Leader at Fort Worth art school responds to angry parents, students

Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts is one of two public charter schools in the Texas Center for Arts + Academics system.
Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts is one of two public charter schools in the Texas Center for Arts + Academics system. bud@star-telegram.com

Recent protests by a number of students at Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts (FWAFA), together with letters and emails from former students and parents over the past few weeks, have expressed concerns and demanded answers. Some of them question the recent resignation of the high school principal, along with the departures of a number of other faculty over the past several years. Lack of information is, without question, frustrating. If educators, who are also considered friends and even mentors, are expected to continue to be present at the school and they are not, and if details about their departures aren’t forthcoming, frustration naturally grows. We appreciate that FWAFA students are young artists with passion. Even when fueled by frustration, passion must coexist with discipline and proper decorum required for our students to maximize their quality educational opportunity at FWAFA.

The departure of former principal Craig Shreckengast was unexpected and largely unexplained. Questions, requests – even demands – for information and action about Mr. Shreckengast’s resignation, as well as about any and all other faculty, fail to empower the Board to provide the details desired. To a member, the Board of Directors understands completely the angst generated when the only explanation provided is that FWAFA officials are not permitted to discuss personnel matters. This is not the response FWAFA officials would prefer to give, because we know that it leads to speculation, innuendo, and misinformation.

However, none of this, not the strong preference of the Board of Directors, the student protests, and anxiety among the FWAFA family, changes the legal, ethical, and contractual obligations for privacy and confidentiality that prevent the demanded transparency. No one has the right to violate your privacy in matters concerning employment. Therefore, you must respect the privacy rights of others despite the fact this prevents you from learning about a circumstance in which you have intense interest.

We heard about these and other concerns from students, parents and alumni, teachers and supporters who attended two recent evening meetings on April 16 and April 17. They gathered to pose question from the floor, and hear answers from President and CEO Clint Riley of the Texas Center for Arts + Academics. He answered questions submitted by those attending the meeting without edit or redaction for about two hours. Several who asked questions both nights described feelings of frustration, grief, and anger. Though a majority of the board was unable be present either meeting, different board members attended each meeting, listened and observed carefully.

Past Boards of Directors of the Texas Center for Arts + Academics, the overseeing organization for the FWAFA and the Texas School of the Arts, established policies and procedures for our growing organization, including for receipt and resolution of grievances. These policies and procedures continue to bring clarity, efficiency, and just resolution to all in the organization, regardless of position. These policies and procedures must be followed to ensure a fair hearing for all. The TCAA Board of Directors is committed to following all grievance policies and procedures to give serious consideration of all issues and questions submitted through the established processes. We will respond and take such action that the board believes is purposed to lift our wonderful school to even greater levels of excellence, to make it the best it can be. This endeavor requires time, and the Board of Directors requests cooperation and patience as we conduct our careful review.

Reasonable minds may differ on how best to achieve the common goal of making FWAFA the best it can be. But frustration cannot trump legal, ethical, and contractual obligations for privacy and confidentiality that prevent the transparency demanded around staff changes.

It is such standards of ethical, responsible governance that provide the structure within which our bright, talented students can achieve, grow, and begin the next stages of their education and careers. Moving forward, we will endeavor to sustain and respect these high standards, and we hope others will, too.

Melissa Goodroe is the Chairman of the Board overseeing the Texas Center for Arts + Academics and the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts.