Seeking a top school leader, all over again

The search for a new Fort Worth school superintendent might not be in exactly the same place it was nine months ago when Walter Dansby resigned, but it’s close enough that the scenery hasn’t changed much.

A nationwide search by a $60,000 consultant produced interviews with 16 candidates. Trustee Ann Sutherland says the school board narrowed that list to seven and then to three.

Two of the final three withdrew, Sutherland says, but the final interview with Santa Fe Schools Superintendent Joel Boyd was “outstanding.” On Feb. 7, the board named Boyd the sole finalist for the job.

That was pretty much the last of the good news.

During the mandated 21-day waiting period before Boyd could be formally hired, questions arose about his accomplishments in Santa Fe. He’s been there only since 2012 and has no experience leading a district as big as Fort Worth’s (more than 86,000 students, the sixth-largest district in Texas and 38th in the U.S.).

Four of the nine school board members said they’d changed their minds about hiring Boyd, and late Saturday he bowed out.

Board President Norman Robbins, a strong supporter of Boyd, blamed the problems on community “misinformation” and fear of the “pretty significant changes” Boyd would have made in Fort Worth.

Trustee Ashley Paz, on social media, blamed “a combination of board members poisoning the public well, strong support in Santa Fe, and bad reporting by the Star-Telegram.”

She said the newspaper reported that Boyd wouldn’t comment during the waiting period “despite the fact that he spoke to the editorial board last weekend and presented them with data supporting his accomplishments.”

Neither Boyd nor anyone representing him spoke to the Star-Telegram Editorial Board.

Robbins said the school board will discuss what to do next.

First, the school board should discuss what went wrong and how to keep it from happening again.

This was a failure that, when added to Dansby’s short tenure and acrimonious departure and that of Melody Johnson in 2011, could give potential candidates second thoughts.

Board members must present a unified vision of what they’re looking for and show that they’ll get behind the person hired.

If Boyd was right for Fort Worth, as Robbins and some others insist, the candidate and his supporters should have dispelled all worries.

They came across as reticent, breeding doubt. Fort Worth can do better.