A Good and Bad Night for Fort Worth Schools Super

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Posted November 17, 2010 by betty.brink in Blotch

Fort Worth schools superintendent Melody Johnson got a three-year extension on  her contract last night with a 6-3 vote, again benefitting from the lopsided board majority she continues to have in her corner —but she didn’t get a raise. (‘Course she really doesn’t need one. She draws a yearly salary of $328,950, not including perks, and is one of the highest paid supers in the state.)  She will stay on until June 2013.

Not bad for a superintendent who, according to Trustee Ann Sutherland, has taken this district from being second from the top in 2005 among the major Texas cities in achieving the highest TAKS test scores in the state to being second from the bottom during Johnson’s tenure from 2005 through 2009.

“I find that just plain alarming,” Sutherland told the board after passing out a paper she prepared from statistics from the Texas Education Agency showing just how far Fort Worth students have fallen in all categories, from the state achievement test scores to closing the achievement gap between minority students and white kids, under Johnson. 

In February 2005, when Johnson was hired to replace superintendent and long-time Fort Worth educator Joe Ross, (who had taken over 18 months earlier after Thomas Tocco was pushed out in disgrace following a scandal that cost the district more than $10 million in a fraudulent concrete bidding scheme), Ross left Johnson with a district whose 52 percent passing test scores were second only to Austin’s.  

 Fort Worth kids were outpacing Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and El Paso students by two to four percentage points occupying “A stellar place,” Sutherland said.

But by 2009, under Johnson’s administration, “all districts except San Antonio have passed us up,” Sutherland pointed out. The district’s scores have fallen to second from the bottom, outpaced by all the other urban districts by an average of nine percentage points. 

While the average scores in all the urban districts have gone up during that time, Sutherland said, Fort Worth school kids are obviously “losing ground. …This is very serious. We need to roll up our sleeves and get busy,” she told the board.  

Sutherland also said she had a “greater concern” about the progress – or lack thereof – in the much-vaunted “closing of the achievement gap” between the scores of African American, Hispanic and Anglo students. The gap has widened dramatically under Johnson, according to the TEA statistics Sutherland presented.  

Between 2003 and 2005, African American students were improving their passing rates by an average of 6.5 percent per year; Hispanics by 7 percent. Then, between 2005 and 2009, African American students dropped to 2.5 percent per year; Hispanics to 3 percent.  Even Anglo’s passing rates fell from an average of 5 percent growth per year in the three years prior to Johnson’s hiring to an average of 1.75 percent from 2005 through 2009.  All students were increasing their test scores by an average of 6 percent per year during the 2003-2005 school years. Then, between 2005 and 2009, that rate fell to 2.5 percent per year.  

And even though, overall, the district’s test scores are going up, Sutherland argued that Fort Worth is still lagging behind, outscored by the other urban districts that we once were leading.  “We need to change course,” she said. “Whatever they [other districts] are doing, we should be doing.”

Sutherland then said, “As much as I admire Dr. Johnson, I can’t vote for an extension of her contract or a raise.” Trustees Juan Rangel and Carlos Vasquez voted with her.  

Even before Sutherland presented her paper to the board, an African American civic leader, Isaiah Woods of the Southeast Kingdom Neighborhood Association, chastised Johnson for the district’s failure to stem the high dropout rates among young black males.  “The dropout rates have been rising in our community for the past five years. Melody Johnson is not doing her job,” he told the board during the public comment period.

“If you [Johnson] get [your contract renewed] then nothing will change, it will just get worse.”  He warned that there must be accountability from the board, especially the African American trustees Christene Moss and T. A. Sims, both of whom have been board members for more than 20 years. “If that doesn’t happen,” he said, “we will organize.”  

In other business, board president Ray Dickerson clashed with Sutherland over her repeated requests for public information, claiming that she was “overwhelming” the staff.  Sutherland replied that if the administration would respond to her requests for documents, she wouldn’t be forced to file a public information request, pointing out that all citizens have the right to request public documents. 

There was one victory for the mostly outvoted minority crew of Sutherland, Vasquez and Rangel when the board decided to postpone for 90 days a decision on granting drilling rights to XTO and Chesapeake Energy for gas wells that would be far too close to two elementary schools, Daggett Montessori and Wilson Elementary.  

The superintendent recommended that the leases be granted in spite of the closeness to the schools, the possible dangers to children, and district rules that state that, minus a waiver, no wells can be drilled closer than 1,200 feet to a public school.  She favors a waiver.

Johnson’s rationale: The district’s need for the $183,062 “non-tax revenue” the wells would bring in in bonus money, with royalties of 25 percent.

