FORT WORTH -- Four trustees were blocked in their effort to name an interim school superintendent Friday evening when the rest of the nine-member board did not show up for a special meeting.
It takes five trustees for a quorum. The four, who were also the ones who asked for the meeting, were visibly upset. Some said their colleagues intentionally sabotaged the meeting to avoid naming Deputy Superintendent Walter Dansby to serve as interim superintendent.
"Shame on my colleagues for not taking the time to come to do what's important for the future of our district," Fort Worth Trustee Carlos Vasquez said. "We needed this meeting to get our affairs in order for our students. My question is: Why are they scared of Walter Dansby?"
On Tuesday night, the board accepted the resignation of Superintendent Melody Johnson, effective Sept. 19. At the time, Trustee Ann Sutherland said she had asked that the naming of an interim superintendent be placed on the meeting's agenda. It was not.
During the meeting, Sutherland, Vasquez, and Trustees Juan Rangel and T.A. Sims made clear their goal of naming Dansby to the role.
Afterward, the four requested that a special meeting be called for Friday. Under board policy, a meeting can be called if at least four trustees ask for one.
The absence of the five board members Friday proves that hidden politics are still at work, Sims said.
He and Vasquez said they worry that Dansby doesn't have support from other trustees because he is African-American.
"I know that's why," said Sims, who is African-American. "Right now, it's all about power. In the 1990s, they didn't want a black superintendent, and now they've moved to where they don't want a minority superintendent, including a Hispanic. It might happen one day, but it should have happened today."
Dansby attended the meeting but did not speak.
Four of the five trustees who did not show up -- Ray Dickerson, Judy Needham, Norm Robbins and Tobi Jackson -- are Anglo. One -- Christene Moss -- is black.
When contacted later Friday evening, Jackson said that she had planned to attend but that conflicts arose and she notified her colleagues on the board. Race is not a factor, she said. The board needs more time to consider its options and shouldn't rush a decision, even for an interim superintendent.
"We have to make a decision on what we want, but we as a board have to get together and discuss that," Jackson said. "We can't be reactive. But right now we're radioactive, and we can't be that."
Robbins said he had a long-standing commitment with his wife and had asked that the special meeting be rescheduled.
Dickerson, Moss and Needham did not return calls Friday evening.
Dickerson, who is board president, said earlier this week that the meeting wasn't necessary because Johnson will be on the job for about four more months.
He said he hoped the board could name a permanent replacement before she leaves. If not, an interim can be named later.
He also noted that the four trustees did not consult with the rest of the board to make sure Friday was a good day to meet.
About 50 people showed up for a meeting. Some had signed up to speak, and even after it became clear that there was no quorum, Sims wanted to allow them to speak anyway. But after consulting with the school district's attorney, Rangel, who is vice president of the board, said he wanted to be cautious about having the appearance of a meeting, which would be against state law without a quorum.
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700