann Sutherland on 10/20/15

  Teachers in some schools seem to have big classes, and I have had a great deal of trouble getting accurate data regarding the number of students per teacher in our secondary classrooms.  This is unacceptable in a district of 87,000 students and a general fund budget exceeding $700 million.

             If you are concerned that your class sizes are too big, you can determine whether the district is allocating sufficient teachers for the size of the student body. To simplify calculation of the number of staff which should be allocated according to formula, the following formula can be employed:

             For middle schools, which provide one teacher for each 120 students in tested content areas and one for each 184 students in untested content subjects, find the number of enrolled students and multiply by 22.6

             For high schools, which provide one teacher for each 150 students in tested content area and one for each 180 students in the other areas, multiply the number of enrolled students  by 23.1.

      Staffing is controlled by ratios for several different job classifications.  The current staffing ratios are available on the information page at  .  (The link is for 2014-15 but the ratios are the same this year.) 


Advertising on athletic fields to raise money

by Ann Sutherland on 10/15/15

Last week our blog received a query regarding the rules for allowing school-based organizations to solicit advertising from local businesses to be placed at athletic fields.  The purpose is to raise money for school activities.

Board policy states that permission must be given by the superintendent or designee, and it's not clear where that authority has been delegated.  Staff suggests that interested parties ask for principals' approval, or contact the legal office (817-814-1980) for further advice.

Once secured, advertising can often be renewed simply by sending an invoice to the vendor asking for renewal of the sign.

Board policy is at 

Memo to Dr. Scribner: Principal kicks teachers out of school at 4 p.m.

by Ann Sutherland on 10/12/15

I would like to comment for Dr. Scribner:         
Teachers in our building are treated with zero respect! I love what I do and    
I'm passionate about it and sometimes that means working an extra couple of     
hours to make sure that I have everything together for the week. So after our   
training today we were given about an hour to work on literacy stations or      
basically anything that we never really have time to do which in theory is an   
incredible idea. However after 45 minutes at approximately 345 we were told     
that we needed to exit the building by 4 o'clock or that security would be      
called. I'm not looking for a thank you but it would seem to me that a true     
leader would appreciate any teacher willing to stay the extra hour or two to    
get the job done rather than get booted out without so much as more than 15     
minutes notice! This was so disrespectful and downright rude! I did not even    
have time to clean off my work table in my classroom or put anything away. 

Oct 13 Agenda and board book online; Audit Committee meeting 4 pm

by Ann Sutherland on 10/09/15

Tuesday will be Dr. Linares' last meeting.  The short agenda features a presentation on our professional development training and a promise to get Promethean Board repair going better.  If yours is languishing and doesn't function, send me an email [].

The audit committee will be electing a chair and adopting our work plan for the year.  The proposed plan includes an audit of teacher credentialing as well as other central office functions.

Dr. Scribner is now here--you may have seen him already--and takes official control on Wed., Oct 15.

Agenda and board book for Sept 23 meeting

by Ann Sutherland on 09/18/15

See the information tab for the agenda.

Included on the consent calendar is an item for $500,000 in new pianos for the orchestras and accompanists.  This is part of a $2 million contract awarded to a Dallas piano company.  I will oppose it.

Also under "personnel" in executive session I will question the failure to prosecute students and others for assaults on our teachers.  This is not on the agenda.

This is your school's money. Your decision also.

by Ann Sutherland on 09/17/15

Schools receive a lot of federal Title I money and also some state  funds to address the needs of low-achieving students.  The total for our schools is 22 million.  The data is on the information tab of this website  

The chart is not easy to read but it is worth the effort.  It is the money your school site is given to spend at its own discretion.  I am hearing that some schools are not following the law.

The campuses are sorted by computer number (very irritating to us mortals) which is in the second column.  Then there are a series of numbers and the right-hand number is the important one.

For example #001 Carter Riverside has $447,134 in Site Based Decision Making funds.  These funds are to be spent as decided by the SBDM team.  

DO NOT LET ANYONE TELL YOU OTHERWISE.  If you don't have an SBDM team let me know; it's required by state law. 

Time to take action regarding bad student behavior

by Ann Sutherland on 09/14/15

We need to take action where student behavior is persistently unacceptable.  One period "suspensions" and office referrals are sometimes not enough.  As a consequence, student conduct is continuing to deteriorate.

Last year's survey of school climate indicated an increasing percentage of teachers who did not feel safe in the classroom.  The major problem was students' "mouthing off" rather than actual violence.

This must be addressed.  Staff is attempting to employ "positive discipline" and a graduated approach in dealing with unruly students.  This meets with different levels of success.

One middle school had over three referrals per student  last year.  At the other end, a high school had less than one referral per student over the year.

Some schools are making progress.  A high school in my district has reduced the number of office referrals by 20% per year.  

This data seems encouraging, but still, the percentage of teachers who feel unsafe in their classrooms is increasing.

At one high school, during the first 2/3 of the school year, 25% of the students had office referrals,  Most were for abusive language.  Two-thirds of the students  had three or fewer.  The other thirds had most of the referrals.  Sixteen had ten or more referrals.  Yet NO STUDENT was sent to Metro from this school, despite students having as many as 30 referrals.  

Blaming teachers for persistent misbehavior must stop.  Yes, some teachers are more skilled than others in controlling classes.  However, the burden is on the student to behave.  When APs just blow off office referrals, it sends the wrong message to the students.

And my view is that more students need to be sent to DAEP.