Fort Worth superintendent given one-year contract extension

FORT WORTH -- Trustees gave Superintendent Melody Johnson a one-year contract extension Tuesday night, but no raise.

The board vote on extending the contract to June 30, 2013, was 6-3. Trustees Juan Rangel, Ann Sutherland and Carlos Vasquez voted no.

Johnson, who was hired in February 2005, earns a base salary of $328,950.

She declined a raise last year after dozens of school employees were laid off.

Sutherland said she respected Johnson but did not support extending her contract because of the district's poor performance in the last five years compared with five other large urban districts.

For example, she pointed to state data in 2005 that show Fort Worth ranking second in the percentage of all students passing state tests, just behind Austin.

But in 2009, the data show Fort Worth ranking fifth, above San Antonio in the percentage of students passing state tests.

The passing rates for African-American students are too low, too, she said.

"I regard this as a serious problem," Sutherland said.

Isaiah Woods, who said he represented the Southeast Kingdom Neighborhood Association, said too many black children are dropping out.

"The school system has not provided what we need," he said.

In other business, trustees again clashed about public information requests by Sutherland. Board President Ray Dickerson said she has filed at least 31 requests since May.

"This is overwhelming on staff," he said, indicating that trustees should follow a set policy in requesting information.

State law requires public entities to make certain documents publicly available and to respond to official public-information requests within 10 business days.

Sutherland said she uses that method of obtaining information because administrators don't always respond to her personal requests.

All citizens have the right to request public information from any public entity, she said, suggesting that the district hire another attorney to assist in responding.

Vasquez said there are deliberate attempts to keep information from certain board members who do not have a good relationship with the superintendent.

Johnson said her staff works hard to fulfill requests but that each one takes time. "There is never any deliberate attempt to withhold information from the board," Johnson said.

Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700