Board’s faith in Dansby faces a test

03/29/2014 12:00 AM

03/28/2014 7:54 PM

For reasons they’ve not yet discussed publicly, Fort Worth school board members are taking a long time to complete Superintendent Walter Dansby’s annual performance evaluation and decide whether to extend his contract.

Maybe they’re just being thorough. Still, it would be good to see Dansby and the board come out of this on the same page sometime soon.

The board began reviewing its top administrator’s performance on Feb. 18 and is scheduled to continue its closed-door discussions at 6 p.m. Monday.

Dansby has worked for the distinct as a teacher, coach, high school principal and in various administrative roles since 1974. He is starting his third year as superintendent.

While the board has the heavy responsibility of delivering the best education possible for more than 80,000 students, the superintendent runs the show day-to-day.

The superintendent should provide board members with all the information they need to make decisions and, as the district’s chief education professional, should lay out a vision for reaching the board’s goals.

Whether Dansby has satisfied every board member, only they can say.

Several of them have said they are looking to the superintendent to improve student performance. They should.

Among Texas school districts of similar size, Fort Worth has the highest percentage of low-performing schools.

The number climbed to 38 low-performing schools last year, up from 23 previously, according to the Texas Education Agency’s list of Public Education Grant schools.

Turning that trend around has to be a top priority. That said, educational turnarounds don’t happen overnight.

The district has programs in place to help, and Dansby is responsible for making those programs work.

If they are the wrong programs or if they are not being run effectively, the board has to find out why and give things a push in the right direction.

In a broad sense, board members already have given Dansby a vote of confidence.

He laid his long-term vision out for them in the buildup toward last year’s $490 million bond election. Board members agreed to the plan unanimously.

Voters agreed overwhelmingly, with three separate propositions each receiving at least 72 percent approval.

The brick-and-mortar part of the bond plan includes security and technology upgrades, nearly 300 classroom additions, a Performing and Fine Arts Academy and a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy.

More to the heart of it were things like Dansby’s vision that early childhood education is the place to start boosting long-term success.

The bond plan included expanding pre-kindergarten classes districtwide.

The rest of the plan was built around Dansby’s extensive knowledge of the district and its facilities, the areas that he knew needed improvement to create equal opportunities for every child in the district.

That knowledge is extremely valuable for Fort Worth ISD, and the board must not sell it short.

Dansby gets base pay of $338,817 a year including fringe and health benefits. He’s one of the highest-paid superintendents in the state.

Under his contract, Dansby is eligible for a $10,000 bonus.

That contract currently is set to expire Aug. 31, 2016, unless the board decides to extend it.

It’s extremely important that the board members base their decisions on the long-term best interests of students.

A vote to extend Dansby’s contract is a vote of confidence in his leadership. Anything else will call for an explanation from the board.

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