Who’s on First?

Fort Worth school board politics make foreign policy look easy.
22
Posted September 11, 2013 by Eric Griffey | Photos By Lee Chastain in News

Jason Brown, a parent of two Fort Worth school district students, was frustrated with his school board representative, J.R. Martinez, whom he felt was ineffective. He was considering running for Martinez’ seat on the board. He was approached by a neighbor who was a part of committee of parents, business leaders, and other concerned citizens who were looking for candidates to run for the board.

Avila seconded the motion to censure Sutherland.

Avila seconded the motion to censure Sutherland.

Brown wouldn’t say who his neighbor was, but the committee was the Citizens for Greater Schools. He met with several representatives of the committee and came away impressed.

“They wanted to replace some of the old blood on the board with some new people,” he said. “And they wanted to promote parents and professionals who had children in the district to be board members.

“They wanted to get away from what they perceive to be career politicians and power brokers and wanted it to be more people who have a vested interest in the district.”

For Brown, a political newcomer, it sounded like a dream come true. A group of well-established political insiders and others were offering to help their candidate of choice with everything from organizing a campaign to funding it.

“They wanted to remove the impediment that running a campaign is for a private citizen,” he said. “They were going to do whatever they could to support [the candidate], whether it came to organizing a campaign, doing mailers, whatever they had to do to help who they thought were qualified candidates make the jump.

“That’s how they presented themselves to me, which is very appealing for someone like me who is a parent with kids in the district,” he said. “My reaction was, ‘Great, this is exactly what I need.’ Not ever having done anything like that, my motivation was — looking at the guy who was there, who didn’t show up for half the meetings, and kind of just seemed like a wallflower — I thought, man, we need a better representative for my district.”

Brown heard that one of his neighbors, Matthew Avila, was also interested in running.

“The PAC did their research and told me, ‘You’re not electable in your district,’ ” Brown said. “They said, ‘Put your name on a billboard, put Matt Avila’s name on a billboard, he will win every time.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to cloud it up.’ I knew there were other people who were interested in running. I didn’t want to split the vote.”

So Brown gave Avila his blessing, telling him: “You’re as qualified as I am. Putting ego aside, you’ll do great.”

J.R. Martinez had a very different impression of the committee. Though Martinez would not comment to Fort Worth Weekly, former board trustee Carlos Vasquez said that the committee threatened to outspend Martinez if he chose to run for re-election.

“Basically [the committee] told [Martinez], ‘We’re going to put up $50,000 to $100,000 behind Avila … so either we crush you or you get out,’ ” he told the Weekly in April.

Northside businessman and former city councilman Steve Murrin denied that he was part of the committee — though several people, including Avila later confirmed that Murrin was working with them.

Murrin told the Weekly in April that he was looking to replace all of the board members. “I got interested as just a citizen and a taxpayer,” Murrin said. “I was looking for candidates. My original thought was a clean sweep — let’s replace the whole board. And five seats were available this year.

“I think [current trustees] have failed to understand the needs of the students that are a part of our abysmal attendance and drop-out rates,” he said.

Rickey Brantley, a local attorney and spokesman for the PAC, said the group is very informal and its membership is diverse.

“The folks involved are people who want to have strong public schools in Fort Worth so all the kids here get a great education and the opportunities an education provides,” he said in an e-mail. The committee has taken no “formal position” about supporting or not supporting current school board members, he said.

Vasquez said that the committee was targeting only Hispanics, which Brantley adamantly denied.

Murrin said the committee, which also includes former school board president Ray Dickerson and businessman Isaac Manning, was acting in the best interest of local businesses and students.

As a businessman, Murrin said, it is to his advantage to have a functional school board. “No industry in the world is going to bring their employees to your city if no thinking person in that city would recommend they send their children to the schools,” he said.

Murrin said that the potential candidates for the District 8 seat came together and did what was best for the school district.

“They kind of made a pact,” he said. “Why beat each other to death? The most electable guy is Matt, so let’s let him be the board member, and let’s all continue to participate. And I think that’s the attitude it’s going to take to solve our problems.”