For several months Rangel and Vasquez,  joined by Sutherland and trustee Tobi Jackson, have been meeting with industry reps, one of whom spoke in favor of the leases last night, and League of Neighborhood reps, many of whom showed up to speak  against granting the leases. Their appeals worked.  There will be another three months for the board reps to meet and hammer out an agreement, if one can be made, that will guarantee the safety of the well sites. If that’s not forthcoming, it looks like XTO and Chesapeake will have to fold their tents and silently slip away.   

 

 


11 Comments


  1.  
    Eddie

    Good ol’ Ft Worth, it’s all about the superintendent.




  2.  
    Maria

    Why do we have to review the data trends to confirm that the district is not making progress under this superintendent? She is replicating the same trends she left in her previous district.

    Please refresh your memory. This article was published by Jesse Simon in the African-AmericanNews&Issues at http://www.aframnews.com

    “The selection of the new Fort Worth Superintendent concerns the African American community and school leaders questioning how effective Dr. Melody Johnson will be in raising academic standards for Black students in the district. Johnson, who is white, has been a Providence, Rhode Island superintendent since 2002. State records reveal she has been unsuccessful with bringing African American and Hispanic academic test scores above state standards and according to Rhode Island State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education District report cards, is leaving the district with schools either making insufficient progress or in serious improvement needs.
    One high school (Hope High School) is performing so poorly, it will soon be operating under the watchful eyes of state officials. “I represent an African American constituency and my number one concern is the success of African American students,” said Fort Worth School District 4 board member T.A. Sims. “Those schools in Rhode Island have problems and are not making progress, and that bothers me when kids are not learning.” Sims said he is concerned about Johnson’s record and Providence district’s current budget problems and overall financial condition.
    The school board voted 7-2 to hire Johnson and is considering paying her $300,000 per year, nearly doubling her former salary of $160,000 in Rhode Island. She was competing with Hispanic candidate Jesus Chavez, who is currently a superintendent in Corpus Christi. One African American candidate was initially considered, but the board did not select him as a finalist. According to student information dated December 23, 2004, the Providence Public Schools has 25,742 students. Hispanics represent 57 percent or 14,567, 5,695 or 22 percent are African American and 13 percent are White. The district also did not measure up when it comes to the number of African American teachers in the district. District statistics indicate 81 percent of teachers and 60 percent of administrators are White. Hispanics are 10 percent of the teaching force. Only 7 percent of the teachers and 21 percent of the administrators are African Americans. Fort Worth Independent School District’s profile reveals 80,223 students attend its 145 schools – over three times the size of Providence’s district. Of those, 41,839 or 52.2 percent of the students are Hispanic and 28.1 percent or 22,528 are African American…”

    T. A. Sims and Mrs. Moss do you need more data? Hispanics and African Americans are still at the bottom of the pile as compared with the few whites peers. Are you satisfied with your vote?

    Teachers, sorry for you, three more years of the same. FWISD administrators, your job is on the line. Melody never takes responsibilities for her own mess.




  3.  
    Betty brink

    Thank you, Maria, for adding this important voice from the past to the ongoing controversy that is swirling around FW schools super Melody Johnson and the educational resultsof her tenure here. As a reporter, I commend you for your excellent research.




  4.  
    will burr 2u

    Hmmmmm, why would a teacher or administrator change the attendence of any student unless it was to make sure that the student had enough days of instruction to graduate? The district must reach a certain graduation rate to receive state and federal funding. The Superintendent uses a type of ‘bell curve’ formula to artificially inflate TAKS scores to ‘acceptable.’ Johnson and her puppet, Mike Sorhams are charlatans.




  5.  
    Maria

    Ms. Brink, thank you for advocating for all children in Fort Worth. Super Melody Johnson has not learned from her own mistakes. When you make the same mistake twice, something wrong with your skills. The advantage Super Melody has to do it wrong again is that the community in Fort Worth does not have strong community leaders who can confront this crime against the children and tax payers.

    Sutherland tried to explain the data using %. I just going to share with the “yes” board members the number of children who are failing under their watch.

    Reading Writing Social St. Math Science
    All 7631 1494 851 11521 4710
    A A 2397 443 303 3942 1495
    Hisp 4804 964 497 6772 6772
    Wht 366 83 46 717 253

    Each student who did not master TAKS will be a candidate for dropping out school, earn minimum wages, become a social problem for the city or a candidate for jail. As you can notice, Reading, Math and Science are the key components for success in education.

