Fort Worth Weekly has just learned from Fort Worth school trustee Ann Sutherland that Superintendent Melody Johnson has told her board that she will be resigning effective September 19. Johnson is in her sixth year as head of the 80,000 student urban district.
No reason was stated. But it is known that Johnson has had to be away from the district recently due to an illness in her family in California. Futher, her tenure has, of late, been roiled with scandal from the illegal activites at Arlington Heights High School to the forced resignation of some of her closest and most highly placed administrators. The district is facing three expensive whistle-blower lawsuits and just settled for an undisclosed sum for two employee racial discrimination lawsuits. And others who were fired have recently won reinstatement when their cases were overturned by the Texas Education Agency. One of her most highly touted programs, the $6.7 million dollar computer software system from Tyler Technologies has been in deep trouble for more than a year, failing to meet the promises of its manufacturer – and frustrating employees to the point that many have threatened to resign. With the district facing a $30 million budget shortfall, Johnson was forced to take the most unpopular of actions for a superintendent: fire employees. Plus, in the nearly six years she has been here, the district’s academic rates have fallen from second from the top of the state’s six largest urban districts to second from the bottom. And at least three board members have been vocal in their public criticism of her (mis) management style. All in all, it hasn’t been a good year for the superintendent, still she remains popular with six members of her board. But now, it appears, the search begins for a new chief.
Sutherland, who has been one of Johnson’s most vocal critcs, released a statement saying, ” We thank Dr. Johnson for her service to the district; we had our differences on policy but I know she did her very best and we wish her the best in the future.”