Fort Worth school district trustees were seeking an agent of change in their next superintendent. They hope they’ve found him in Joel Boyd, superintendent of public schools in Santa Fe, N.M., who was named sole finalist for the district’s top job Saturday.
School board President Norman Robbins said the district had more than 100 applicants from 43 states. Sixteen candidates were interviewed via teleconference, and the board met in person with seven semifinalists, he said.
“We feel very comfortable … in [Boyd’s] abilities,” Robbins said.
At last year’s state-of-the-schools address in Santa Fe, Boyd, who turns 36 on March 2, was applauded for closing achievement gaps in the 14,000-student district. But he quickly turned the spotlight on the Santa Fe community.
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“This is about the community coming [together] around the needs of our children,” Boyd said in the address, a video of which was uploaded to the district’s YouTube channel. “This work that we see in our public schools, this is not about me. This is not about the individual working in our schools. It’s about the entire community.”
In an interview with the Star-Telegram on Saturday afternoon, he emphasized the need to improve areas where student performance has been lackluster.
“I look at the work of the superintendent as a public servant,” Boyd said. “I work on behalf of the community, on behalf of the schoolchildren to provide the type of education families expect and students deserve.”
Boyd said Fort Worth “seems like it’s a great city with a lot of schoolchildren who really deserve a world-class education. Too many children are in chronically underperforming schools that can perform much better.”
Boyd was named the lone finalist for superintendent on a 7-0 vote. Trustees Cinto Ramos and Judy Needham were absent. Under state law, 21 days must pass before a contract is finalized.
“There’s no doubt in my mind they are bringing us the best superintendent in the U.S.,” Trustee Ashley Paz said, referring to the consultant Ray and Associates, hired in August to conduct the search.
Interim Superintendent Pat Linares, a former district educator, has led the 86,000-student district since Walter Dansby resigned June 2. Linares was not a candidate for the permanent position.
Linares, paid $150,000 for a six-month contract, is expected to stay on until the new superintendent is in place.
Trustee Matthew Avila thanked Linares for her leadership during the transition.
“I just wanted to recognize the outstanding work you’ve done,” Avila said.
Boyd’s pay and contract will be ironed out in the weeks ahead, school officials said.
Dansby was paid a base salary of more than $338,000, making him one of the highest-paid superintendents in the state and one of the top-paid public officials in Tarrant County.
He retired from the district Jan. 31, according to a buyout agreement. The deal included $306,000 in benefits when the resignation took effect and $356,398.63 on Jan. 31.
The buyout package was worth up to $892,899, including owed benefits and fringe benefits, according to district figures.
Boyd was appointed superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools in 2012. The district has a budget of about $180 million and about 2,000 employees.
By comparison, Fort Worth’s operating budget is more than $700 million, and it has about 10,000 employees.
At his state-of-the-schools address, Boyd talked about his middle school years. His mother was a single parent, and he was not interested in attending college. But a wrestling coach inspired him to strive for more.
“All young people deserve to have that [inspiring role model] in their lives,” he said.
Boyd received the 2014 Excellence in Education Award from the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce for his efforts to improve learning.
Before arriving in Santa Fe, Boyd was assistant superintendent in the School District of Philadelphia, which has more than 150,000 students in 200 schools.
He managed 37 schools in the city’s northeast region, which included about 30,000 students. He also served as principal of Woodrow Wilson Middle School, one of the city’s largest middle schools. He closed achievement gaps among students of different races.
Before his tenure in Philadelphia, Boyd was special assistant to the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth-largest district.
While in Miami, he was part of one of the “most ambitious” reform agendas in the nation. The district was named a finalist for the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education, an indicator of a successful urban school district, according to the website.
In 2006, Boyd had a fellowship at Harvard University to complete a doctorate as part of the Urban Superintendents Program. Boyd’s dissertation, published in 2012, focuses on career factors and pathways that contribute to success in urban school district leadership, according to the website.
He also holds a master’s degree in education policy and management from Harvard University, a master’s in school leadership from Wilmington College and a bachelor’s in education from the University of Delaware.
He lives in Santa Fe with his wife, Keza, and their dog, Abbey.
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705
A half-century of school superintendents
Walter Dansby, 2012-14: The first African-American superintendent. He abruptly resigned June 2 after a contentious evaluation process. He grew up in the Stop Six neighborhood and began his career in 1974 as a Rosemont Middle School teacher and coach. He later coached at Paschal and Southwest high schools. He was an assistant principal at Paschal and a principal at O.D. Wyatt High before moving into district administration in the mid-1990s.
Melody Johnson, 2005-11: The first female superintendent. Hired from Providence, R.I., where she had been superintendent since 2002. She had also worked as a school administrator in San Antonio and had 36 years’ experience as an educator. Resigned in May 2011.
Thomas Tocco, 1994-2004: Hired in April 1994 from St. Charles Parish in suburban New Orleans. He drew criticism early on for promoting a woman he was dating to principal without telling the school board about the relationship. The woman later resigned, but Tocco refused to apologize or resign. The end of his tenure was marked by a construction billing scandal that cost the district $16 million. The board voted to reassign Tocco until his contract ran out.
Don Roberts, 1987-94: Began his education career in 1959 as a teacher, coach and administrator in Westin, Ore. Roberts’ Project C-Cubed (Community, Corporations and Classrooms) was applauded nationally and is considered one of his lasting achievements. In 1993, Roberts began to clash with teachers on the need to discipline students and announced his plans to resign later that year.
Carl Candoli, 1980-86: A University of Kansas professor, he was the first “outsider” to lead the district. Candoli’s forceful management style was seen as the antidote to a district “riddled with felonious activity,” according to then-school board President Richard O’Neal. Later, though, that same management style led to run-ins with trustees, employees and the media. Candoli resigned in 1986 after a school board ultimatum that he alter his “one-man-show” approach.
Gerald Ward, 1975-80: Began his career in education in 1950 as a teacher in the Fort Worth district, rising through the ranks to deputy superintendent in 1971. During Ward’s tenure, 16 people were indicted on charges of theft, bribery and perjury. Those charged included five employees; the rest were vendors who did business with the district. The investigation led to changes in the district’s purchasing system. Ward retired in 1980 and died in 1993.
Julius G. Truelson III, 1967-75: Started teaching and coaching at Riverside Junior-Senior High School in 1936 and taught and coached at several high schools. In 1967, he took a one-year appointment as superintendent while the board searched for a new leader. Six months later, his appointment was made permanent. Two integration plans took effect during his tenure, as well as the institution of a middle school program. Truelson was superintendent when the district began court-ordered busing in the early 1970s. He resigned in 1974, partly because of differences with board members. Truelson died in 2001.
Elden B. Busby, 1962-67: Began teaching in Fort Worth schools in 1931 and became principal in several high schools until 1946, when he joined the administration. In 1962, he was named the 11th superintendent of the district. Busby’s tenure was a time of great transition. In 1963, the school system integrated first-grade classes, and full integration was extended to all classes by September 1967.
Source: Star-Telegram archives