    Another important data that Super Melody Johnson is proud and her group of chiefs, the number of campuses that are recognized or exemplary. This is another way of misleading the public. WE have to recognize that Texas this year was ELECTING their candidates. That’s why they created the statistic curve of TPM to make believe that education is improving in Texas. I call this REELECTION of Republicans. If you take the TPM from the campuses performances few campuses should be recognized or exemplary. You will be amazed the number of campuses rated as low performance campuses.

    The “yes” board members are lacking the capacity of learning their own data. The Super has the advantage of talking what she can’t walk and to convince the “Yes Board members” that things are going fantastic in FWISD.

    With the fear and low morale of FWISD employees, the public distrust and the majority of board members sleeping… we are calling for a disaster.

    I will continue being Maria, holding my taxes and waiting for the board election.

    Thanks Mrs. Brink.




  6.  
    Advocate

    Now is the time for parents and taxpayers to organize to get rid of Johnson, DIckerson, Robbins, NEEDHAM, Moss, Simms and Jackson (such a disappointment already!). Teachers and Administrators have been fired for trying to report what has been going on. There is nothing left for them to do. It is now up to us. Vasquez, Rangel and Sutherland cannot continue to fight this alone. We must circulate the WEEKLY’s stories. THank you Betty Brink and FWWeekly! Time to clean out the FWISD.




  7.  
    Maria

    These are the students who did not meet the minimum standard in FWISD:

    READING:
    African Americans 2,397
    Hispanics 4,804
    Whites 366
    Total # of students 7,631

    WRITING:
    African Americans 443
    Hispanics 964
    Whites 83
    Total # of students 1,494

    SOCIAL STUDIES
    African Americans 303
    Hispanics 497
    Whites 46
    Total # of students 851

    MATH
    African Americans 3,942
    Hispanics 6,772
    Whites 717
    Total # of students 11,521

    SCIENCE
    African Americans 1,495
    Hispanics 6,772
    Whites 253
    Total # of students 4,710

    I reissued the data because the format in the previous comment was not aligned.

    Again “YES” board members, each student who did not master TAKS will be a candidate for dropping out school, earn minimum wages, become a social problem for the city or a candidate for jail. As you can notice, Reading, Math and Science are the key components for success in education. They are under Johnson leadership and under your watch.

    The super Melody Johnson is playing another trick to improve the schools, bringing new teachers from Teach for America. They will commit for two years and then they will establish Charter Schools to compete with FWISD. Take your time to investigate (research) before you say “yes.” Our children are proud to go to the neighbor colleges to serve as teachers. What a message you sent to this generation of prospective teachers. If the rest of the teachers are discouraged with this desperate move, you will see the mess. Melody can retire and she won’t loose anything. You either.




  8.  
    Obama's Seat

    What about the children who use the term “trailer trash” to denigrate others?




  9.  
    Judith

    This is an excerpt from Melody Johnson discourse and rhetoric to the public posted at http://www.fwisd.org. My personal reflection is in parenthesis.

    “Yesterday I welcomed educators and Board members from around the country to the National Alliance of Black School Educators National Convention. Fort Worth was fortunate to be selected as the host city this year – a first for us! (This is the perfect city to showcase the achievement gap to the nation for the National Alliance of Blacks.) It was also an opportunity to listen to Fort Worth’s own nationally acclaimed Bishop T.D. Jakes, from The Potter’s House deliver the opening keynote address. (He knows what’s going on with his people. That’s why he is taking the podium.) His message was inspiring, as well as reaffirming. (Inspiring for a revolution, reaffirming the mess created.) Because everything he said, spoke to our work with our own students, it is difficult to distill a bit to share. (Too much for you to digest.) Two things do stand out, however. (He addressed other important issues. I was there too.) He charged everyone to “pick up the mantle” of work that has to be done. (Let’s reaffirm the blaming.) He stressed that educators/schools cannot do the work alone. The entire community working with parents and educators must roll up its sleeves. (Right, parents educate, school instruct and develop academics.) He chastised the churches for not moving beyond rhetoric and sermonizing into the real work of opening churches to tutoring and homework and other services supportive of students’ education. (He has noticed that many of his churchgoers do not understand the “word of God” because they can’t read it. They need to tutor to compensate the deficiency of the system.) He spoke about the obligation of the faith-based community to move out of the pulpit and the comfort zone of the church and into the community and the schools. (Churches can open their own schools to serve their families members. Many members are home schooling their children.) He also spoke about the responsibility of the education community to do the same – open classroom and school doors and not just invite the community and parents in – but go into the homes and community ourselves. (Are public schools open to the public? Teachers, another burden for you, go and visit parents.) It is only by truly talking and working together in a meaningful, committed way that we will ever hope to close the achievement gap. (He assumed you would be there listening.) We cannot get the job done by talking the talk and then waiting for someone to come and do their part. (This is the characteristic of your regimen.) Bishop Jakes maintains that it is the very culture itself, which is currently working against us, that must be changed. (He was talking to the black people. What did you mean? Are you reaffirming that Blacks’ culture is a problem?) This counterproductive culture cannot be eradicated by criticism and idle talk, but only by “digging in together.” (You don’t tolerate criticism and the true.)

