Other Voices

Fort Worth school board trustee defends adoption of ethics policy

By Ann Sutherland

It’s time for some straight talk about the recent controversy regarding the Fort Worth ISD board ethics policy. Most troubling to me is the Star-Telegram’s December 8th article. It incorrectly asserts that the question looming in recent months “is how much money—as campaign contributions or other gifts—can be donated to school board members.”

That’s wrong. In fact, the issue surrounds reporting requirements and controls over the participation of board members who receive contributions in board decisions. These issues are already articulated in policy BBFB(LEGAL) and elsewhere. For clarity, our draft refers to them in the BBFA(Local) proposal which will be voted on December 12. We also include references to other relevant policies.

The article states that “until a new policy is adopted, the board is using a generic, one-paragraph policy . . .” This may suggest to the reader that we have no rules at all regarding campaign contributions or awarding contracts! In fact, we rely on a range of controls already in state law and policy, including every proposal carried in the earlier, disputed draft.

Lastly, the Star-Telegram article quoted individuals who criticized our proposed draft for a lack of consensus. The Fort Worth Board of Education does not operate on consensus. Three of the four board members on the committee supported the final policy proposal and there was no opposition from the committee members who were staff.

Both legal and local school board policies are developed by the Texas Association of School Boards to assist districts in implementing specific pieces of legislation. Writing these policies is a high art. In my opinion, it is not an appropriate activity for a lay committee.

Ann Sutherland is a trustee on the board of the Fort Worth Independent School District