One observer familiar with the PAC, who asked not to be identified, said that the Citizens for Greater Schools committee has already approached potential candidates about opposing Sutherland when she comes up for re-election in 2015.

“I have had no contact with the Citizens for Greater Schools PAC,” said Sutherland. “I cannot imagine why they would oppose me in an election, as my entire focus is on making our classrooms and teachers more effective, in part by controlling the continuing drift of money into the central office.”

  *********


22 Comments


  1.  
    CIA

    Very well written report.

    As we can see the district will never fess up to anything because the message is to keep smiling as if nothing is happening. You have Dr. Sutherland who came to realize that she had no friends on the board at the time and then they turned against her. She is doing the right thing by holding everyone accountable and they are mad saying she is micromanaging. WHen you are in a change or transformation period yes you do need to clean it up. The district does not have an A performance to say they can have all the autonomy they want.
    As far as the election of new board members, we are seeing hopefully a change in the way business is done. There are many individuals who are committed to FWISD. The admin just needs to allow people to provide their ideas as well. Dansby is just a manager he knows nothing about instruction. Let’s keep the pressure up. ANd for once do the right thing and treat people right.




  2.  
    JUSTICE

    I thought I had heard it all, but this article, with subsequent erroneous comments by Dansby, takes the cake! I want to know how long Dansby was sitting on this pile of manure, before he said, “Hey, let me feed this malarkey to the stupid public, on a paper I hate, and see if it doesn’t make them change their mind about me and my awesome bond proposal!” Convenient he FINALLY spoke to the Weekly, so close to the bond election??? Is anyone buying this load of crap? Dansby says he met with his board to tell him about the bond, except for Sutherland. Does anyone wonder about this? Dansby, you know your head is on a chopping block; b/c of what you have done (and are doing now), has not only been unethical, but immoral as well! Sutherland was your supporter to get you your position, b/c she wanted Johnson out and aligned herself with the other two boobs, Vasquez and Rangel. Now she sees that you are kissing Needham butt, b/c you want to keep your job. Needham is a snake like you, but her fangs are bigger! Dansby, don’t think for a minute you aligning with Needham to get back at Sutherland, will save your job. She is using you to get rid of her, b/c that is what she has wanted to do all along…now more than ever! Why? Sutherland asks questions; unfortunately, sometimes these questions are a little brash, but she obviously isn’t afraid to put you and the others on the hot seat for things you do haphazardly. Let’s be clear, I am not defending or supporting Sutherland, b/c she has made some shady deals herself, especially with the second Palazzolo firing. She waffles back and forth, b/c she is so easily persuaded and wants to fit in and be the heroin for her constituents. However, she at least has the cajones to question the board, which is something Needham and her Dino cohorts cannot and have not been able to stomach. The Censure was a joke and a setup, as well as a cover-up for what was truly on the burner (leaked audio). The board used the Censure to divert the attention of the public and make it look like all fingers pointed to Sutherland for sharing confidential information and making the board “look bad”. Dare I ask; has the board looked at itself in the mirror lately? YOU all make yourselves look bad! YOU all rushed this bond, b/c you want to beat the clock on the impending Palazzolo trial, where you know ALL your secrets of venality will be discovered! This corruption keeps getting deeper and deeper. Here’s something for you to investigate Sutherland. Find out who was promised the building contract when the bond is passed. See if you can connect the dots. If they tell you no one has been “promised” a contract, they are lying! I’ll give you a hint: This person was mentioned in this article as someone working to improve and make our schools “great”! I wonder how many drive-ways will be promised out of this deal, like with the Tocco corruption. If memory serves me right, Needham and Sims escaped legal action for that scandal, b/c they turned over evidence on the others, who did get prison time, when in actuality, they got driveways for themselves too! It doesn’t matter, b/c this entire house of cards will be tumbling down very soon! I for one am very excited to know what will be coming down the short pike. It’s going to be “dog eat dog” for sure! Palazzolo has been holding the key to justice for the last 3 years. Unfortunately, that key was tarnished by one narcissistic and unscrupulous legal counsel. Time may have been wasted, but I believe Karma waited to line up all her Karmic ducks in a row to solidify the true justice that WILL be served!




