Bud Kennedy

Can a former wrestler strong-arm Fort Worth’s schools?

Joel Boyd of Santa Fe, N.M., is Fort Worth trustees’ pick for school superintendent.
Joel Boyd of Santa Fe, N.M., is Fort Worth trustees’ pick for school superintendent. City of Santa Fe

A former high school wrestler will now be asked to lift and power-spin the Fort Worth schools.

The next move belongs to former Dover, Del., schoolboy wrestler Joel Boyd, 35, a Harvard-trained education reformer named Saturday as the board’s pick for superintendent.

Boyd’s most recent stop was Santa Fe, N.M., but he has worked in Philadelphia and Miami.

His emphasis on school turnarounds united Fort Worth’s often-divided school board.

“He’s a young guy who’s on his way up,” said southwest Fort Worth Trustee Ann Sutherland, one of four trustees facing immediate voter feedback in the May 9 election.

“He wants to change our system so the schools that need more help get help. That’s refreshing.”

Fort Worth’s schools have seemed static the last few years at a time of dramatic change elsewhere.

Former Superintendent Walter Dansby, a hometown guy beloved as a coach and principal, proudly led the only district he’s ever known in the only way he’s ever known.

Hiring Boyd would put the district on the national education-reform map and tell homebuyers that Fort Worth is ambitious about improving all schools.

“We need to change the culture in this district, and Fort Worth is ready for a world-class education system,” said east-side Trustee Tobi Jackson.

(Jackson will face pastor Sultan Cole in the May 9 election. Sutherland faces retired adminstrator Cecelia Speer. Trustees Christene Moss and Judy Needham remain unopposed. Filing deadline is Feb. 27.)

Former board President Bill Koehler, a former TCU vice chancellor and namesake of TCU’s Koehler Center for Teaching Excellence, took a quick glance at Boyd’s résumé and called him “quite impressive.”

“You couldn’t ask for anyone better-credentialed, with his breadth and depth of experience,” Koehler said.

“To the extent that he is able to rally our focus on improving student achievement, he will get tremendous support.”

Trustee T.A. Sims of southeast Fort Worth, the board’s elder statesman, gave Boyd a thumbs up.

“I’m confident he can move this district forward,” Sims said.

Board President Norman Robbins of west Fort Worth, a local education leader for 40 years first as Lockheed Martin’s community liaison and for 12 years as a trustee, said Boyd can bring “essential” change.

“He brings a very strong personality and high energy,” Robbins said.

“We want to focus on closing the achievement gap, and he’s shown he can do that.”

Robbins said trustees want to bring more parents and kids back to the district. A “schools of choice” program offering more selections and transfer options has helped.

“We want to make this district an attraction for families,” he said.

Sounds like Boyd will be expected to do some heavy lifting.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy

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