June 10, 2014

Interim leader is a plus for Fort Worth school district

Pat Linares retired in 2010 as deputy superintendent.

The Fort Worth school board quickly tapped a retired deputy superintendent on Monday to be the district’s interim superintendent, replacing Walter Dansby.

As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”

Pat Linares held several administrative posts in Fort Worth between 1996 and her retirement in 2010. Her last two positions were deputy superintendent for school management curriculum and instruction, and deputy superintendent of school leadership and support services.

The board and district residents are lucky to find someone of her knowledge and experience readily available. Linares is not a candidate for the long-term job.

Dansby’s departure was quick, if not unexpected by board members. The board began his annual performance review in February, and by late March it was clear there were significant areas of disagreement between board members and the superintendent.

The disagreement proved intractable during the ensuing months, and Dansby says the board demanded his resignation on June 2.

The task ahead for Linares is to keep the district moving forward, not missing a beat during the summer or in preparation for the next school year. She must reassure administrators and educators that district operations will continue to be strong.

Dansby leaves behind a detailed five-year strategic plan, put in place with board agreement only last year. Linares must quickly familiarize herself with that plan and continue its implementation.

Interim leadership is not a time to set out on a new heading.

Finally, there’s the $490 million bond program approved by voters last year. Linares must keep it on track, with some expenditures expected almost immediately.

The board’s job is far more difficult — finding a superintendent for the long term. It’s the thousand-mile journey with but a single step taken.

No doubt, board members will enlist consultants to help in the search. But they are the decision-makers, and this is a decision they can’t afford to get wrong.

Paradoxically, they must not be rushed and they have no time to waste.

Emotions are high among board members and throughout the district after the experience of Dansby’s departure.

The sooner the focus turns to the rest of the journey, the better.

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