June 4, 2014

Second-in-command leaving Fort Worth schools

Assistant Superintendent Hank Johnson announces his retirement Wednesday, two days after Superintendent Walter Dansby resigned.

Less than 48 hours after Fort Worth school district Superintendent Walter Dansby called it quits, his No. 2 administrator, Hank Johnson, announced Wednesday that he will retire in August.

The shake-up is expected to continue in the coming months, school board President Christene Moss said. She said others are expected to follow.

Johnson “and Mr. Dansby were very close,” Moss said.

The upheaval in the district of 83,000 students began Monday when Dansby, 63, submitted his resignation at a board meeting packed with spectators. His resignation is effective June 9.

“It was such a shock,” Moss said.

Dansby’s buyout — which includes two payments of $356,000 and $306,000 in a “retirement agreement and release” — will total as much as $892,899 when owed benefits are added, figures calculated by the district Wednesday show.

The board voted 6-3 to accept his resignation during an emotional meeting where spectators shouted “No! No!” as it was announced. Trustees Matthew Avila, Ann Sutherland, Ashley Paz, T.A. Sims, Judy Needham and Tobi Jackson voted to accept the resignation. Moss, Jacinto Ramos and Norman Robbins voted no.

Moss characterized the departure as “a divorce,” with differences that couldn’t be repaired.

She said the dysfunctional state of the school board is driving people away.

Moss, Avila and others disagree over the reasons for the disputes between Dansby and trustees.

“Dansby was the type of individual who would stand up to the board to support his staff,” Moss said. “If individuals no longer feel they have that support, they become afraid for their jobs.”

She described some board members as “bullies.”

“The board demands respect from the administration, but how can we demand respect when we don’t give respect?” Moss said. “Respect has to be earned.”

Others disagreed.

“I don’t agree with President Moss’ characterization of the state of this board,” Avila said. “I do agree that we need to hold ourselves to a high standard and hold ourselves accountable and strive to do better.”

Sutherland said, “We are functioning better recently and following board policy more carefully.”

Sutherland was censured by other board members in July over accusations that she violated district policies and the board’s code of ethics.

Jackson, Needham, Robbins and Sims declined to comment. Paz and Ramos could not be reached for comment.

But sources close to the dispute — who asked not to be named — said Dansby did not respond to board members when they asked for key information. Others called his management style heavy-handed.

Moss said employees like Johnson are tired of being micromanaged by board members. Johnson was out of the office until Monday and could not be reached for comment.

The board is expected to meet soon to announce an interim leader, Moss said.

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