Fort Worth school board can’t make it all better

08/11/2014 5:44 PM

08/11/2014 5:45 PM

Seven members of the Fort Worth school board taught about 100 students and young people — and dozens of their supportive parents — a devastatingly harmful lesson on Saturday.

In voting to pay the kids for unauthorized janitorial work at 17 campuses over 15 days earlier this summer, board members sent a message that should not be a part of their young lives.

When life hands you a raw deal, the message said, don’t worry. You won’t suffer long. The people who control the public purse strings will jump in and make it all better.

Only two board members voted against that message: Ashley Paz and Ann Sutherland.

Several board members spoke out during Saturday’s special meeting, emphasizing that the district did not authorize the work and the organizer had been told twice not to go forward with it. Yet those same board members then voted to assume the financial burden for work done in defiance of district wishes, somewhere around $60,000.

They bent over backward to apologize to the kids they were agreeing to pay.

“It is unfortunate that adult problems continue to get in the way of young people,” said Jacinto Ramos Jr.

So these students and young people will be given money to make sure they don’t have to worry about “adult problems.” What kind of make-believe world is that?

Do these kids or any others really believe they live in a world where “adult problems” don’t hit them every day? It’s far more likely that they will continue to encounter such problems and, unfortunate though it may be, they must learn to cope with them.

School district officials say they’re still trying to get to the bottom of the adult part of this fiasco. This much we know:

• Rev. Kyev Tatum organized the “Good Hands Crew” effort and requested that the district pay its participants for cleaning schools. In late May, and again in early June, he was told not to go forward because the district would not pay.
• The district pays Tatum, a minister, for an unrelated program he conducts at Trimble Tech High School.
• Despite being told not to, Tatum got the kids into the schools. They went to work cleaning.
• Interim Superintendent Pat Linares said Saturday the district is still investigating how Tatum and the students gained access to the schools.

“Our understanding at this point was that it went through mainly custodial staff,” Linares said.

A district news release said there are no plans to compensate Tatum, who originally requested $10,000. The district will consider “legal remedies” to obtain reimbursement of the money paid to the kids.

It may be that board members saw no good end to all of this and didn’t want the kids to be hurt. Maybe the kids won’t grow up believing it’s always this easy.

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