FORT WORTH -- Some Tarrant County-area LULAC leaders told Fort Worth school trustees that they were upset that a qualified Hispanic woman was passed over for the interim superintendent post in favor of a man with fewer qualifications.
Chief of Administration Sylvia Reyna, who came to the district last summer after nearly 30 years in San Antonio-area public schools, holds a superintendent certification and a doctorate, her supporters pointed out at Tuesday's meeting.
"I can only conclude that the basis of this is political in nature," said Mary Hernandez, a district deputy director with LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Reyna's supporters note that 60 percent of Fort Worth's students are Hispanic and that nearly a third speak limited English. Reyna has a bachelor's degree in Spanish and French.
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Reyna said she was surprised and honored by the community's show of support for her. She said she supports interim Superintendent Walter Dansby as he takes on his new duties.
Asked whether she is interested in the post, Reyna replied, "Certainly, I'm qualified. If it's in the cards, I would take that opportunity."
Dansby, who has been in the Fort Worth district 37 years, replaces outgoing Superintendent Melody Johnson. Trustees finalized his interim contract Tuesday night, and some praised him for his work so far to address academic needs.
For example, he has included more instructional leaders in the superintendent's cabinet and, along with efforts that began under Johnson's tenure, discussed new tactics to address some of the most struggling schools.
"We're going to be instructional-driven from here on out," Dansby said.
Dansby, who is black, also had some supporters from LULAC who pushed for him to be named interim superintendent. Dansby has said he began taking the superintendent certification test last summer but did not complete it when he had to address issues related to school construction. He has served as a teacher, coach, principal and administrator in Fort Worth and most recently oversaw the bond program.
Trustee Carlos Vasquez, one of Dansby's most vocal supporters, said at the time of the interim appointment that he wasn't looking at race but for the most-qualified person, which he said Dansby is.
A coalition of black and Hispanic leaders is planning a reception for the community to meet Dansby. It will be at noon Friday at the Villas of Eastwood Terrace, 4700 E. Berry St.
Principal Gary Braudaway, who has been praised by many for his work to save Polytechnic High School, is retiring after 29 years in the district.
"I know it is time now," he said. "In my heart, I know. But I'm very proud of the work we've accomplished at Poly."
The high school was on the brink of being closed by the state because of chronically low test scores. Braudaway, who had been principal for five years, was credited by students, staff and the community for building a family environment there, which they said helped drive dramatic gains on test scores. In 2010, Braudaway was one of 10 Texas principals who were finalists for the H-E-B Excellence in Education awards.
However, last year, Polytechnic did dip down to an unacceptable rating again because of low school completion rates, the number of students who graduate on time or continue into school a fifth year.
Braudaway said he had no set plans for retirement but does plan to be on campus often. Trustees appointed Riverside Middle School Principal Daniel Scroggins as his replacement. Scroggins has been with the district 25 years.
Greg Ruthart was named principal of Carter-Riverside High School. He had been serving as interim principal since Maria Sanchez was promoted to a central administration post in the 2010-11 school year.
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700