Tonight, Tuesday, Dec. 14, a school board meeting will be held that  could affect gas drilling safety at 43 Fort Worth schools, almost half of them in the East and Southeast sides of the city. Parents and all interested in the safety of school children are being urged to attend by East Side neighborhood activists Rita Vinson and Libby Willis, head of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods.  The meeting starts at 5:00 in the trustee board room at 2903 Shotts Street just behind the administration building at 100  University. The affected schools are listed at the end of this post. 

Willis and Vinson are angered by the fact that the administration, backed by Superintendent Melody Johnson, who is on the record as wanting the leases to be approved without the added environmental protections, is trying to push through several of the drilling leases, including nine new ones, ahead of a moratorium that was agreed upon by the board less than a month ago. Following a presentation by Willis on Nov. 16, the board chair Ray Dickerson– backed by all of the trustees — promised parents and interested citizens and organizations a 90 day delay on mineral rights leases involving 24 tracts of district-owned property in order for a team of experts, provided by the League of Neighborhoods, to have time to design a wellsite that would be “environmentally friendly enough” to be near schools, according to Willis.  The design would then be incorporated in all of the leases proposed near the 43 schools.

“A deal is a deal,” she wrote in a press release.

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According to Willis, the “board of trustees does not have enough information to make good decisions on any of the leases on their Dec. 14 agenda.”  For example, she cites these unsettling findings on benzene, a known toxic emission from gas drilling:

— One member of the team of experts put together by the league, Dr. Melanie Sattler,  who is associate professor of engineering at UTA has been working on dispersion modeling at various drilling sites in and around Fort Worth to determine the cumulative maximum 1 hour concentrations and the annual concentrations of ambient testing.  Her findings are startling, Willis said:  “Even though ambient concentrations may appear to be below concern at first glance, when modeled, toxicity levels, benzene in particular, vastly exceed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality  short and long term health screening levels.”  The University of Texas School of Public Health  report issued in 2008 concluded that children were six times more likely than adults to contract a particularly deadly type of leukemia from benzene exposure. 

Vinson said of the administration’s action, “It is a typical December stunt to try to push something through approval with the assumption that citizens are too busy to notice, read about, send e-mails about, or attend an important but not well publicized meeting.”  She urges citizens to read the League’s message, parts of which are copied below and “Send an e-mail to your school board trustee, or, if possible, attend the meeting.” 

“Please ask the  board members to delay voting on the mineral rights leases for all these schools until the League’s team of expert scientists has made its recommendations on measures to make these wellsites safe enough to be near schools.”  

According to Willis’ press release, other  government bodies nearby and across the nation are beginning to show restraint on drilling sites until there is more known about the impact on the environment and the public’s health: 

— In mid-November, the Grand Prairie City Council approved a 180 day moratorium on gas-drilling permits within their city limits due to concerns about environmental issues.  Grand Prairie has 60 gas wells within its city limits; Fort Worth has 2,000 wells within its city limits.

— The City of Dallas City Council has delayed  until January 12, 2011 a zoning request by XTO so it can drill at Hensley Field, citing environmental concerns about the impact of the natural gas fracturing process on ground water.  Calls continue for a moratorium on gas drilling in the city of Dallas.

— The New York State Legislature has recently approved a moratorium on natural gas fracturing (“fracking”) until May 2011, giving the state more time to address safety and environmental issues with the process.

— The City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recently approved a ban on natural gas drilling within their city limits because of environmental concerns.

And she cited reports from the ongoing City of Fort Worth Air Quality Study as of November 1, 2010 that confirmed a much higher number of gas drilling sites are producing emissions than was expected — the expectation was that 25% of sites would be producing emissions; results have shown that 70% of tested sites are producing emissions.  Reports also show that the number and levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCS) contained in these emissions is of concern to scientists.

And today, the Fort Worth City Council is expected to approve another $400,000. in funding to increase the number of sites which are tested in their study.  The complete study is expected in June 2011.

“If the district approves all the leases on their agenda tonight, they lose the tremendous leverage that is available to require low emission drilling technology for the drillsites near all of the schools in the district,” Willis said.  “If the leases are signed Tuesday, children across the city will not get the kind of protection they might get if the district honored its 90 day delay for the expert study and inserts low emission drilling technology requirements in all its leases after that.”