  3.  
    Teacher

    This is just my opinion but as an employee, it is hard to feel any sympathy for flip flop Sutherland’s humiliating ordeal at the hands of Dansby. He is (and always was) wildly unpopular with Teachers and Coaches in FWISD who know him to be a womanizer and completely unethical. Many tried warning Sutherland, Vasquez and Rangel before they began the push for Dansby’s appointment, but they were blinded by their obsession to get rid of Melody Johnson. For years Dansby protected Isabel Perry formerly of Arlington Heights, known for her outrageous conduct with children, subordinates and theft of gate monies at athletic events. As much as Johnson, Dansby is directly responsible for the on-going Arlington Heights/Palazzolo litigation – just listen to the Board meeting audio of June 17 (quite obviously NO MISTAKE). He and T.A. Sims singlehandedly steal the show and give new meaning to the word ignorant. Then there is his cover-up of the infamous “nipple pinching” Principal at Dunbar. In truth, there are probably now more current and pending lawsuits against FWISD than ever before. Though our student performance continues to decline, and our children continue to fall out of broken desks which were supposed to have been replaced in the last Bond, Dansby has made no change in how children are educated or Teachers are supported. Michael Sorum is still here.
    Though hard to upstage in the unethical category, a close second to Dansby is Ray Dickerson. This is the guy who resigned from the School Board after blindly supporting MJ and presiding over the Palazzolo witch hunt. His involvement in any group – particularly under the guise of “Citizens for Greater Schools” should have been a red flag to anyone familiar with FWISD. When you consider that this group targeted the three Hispanic Members of the Board but made no effort to recruit candidates against two of the Board’s longest self-serving and corrupt individuals (T.A. Sims and Norn Robbins), it is hard to deny their efforts were anything but racist. (Consider that Robbins once ran against Board member Judy Needham – now they serve together. All it took was a little “re-drawing” of district lines for Needham to eliminate competition and gain a new drone. Sims has done little for schools or the Black Community during his long tenure except be the recipient of concrete and other FWISD perks and jobs for family and friends.) It is an open secret that Dansby has already promised the Bond issue work to Issac Manning. This alone is more than adequate reason voters should defeat the proposed Bond and beware of Citizens for Greater Schools.
    FWISD’s greatest hope for the future lies with Ramos, Paz and perhaps Avilla – though he has gotten off to a bad start by allowing himself to be dragged into the Sutherland controversy. What is needed is a CLEAN SWEEP. Moss (who with Dansby covered up for the Dunbar nipple pinching Principal); Jackson (who has been Needham’s close associate in the Palazzolo witch hunt and Linebarger contract) and the Grand Dame of Corruption, Judy Needham must all go – even if Betsy Price gets dragged into this. Maybe when all of this is exposed in the new Palazzolo trial (thanks to Dansby who insisted on going to trial), the clean sweep begun with Ramos and Paz will continue. We need responsible, concerned, ethical people to run against Moss, Needham, and Jackson. In the meantime, my advise to Sutherland is to pick a position and stick to it. Flip-flopping is not helping. You should do the right thing and expose the corruption – but that’s just my opinion.




    •  
      CIA

      There will be a challenger or two for Jackson but can guarantee one. The biggest thing is to make sure those that are enraged, show it with support and at the ballot box.




  4.  
    Citizen

    Frankly, you cannot believe a word coming out of Dansby’s mouth – or Hank Johnson’s for that matter. “If their lips are moving, they are lying”. Vote NO on the Bond.




  5.  

    I recently saw the bond presentation, it is such a joke. Information is spoon fed to you. Of course everthing is slanted away from the truth. The math on tax increases is scued. Pathetic. Our presenter couldn’t answer any questions and nothing in it explained the need for the fine arts academy or the stem academy beyond Dallas has one and there is one in Denton. Gee that’s the perfect reason to spend $73 milion so we can keep up with the Jones’s. Don’t vote for this crap. I’ve been an educator for a long time and seen a lot of administrations and those jackasses in the ad building are the absolute worst. Period. The board is just as bad. Don’t vote for this crap.




