The World of Wisdom ministry at the Villas of Eastwood Terrace 4700 East Berry Street is hosting a “Day of Jubilee” with Fort Worth school district interim superintendent Walter Dansby on Friday, July 1, at 12 noon, according to a press release from the Rev. Kyev Tatum, president of the Tarrant County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The SCLC and the recently organized Black, Brown and Tan Caucus are also sponsoring the event.
“Mr. Dansby is the first native son and first African American to hold the top post in the Fort Worth school district,” Tatum pointed out, calling his appointment a “watershed moment.”
Tatum said the meeting will give citizens here an opportunity to meet Dansby and ask questions of him as he takes over the reins of a district with deep, unresolved problems. They include 22 schools now on the state’s “low-performing” list, a $30 million budget shortfall, pending layoffs of employees, three whistleblower lawsuits, a perception that the administration turns a deaf ear to employee complaints and widespread charges of retaliation against teachers who speak out about wrongdoing. Morale, according to sources from administrators to clerks, is at an all-time low, Fort Worth Weekly has been told. “If there were other jobs out there, teachers here would be leaving in droves,” one teacher said.
“I hope I can change that image” that the administration’s doors are closed to employees and the public, Dansby said in an interview with the Weekly soon after his appointment. “I will be approachable,” he said, and “my administration will be transparent.” Most importantly, he said, “There will be no retaliation.” He added that he hopes to “resolve some of the lawsuits,” citing the enormous expense the district faces when the suits go to trial, not to mention the costs if the whistleblowers win, which several lawyers here believe will happen once the cases get before an impartial jury.
Dansby, who has worked for the district for 37 years rising from teacher-coach to assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent and now head honcho, called his newest role “one more challenge in a long list of challenges.” He also pointed out that in every instance when he was promoted to a higher post, he has been approached by the administration. “I never asked for the positions [including the top job],” he said.
During the interview, it became obvious that Dansby, a 16-year veteran of the classroom before he joined the ranks of administrators, had deep respect for teachers. “The vast number of teachers [in the district] are strong at what they do,” he said, pointing out that he would give them leeway in the classroom to teach, not from some boilerplate mandate from the top, but according to their student’s needs and their own experience as to what works. “They are the experts,” he said.
Tatum’s group and the Caucus lobbied heavily for Dansby’s appointment after Superintendent Melody Johnson resigned unexpectedly in May in her sixth year with the district, citing her need to be with her critically ill mother in California.
Dansby’s appointment was not without controversy, with four board members pushing hard for him while the majority pushed back. When charges of racism were brought out, however, all but one of the holdouts voted to give him the temporary job. After Larry Shaw, head of the United Educators Association, the largest education employees’ union in North Texas, raised the specter or racism at a board meeting, within two weeks Dansby was appointed by an eight to one vote.
Trustee Norm Robbins was the lone vote against Dansby, citing the administrator’s close ties to disgraced former superintendent Thomas Tocco, who was forced out after a bidding fraud on his watch that stole $16 million from the district and sent two men to prison, a concrete vendor and a maintenance supervisor. Dansby made no apologies for his relationship with Tocco, who promoted him from principal at O. D. Wyatt High School to an assistant superintendent over instruction in Tocco’s cabinet. “I disagreed with Dr. Tocco often,” he said, just not in public. “But I argued with him every day in his office.” In fact, according to Shaw, Dansby was instrumental behind the scenes in helping the FBI build its case against those involved in the bidding scheme.
His superintendent role model, he said, is Don Roberts, who held the post before Tocco. “[Roberts] was low-key, very supportive of the teachers and kept the board meetings running smoothly and efficiently,” he remembered. “I hope to emulate him.”
For more information on the Friday meet and greet contact the Villas’ manager, Jean Cooks at 817-413-9400 or firstname.lastname@example.org