The affected schools: 

 Handley Middle School
Atwood McDonald Elementary

Meadowbrook Middle School
Sagamore Elementary School
Meadowbrook Elementary School

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School
Dunbar 6th Grade Center
Dunbar Middle School
Maude I. Logan Elementary School
Maudrie M. Walton Elementary School
Sunrise-McMillan Elementary School

S. S. Dillow Elementary School
Christene C. Moss Elementary School
D. McRae Elementary School
T. A. Sims Elementary School
A. M. Pate Elementary School

Eastern Hills Elementary School
Eastern Hills High School
East Handley Elementary School
West Handley Elementary School
Handley Scarbrough Field


  1. Gas wells and industrial construction DO NOT belong on school grounds. The noise is overwhelming during the drilling phase. How can teachers teach over that incessant noise? Noise is a stressor, and I think it will contribute to higher violence and unfocused /uneducateable children.
    Is the school board more interested in a quick buck or quality education?

    When one of these wells explodes and kills a few hundred children, there will be lots of time to look back and say “that was not such a good idea.”

    Look forward and come to that conclusion NOW. This is NOT a good idea.

  2. I will not be surprised that the “yes” members of the board will approve to break the moratorium. Do you think they will care about the children and the neighborhood? Well, one of the trustees was worry that if they do not make a deal they are going to loose business. Look at the tape from the last previous meeting. She asked the energy business members if they will wait for the negotiation that Rangel proposed.

    Do you know how many students suffer from asthma who attend to FWISD?

    Are they thinking on the profits instead of the wellbeing of children?

  3. The vote was historical. They rejected to honor the moratorium in order to vote for the drilling, and then the voted against the drilling????

    This is a good example of some board members they don’t know what they are doing? Press “yes” or “no” is a simple task and they fooled themselves!

    Children our leaders are confused. I applaud Mr. Rangel, Dr. Vasquez and Dr. Sutherland for expressing their opinion and advocate for the children and the neighbors who are going to be exposed to the drilling noise, traffic of gas trucks, possible leaks, and pollution.

    I can guarantee you that none of the board members live close to those schools. I still do not understand Ms. Moss when she refers to make decisions only for district 3 and Dr. Sims making the analogy of if there are many wells in his district, why not to add more and other areas as well.

    I think this was a crazy night for the board? Should we vote again, I think this equipment is not right, Mr. Dickerson said. Are you sure that this is right? (He looked at his fellows with a desperate look.)

    Teachers, Melody is setting the nest for reduction of personnel. She is making noises. I heard the maracas tonight.
    This is my proposition to reduce spending and to improve academics:
    a) Replace the Superintendent and hire a new one for less money
    b) Reduce the central administration personnel and empower principals to make the best academic decisions for their schools. Too many departments overriding the decisions made on campuses and inhibiting campuses from making the appropriate decisions that pertain to their campuses. Also, too many chiefs overseeing and dictating strategies that do not work
    c) Dismantle the cluster coaches and campus coaches to send then back to the classrooms. They need to improve the students. Principals improve the teachers, which are principals’ jobs.
    d) Give powers to principals to dismiss incompetent teachers to improve academics
    e) Allow campuses to become competitive instead of making them to apply the same cookie cutting strategies to improve the academic. Pride has disappeared with Melody strategies.

    On another note: It is impressive the “Program of Choice” they unleashed today. Let’s apply the math.
    How many students will be able to enroll? Should everyone have a choice or simply you have to gamble your choice? 20,000 students in HS and 200 slots to gamble the choice.
    Why each High and Middle schools don’t have the same choices?
    These are the labels of FWISD programs through the years. Magnet programs, SIP programs, and NOW Programs of Choices. What is the difference between all of them? In reality, there is not innovation. It is simple changing the label.
    We want you to go to college, but you could be a chef instead. This will be the way to camouflage the dropout issue. Guess what we graduated them on something. What about college readiness?

  4. More bad news for teachers and as Ms. Vinson said, because it was the December meeting, no one knew it was coming. The CCC committees are now no more. The District could not control them so they proposed to abolish them. UEA make a VERY WEAK request that this very important voice for teachers (when it works) not be disgarded – but it was. Sharon Pate’s plea for an apology or restoration was heartbreaking. Maria is so right. Johnson really needs to go. Dickerson (the same guy who proposed waiting 90 days) was now the guy pushing to move forward. Guess who voted with him? That “wonder in her own mind” Christene Moss and of course, T.A. Simms. I don’t know who the 4th vote was.

  5. All of this and we still have to suffer with Connects too, just to save face. No other distr!ict in the state has stayed with this piece of crap.

    Maria…well said! Ever thought of running for a school board postition? Seems to me that we should have at least 6 of them lose their seat the next time around.