    •  
      CIA

      They need to show the plans, detailed of what the schools will be like, how they will be run, staffing, resources, etc. Right now it’s let’s build but as FWISD goes, they are late and push everything to where it’s ineffective. If you expect that because a building is built it will work, think again with the admin on hand right now.




  6.  

    Besides the rumors that Walter has awarded the constuction contract for the bond think of this. The decision has been made that the STEM school will be downtown and that it will cost $13-15 million. This probably means they have picked a site since a cetain amount has been budgeted. Who owns the property and what is the connection to an administrator or a board member? It has to be there and if the right reporter looked it could be found. That’s a hint Weekly. Betty would have found it. Can you find it now?




  7.  
    The Insurrectionist

    It is not difficult to understand why Dansby and some of the board members are desperately in convincing the Fort Worth citizens to embrace a “debt” that is not necessary at least for the following five years. This bond is targeting an elite group of citizens and 65% of the school population will not benefit from the propositions this fantastic administration and their boards are trying to pass.

    Proposition 1: They are asking to add around 300 classroom additions, new kitchens and cafeterias, two elementary schools, new field houses and Wi-Fi study areas and renovations to comply with accessibility standards. Adding more classrooms will definitely add more teachers.

    With the budget deficit or shortfall as the district is encountering at this time, how are they going to add 300 new teachers and put them in payroll. Adding 300 teachers will cost the school about $15,000,000.00 that it should be added to the existing deficit just in the payroll. Also, add the cost of running the new schools. Is the district expecting a massive immigration from Mexico or other States? How did the district demographer calculate this increase in population? It is cheaper to change the school boundaries to level the number of students per schools than to ask the citizens millions of dollars to solve an easy problem. Adding PRE-K centers is another bad idea. How do those little children are going to be transported to those centers when they live miles away from the schools that offer this service? If you check the number of students on a waiting list, you will be stunned to discover that there is not enough number of prospective kindergarteners to fill those PK centers. This is another aberrant idea from this administration. What is the data that the district has to support that the PK is increasing the scores? Michael Sorum, show the data of the number of students who has been in PK-K, and they are still struggling in schools. He needs to show the data to the citizens of Fort Worth in order for them to decide to pour money on this idea. Children in your district who attend to PK are doing the same as the children who enter in the mandated Kinder. Let the federal government fund the PK and help the schools funding the construction.

    Adding field houses to the 2% of students who play sports. We understand this because a couch is leading FWISD.

    Adding Wi-Fi? 98% of schools have Wi-Fi access, even portables. Can the administrator explain what kind of Wi-Fi they want to add?

    Renovations to bring facilities with accessibility standards? What happened with the 2007 bond package that took care of this issue? All schools are in compliance, can the administration show what schools are not in compliance. Where are the tickets issues by the state?

    Proposition 2: Provide funding for a Performing and Fine Arts Academy and a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy. This proposition is for an elite population of school children.

    The Science and math scores are very low in elementary and middle schools. If the administration has not been able to raise the scores under Dansby why are they asking for these academies? Only 1.5% of the students in High Schools are going to benefit from these academies. As a taxpayer, I would like to see that the administration increase the science and math scores before giving them more money to invent the wheel with these academies. What about the students who do not have the chance to enter or enroll in these academies? What about if these academies are built in a zone that kids can attend? The schools of choices are still in pampers, and we have not seen any significant results of this famous school of choice.

    Proposition 3: Refreshing buses, musical instruments and uniforms, furniture and fixtures.

    This proposition is great for the people who like to buy water with a credit card. Let’s give this administration the opportunity to spend the money wisely.

    Musical instruments are an excellent idea!

    Uniforms are an excellent idea!

    Furniture and fixtures another excellent idea!

    Buses another excellent idea!

    For proposition 3, in two years the district will pass the hat again to repair the equipment that it was purchased with the bond!

    The whole mess of this dysfunctional board and administration is to distract the citizens with another bond. This is the only thing Dansby knows how to do, and the board members need this to stay in the political arena.