    The second point made by the Bishop was about the journey itself. He stressed that it is the journey – not the destination; not the promise but the process that matters most. It is through the struggles and challenges we face, the experiences of failure and facing obstacles, that provide the strength and the will to sustain the promise. It is through the journey itself, we find our own greatness. (Excellent way to camouflage vision 2010, a very difficult journey without destination.)

    As the work we face in lifting all of our students up to high levels of achievement becomes ever more challenging, the need to remain focused becomes more of an imperative. I am keenly aware of the many demands on our teachers and staff – and they are many. (You have made it more difficult. Do you know what the teachers and school administrators are demanding? They wanted to be left alone to do their job!) I too am aware that the implementation of the new Connects system has placed a great deal of added stress on everyone. (This program is not meeting the needs you promised to the board. This software company had trouble of performing in other districts and institutions, so what a surprise to you.) It has certainly been a semester of trials and tribulation. (Thank you to your decision.) Your commitment and feedback have assisted with the ongoing essential modifications, adjustments and scheduling of additional trainings. (You still don’t believe you have the best workforce. They adjust to the worse working conditions and demands.) As I have written updates, it has never been my intention to make light of the enormity of the undertaking or in any way diminish the difficulty or effort required to migrate to our new system. It is important however, that we all keep moving forward and work together to make it happen. (We will move forward even in the wrong direction as you determine. You are in charge.) We will get there, and we will get there by working together. (Where do you want to be?)

    All of this comes to say that you are appreciated. (Always going around the bushes to say this? We don’t believe you.) There is not a day that goes by that I do not reflect on the tremendous work that is being done by the teachers, principals and staff serving our kids. (You better, your salary it says at all.) There is not a day in which I do not pause in gratitude for the opportunity to work among people so dedicated to making a difference for students. (You have never been in my children’s school, at least my children haven’t noticed.) The progress we have realized over the past few years is truly heroic. (Are you still talking about progress, please sustain your statement and prove it to Dr Sutherland. Respond to her data, please.) So, at Thanksgiving, know that all of you are at the top of my list. (How many are you going to lay off or replace with the Teach for America contract?) I appreciate and celebrate you. (To the “yes” board fellows.)

    Enjoy your families and friends. Take time to renew and restore your spirit and know that you are the best of the best. (We will do so, our children deserve we fight for them.)

    With deepest respect & gratitude,

    Melody A. Johnson”

    (I tried my best of not to be sarcastic, the more I read her article, the more convincing I think she is laughing at us.)




  10.  
    Judith

    Texas suburban school districts outscored urban districts in college admission tests, report says

    Posted Friday, Nov. 19, 2010 read more at: http://www.star-telegram.com

    “The Texas Education Agency’s report examined results from the graduating Class of 2009.
    In Tarrant County, the highest average college admission scores were in the Carroll and Aledo districts. Districts with the lowest average scores included Castleberry, Everman, Lake Worth and Fort Worth.
    Urban districts are working on various approaches to improve academics overall, which officials hope will mean higher test scores, said Michael Sorum, chief academic officer for the Fort Worth district.
    “There is an enormous amount of work going on to build up the core curriculum so that there will be a higher level of rigor across the board,” Sorum said.
    He said that his district is working to revamp all high schools with new “gold seal” programs that include stronger focus on college readiness and that it created an assistant superintendent position this year to oversee advanced academics.
    Sorum said the district is pushing to have more students take the college tests multiple times and encourages students to take more Advanced Placement tests or enroll in test prep boot camps.
    “We have an aggressive initiative to get as many kids as possible to take the tests because it’s good for the kids,” Sorum said. “Children that have taken the PSAT or SAT at least once do better on the next administration because it gives them an idea on how to take the test.”
    Have the district created another $150,000.00 assistant superintendent position to oversee the declining. This district is getting ridiculous, more positions to oversee the $40,000,000.00 from the government. I bet you that this person does not have the experience in High School.
    “YES” board members, you extended the contract to the Super. Yuupii!




  11.  
    True Religion Jeans

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