Fort Worth ISD trustees will go behind closed doors Tuesday to evaluate Superintendent Kent Scribner.
This is their annual check-up to see if the Fort Worth ISD is heading in the right direction under their appointed leader, who has led the district since October 2015.
The Fort Worth ISD school board meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the district’s Professional Development Center, 3150 McCart Ave. The meeting will be livestreamed on YouTube.
To examine Scribner, board President Tobi Jackson said Monday that trustees will use an evaluation process outlined in Lone Star Governance, a Texas Education Agency-approved framework for how the board works to improve student outcomes.
Goals include boosting academics, such as reading and math performance, and ensuring students are prepared for college, a career or military. The goals were agreed to by trustees and Scribner, Jackson said.
The evaluation comes at a crucial time for Fort Worth ISD. Parents and other community members have expressed concern about the district’s academic decline and a drop in enrollment.
Results from the spring’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness showed Fort Worth ISD performing worse than the state reading and math averages as well as similar districts. Since the 2016-17 school year, enrollment has declined by 10,570 students. Last academic year, 76,858 students attended Fort Worth ISD schools.
Some parents and community members plan to rally together and voice their support for a new superintendent during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s board meeting.
Missie Carra, a Fort Worth ISD parent, is one of the organizers behind that effort.
“When you take a look at what the effects of leadership can have on thousands and thousands of children and you just don’t see any improvement or any real achievement happening, it looks like it would be beneficial to try some new leadership,” Carra said.
Carra, a director of political group Parents’ Rights in Education, says now would be the right time for the board to consider bringing in a new superintendent. She pointed to Scribner’s contract as part of the reason.
The timing of Scribner’s appraisal comes more than two weeks before a buyout clause in Scribner’s most recent contract goes into effect.
Last year, Scribner renegotiated his contract with the school board, which is responsible for hiring and reviewing a superintendent, to extend it to Aug. 31, 2024. Trustees unanimously approved the extension — as well as gave Scribner a $25,000 bonus — on Sept. 8, 2020.
Scribner’s current contract went into effect the next day, or Sept. 9, 2020. Because of that, Scribner is still in the first year of his new contract, meaning the board could terminate the superintendent without a costly buyout. The only requirement for ending their contract in its first year is for trustees and the superintendent to mutually agree to terminate their agreement.
In the contract’s second year, Fort Worth ISD would have to pay 75% of the remaining balance in Scribner’s contract. That would include his $330,000 annual salary and benefits, such as insurance and retirement. This clause would start Sept. 9.
In the third and fourth years, the district would have to pay 100% of Scribner’s contract if trustees decided to part ways with him.
Carra described this as Scribner’s parachute. She hopes trustees will consider it as they evaluate the superintendent and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
The board also has the option to dismiss the superintendent for “good cause,” according to Scribner’s contract. It also can extend or tweak his contract, but that would require an extra step.
“This is a personnel matter involving every trustee’s input,” Jackson said. “Tuesday’s board agenda item solely deals with Dr. Scribner’s evaluation. Any discussion on his contract would involve a separate agenda item.”
Jackson previously told the Fort Worth Report trustees’ top priority is to hold Scribner accountable.
“I think very tight accountability for the superintendent will allow him to show the city what he can do and will do for our students and our city,” Jackson said in July. “I believe that tighter accountability is going to be necessary.”
Scribner was unavailable for comment on Monday, according to a district spokesman.
Details from Scribner’s evaluation will not be released to the public, according to his contract. Jackson echoed that point, noting trustees will grade him in executive session for personnel matters.
However, the review could be conducted in public if the superintendent asked for it. Evaluation documents for administrators and teachers are not considered open records under the Texas Public Information Act and the Texas Education Code.
Scribner supporters say the COVID-19 pandemic has set all Texas school districts behind and many districts have seen their enrollment figures drop as parents keep their children home.
Trustees are expected to take action on the superintendent’s evaluation toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting.
Carra hopes the board will make a decision that brings together the Fort Worth ISD community.
“I hope that we can all figure out something that helps everybody,” Carra said.
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.