  8.  
    JUSTICE

    I don’t get it!!! WTH is going on? All this information and STILL, no one from the State or the Feds have swooped down on this district! What is it going to take for our community to demand Dansby’s resignation on the premise of “No Confidence”? Look at what is taking place in DISD! Miles is being crucified in the media, and will probably result in losing his job, for something that Dansby and the Board have done (and are still doing) for YEARS! REMEMBER THIS: Dansby has said that “Tocco was the best Superintendent EVER! Dansby worked under Tocco and followed in his footsteps, from being a womanizer to finagling bond money (and contractors). Tocco should’ve gone to prison, along with Sims and Needham, but Needham’s power and money gave them ALL a free “Get out of jail” card. Dansby is big on sports and sports are big on plays. Dansby is playing the biggest game ever, at taxpayer expense. He has borrowed a page from Tocco’s playbook and already knows the bond contract will give him (and other corrupted Board members) a lot of kick-backs via Isaac Manning’s company. How much longer do we have to tolerate this BS? VOTE HELL TO THE NO FOR THIS RIDICULOUS BOND!!!! I am praying someone credible will come forward and blow the lid on this pop stand…soon! And I have high hopes that the impending Palazzolo trial will be the catalyst behind the dynamite used to blow it up!




  9.  
    Taxpayer

    The biggest difference between FWISD and DISD or even El Paso ISD is that the elected officials in those cities GIVE A SHIT ABOUT KIDS. Wendy Davis too busy grand standing to get involved; Mark Veasy no different. And where is the Tea Party? What about Liberal groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center? Does anyone know why the Southern Christian Leadership Conference suddenly went silent on all things FWISD? For all of their faults, regardless of their politics, officials in DISD and El Paso came together to CLEAN HOUSE. I for one am tired of hearing what a “bad guy” Tocco was – he was just the scape goat for Needham, Sims, Moss and the rest. I think that is where Justice and the rest of us are heading with this. We need SOMEONE in elected office to DEMAND an investigation into what is going on here.




  10.  

    Seriously, Tocco the fall guy. To be a fall guy you have to lose something. Yes he lost a job but he was well compensated for it including getting paid for more unused days off than anyone Ever. He received kickbacks for the math computer system that was a joke. He and Danny Manny were 2 of the most corrupt people that FWISD has had lead it. And that’s saying a lot.Too many from that bond got away with theft including the former head of maintence who sits on acres of concrete courtesy of FWISD.If this bond passes we will give Benbrook it’s own mini ISD at our expense, helped someone close to the board unload property they couldn’t sell elsewhere. built classroom where we don’t need them and in the end kids wiil not have been helped and many will be sitting in lowrider desks so uncomfortable they can’t concentrate. But Walter will have a legacy that like so many other things our grandkids will pay for.




    •  
      Taxpayer

      I agree with completely. My only point – poorly worded – is that Tocco is long gone while his enablers; Needham, Moss, and Sims (who is even on record defending and voting against Tocco’s departure) are still here – still destroying this District. Sims just ran again UNOPPOSED! So much for Citizens for Better Schools.




  11.  
    The Insurrectionist

    You need to read this site http://www.tellthetruthtexas.org/debt/debt-isds.php?isdname=Fort+Worth+ISD&isdsubmit=View+School+District+Debt
    If Fort Worth citizens approve this proposed bond, they are asking their children to pay a debt that won’t benefit them at all.
    The 2007 bond supposed to address the 2% student growth with the facilities built with that bond. I insist there is not a need for a bond. What the citizens of Fort Worth should demand the board and the administration is to improve the student achievement and academic growth. Hold them accountable for bringing the district to this deplorable level.

    If the citizens vote yes, the Fort Worth ISD debt will climb to the billion. Maybe it should be called the debt-billionaires.

