One of Fort Worth's most successful public schools is going through its own little drama.
Faculty changes and the forced removal of a school board member have rocked the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts, home of Broadway stars and ranked the 11th best school in Dallas-Fort Worth by niche.com.
After the departure of the high school principal and some faculty members, about 40 students are pictured wearing black in protest on social media pages called “Join Our Movement.”
As of late Thursday, the page had 325 members or followers on Facebook and Instagram. The page calls for “transparency and communication” with the school board, which oversees spending $6.8 million in Texas public dollars and must govern openly like any public school.
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Cam Bright, a senior, said the school was “all-black clothing” Thursday, including some teachers.
“A lot of teachers have been resigning mysteriously, and other weird stuff,” she said. More than 100 students were sent to a no-talking lunch area because the black attire violated dress code, she said.
Board director Katie Copeland — the school technically uses the title “directors” instead of “trustees” — was removed March 13 by a 4-3 vote of the nine board members, Copeland said. (One abstained and one was absent, she said.)
Copeland said she believes she was removed for questioning faculty changes steered by President Clint Riley, the chief executive of Texas School for the Arts and thus superintendent of FWAFA, a public charter school affiliated with the Texas Boys Choir under the Texas Arts + Academics system.
“I went down fighting,” she wrote in an online message.
Riley said Thursday that high school Principal Craig Shreckengast and a few other teachers have resigned: “I'd have to go back and look how many.”
“As with anytime when you have somebody who's been part of an organization for a long time, there's been some mourning going on,” Riley said. “As you know, change can be challenging.”
Board Chair Melissa Goodroe did not return a call.
A Thursday letter from Riley to parents, forwarded to the Star-Telegram, warned students against wearing black or posting flyers.
“I respect the underlying opinions and empathize with the concerns,” Riley wrote, explaining that the faculty members' departures are a "personnel matter" that can't be discussed in public.
Copeland, an attorney, said she wanted the board to review personnel complaints about Riley.
“Some faculty members came to me with information I thought the board should know,” she said.
Instead, Copeland herself became the target of a four-hour hearing into whether she violated policy, she said.
“It was awful,” she said. “It was so bizarre that I could not present information. ”
She plans to meet with concerned parents Friday, she said.
Charter school teachers' grievances are not protected by state law, said Steven Poole of the United Educators Association.
“That's just mind-boggling what's happening,” he said.
“It sounds like there's a lot more protection for the superintendent than there is for anyone else.”
The board has met twice since Copeland was removed. But the next public meeting is not until June 26, according to the calendar posted at artsacademics.org.
Bright said students will ask the board to have more public meetings and post online audio, like any other school system.
“They might deny it, but at least we can ask in an open forum,” she said.
They want their public school to behave like one.