FORT WORTH -- School trustees voted 8-1 Tuesday night to name longtime administrator Walter Dansby to be interim superintendent and approved a separation package for outgoing Superintendent Melody Johnson that sets Friday as her last day in office.
Johnson, who led the district for nearly six years, abruptly resigned last month, effective in September. The agreement sealed Tuesday allows her to take all remaining vacation and personal leave, moving up her departure.
Trustees also adopted a $588.5 million budget for 2011-12 and approved redistricting recommendations that would create a ninth seat on the board, from a largely Hispanic area.
Dansby, a Dunbar High School graduate, has spent 37 years working for the district, most recently as deputy superintendent overseeing the bond package.
"I'm honored to have the opportunity to serve my city and my school district," said Dansby, who grew up in Stop Six. "I look forward to the challenges. I know there are many, but I don't shy away from them. I never have."
Trustees heaped praise on Dansby, saying his knowledge of the district will help guide it through the transition.
Longtime Trustee T.A. Sims said Dansby has always exceeded expectations.
Some trustees said they hoped their support of Dansby would be the beginning of more harmony on the board.
"I really believe this signals a fresh start for this district," Trustee Carlos Vasquez said.
Trustee Norm Robbins cast the only vote against naming Dansby as interim superintendent, saying he wanted someone with a more recent background in academics.
"I feel that there are others that can do that better," Robbins said.
Dansby, a former teacher and principal, has overseen operational matters or the bond package since 1999.
The board also approved raising Dansby's salary to $270,000 from $213,000. Dansby tried to turn down the raise, saying trustees should use it to save jobs.
But trustees said the additional money is warranted because much more will be expected from him.
Dozens of community members attended the meeting, split on whether Dansby should be named interim superintendent.
Some who addressed the board said they were concerned that Dansby seemed to become the only possible interim choice so soon after Johnson announced her resignation. Several pointed out that he does not yet have superintendent certification, unlike two other top administrators.
Dansby said he has completed coursework for the certification but needs to take the test. He said he began the test last summer but could not complete it because he had to address a construction concern related to a new school that came up that day.
Jill Black, a former teacher and parent, told the board that she had nothing against Dansby but was concerned about the process that led to selecting him.
"I am concerned that there have been backroom deals leading up to this," Black said.
About two dozen African-American and Hispanic people gathered before the board meeting to show their support for Dansby. Some touted him as a "home-grown" role model who has spent his life helping his community and city.
"He has helped so many students from Dunbar become teachers," said Randolph Shaheed, who said he has known Dansby for decades.
In other business, trustees adopted:
A budget of $588.5 million for fiscal 2012, which includes a $35.6 million shortfall. After months of working on the budget, officials cut about $44 million in operating costs. About 160 employees will be laid off.
Redistricting recommendations that would create a ninth seat on the board made up largely of parts of Districts 1 and 8 on the north and south sides.
The new district will be the third largely Hispanic district. Currently, trustees are elected from eight single-member districts and the president is elected at large.
Staff writer Krystle Cantu contributed to this report.