FW school board District 1: Fresh perspective needed

Posted Thursday, Apr. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Fort Worth schools still face many of the same hurdles they've confronted for years: the need to improve academic achievement in a sprawling urban district with a large population of low-income students, increasing numbers of children who don't speak English and inadequate state funding.

The district is making strides, but too often the school board's energy has been sapped by infighting and counterproductive politics.

That's part of the reason District 1 Trustee Carlos Vasquez has drawn two opponents: former board member Camille Rodriguez, a podiatrist, and Jacinto Ramos Jr., a father of three who works in juvenile probation.

District 1 includes the north side, the new development areas along West Seventh Street and the Cultural District.

Rodriguez, 45, served a four-year term before Vasquez defeated her in 2008.

Ramos, 38, a north side native, has spent years working with young people, professionally and through community organizations, including Comin' Up gang prevention and faith-based groups.

Vasquez, 45, a former Fort Worth principal who now teaches fifth grade in Grand Prairie, says his decisions are for the students. But his votes don't always reflect that.

True, in 2011 he was the only trustee who opposed a staff recommendation to stop funding pre-kindergarten aides from the general budget because of revenue shortfalls.

But he repeatedly pushes for larger employee raises than the district can afford. In 2011, he voted to put off freezing an overly lucrative employee longevity bonus program that posed a crushing long-term liability for taxpayers. And in March, when the board was asked to transfer funds to pay for a new student information system he had championed, he bizarrely sided with Trustee Ann Sutherland in a vote that would have derailed payment if the board hadn't reconsidered.

Most disturbing, though, were Vasquez's furtive efforts to steer a lucrative delinquent tax contract to the law firm where a close friend of his worked. Vasquez was in frequent contact with the lawyer during a no-lobbying period, and during the meeting at which the board awarded the contract, Vasquez asked questions almost identical to some drafted by the lawyer whose firm was competing for the contract.

Having served on the board, Rodriguez would have less of a learning curve than a new member.

But Ramos has a grasp of the ingredients essential to boosting student achievement, keeping kids in school and increasing parental involvement.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends Jacinto Ramos Jr. for Fort Worth school board District 1.

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