Fort Worth school board shuffles officers again

Posted Friday, Jan. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Fort Worth school board is full of surprises.

The latest is a new slate of board officers.

Trustees this week voted longtime member Judy Needham as president and Carlos Vasquez, a former teacher and administrator, as first vice president. Theirs has not exactly been a Barack Obama-Joe Biden kind of harmony.

Needham was one of Melody Johnson's strongest supporters as superintendent, and Vasquez was one of her harshest critics. The pair also have been on opposite sides of some key decisions. In late October 2011, after months of debate and heated arguments over how new voting district lines would be drawn following the 2010 Census, the board split 5-4, with Vasquez in the majority and Needham the minority.

In another 5-4 vote two months earlier, Needham and four other trustees tossed out a controversial contract for delinquent tax collections, while Vasquez ended up on the losing side. About that same time, Johnson left. In February, Walter Dansby was chosen as superintendent. Some of the board's discord seems to have eased, even if tensions haven't entirely disappeared.

In May when trustees removed Juan Rangel as president and elected T.A. Sims to the job, the vote was 5-4. But this week, the vote for new officers was 8-0. (Trustee J.R. Martinez was absent.).

Board officer positions have been something of a game of musical chairs since Ray Dickerson, the last president elected citywide, stepped down in December 2011 for health reasons. Trustees already had decided to convert the at-large presidency to a ninth single-member district.

Rangel served as interim president, and then his fellow trustees elected him to that role. He held the position only a few months before being succeeded by Sims, the longest-serving trustee.

By state law, trustees had to re-elect officers because they had appointed Martinez to serve out the vacancy created by Dickerson's resignation. Despite this six-month rotation of officers, trustees are expected to return to annual selection after the May elections.

With the newest slate, all the multiterm trustees and those whose terms expire this year will have held a board leadership role except for Martinez. Norm Robbins was elected second vice president, and Christene Moss, who was vice president, is secretary.

In May, voters will choose trustees in District 1 (currently held by Vasquez), District 4 (Sims), District 7 (Robbins), District 8 (Martinez) and District 9 (Rangel).

It's not too early for voters to start paying close attention to who will be running.

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