Fort Worth

June 2, 2014

Dansby resigns as Fort Worth school superintendent

Fort Worth school board votes 6-3 to accept his resignation after two years at the helm. His last day is June 9.

School Superintendent Walter Dansby offered his resignation Monday night, and school trustees voted 6-3 to accept it.

“I hope this will not turn into anything negative or impact the district in a negative way,” Dansby said. “We are bigger than that. I think something like this needs to happen for the good of the district so we can move forward.”

The board spent about four hours in closed session to consider Dansby’s annual evaluation, and when they emerged to take their places on the dais, the audience of about 100 cheered.

But when board member Matthew Avila made the motion to accept Dansby’s resignation, several people shouted, “No! No! No!” The atmosphere grew heated and emotional.

Board president Christene Moss had to ask the audience to calm down.

Board member Ashley Paz sobbed as the vote was taken.

The trustees voting no were Moss, Jacinto Ramos and Norman Robbins. Trustees voting to accept the resignation were Paz, T.A. Sims, Ann Sutherland, Tobi Jackson, Matthew Avila and Judy Needham.

The resignation agreement calls for Dansby, 63, to work until June 9. He will retire as an employee of the district on Jan. 31, 2015.

Details of his severance package will be released later, a district spokesman said. With a base pay of $338,817.60, excluding fringe and health benefits, Dansby is one of the highest-paid superintendents in the state and among the highest-paid public officials in Tarrant County.

Ramos said: “I truly enjoyed working with Mr. Dansby. I’m hopeful that the next superintendent will embrace diversity.”

Needham said: “I’ve worked with you since 1980. I know you are passionate about children. I thank you for all you’ve done for the children of this district.”

Steven Poole, president of United Educators Association, said after the meeting that the resignation was unexpected.

“The board never publicly shared a reason why they would want to change superintendent,” Poole said. “Teachers are focusing on students. This is going to be nothing but a distraction. I hope the board is prepared to find a good interim superintendent.”

‘A great job’

As trustees met behind closed doors to consider Dansby’s evaluation, several African-American civic and church leaders transmitted an online broadcast in support of Dansby from the main meeting room.

“He has done a great job,’’ one woman said. “Let him continue the work that he has done.”

Some who spoke to the camera said the board’s dissatisfaction with Dansby was racially motivated. Dansby is the district’s first African-American superintendent.

The broadcast was transmitted by Cedric Bailey on

Others waiting in the boardroom said the broadcast was a disturbance to trustees’ deliberations.

“This is a decision the board ought to be making,’’ said Alonzo Aguilar, a district resident who said he was neutral on Dansby. “This is inflammatory and this is getting in [the trustees’] way.

“This meeting is about the board making a decision. … That’s not what we need right now. We need to let the board choose.”

Dansby began his third year as superintendent of the 83,000-student district early this year. Since March, the board has repeatedly postponed voting on Dansby’s annual evaluation.

Some trustees held him accountable for student progress on test scores. Among districts of similar size, Fort Worth has the highest percentage of low-performing schools in the state, records show.

Dansby grew up in the Stop Six area, got his diploma from Dunbar High School, a bachelor’s from the University of Texas at Arlington and a master’s from Tarleton State University.

He joined the school district as a teacher and coach at Rosemont Middle School in 1974. He was principal of O.D. Wyatt High School until he was promoted to area dean of instruction, and he continued to rise through administrative roles overseeing instruction, athletics, student affairs and maintenance.

‘I look forward to continuing’

In a meeting Monday morning with the Star-Telegram’s editorial board, Dansby would not discuss the details of his evaluation, but he said he was determined to stay on as the district’s top educational leader. He requested the meeting with the editorial board, he said, to discuss the district’s performance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests.

“Those are the things I am concerned with,’’ he said of the student test scores. “I can work with anybody, so I just look forward to continuing the work that we’re doing right now.”

Asked whether the board’s inaction on his evaluation and contract to that point could be viewed as a vote of no confidence, the superintendent said he could withstand any challenge. Over the 40 years of his time with the district, he said, he has made improvements in every task he’s been given.

“We’re basing things on something that happened over last year’s data,” he said. “Look at the growth this year. That’s all I can say.”

The data he and other members of the administration brought to the editorial board meeting were preliminary results showing the district’s passing rates in grades 3 through 8 have been fairly stable from last year to this year with some exceptions. The numbers, Dansby said, are similar to statewide results.

The Fort Worth data show that 6 percent more 6th-graders passed the math test this year than last -- 66 percent compared to 60 percent. On the other hand, the percentage of 7th-graders passing the math test dropped from 47 percent to 41 percent.

Statewide, the percentage of passing 7th-graders also dropped — from 71 percent in 2012-13 to 67 percent this year — according to a Texas Education Association news release.

“We are trending similar to the state in most areas,” Dansby said. “We’re heading in the right direction … we have a long way to go.”

Several board members have said they have not been satisfied with the district’s overall academic performance on the state’s accountability assessments.

The number of low-performing schools in the district climbed to 38 from 23 last year, according to the TEA’s list of Public Education Grant Schools for 2014-15.

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