Fort Worth ISD narrows search for new superintendent down to six finalists

·5 min read
Amanda McCoy/amccoy@star-telegram.com

The Fort Worth school district board of trustees began interviewing finalists for the position of superintendent on Thursday after an Illinois-based search firm narrowed the applicant pool down to six semifinalists.

District officials and board members declined to identify the candidates, citing attorney-client privilege, but the lone finalist will be announced following the interview process. Interviews were scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week.

Trustee Michael Ryan, who joined the board in 2021 and represents District Seven, said the board would narrow the candidates further after the interviews.

“We will meet again after the interviews to consider who will be the three finalists,” he said in an email. “Names are not being released due to attorney-client privilege and the applicants’ concerns for privacy, with the exception of the lone finalist after the last series of interviews have concluded along with an in-depth background check.”

Texas law allows for candidates to be kept confidential, given that their current employer may not know they are applying for other jobs “except that the board of trustees must give public notice of the name or names of the finalists being considered for the position at least 21 days before the date of the meeting at which a final action or vote is to be taken on the employment of the person.”

The search for superintendent follows an announcement by Kent Scribner in January that he was leaving at the end of his contract in 2024, followed by another announcement in March that he would be leaving his position sooner, at the end of August 2022.

The board said Scribner will continue to serve in an advisory capacity through February 2023. An agreement, obtained by the Star-Telegram, specifies that he will technically be a “district ambassador for public relations.”

Superintendent leaves under fire by parent groups, activists

The departure of Scribner, who joined the district in 2015 after leading the Phoenix Union High School District for about eight years, comes amid an enduring barrage of criticism from outspoken parents who have appeared at every school board meeting for the last year.

On the first day of interviews, trustees gathered in the lobby of a downtown office building to gavel in the meeting and listen to a lone speaker for public comment.

Trustees stood and watched as Mike Cee, who frequents board meetings according to board minutes, read a list of qualifications he expected out of the next superintendent.

They ranged from keeping politics out of the classroom to being “prepared to fire up to two-thirds of the bloated administration that are not worth the money we are forced to pay, nor do they care about making Fort Worth ISD a good school district.”

His comments echoed those of activists who have protested board functions and meetings, including one in July, calling for the end of equity and diversity initiatives and the dismantling of the department that oversees them.

Cee ended his public remarks by saying whoever is the next leader of the district, “must love America and not be woke.”

Scribner described the critical race theory debate as a “manufactured crisis” during a panel discussion in March hosted by the Texas Tribune.

“This is a manufactured crisis,” he said. “A small, loud group who comes every other Tuesday night to a school board meeting, and the majority of our 77,000 students are not paying attention to the foolishness that takes place.”

CRT, book bans, teacher vacancy: New superintendent will face multitude of issues

While controversial issues such as so-called critical race theory, rules around transgender students and the content of books have dominated public comment and debate — the next leader of Fort Worth ISD will have to manage a host of other issues, including chronically failing test scores, high teacher vacancy rates and added learning loss from COVID-19.

The search firm, Hazard, Young and Attea & Associates, held 18 community listening sessions, where they asked parents what qualities and priorities they were looking for in the next leader.

While parents did discuss politics in the classroom as a concern, according to reporting by the Fort Worth Report, they also brought up concerns about academics, equitable access to extracurricular activities and access to express concerns to whoever is the next leader.

Trustees attended some of the sessions, allowing them to use the feedback from the parents to help select the next leader.

Despite recent improvements in academic outcomes, the new leader will be starting amid “seismic shifts” in the way reading and math are taught, with the hope of helping all students to perform on grade level.

Outgoing superintendent will be paid through 2023

Outgoing Superintendent Scribner will be paid his full salary and benefits through Feb. 28, 2023, according to a copy of the agreement to release Scribner from his contract obtained by the Star-Telegram.

According to the joint agreement voted on in March, he will step down as superintendent on Aug. 31.

The agreement, approved unanimously by the board, includes two payments totaling $509,827 for his continued work with the district through Feb. 28, 2023.

He’ll also get paid by Aug. 31, $63,250 for unused sick leave, vacation days and personal leave, at a rate of $1,375 a day, minus any of that paid time off he uses before then, according to the agreement.

Starting Aug. 31, Scribner will be given the title of district ambassador for public relations, but will be placed on “school related leave” with pay and benefits through Feb. 28, 2023, according to the agreement.

He’ll be under the direct supervision of the next superintendent. Scribner’s pay will be the same as during his time as superintendent.

Scribner said in his resignation letter that his time as superintendent “has been the high point of my career, both personally and professionally.”

This report includes content from the Star-Telegram’s archives.

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