    VOTE NO VOTE NO VOTE NO VOTE NO




  12.  
    Insider

    Today’s Star Telegram – the official PR Dept for FWISD had a typical comment by one of the slithering Bond supporters:
    “Barbara Griffith Moffett · Fort Worth, Texas
    Pre-kindergarten is a vital building block of lifelong success in education.
    · Follow Post · September 15 at 10:18am”
    and:
    “Barbara Griffith Moffett · Fort Worth, Texas
    It is backed by research — over and over and over again. The Greatest Generation didn’t compete globally for jobs that demand no less than 14 years of education.
    · September 15 at 10:36am”
    Not once does she tell the unsuspecting public that she is an employee of FWISD; that she doesn’t live in the District; and that her own kids go to (wait for it) PRIVATE SCHOOL!
    What a hypocrite. Also note the time of the posting. Seems someone was doing this at work!




    •  
      Huh?

      Ummm…..I looked at the time of the posting. But I also looked at the date. Isn’t September 15th a Sunday? Does she work 7 days a week?

      Before we get hysterical, we may want to check our facts.




  13.  
    Insider

    My wrong date does not change the facts.




  14.  
    JUSTICE

    I don’t think there is any doubt in anyone’s mind that this bond issue is absurd and fiscally irresponsible! We can say anything we want, but the bottom line is, money is going to push this bond through! And the person behind the money is Needham and her partner, Marty Leonard. I believe the these two, like Manning, are in line to receive millions from the bond passing, because Leonard’s family will finally get to “dump” the late daddy Leonard’s Dept. Store property! And Manning, will get the contract to make it happen! The rest of the BS that the taxpayer is being fed is just that…BS! Their presentations about this idiotic bond in town hall meetings are ridiculous and unorganized. I’m pretty sure the person responsible for presenting this crap has to make sure they wear boots, in order to wade through all the crap they are dishing out! This bond is Dansby’s and the board’s last hoorah, considering that he will probably retire by the time the bond works itself through, and some key board members will not be re-elected in a year or two. Let this bond die and vote NO! Let’s see where the district is in a year. I have a feeling that it will be in shambles, due to the impending Palazzolo trial. There’s a new ‘Sheriff’ in town FWISD! You all better pull up your boot straps…it’s gonna be a rough ride! :-p




  15.  

    Justice, how good is the information that it’s the old Leonards store? That makes perfect sense and makes the connection to the board but is that just supposition or are there facts to back it up?




  16.  
    teacher

    Dansby must go. He’s a bully and vendictive. Why does his buddy Rev. Tatum have a fat contract with the school district. He twist and distorts the truth for his own convenience. He rewards his friends with top level administrative jobs and awards them with fat raises while pretending that they have additional duties… He has no concern for the addition duties and responsibilities he piles on the teachers, they’re the ones that are carring the heaviest load.

    Mathew Avilia is fresh on the board, just in time to stomp Ann Sutherland in the ground. Ann Sutherland is not perfect, but she is the best advocate on the board for the kids. I can’t fault her for being hood-winked by those two clowns and race baiters–Carlos Vasquez & Juan Ranjel, glad their gone.

    At the end of the day Ann Sutherland is a good person and didn’t deserve the personal attack upon her from the board. A special shame on Mathew Avila while brand-new and fresh on the board he just couldn’t resist kicking her while she was down. The FWISD is an embarrasment… We shouldn’t give up on Mathew too quick, it was just the excitement of the monent…




  17.  
    Parent

    “Parents for Kids” should start by opening their eyes and reading:

    Citigroup to cut 1,000 jobs including 100 at Irving complex
    http://www.star-telegram.com/#storylink=cpy

    Bell Helicopter laying off 290 workers in Fort Worth
    http://www.star-telegram.com/#storylink=cpy

    While Dansby (who now earns what? $400,000?) promotes family and friends, we are losing our jobs.

    Just say NO to the Bond. No more $$$




  18.  

    Teacher, while I’m willing to give Avila a chance, please remember he wasn’t elected. In what was undoubtedly an arranged set of circumstances the other 2 running for that spot dropped out of the race, one of them after the filing deadline was past. How convenient. His vote for Ann’s censure squarely puts him on the wrong side of the board, at least for now. Maybe he will realize that Needham, Jackson and the rest are not there for the students best interests but for their own and switch sides. We’ll see.





Leave a Response

(required)


seven − 6 =